From Endurance to Dressage
You might remember that I already wrote about getting Izzy to load quietly and even posted a short video. I've been re-doing that lesson about once a week since Izzy is still not quite loading with the total yes, ma'am! attitude that I want.
He isn't refusing to load, but he still has some trust and confidence issues that he's dealing with. He walks onto the trailer very calmly, but unloading is not quite where I need it to be. And in fact, over the weekend, he tested the whole process by backing out very quickly before I asked him to.
My trailer is a three-horse slant with living quarters in the front. I have removed the rear divider so that the horse who rides in the second "stall" has a lot of room to position himself however he'd like. I rarely haul two horses at a time, but when I do, Speedy usually goes in the first stall.
When I haul only one horse, I use the middle stall. In a slant load bumper pull, this puts stress on the hitch so it's better to load the horses from front to back, but with a gooseneck trailer, having a horse in the second stall puts the horse's weight in the middle of the two axles. Click pictures to enlarge.
My trailer also has a rear tack room which means the door to the horse compartment is pretty narrow. For most green bean horses this is scary. Teaching them to load through such a narrow door can be challenging. It also presents a problem for a horse who wants to come flying out backwards. If the horse misjudges the space, he can bang up his hips or shoulders.
This is why I need my horses to load and unload with total and complete confidence.
I don't hard tie my horses in the trailer, nor do I use those quick release trailer ties. I prefer to hang a Blocker Tie Ring at each stall. When I unload my horse, I unclip the tie ring and re-clip it to the outside tie ring of the trailer, or I clip it to the Hi-Tie System.
This weekend, I got a good reminder of why I like the Blocker Tie Ring. I had loaded Izzy and was standing by his head just relaxing and giving him time to think. Doing what horses do best, Izzy decided that it was time to unload. He took a few steps back and even though I asked him to whoa, he scrambled back and hit the end of the rope and the step of the trailer at the same time. It scared him and he threw his weight back and stumbled out of the trailer.
As he was zooming backward, my first response was to grab the rope to keep him from backing out, but at the same instant, I remembered that he was clipped into the Blocker Tie Ring which meant that the rope was going to slide through, freeing him. I felt it was better to just let him go rather than risk a nasty rope burn, or worse.
He flew out of the trailer, gave a slightly panicked look, and then dove for the grass next to the barn. I walked up to him, patted his neck to reassure him that all was well, and brought him back to the trailer. He balked at getting back on, so out came the butt rope again. He walked on quickly and quietly, but I didn't attach his lead rope. Instead, I moved his haunches back and forth, and then ask him to unload very slowly.
One of the things I love about this horse is that he doesn't blame me for all the little things that go wrong. While unloading so quickly, he had clearly scared himself and rather than blame me, he looked to me for confidence.
We went through the process a few times. I clipped him in, closed the door, and walked over to the window. He started tucking his butt into the tack room corner away from the door, but that was making it hard for me to get in with him to unload him safely. To deal with that, I opened the door with a dressage whip in my hand. Once the door was opened, I gently tapped his hindquarters to tell him to move over. Having the whip in my hand also reminded him to not back out.
While this all might seem terrible, he's actually very quiet in the trailer. I just want him to load and unload with 100% confidence, so we've been practicing every day this week. Speedy has complete faith in the safety of the trailer. He knows that I will get him in and out without him needing to do any of the thinking. Horses only develop this confidence with practice, so that's what I am doing with Izzy. He'll get there, he just needs time.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read