So I was reading through my blogroll, and I was reminded by Checkmark115 at Chasing the Dream of two things. First, that I hadn't talked much about Apollo's relatively recent development:
He hates, hates the trailer I have available to me.
Like rearing and bolting when I tried to load him a while ago kind of hate.
This is SO unusual for this horse - he's so easygoing. But after the first trip in the trailer, from my first barn here to Council Creek back in January, he decided he hated the thing. The second time I tried to load him, we'd pulled the trailer into the drive, outside of the pasture where it usually lives. He was hesitant and a little difficult, but we got him in with the longe whip. After that, he got worse and worse. I tried to load him and not tie him - nope, he flailed and bashed his head and freaked further. I tried to load him and tie him but not close the divider - nope, flailed and freaked out.
I gave it a break for a while, then in late September started working on trailer training without any time pressure or place to actually go. That was the full-on rear, many bolt, very leap, so pull back episode. This was about 3 weeks before I got married, btw, and of course, I managed to sprain? break? somehow damage my left ring finger in the process. Sigh. Clearly I needed to change my approach, which had been punishing him for doing the wrong thing and praising him for doing the right thing.
I'd put a stud chain on his halter at first, but I realized I could use it better - instead of pulling on it to say "don't do that," which upset him a lot, I just let it do its thing when he pulled. I changed my mind and attitude to be just patient - I decided I had all the time in the world, nothing he could do would freak me out or scare me (I did put my helmet on, though, just in case), and he would end up on the trailer. Whenever. We had time. So the chain went on, I led him up to the trailer, he halted, I let the chain be a little tight, I kept my back to him and kept the pressure but didn't pull, and as soon as he stepped forward again I loosened the chain and praised. Lather, rinse, repeat. The first time it took 30-40 minutes to get him loaded, clipped in, and divider closed, and the "lather" part was literal.
The second time, 15 minutes, no lather.
Third time, 10 minutes, no lather.
Thursday, 5 minutes, no lather. It took more like 10 minutes, maybe 15, to load him back up at NT's place, but it was a low-key 10-15 minutes rather than a panicked shitshow, so I'll take it. There was a lot going on, and it was dinnertime at NT's, so I can't really be too upset with Apollo not wanting to load. Maybe I should be - yes, horses SHOULD be obedient and quiet at all times, and loading is important - but upset doesn't get me anywhere, as we've seen. I also did it by myself, rather than having to ask for help. That's actually really important to me, that I be able to load my horse myself, because I don't often have people with me any more. So more calm, patient loading work seems to be in order, but I am pleased with how well he's come along.
The second thing ... I'm going to leave that for another day, because I need motivation to blog! :) Hint: it's made of leather.