Well, my opportunity to come down to earth from our recent happy rides came sooner rather than later.
For some reason, which I'm trying not to obsess on, Val suddenly wanted nothing to do with getting into his trailer yesterday. It's been a few months. We're heading up the road to my trainer's farm this weekend, so I thought a dry run would be in order. Disclaimer: trailer loading has not been an issue for us since our first few attempts. It's gone swimmingly as a matter of fact. He practically self loads.
At first Val came halfway up the ramp - totally normal - and then the balking began. And head throwing. And dancing around with ants in his pants. For nearly an hour. I thought I had left plenty of time just in case, but it was starting to get dark. I knew the situation. I had better be prepared to be there all night if that's what it took, because quitting before Val got into the trailer was out of the question. I had to convey that thought to Val as well... "Hey Mr. Man - take your time - because I have alllllll night." Apparently I needed to practice being patient
It was dinner time.... I left his blanket on... the ramp felt wiggly on the uneven ground... the trailer looks scary in the dark? Who knows. What I do know is what finally worked. I used pressure with the lead rope from side to side, releasing immediately if he gave an inch. (front to back pressure created dangerous popping up horse!) This broke his feet lose and he suddenly walked right in. I praised and rewarded him lavishly. Once more for good measure. A slight hesitation and then in he came. More praise and rewards....
Round two today. Three successful loads. The takeaway... frustration gets you nowhere. And - Val can stretch his neck so very far to try and reach a bribe. (bribes don't work) Plus he gets a few extra inches with his major lips. In the midst of the drama he was cracking me up. Oh and the hierarchy of treats... horse cookies, then peppermints, then the holy grail... gingersnaps. Good to know :)