Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Why Would Anyone Annoy A Horse?

Howdy Folks,

About a week ago I came across a YouTube video about loading your horse on the trailer. As most Coffee Clutch followers know, Kessy and I have a wonderful "on again off again" (no pun intended) relationship with the whole trailer loading thing. Thinking I might enjoy the video I set aside 15 minutes to watch it and found it very interesting. Kessy and I have somewhat, sort of, mastered loading by me leading her in, but because ours is a step-up trailer and that's hard for me, I wanted her to learn to self load. That's what this video was about. Cool!

It proved to be a very well done video and was so much fun to watch and easy to comprehend I was excited to try it myself. It did work – sort of. The trainer demonstrated how to stand by your horse behind the trailer keeping the horse focused on looking into the trailer, and with the long end of the lead, tap, tap and tap the rump of your horse. "Not hard, just enough to annoy her," the trainer said. He also said, "It may take some time. Just be patient." Kessy and I tried it; it did take some time, about 30 minutes. We just stood there, her looking inside, me tapping. The second and third loads went much better. The next morning we started over again, about 20 minutes for the first loading, then the next a few seconds.

Knowing we were close, but not where we needed to be, I sent the link to the video to my mentor Diane Sept. She too found it very interesting and well done but replied with a simple, but extremely important question, "Why would anyone annoy a horse?" Oh my gosh, she is so correct! Frankly she always is … and after she asked that of me I was instantly embarrassed. She had taught me better than that. Years ago, very early on in our relationship she'd taught me there's a difference between "sending clear signals," and "annoying." Horses understand clear signals – unclear signals quickly become annoying.

I've never really understood training that suggests making something uncomfortable for the horse produced desired cooperation. Such as outside the trailer is uncomfortable, inside is comfortable. Or if she misbehaves under saddle do circles, or not letting her stop in the round pen, "until it's your idea," (I'm no fan of any round-penning, but that's just me). All these are forms of "annoying" your horse, I think. And there are many other ways folks believe are communicating with their horse, but are too often annoying. Why would anyone want to annoy a horse? Great question Diane.

I took Diane's question to heart, and Kessy and I had another go at self loading. Much of it I did the same way, led her to the trailer and focused her on loading, then gave her clear signals to "walk on." Much better, not perfect, but much better. We've still got some work to do, but a big improvement.
Kessy ready to go
But this is a story about more than trailer loading. It's about a much broader thought. Why would anyone annoy a horse?
Kessy's eye
 Gitty Up ~ Dutch Henry

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