Photo by Margaret Chant and edited by Jessica Metropulos

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Trailer loading, Thresholds, and Adrenaline

Oh my, what an interesting equine day today. It's broken down into three parts, named after the sections in the title.


I got a call yesterday from a student of mine who lives about an hour from me. She was in the middle of practicing trailer loading her horse, a lovely Left-Brain Introvert mare. However, the not so lovely side of the LBI came out, and Kristina (her mare) had thrown a tantrum, dug her feet into the ground, stuck out her tongue, and in a classic LBI manner, said "NO, I don't think I'll be going in there today, why don't you try and MAKE ME!" My poor student had no clue where to go or what to do. So today, I hopped in the ol' car and went up to her place to help her out.

Kristina is an interesting horse. She's really arrogant and full of herself, and displays it prominantly. However, when a dominant, firm leader such as myself steps up and establishes position, she has a tendency to almost immediatly turn right-brain, and get defensive. So, treading a thin line, I started to play around with this trailer loading issue.

This horse was NOT afraid of the trailer. It was obvious to me from the get go. The horse is anything but scared. She obviously had a bit of an attitude, and definitely wanted nothing to do with the trailer, but it was a game, not a fear. I know from my experience with both my Left-brain brats that the last thing to do is to go straight to the trailer and make it all about that. I decided to play a game with Kristina. The game was simple, we were going to do zone 3 driving and she was going to put her nose on something. Very basic, but intriguing to a LBI because it seemingly has a purpose. The way the yard is laid out, there are several trucks and trailers and little squeezy types of situations that we played with and then, after playing around a bit, what do you know, a trailer with open doors just "happened" to show up.

From there, we began with our trailer loading. In the beginning, Kristina would load her front feet in the trailer and then lose her confidence and rush out. I played a game of when she got Right-Brained and tried to rush out, I would actually yo-yo her out faster than she wanted to go. This made going RB and rushing uncomfortable, and thus undesirable. It took about 20 minutes, but Kristina finally willingly loaded her front end in, and stood until asked to come out.

Since she did what she was asked, I decided that it would be best to quit on the trailer for a while, and we went into the arena and played around. After a little while, we mosied back to try the trailer. She loaded her front end in willingly and confidently, and so I decided that she was ready for a little more "insistance".

Pat Parelli always says "Never ask a trying horse to try harder". It's a great way to destroy a horse's confidence in what he's doing. Well, Kristina had quit TRYING to make progress. She thought she had it made loading her front end in, and wouldn't even look at the idea of loading further, so I opened another can of worms and another game. I simply said "You don't get to rest unless you rest in the trailer." For a LBI, rest is a VERY good motivator. It took several minutes of "NO!" attitude, but Kristina figured out pretty quickly that it was worth it to just load up, and stand. Now coming out was still a big source of trouble, Kristina was still unconfident. We played the same game, you back out faster than you want to, until finally, she could stand in the trailer calmly and then back out sanely. interesting.


The threshold part of this story comes in later in the afternoon. I didn't get a chance to play with Crest yesterday, and felt like I needed to do something with him today. He seemed eager enough as I began to play with him, but he was just a little on edge. I've been doing my best to not mirror his emotions, but sometimes it's a little tough. Anyway, Crest was just a little on edge, not enough to be considered Right-Brained, but not his usual Left-Brain Extrovert self either. I would call it adrenalized actually. Anyway, I played with him on the ground until he looked ridable and HOOOLLLLYYYY COW, when I got on, there was no moving forward. Crest had the worst case of thresholds I've ridden in a LONG time. It was like his feet were rooted in the ground. For about 20 minutes, we took 3 steps forward, 2 steps back, 3 steps forward, 2 back. Then Crest spotted a horse-eating pile of snow, and everything began to fall apart.

I did the savvy thing (pat on the back for me!) and got off. That pile of snow was still absolutely terrifying, and Crest could barely keep his feet still. Wondering what I should do, and trying not to go Right-Brain myself, I thought back to a response Linda wrote to a question in the eNews last week, about a horse that seemed afraid to be turned loose. Linda suggested that the owner play the squeeze game very fast and urgently at the gate where he was turned out. This would desensitize the horse to the gate and situation, while causing him to cross the flightline repeatedly, and making him go back to Left-Brain.

The flightline is crossed when the horse yeilds his hindquarters and turns and faces. It's a prey-flight response, and when the flight line is crossed, the horse must go Left-Brain and think. This idea made a great deal of sense to my current situation, so I squeezed and squeezed and squeezed Crest by that pile of snow until he started to show signs of Left-Brain relaxation, blowing, actually resisting speed, etc. Then I hopped back on, which leads me to my next topic


Crest was still REALLY adrenalized when I got on his back, and I spent a lot of time on an impulsion pattern Linda had suggested for me. Previously, this had calmed Crest down within minutes, but today, it was just almost impossible to get his brain functioning. I kept doing the pattern, over and over and over, until finally, BFO, DUH! I was really adrenalized!! I wasn't keeping MY energy calm as I did the pattern, and while my PHYSICAL transitions were smooth and flowing, my mind was racing at a zillion miles an hour, my body was tense, and I was anticipating his energy. I literally FORCED myself to calm down, and of course, immediately he started to blow and shake his head. I figured that was as good a place as any to get off and call it a day, so I did.

He's still got extremely bouncy movement, and I really need to get a saddle to use with him, because I cannot keep riding him so poorly and expect to make progress. LINDA! I need FLUIDITY HELP!-lol Cannot wait for my fluidity saddle.

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