Everything Horse magazine February 2014 - Page 40

horse’s background, and give them the preparation and time they need to adjust to your objects of travel unreservedly. Let them stand until you start to see some signs of relaxing: look for softening ears, softening eyes, a lick or a chew etc. After this is established I put my horse in reverse and ask for forward repeatedly, simulating my horse stepping back and the lead tightening as it would in a straight load float. By the time I have loaded a horse they have stood, walked forward and walked back on every part of the float. There is no such thing as ‘in’ or ‘out’ because all I have done is ask for forward then stand, ask for back then stand, regardless of where my horse is in or partly out of, the float. and out of the float. It is best to rub them down like this only when they are calm. 11) Backing off Once my horse has engaged the float and has been fully inside, and is ready to be backed off, I still stop on the way out and ask for 10) Rub them all over a few forward steps and I make During this in and out process and a habit of doing it more than the first few trips. I like to keep my whilst my horse is standing, I like horses focused with me, pliable to move around and stand at the back of them, handle their tail, rub and ready to move as I ask – not their hind and back legs, getting predicting whether they should them familiar with me close to be in or out. You never know them and all over them both in when the situation may change – imagine a child suddenly running out behind the float with your horse locked in reverse. If you spend time on these processes, by the time your horse is in the float, they are very comfortable with the floor and are very happy to stand and move around in the float. This is very important to your horse’s mental stability for travelling. Your horse needs to feel that they know the float; that they are able to move a little and that the floor is safe. A horse can freeze in a float and not back off because of anxiety about floor sturdiness. Regardless of whether I am loading in an angle load or a straight load float, I always teach my horses to back off and where I can, to walk forward off calmly. You never know what float they may end up getting on s Top Mark Tips and this trust based skill for both directions is a useful one. Once you feel that your horse is happy standing on and in any part of the float, and can move calmly in and out, you can practise standing at the float ramp and asking your horse to walk ahead past your shoulder and into the float by themselves. This is not a speed lesson. It is about trust and consistency and safety. Take as much time as your horse needs to get it right. a strong separation anxiety, it is wise to travel with a calm companion for a while. Aim to wean them at some stage. Tip 1 To practise and test leading and tying, I sometimes get a long lead rope (over 7m) and stand my horse some distance away from a rail, put the lead rope over the rail and walk off at an angle behind my horse before putting pressure on the rope and asking my horse to lead up to the rail. Tip 4 Some horses need more room to spread their feet out; I have come across horses that travelling on their own with the centre bar to one side has no issues but travelling with the centre bar in place, leads to them scrambling with every pot hole and corner. For training use your normal halter but for floating stick to a good, strong, thick web-halter that will not cut/ rub/ break if they panic. Tip 2 You can also lead your horse over ramps, through garden archways, in and out of sheds and other unusual objects, familiarising them with what you will be asking them to do in a float and practising overcoming any resistance – this is your chance to cement your role as leader. For your first few trips, after unloading ask your horse to walk straight back in, stand and then unload again. Tip 3 A small dark float will be more claustrophobic to a horse than one which has a big window at the front and which feels more open. Just because your horse loaded easily on one float doesn’t necessarily guarantee they will on another. Horses will react very differently to floats which feel like a box. For certain horses, especially ones that have quite 40 Everything Horse UK Magazine • February 2014 • Issue 5 Issue 5 • February 2014 • Everything Horse UK Magazine Tip 5 Some rubber floors become slippery with