Everything Horse magazine February 2014 - Page 38

put your hand on their hip and gently ask them to step across softly. Their shoulders should respond similarly. 4) Send your horse past your shoulder-This is very similar to sending a horse out to lunge. If you ask your horse to step past your shoulder and go out in front of you, your horse should calmly walk past you on your cue. If your horse feels rushed or nervous, then you should repeat this until they have calm energy and show no sign of stress. 5) Happy to move forward to Loading Now that you have assessed that your horse has some degree of the above foundations, you are ready to start loading. 6) Approaching the float I always park the float in an area where I can walk around both the float and the vehicle and where there is plenty of space to work. Firstly, if my horse is still frightened of the float’s presence, I start from a distance and weave my way across from one side to the other, exposing each eye progressively and then two as you as you turn. I let my horse get closer without making an issue or forcing it – weaving my way in simply lets my horse get accustomed to a new object. Whilst I do this, I constantly test how they feel on the lead rope, taking out any little blocks that I find. This is the most crucial part – where I confidently lead and educate. At this point, your horse can learn to understand and follow your cues or block and ignore them. 7) At the ramp, reward any tries 38 at Image Yourwithout fear. be well a time and horse should breaching bars -Make sure your handled from the top of its tail horse is calm with butt pressure and used to things touching them. down to its back feet Your horse has to be well handled from the top of its tail down to its back feet. Once your horse feels safe to a stick and to your hands I like to put a breaching rope on. It is simply just a looped rope which I use to apply controlled pressure to their butt. Once they are calm with the rope I like to back them a few steps and then gently pull the butt rope until they step forward. Repeat this until your horse is happy with the butt rope anywhere between the tail and the hocks and will calmly step forward, one step Once I am close to the float, I may just walk past the ramp and let my horse stand to the side. I do this on each eye separately, then with both eyes simultaneously. Once my horse is beside the ramp, they may give it a sniff or a stomp. All curiosity should be allowed. When I am able to walk my horse around the float and around the vehicle and I feel that my horse is comfortable with being close to the float, I walk up inside the float a little bit, giving my horse some room and apply gentle pressure through the lead. I hold this gentle pressure and then give a vocal forward energy cue (I use a click). Maintaining the same pressure and the rhythmic click I give a tap with a dressage stick on its shoulder. If there are any tries in my horse, i.e. if they lean forward, tap the ramp or take a step, I stop all cues, giving my horse a release of pressure and let them rest. From this point on, I reward any tries in the same way. 8) Bracing If my horse decides to brace and pulls back, I ask What happened? Why? What’s needed? & How can I help? Generally a brace in a horse in this situation is due to fright or lack of foundation. If your horse has been leading softly up until this point, it is likely to be fright. Either way, you need to go back to leading lessons. Your horse may also need more time adjusting to the float. To soften in the lead, I apply direct pressure through the lead to the halter and ask my horse to go past me. I can use a dressage stick or the lead rope on the shoulder to help encourage forward energy. Once my horse feels like they can send forward to the lead I test them by leading out in front to see if they brace. I also test my back up to make sure that backwards too is soft. Once my horse is responding and soft to all the cues, I just go back to the float and ask to see if they will come forward again. Remember, it is not a lesson to make your horse uncomfortable away and comfortable at the float. You are only working on the areas where you feel resistance and as soon as you feel a try, and a softening in your horse, you need to reward with a softening in your education, no matter whe re you are in relation to the float. It is not good when we encourage our horses to seek refuge from us and our education. 9) Teach your horse to back off as soon as they step on Once my horse is stepping up on the ramp, I like to teach them to back off before I teach them to load. Once my horse puts one foot on, I might back them up and repeat it a few times until it is easy for my horse. Then I might get my horse to go on 3 steps and get them to back off again, then on again and stand for a bit. I repeat this until eventually my horse is all the way in the float. By doing the lesson like this, my horse can not only take nice forward steps doing one step at a time as I ask for them, but they can also take the same soft backward steps, one at a time. In between, when I stop cue’s, I have made sure that I have stood my horse until they are calm and relaxed. At the start some horses need more time than others to adjust between tries. Just remember, if a horse has grown up around buildings, stables or cars, floating may seem less of a threat than a horse that has only grown up with bush and open spaces. Acknowledge your First loading lesson for this young gelding. Standing both inside and outside and anywhere in between of float is very important. Exiting forwards was necessitated by the ramp steepness. Take the pressure off when your horse makes a try Everything Horse UK Magazine • February 2014 • Issue 5 Issue 5 • February 2014 • Everything Horse UK Magazine 39