Preparation is key for older horses who are having problems at the trailer. Sometimes, it’s that they were never halter started correctly and don’t really know how to lead.
“When I put some pressure on the lead rope, they need to come right off it,” says Brent Graef, a horsemanship clinician from Canyon, Texas. In his young-horse class, the definition of “enough pressure” is no more than what it would take to pull the wings off a butterfly; the horses – whether they’re youngsters or older horses – should be light on the lead rope.
So that’s Brent’s first checkpoint when he’s working with a problem-trailer-loading horse. If the horse doesn’t know how to follow a soft feel, then more ground work is needed until he leads up nicely. If the horse can lead correctly, though, Brent moves on to his next step: influencing the horse’s feet.
“I try to get in time with his feet,” Brent says. He asks the horse to lead at his elbow, so he can see the front feet. Then, as the right front foot is just about to leave the ground, Brent lifts up slightly on the lead rope, asking that foot to shorten its stride.
He does the same thing just as the left front foot is about to leave the ground. On the next two strides, Brent will ask the horse to return to his regular stride. Then he’ll ask the horse to lengthen his strides, timing the requests just as each front foot is lifting off the ground.
By Holly Clanahan for America’s Horse
American Quarter Horse Association
1600 Quarter Horse Drive
Amarillo, TX 79104