Like some other new horse owners, we bought a two year old filly with little or no practical knowledge or experience of horses. Misty was our family cob. I ‘started’ her with a traditional training book in one hand and a lunge whip in the other. And yes, many, mistakes were made. We were very lucky to have chosen a patient and good-natured horse.
My children had recently joined the local pony club and one thing I did know was that loading ponies into a horse box/trailer/float was frequently a huge problem. (See Shadow’s story) This, I decided, would not be a problem for us. So I borrowed a horse box and parked it in the field. Initially we fed Misty close to the ramp, then moved the bucket onto the ramp and gradually further and further into the box. She quickly learned that it was a great place to go….very rewarding. During the hotter days, she discovered that it offered a great escape from flies.
We never lead her or asked her to go in. She simply made her own arrangements. There was a front ramp so she could walk out and with no partition in a two-horse box, she could also turn around to come out herself.
So with a completely confident pony, we decided to formalise the training. The partition went back in and we lead Misty into the box. There was always a treat to be had inside and by now the sight of a horsebox was sufficient to have her attempt to tow her handler up the ramp! The one thing we did not train well was the backing off to unload. We had a front unload for years and it was never an issue.
Some years later, we had to ask her to back off. She happily obliged but then fell off the final step and gave herself a fright. At that point clicker training had come into my life and so it was easy to teach her to back out one step at a time with a click and treat after each step. We then warned her when she reached that step down with a verbal cue “step”.
Now she will happily back to close to the edge of the ramp and wait for her cue to tell her to step down.