Stacey: P-A-T-I-E-N-C-E Spells Success

“If you act like you’ve only got fifteen minutes, it will take all day. Act like you’ve got all day, it will take fifteen minutes.”?Monty Roberts Jeff, a barn friend from my Junior days, reminded me of this quote in response to a Facebook post bemoaning Wowie’s trailer-loading fail last week. I thought I’d given myself plenty of time to work things out in case Wow wouldn’t load, but on reflection, the reality was that the more time that went by and the closer it got to my lesson time, the more desperate I got?and the less effective I was. So last Wednesday I re-created the scenario trainer Jake Nodar had set up when he worked through the same problem with Wowie last year. I went through the hundred or so photos I’d taken to see exactly where and how Jake was standing, touching with the whip, and so on. I also carefully read Jake’s response to my SOS email several times so I could follow his advice precisely. Here’s what he recommended: “When by the trailer, get ready to work him. Ask for a forward step. If a firmer tap doesn’t get the result, ask twice more. If still no positive response, put him out on the longe line and make him trot for a minute. Ask again. Don’t give him a break. If he agrees to walk on the ramp, even if it’s just a step, back him off and let him rest for 30 seconds. If he doesn’t go forward, put him right back to the longe line?now for a few minutes. Try again. If he’s still defiant, go to a third time, and this time really work him, even if it’s for five minutes. We want his lungs to start sending a message to his brain, saying, ?I’ve got to do something to stop all this unnecessary work.’ Immediately go to asking for the step onto the ramp. Make the trailer his ?resting spot.’ Be prepared to do this several times.” So I backed up my trailer into the entrance to the arena at the farm so I could work him in an enclosed area with good footing but have the trailer right there. I put a rope halter on Wowie and hooked up the longe line. I went through Jake’s steps?over and over. After one hour with no change, I was nearly ready to give up and wait for Jake to fly in from California later this month. My brain was working as hard as Wowie, and we were both drenched in sweat. But I was determined to make it work, so I stuck it out, being patient and fair but persistent. Suddenly I saw a change. I’m not sure exactly what it was, but I felt like Wowie said, “OK, OK! Enough already. What do I need to do to get you to stop bugging me?!” All of a sudden, he walked right on the trailer. SUCCESS! I’m not sure which one of us was more surprised. After giving him plenty of praise, I backed Wow off and loaded him again about a dozen or so times. The final time he walked on and stood quietly, I closed the ramp and drove him back up the hill to the barn before unloading, hosing him off and stuffing him full of cookies. Despite my concerns, the loading lesson stuck when I attempted to load him up for our first horse show of the year on Sunday. He didn’t walk right on, but it only took about five minutes this time. And even better, once we got to the show, we put down three great rounds to bring home second- and fifth-place ribbons in the 2-foot-6 hunters? and a sixth in the equitation. (I might have placed a little higher if I hadn’t forgotten my last fence. Ooopsie!) Bonus: He got on the trailer to go home easier than he did that morning. I’m certainly relieved that I won’t have to plan Wowie’s competition schedule around the facilities I can hack to. Now all that’s left is to sharpen my course-memorization skills before the next show!

Wowie makes the 2-foot-6 jumps look easy. Stacey, on the other hand, will be locking up her stirrups for a month. | ? Stacey Nedrow-Wigmore
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