What’s Different?

Boomer and Apollo, young APHA paint geldingsBoomer is having to relearn how to load into a trailer this week. All of a sudden, our trailer got really weird and scary. You know why?

There are wood shavings in it now!

To Boomer, who still has not had a whole lot of training, they look and smell pretty weird. They also make a dangerous noise when you walk on them.

Horses are always playing the “What’s different?” game. As a prey animal, it’s to the horse’s advantage to be constantly scanning his environment, identifying what has changed since the last time he was here.

When something changes in the environment, the horse has to decide in a split second if this new thing is a potential threat. Is it going to eat me?

Horses are often stubborn or spooky because something has changed and they no longer know if they are safe. Often, we aren’t even aware of what the new threat is! When a horse is stubborn or upset about something he “should” know how to do, it is often because he’s concerned about his safety.

Boomer (paint horse) does not want to trailer loadThis is particularly true for young horses like Boomer who have not had a whole lot of training and have not been exposed to as many things as a more seasoned horse. This is also why it is important to expose and desensitize your horse to as many things as you can.

So, Boomer and I are slowly working through trailer loading again. Yesterday he put both front feet in several times and today he walked all the way in once. He’s not very confident about the shavings yet and I let him back out as soon as he gets in. It helps build his confidence if he knows he can escape.

Interestingly, when one horse is uncomfortable with a change in the environment, another horse might not care at all. I led Moody, one of our yearlings, in and out of the trailer several times today. It was his first day seeing shavings and he couldn’t have cared less!

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