Loading Horses: Great Advice from “A Pony Known as Satan” trainer, Olivia Dixon

It is no secret, we think Olivia of Dixon Equine and A PONY Known as Satan is pretty awesome, and she takes an approach that HOP typically uses, as well, with loading.

As she says, it works for ferals, too. Back the trailer up to a corral and stand with some pressure by getting closer now and again with the right timing, viola. . .a feral will usually load himself, but what about all the “HANDLED” horses?

Read on:

“Can we talk for a sec about loading horses? “What’s your secret?” -There are no secrets.
“What do you do?” -I stand there mostly.
“That can’t be it!” -It’s 90% standing there, not picking a fight, and 10% pressure and release at about the right time.

Heavy on my mind is a mare some hauler once spoke of: “This is the worst mare I’ve ever loaded, twice.” I’m not denying that she probably didn’t behave very nicely, because she needs time to make a decision and if she feels unjustly pressured she will defend herself. Any sound horse can kick your head off if they think they need to. However, she can load in two minutes or less, quietly and smoothly, like a walk in the park.

We may think we decide things for our horses, that we plan how things should go, but really it must be a non-verbal conversation hopefully ending with the horse deciding to do what we had in mind, or at least making a good effort. I don’t mean stand in the trailer and beg your horse to obey, but you have to think to yourself (and to him/her) “Look, I’ve got all day. Pulling back, backing up, or standing still for too long and looking off in the distance are not the right answers. I’m not going to nag you to make the right decision, it’s there waiting for you. Find it, I’ll wait.” For the horse, the wrong answer ends in a theoretical wall of pressure (implied, applied, from behind or from the lead), it’s an imaginary padded wall, it’s soft at first if you softly go the wrong way, but if you run at it… it gets harder. The path of least resistance should lead to the inside of the trailer, don’t try to drag or hurry your horse in, imagine a magical cloudy path of no pressure toward and into the trailer.

If someone tried to drag you into a strange room immediately against your will you would probably struggle too. What if, instead, they walked up and said, “Look, there’s some sort of persistent pressure out here, we’re in this together. It seems there’s relief toward that room there, let’s go together and figure this out, take your time to think about it.”?

Be the light through lightness. I’m nowhere near perfect, we all have things to work on…but take steps to make the journey easier for all involved when you can.”

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Loading Horses: Great Advice from “A Pony Known as Satan” trainer, Olivia Dixon

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