About four years ago I had to pick up a horse for our trailer loading course. Arriving at the equestrian centre I found a very friendly, but also rather big horse named Ukkie (Tiny in Dutch) who had come to hate the trailer. And with such a big horse you definitely have a problem if they don’t want to load. Luckily, we quickly managed to load him and we left for home.
The next day was the start of our course, and we began by seeing how quickly Ukkie learned new things. Actually it went quite well, although he always did remain a bit sticky in front of the ramp. The owner was already very satisfied with the result and decided to put Ukkie in training for a week to really consolidate his training.
Ukkie worked very well with us during his training and we were very proud of him. He would be picked up on Saturday and that last Friday we did one final session with him. I myself was wrapping up an equine massage course and saw out of my window how Ukkie was suddenly refusing to load on the trailer! He resisted violently and started rearing again. Feeling a little frustrated, I walked outside. After all, he had been wonderful all week and hadn’t balked anymore. And just as he was about to go home, he became very negative. I took Ukkie and with a lot of effort I managed to load him once. I said to the team that had been working with him: “Put him away for now, I will continue with him in a minute, I’ll first wrap up the massage course.”
Fifteen minutes later I walked over to Ukkie’s stable, where the team was already waiting anxiously. The students of the course also came to watch. I looked over into the stable and immediately noticed something. “Aha, I know why he wouldn’t load!” The team looked at me somewhat surprised. “Just take those transport boots off his legs.” After they were taken off, we walked Ukkie back to the trailer and yes, he loaded onto the trailer with us without any problems. A wonderful example of how horses develop associations. We had trained him without transport boots and that went great. When the transport boots came on, he immediately associated this with being transported and he refused! A great learning moment for us..