You’ve had a great trail ride, an awesome show, or even a trip to the vet’s office and when it’s time to get your horse in the trailer…they won’t go in.
Anxiety, stress, frustration…argh!!!
No amount of treats, grain or ropes around the rear end will persuade your four-legged friend to load up.
A client named Sara came to me for help with this problem.
What we uncovered can help you in ANY situation with your horse and can help you build a stronger, more meaningful bond.
Her horse, Alfie, a gorgeous Quarter horse/Morgan cross was perfect in so many ways. But he wouldn’t load up when it was time to go home from trail rides, events, and the vet’s office. It started out slowly, she said, and over time it developed into a huge fight and anxiety when it was time to go home.
Out of sheer frustration, Sara scheduled a session.
“What am I doing wrong?” she asked. “I have tried EVERYTHING and NOTHING works!”
When I opened up to the horse’s energy, Alfie immediately told me that he loves his mom very much but she sends him ‘mixed messages’.
When I asked what he meant he said, “Mom’s mind does not match her heart.”
I hear this more than any other message from horses: We send confusing, mixed messages and in frustration, horses tune us out or respond instinctually to suit their needs, not ours!
Horses are by nature ‘Fight or flight’ creatures, with most leaning toward ‘flight’.
When faced with any situation that produces nervous, tense or anxious energy from us, their leader, they naturally resort to FLIGHT.
They ‘self-preserve’ or ‘self-protect’ since they can’t rely on us as their leader to protect them.
In this case, the horse relayed energetic messages to me that clearly showed how he can sense her nervousness and anxiety after the trail rides.
Since Sara is his ‘herd leader’ he looks to her for safety and guidance.
I asked him to show me what the trailer looked like to him.
Upon leaving for any trip he showed me a feeling of happiness, excitement and the feeling of fun and adventure.
This was because he was pulling his energy from Sara’s excitement about the upcoming trip.
On the return trip, however, the images shifted to a darker, unsettling, and uncomfortable feeling.
Alfie was pulling from Sara’s fears and anxiety and since she was his ‘herd leader’ if she was nervous, then he should be too.
Sara admitted that she started to tense up in anticipation of ‘not getting him in the trailer’ about 30 minutes before their ride ended.
“I can’t help myself, I get nervous thinking about the big ordeal ahead of trailering him,” she said.
I instructed Sara to work on visualizing a clear and simple image of Alfie loading on each return trip.
“Picture it in your mind,” I said. “Your thoughts are real to Alfie. Remember that.”
I guided her to do deep breaths at the 30-minute mark, grounding herself, calling up her strength and confidence as Alfie’s leader.
Picture the completed task of Alfie loaded in the trailer.
Imagine how wonderful it feels to get into the trailer after a fantastic ride.
Visualize all the love, attention and yummy treats Alfie will get when you return to the barn.
Dismiss any other nervous, anxious or fearful thoughts.
As homework, I asked Sara to create some confidence building exercises at the barn with Alfie where she would ask him to do a simple task and apply all of the visualizations above.
Soon, the two were connecting on a new, confident energetic level.
The simpler Sara kept her thoughts, the quicker Alfie responded. (and appropriately responded).
She made the exercises fun and rewarded him after each task keeping it positive and interesting.
Sara slowly regained her confidence as Alfie’s leader.
More importantly, Alfie slowly regained his confidence in Sara as his herd leader and began loading up willingly and easily on the return trip.