Following on yesterday's lesson (to myself!) of quitting while you're ahead, I decided there's no time like the present and today I'd work on trailer loading with the goal of quitting while I was ahead.
Obviously, Princess Fancy Pants (PFP) has loaded on a trailer because I got her home. And before I got her, the seller had loaded her and taken her on little trips with her sister. But I wanted to try loading her without another horse on board and with no agenda of her actually getting ON the trailer and standing, I was just going for getting feet on the ramp and backing off the ramp quietly.
I brought my flag with me but decided to use treats as a motivation to start. I loaded up a fanny pack with carrots and cookies and put a bucket of carrots and cookies in the hay manger. I also had my clicker with me.
I started by introducing her to the clicker and linking it with a carrot when she touched the shaft of the flag. That went pretty quickly - I just wanted her to associate the click with a reward and not to associate mugging me with getting a click and/or reward.
We walked up to the trailer and she stood there looking in. As soon as she put a foot up on the ramp I clicked and gave her a carrot. It didn't take her even a minute to realize what was going on and we had both front feet on the ramp. I'd get front feet on and quietly back off, and then feet on and quietly back off again. Then I asked for all four feet (by putting pressure on the lead rope and releasing pressure and clicking/treating) to come on the ramp. Good. On/off/on/off we went. This was maybe another minute or two.
She exceeded my expectations and when I'd back her off and turn her away from the trailer, she acted like she wanted to do some more so we did. This time I wanted front feet in the trailer, back feet on the ramp. Good. On/off/on/off we went. She got a treat for coming on, and "good girl" and scratches for coming off. The goal was for it to be quiet and drama-free.
Finally we got all four feet in the trailer! Wow! She was so calm about it! I thought I'd give her the big reward of a cookie. She took it and ate it and then did the flehmen response to it (curl upper lip up, lift head, breathe deeply to get a good whiff). Backed her off quietly. Came on again with all four feet and I was so proud of her I offered her another cookie. But she didn't want it! Seems she only likes carrots, so I gave her a couple little pieces. Did it a couple more times and called it a day. It was a nice, quiet, short session and she did more than I would have expected her to. When she got on she stood quietly for treats and scratches. Even with Mac calling a couple times and my neighbor trenching next door she was attentive and as focused as a 2-year-old can be.
I'll do this a few times to get her comfortable in the trailer, then I'll work on the self-loading aspect of it.