Lily's new horse, Markus, has never, ever gotten on our trailer on the first try. At first we cut him some slack. We have a step-in, slant-load trailer (very open, so it's well lit), and his former owner had a ramp-load trailer. We figured he wasn't used to a step-in and it would just take some time. Soon he'd be hopping in, like Buddy.
But no. Time didn't help. Markus was never awful about it, but he never would step in on the first try. Sometimes not on the second. Sometimes not on the third. Things never escalated -- he never dragged Lily around or reared up or did anything terrible. He just failed to get in.
We tried treats. He would not be bribed. I held a broom behind him, sweeping it in his direction. He went backwards, away from the door. If he wasn't so gentlemanly in his refusal to just go ahead and get in, we would have escalated. But since it was just a matter of walking around to the trailer door a lot, we dealt with it. I have to confess that he got popped with the leadrope a couple of times but it never seemed to make a difference. He would get in when he decided to get in. Usually by the third try.
Then I learned something about Markus. At a lesson a couple of weeks ago Lily's teacher told her to quit jumping one jump they couldn't get quite right because Markus was beginning to get worried. I thought that was very perceptive. Yes, now that you mention it, the horse was worrying. He was jumping it fine -- he loves to jump and has a grand heart for working -- but repeating the effort, even though Lily hadn't quite worked out whatever they were working on on her position, was making Markus worry that he wasn't doing something right. So they quit and moved on to something else and Markus quit worrying.
I never thought about a horse worrying about not doing something right. But Lily's teacher was right. Markus tries so hard that if something isn't right, he worries.
You have to love Thoroughbreds.
Yesterday it was time for another lesson, and we needed to load him in our trailer to haul him to the lesson farm. I started to stand in my usual position, sort of behind him and to the side. I saw him roll his eyes to look at me, and realized that he's not getting in the trailer because he's worried about me standing there!
So I told Lily to wait a minute, to give me time to move to the front of the truck where Markus wouldn't worry about me. And with me out of the way and out of sight, Markus walked right on.
After her lesson we did the same thing. Again, he walked right on. First time, both times.
We are loving this horse. He's all set to do his job -- we just need to get out of his way.