Monty Roberts is renowned for his non violent and patient methods of training horses. In particular he has developed a unique approach towards working with nervous (spooky) and shy animals.
In this article I want to share his approach, that I have always admired, to loading horses who are difficult or reluctant loaders.
Here Monty takes us through the method he uses and although he has a team of support surrounding him, these are easy to replicate steps that anyone can use.
The biggest resource you will need is time (and patience).
Why Can Horses Be Difficult To Load?
If you think about loading from a horse’s perspective – you are asking them to step into a small enclosed space, where to all intents and purposes they cannot escape.
Overcoming this fear means that they have to develop a trust in you that is greater than their fear of the horse box. And for some horses this takes a little extra time and patience.
Sometimes little things can help with loading such as;
- Opening the top of the horse box door to allow light in and so the horse can see the outside
- Offer bribes so the box becomes associated with treats (be aware of developing a no treat no load horse though)
- Load another horse first so that they see it’s ok (only works effectively if the first horse is happy to have a dithering spooky horse playing around behind him outside)
- Make sure there is fresh hay or haylage to entice them in
- Try walking them into and out of the box (as Monty does in the video as well) so that they realise they can get out again.
Sometimes though horses need more time and coaxing, and so it is important to allow plenty of time for loading so that neither of you gets stressed out and impatient (doesn’t help if you are trying to get home from a show I know).
Sometimes though it is worth stepping back and looking at how the experts do it. And for this I want to share a video made at a Monty Roberts event where he shows the normal routine he uses to load a horse, one that is reluctant to get on the horse box.
Horse Loading Video
This video shows his system at work, using Freddie a reluctant loader who very quickly discovers that actually there is nothing to this loading business.
Key Learning Points About Loading
Monty raises an important point, which I have heard him discuss before. In Western horse training they don’t use short lead ropes, which is something we always do use here in the UK and Ireland.
Monty points out why a longer (lunge line) type rope is far more effective.
- If a horse backs off a horse box you have no choice but to go with him, so effectively you put him in charge of the situation. With a longer rope you stay still whilst the horse has space to think out the situation.
- A horse that is scared can be very strong and a short rope requires a lot of strength to hold back a spooked horse. A longer rope gives you leverage and means even a smaller person can hold a strong horse without causing damage to either themselves or the horse.
The other key fact to remember is that horses need time to process what is happening, so pushing or rushing a horse into a box doesn’t enable him to make the decision for himself to load. This means you will have exactly the same problem next time you go to load.
Monty refers to the ‘intrinsic’ learning that is needed in order for the horse to understand what is happening and to register that it is safe for him to enter the box.
Further Information on Monty Roberts
If you are interested in more information on Monty Roberts and his colleague Kelly Marks there are other posts on this site you may wish to read.
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