Unloading the Horse from the Trailer or Lorry- Human Perceptions

I recently had a horse arrive from Montana for training and it was a good reminder of some things I've noticed over the years.

Frequently, especially if loading the horse initially was stressful or concerning for both human and horse, when folks arrive somewhere they tend to want to rush when unloading and "hurry" to get the horse to the new stall or pasture.

The point of the prior interactions with a horse is to increase their availability to "hear" and address what the handler is asking of them, irrelevant of the familiarity of a location.

But in many cases, as there is during other times of the interaction when the human's focus is on the task, the Quality of the Conversation diminishes. Yet, especially when arriving somewhere unfamiliar or new, this is the time the horse needs the human's support and their direction the most.

I have witnessed an endless number of folks who unload and let the horse look around at the new location. Which isn't an issue if the horse is receptive towards the human's influence. The problem for most people is as soon as the horse starts looking, their mind is "gone" far away from their body or they start dragging the human around or towards the grass.

There is a balance between allowing a horse to look, not wanting to take the awareness a horse naturally has out of him, but also that he maintains an availability to address the handler.

Just getting from the unloading area to the pastures here on the property can be a "lot" of new stuff, and stimulation between round pens, hay covered with tarps, chairs, hotwire, other horses, etc. Even on a calm day, it can be a gauntlet for new horses.

This type of scenario is why I'm always reminding folks to break things down into specific, slow, and intentional segments when asking something of their horse. Even during the unloading, there can be pauses during the horse backing up, stopping when his hind end is on the ground and him waiting to step down with his front feet, there can be a quiet halt while the trailer door is being closed... then on the person's terms, the horse can be asked to look towards something specific, then redirect their thought elsewhere, etc. Then ask for a few steps. Checking in that the horse has a mental and physical halt, then if he can offer a variety of energy in the walk when led...

By offering this, as the walk continues, there is the ability to influence what is about to "happen" as the horse sees the chairs, hotwire, tarps, etc. It diffuses potential build-up of the horse rushing past the unfamiliar and barging into the pasture. It diminishes the stress of the "newness."

Yet for most folks, when experiencing the unfamiliar and feeling an increase in their horse's concern, they rush in hurrying up to "get it over with." So what does that teach the horse for future scenarios? If unsure hurry, the person will "contain" them with a general heaviness on the lead, and then they are turned loose on their own.

It is very hard for folks to realize that at all times they are teaching our horse something, whether or not they realize it. Even if things don't go as ideal as you'd like, or it takes longer to work through a situation, the more you stay present and help the horse work through things in his time of worry, concern or stress, the more he'll turn to you for help in the first place.

It isn't about being somewhere new, unloading, or walking past scary stuff. It is about the two-way communication that builds the partnership and trust. So any opportunity you have, planned or not, try to stay present to what your horse needs in the present moment, and not have a "we'll work on that later" approach

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