Welcome to my blog - a diary about living with donkeys, notes about care, my training sessions and the absolute pleasure of donkey companionship.

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Thursday, August 25, 2011

Trailer loading session

It's so important to teach trailer loading before you need it!  In an emergency, you want to know your animals will load easily and a happy animal is a safer animal too.

So this morning, I decided to hook up the trailer and back it into the barn paddock.  Dorica has been through this drill before, but the only time Siog was in a trailer was last November when she left her home on Pender Island.

Dorrie stepping in.
Dorrie's in!

When I brought Deenah home in 2006, it took me 2 hours to load her and since then, she has pretended not to notice a trailer - it isn't a word in her vocabulary!  And I have to confess, I haven't  used the trailer much, even though I have had the best of intentions.

Today both minis went in and out easily but Deenah wouldn't even consider it.  So after some supportive rewards for the minis, I tied them to fence posts and set about teaching Deenah how to load.

This is where clicker training can work miracles!  Deenah has been trained to follow a target stick.  I haltered Dee and asked her to follow the target and we walked all around the truck and trailer, stopping and starting several times.  When we arrived in front of the trailer's open doors, I stepped in and extended the target for Deenah to touch.  I didn't ask her to step in yet.

With clicker training, it's important to work in baby steps and not rush things, so I unhooked the lead rope and clicked and rewarded Deenah for staying at the back of the trailer and being interested.  Very gradually I held the target stick further inside and she'd crane her neck to touch it.  That's just fine.

Eventually she stepped up with her two front feet - click and reward!  But I wanted her to feel comfortable and not force her, so when I could see that she wasn't going to step in with her back feet, I snapped on the lead rope and walked her around again.

Back to the doors, step up, step back, click and reward for trying.  But now I decided to increase the reward, so I got a big handful of her favorite hay and place it on the trailer floor at the farthest corner.  After just a few tries, she stepped in and stood happily munching.  Success without any force!
You can see the target stick in the foreground where I left it for the photo.

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