I want to formally say a big thank to everyone for your support regarding our westward migration. It was touching to read all of the well wishing thoughts and comments.
Update on our migration: We headed out for the final stretch and then we got a flat tire (and one compromised tire) on one of the trailers. We found a spot along the road to wait for some new tires. It was several hours before they got there. The temperature was nice and cool as we waited. The horses were calm and restful.
Then here comes the tire guys! All of a sudden it was loud and hectic. They had hydraulic wrenches, air hoses, sledge hammers(to get the tires off of the rims), there are lights and trucks running and if that wasn’t enough a tanker truck pulled up along side the trailer with the young ones. Since they are in a slant load it ended up being right behind them. The truck blew it’s brakes. It seemed like real mayhem yet the horses were phenomenal!
Keep in mind that these horse couldn’t even be safely handled a couple years ago and here they are dealing with things that even a seasoned traveler would find difficult. The were calm and sensible!! If they did get startled they settled right back down on their own volition.
They have developed such trust and seem to realize that all is not as fearful as it once seemed to them. I was SOOO proud watching those 6 little horses keeping them selves so composed.
We ended up turning back to the layover barn since it was late at this point. We are giving them a well deserved day to rest and will finish the journey tomorrow. I will keep you posted. Thank you all for your good wishes and warm words. I will pass them on to their humans who have done most of the work! :0)
BTW the picture above is the 3 younger horses. They just loaded and are watching a horse playing in the turn out. We are heading out for their new home…or so we thought!
I think it is funny that I am releasing my trailer loading DVD while in the middle of a HUGE trip for 6 rescue horses…well, it is a big trip for their humans too!
So much planning and care has gone into preparing these horses for this expedition. 1200 miles from Colorado to California…we are almost there!!
Just in case some of you don’t know, these horses have had been through some tough times. Most of them have had some sort of abuse or neglect. There is one horse who is an experienced trailer gal. But the others, have had very little experience trailering and the small amount they did have was not good. So, for months now their loving humans have devoted their time to help these horses get acclimated to trailering and all that goes with it.
Given their past, the project was a big one for everyone. I have come in every now and then to help give guidance along the way but the credit goes to the humans that worked with them all. Well, that and the training!
Using positive reinforcement they were able to get the horses to open up, to trust people and to enjoy being in the trailer. However, 4 days on the road is another issue for any horse, let alone this posse of horses.
Well, today is the home stretch!! We broke the days down into small increments, averaging 300 miles a day. Did I mention one of these horses is 26 and another is 29!!! That meant we really wanted to give them short days with plenty of rest in between.
We weren’t sure how they would respond to all of the new sights and sounds or how they would do getting on and off at new places after their big ships. So much uncertainty! We did all we could to prepare them for these unforeseeable challenges.
I am so happy to report that they have been amazing!! I am so proud of all that are involved. These gals did a great job getting these horses with a great foundation. The horses have seen/heard, semi tractor trailers, air brakes, trains, freeways, tunnels, stop lights, traffic and skateboarders doing tricks right next to their trailer.
They are so solid and seem to be enjoying the whole process. I see this as such a big testament to the power of positive reinforcement training. As I always say, I didn’t create the training. It is applied learning theory, I just help to facilitate it, to put it to work in the real world with real horses in real situations.
Just a reminder, I am running a special on my new trailer loading DVD if you would like to learn more about the training. The special will be running through Wednesday and then it is going up in price. So, if are wanting to get your horse trailering like a pro, please visit the link below:
Will your horse load in the trailer anytime, anywhere?
I recognize that this is a problem for a lot of horse owners. Well, guess what? I decided to make a DVD that will show you how to teach your horse to become the best loader in town!
You will learn how to use the proven behavior principles behind positive reinforcement training. It is simple and easy with no resistance, no balking and no long drawn out sessions. The best part is your horse will enjoy the whole training process…he will love being the trailer!
Plus, when all is said and done, you will realize that the training is great for so much more than just trailer loading. You will find about a million situations with your horse where the principles will come in handy.
I am really excited to finally be releasing this new DVD set that I decided to celebrate by offering you an amazing deal. But only for the next week, then the price will go up, so don’t dawdle!! Get more info and checking out the link below.
