BY DEBORAH JANE NICHOLAS
My horse does load and travel quite well. But if we were to stop and pass a trained eye over the entire event from start to finish the process is far from a comfortable experience for my horse. This has not proved overly-problematic in the past as I have always relied on specific tactics in the event my horse decides not to put a hoof on that ramp.
Fortunately buckets of feed and lunge lines haven’t featured in any of the horses I have loaded over the last decade. While it is tempting to divulge the tactics I have used, it would be irresponsible to promote or encourage such practices. Rest assured none of them involved beating, hurting or scaring the animal. Knowing you have a few tricks up one’s sleeve, and having a Plan B can only mean one thing however…the horse was never trained to load correctly in the first place.
A horse that is even slightly suspicious of placing its hoof on that ramp must have doubts. I accept full responsibility that initially I did not train this particular horse to load correctly because I was ignorant. Going up the ramp, coming down the ramp, it’s such a small part of the day that it’s often the case we do not stop to read the signals. People tend to concentrate on the why they are travelling that day. It could be a show, hunting, a sponsored ride or a trip to the beach for example.
There must be without a doubt the sound of a million sighs of relief throughout the world on a daily basis when that ramp finally closes and the horse is loaded.
Should there be a ‘Phew!’?
Of course not, and if a person finds themselves feeling relieved then they should address the fact that they must have been worried in the first place. Addressing this fact is accepting the horse has not been trained to load correctly. Blaming the horse for not loading is only going to reflect badly on its owner because a horse does not teach itself to load.
It occurred to me recently that my horse had not travelled in 5 months. To be honest this should not be a passing thought because this should in fact be part of my training schedule.
This is the problem, people fail to even have a training schedule, there’s no weekly or monthly plan. Many owners (not all) consider that all training occurs in the saddle. Training should occur 100% of the time you are near a horse. If I were to write a list of all the things an owner should do on a weekly and monthly basis they would consider it an impossible notion due to time constraints, I think it also. Which is a shame for our confused and mostly bewildered equine friends, but it certainly keeps our horse trainers in plenty of work having to address issues involving mounting, leading, riding, loading, traffic, jumping, bolting, shying and another 100 problems.
Even if I had trained my horse the correct method of loading from the out-set many years ago, handling and training a horse in all manner of situations and environments should still be maintained frequently. We can’t blame the horse for anything, only ourselves.
Deborah Jane Nicholas has been around horses for nearly 40 years and has worked within the horse industry in a number of roles. Deborah’s other passions are her 2 dogs, countryside walks and writing, which she does here.