After our extended loading period at our show I had decided to get some outside help as I was clearly not getting anywhere on my own! Then, as if sent by a high power, I saw a thread on HHO recommending someone locally. So I got in touch and Rachel Morey from Tarrsteps Services arrived at the yard on Friday. She was fully up to speed with our history and watched me try to load (we got halfway up the ramp and was told to stop) before she took over.
I expected Buddy to be a pickle and was ready for an afternoon loading. But Rachel was fantastic and got on top of his antics pretty quickly and summed him up immediately. She felt that his loading issues stemmed from his feet as he is willing to load the wrong way round into my lorry even though its uncomfortable for him to stand that way (as his head is wedged against the bulkhead of the lorry!!) as he turns on his better foot. Had never really thought of that so was interesting and made complete sense.
After a couple of goes the wrong way it was time to load properly. He hesitated a bit and then rushed on at 100MPH! Good that he went on but we had to break it down and go slooooow. Getting off was also done in a rush so that also needed the tortoise treatment.
Rachel got Buddy thinking a step at a time and each phase was broken down into little steps. Being on the lorry was rewarded with a treat, more to get him to breathe, lick and chew than as a bribe. Getting off was done in the same way. Buddy was thinking about everything and was getting confident with every step.
We had to be careful that Buddy didn't get too cocky so we kept time on the box to 30 seconds max and once he 'got it' we didn't repeat too often, just enough to consolidate the 'good' behaviour.
Next was my go. I was anxious that I would mess it up so I listened carefully to what Rachel advised and tried to put it all into practise. First time we got on straight away but it was too fast and a bit wonky! Second time I adjusted my approach, kept each stride slow and deliberate and exited straight. Much better. One more time for luck and then we had a break to let it sink in and also to leave enough time for a problem to develop.
After a short break it was time to try again. Straight at the bottom of the ramp.. Then B swung his bum round. I corrected and put him straight again. He stayed straight so we started our ascent. Spot on. Descent was the same. Big pats and smiles all round.
Our lesson was done and my confidence was high ready for the great move.
Moving day dawned and after all my stuff was moved it was time to load. I'd had some texts from Rachel reminding me to keep calm and remember the system and she was available if I needed her to be.
So I got Buddy ready. We had a bit of a crowd so I was a bit more anxious but Rachel had said to think of the adrenaline/anxiety as a dial and to mentally turn it down - it really works! I had warned people that he may not load immediately and may revert to swinging to the right but we would get there in the end (and hopefully faster than last time).
I lined him up at the bottom of the ramp... And he walked calmly in! Text book!
I could not believe it (nor could my onlookers who were rather open mouthed!). It was a super calm experience! Then coming off the other side, despite being wired, he concentrated on me and our exit was cool, calm and collected. Successful mission all round.
I'm having Rachel back in a couple of months to teach Buddy to load himself - now THAT will be a cool trick - one for RRR13 ;0)
I would highly recommend Rachel and her work (obviously) and if any of you are having loading issues or have tricky horses she has a lot of experience that she can share so please feel free to get in touch with her.
You can find her on Facebook or www.tarrstepsservices.co.uk