using precision and positive reinforcement to teach horses and people


Zan's Story: The Trailer
(November 2003)



Today Katie, my human mom, came and put my halter on and led me out the front of the barn. Instead of just the green grass and trees, there is a big metal box on wheels parked there. Katie tells me that it is a horse trailer and I am going to learn to get inside it.  What?  Why would I want to do that?  She leads me up to it and lets me sniff it all over. I even get clicked and treated for touching the outside, the wheels, the ramp and the doors.  Then she leads me around to the back and asks me to step on to the ramp.  The ramp looks kind of funny. It is not flat, but goes uphill and it is black and doesnít look like the dirt or grass, or even the concrete in the aisle.  Iím not sure what to think about it, but I know I can stand on my box so I figure it canít be that hard to stand on the ramp. So I put two feet on and stop. As soon as I put my foot on, Katie clicked and now she is feeding me carrots. I guess it is just like my box.  Then she backs me up and walks me away. We do this a few times and I am getting pretty good at standing on that ramp with two feet.


Then, instead of walking me away after I have two feet on, she asks me to walk forward. Iím not quite sure so, I just stand there for a while. She just waits and eventually I step forward. It reminds me of when I used to be anxious about stepping off the concrete aisle and going out of the barn. The step down used to seem strange to me, so I would just stop at the doorway. Katie would just wait until I was ready to go down.  But, you know, this isnít so hard. Once I have four feet on, I just keep walking. When I get in the trailer, she has a flat black bucket on the floor and she dumps a whole bunch of carrots in there. I eat them and then we go out and I go back in my stall.


We practiced this a lot over the next few days. I learned to walk right in. Sometimes we stay in and eat. Sometimes I just get a few treats and go back out.  Sometimes I turn around and walk out, other times she backs me out.  One day she has a helper and they put the ramp up while I am in there. I am so busy eating my goodies that I donít really notice, and it doesnít bother me anyways. One day after that, they close the ramp and the top doors. Now it feels really different. I am a little anxious but Katie is there with me and she talks to me and I settle down. 


Eventually I learned that the trailer moves after I get in. It took me a little while to get used to it and Iím not sure I like it, but it doesnít scare me.  And even now, sometimes Katie takes me out and puts me in the trailer and gives me a big treat and then we go back to the barn without the trailer ever moving. 


She says maybe this summer Iíll learn to ride in it with the partition up, and maybe Iíll even have another horse with me. I wouldnít mind if Willy rode with me. It would be nice to have some company.


The next story is The Christmas Card.





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