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Trailer loading...backing out

Marlene wrote:
>>Cool, let’s expand upon this thread.  How do people teach backing out of trailers – particularly to a horse that is very traumatized by the idea?<<
This is probably going to sound really whacky, but all I can say in my defence is that I have done most of my training with no help, and a strange horse.  It tends to make you think very laterally.
Okay, so I taught Toc to back up, with me standing in front of him.  When he was doing it calmly, without rushing, I would back him into his stable, or through an alley-way - anything where he has to watch where he puts his feet.   I also backed him under tree branches, so that he would learn to keep his head down when backing (so often, they raise their heads).
Then I got him used to me holding his tail while he backed, and directing him with it. 
I didn't do this because of loading problems, I did it because there were times on trail when I'd have to back away from something, and there was no room to turn around.  But when I think about it, it is probably why he backs so calmly out of a trailer.
>>But to her, backing in general isn’t easy.  She’ll back all day in an arena.  Put a log behind her and ask for the back?  Nope, not gonna happen.  Break it down simpler and draw a line in the sand, she still has a problem.<<
Before you ask her to back over an obstacle (which most horses find difficult), try just backing her from light into dark.  Find a tree and back her from sunlight into shadow.  That's a big step for a horse.  Then back her into her stall (which is usually a safe place for them, so no biggie).  Do you have an alleyway in your barn, or a crush or something?  Back her into that.  Reward just one step with masses of praise.  Don't ask for too much at once.  One step back into shadow is a big leap of faith for a horse.
Eventually she'll be confident that you're not asking her to do anything which will hurt her (which means that you have to be sure, when you back her, that nothing will).  Then you can start working on something on the ground.  I wouldn't ask her to walk over logs yet (don't want her hitting a leg and scaring herself.  Start with a line in the sand and first walk her *forwards* over it, so she knows it's not gonna hurt her.  Then walk her forwards over it and halt when it's under her belly and then back her over it (make sure that she can still see the line : you'll want to make it quite a long one).  Then you can walk her forward over it, so that you stop with it behind you, and then back her over it.  Once she is doing this calmly, try a gum pole on the floor (not as high as a log), and then progress to higher logs.
Once she is doing this calmly, then try to find a very small enbankment, about a foot high, with a slight step or slope.  Walk her up it and then back her down it.  Many horses panic when their back feet go down off of something.  This is the start of what she'll be experiencing when backing off of a trailer.
Once she is happy doing this, then try to find something noisy and clunky to back her onto.  Again, forwards first.  Many horses get a fright when they start backing because of the sudden noise behind them.  Natural reaction is to shoot forward or spin around.  Let her get used to this kind of noise (in fact, if you can back her onto the trailer ramp it is even better, as it's the exact noise she will hear). 
Good luck.

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