I have been a bit busy but I am getting back to my blog. First, I want to give a shout out to Denise Bickel DVM for stepping in to be my guest blogger. She did an outstanding job. She is quite a writer!! I heard comments from many of you so I know everyone thoroughly enjoyed reading about her journey with Brennir. I would love to incorporate more real stories or experiences on my blog. So, if you have a story (or stories) about using clicker/positive reinforcement that you would like to share, I would love to get them out there. I think it is a huge help for everyone to hear stories of how “real” people put the training to use with their horse in their situation. There are millions of ways to use the training and I LOVE hearing about them. Let’s get some of those stories out there so we can spread the word. You don’t need to be a great writer, in other words, don’t compare yourself to Denise and her writing…if we did I wouldn’t be writing on my blog either…and if you have pictures to include that would be great too. If you are interested please let me know. Come on guys…don’t let me down, I know there are some great stories lurking out there!
Okay, on a more somber note. Denise and her horse Brennir are having a very difficult time. This past week has been touch and go for Brennir. They suspect he ate a toxic plant. He almost passed a couple times this week. He has had exceptional care between Denise and MSU’s equine clinic but his prognosis is uncertain right now. Please take a moment and say a prayer for them both. We can all relate to the pain and worry that she is feeling right now. Brennir is a very dear part of her family. The blog posts gave us a glimpse into her heart and she clearly has a very special bond with him. It breaks my heart just thinking about their situation. Thanks guys for being such a compassionate and caring group of horse people.
This is an Ask Shawna video answer to a question, sent in by Lucy, about a horse who has had some trauma related to the trailer. I discuss some ideas about how to get back on target. BTW, I have a trailer loading video coming out some time in the next week or two so keep your eyes peeled if this is something you want to learn more about.
The real success is when the training carries through to other people and situations. Lorelei is such a story. She is a young horse in Hap Hansen’s string of horses. I initially began working with Lorelei to address her attitude about getting injections. She was intolerant of the whole process. She did quite well with the training and now stands quietly for her shots. It turns out she is allergic to just about everything and needs shots on a regular basis. Luckily, we got that sorted out just before we found out about her allergies, which require regular injections.
Well, it turns out she also has an aversion to the trailer. Not the little two horse kind, which is more common, but the big sixteen horse type. Usually horses view the larger trailers more like a building and walk in rather easily. The smaller trailers seem to create more problems. Maybe it’s the confinement and feeling trapped or claustrophobic, who really knows? The good part of having issues with the little trailers is that they are more readily available to practice loading and unloading. This is not the case with the big trailers.
With the help of my friend Lisa, who is Lorelei’s groom and primary caretaker, we addressed Lorelei’s trailer loading issues. I wasn’t there everyday but Lisa was with her and implemented the training techniques. I would try to be there as often as I could for loading in the big trailer to go to shows. Since the discrimination was with the large trailer it was difficult to actually practice on a regular basis. Lisa continued to work with the little trailer when she could. Even though the problem wasn’t the two horse trailer the reinforcement helped the whole process and association to become more positive.
Because Lorelei is young she doesn’t go to every horse show, so a couple weeks ago she was scheduled to go to a show and Lisa reported that Lorelei loaded up like a trooper with no hesitation. Then it was time to go home and Lisa wasn’t able to be there. Lorelei got right on with a person who had not even done the training with her. Not only did she load right up, she actually initiated the loading process so the groom/handler just went along with her. He wasn’t her regular groom but she responded just the same. He reinforced her once she was in the trailer but the real success comes when a horse just does the behavior without discriminating between handlers.
This reminded me of being at Sea World and bringing along baby sea lions. I usually had a young charge to train and prepare for the show. There is a lot for a young sea lion to absorb. Since the person who trained them has the best rapport with the young sea lion and a greater chance for success, they would also be the trainer who worked them through their first few show segments. I always felt proudest when I would eventually watch them successfully do the show with someone else. I knew at this point that they were solid on that segment of the show.
This is what makes Lorelei’s story so reinforcing for me. I know that I can train any horse to go into a trailer, but the real success comes when the training is done by the people who are with the horse everyday and it’s even better when the horse does the behavior for someone else all together! Not only did Lisa get Lorelei responding and succeeding at trailer loading, she really changed Lorelei’s mind about the whole thing. Now Lorelei will load for anyone, any place, any trailer and anytime. Well done Lisa!!
If you have stories of clicker training success I would love to hear them and share them with others. Please post your stories or send them to me and I will post them.
Just a quick little video (30 seconds) to show you Bugs targeting on his Stationary target in his stall. This helps when I point out the stationary target mounted in the trailer. This session was done right before we went to the trailer to serve as a fresh reminder for Bugs. I want to reiterate this is an easy behavior to train. If you have questions or want more info please don’t hesitate to ask.