When trailer loading is easy

Recently I posted a video of a little horse happily self loading into a trailer. It has gotten a fair amount of attention because it is very cute but also because people can see the enthusiastic way this horse approaches the trailer.  The thing that I wanted to bring to the attention of the group is that there’s more behind the story than meets the eye.2014-11-11 20.55.11
The week before the video, this little horse was in the trailer happily munching on the high value food reinforcers when a big noise outside the trailer really startled him. It was a loud, unfamiliar noise and he scrambled out of that trailer, eyes wide, nostrils flared and very afraid. Once he was outside of the trailer, he surveyed the area and saw the source of the noise, which was a person dragging a mat on the concrete. He looked around, decided that he was OK, and then trotted back on the trailer. I let out a sigh of relief and we went on about our training.

Fast forward. A week later I went back to visit. We set up the trailer the way we normally do and tested to see how he was going to respond. The video is from that first test run. Needless to say, the long and positive history of successful trailer loads overrode the negative experience.

This is one of the bonuses of clicker training that I find very compelling. Behavior can be very resilient when trained with positive reinforcement. It is also one of the bonuses of training a behavior with a horse that volunteers effort, is allowed to set training pace, and where the freedom to choose is a part of the training process.


Because this horse learned to load into the trailer using shaping, he was an active participant the whole process. He had at least a hundred repetitions of good experiences with this trailer, which is a lot of why he bounced back so easily when he had a scary incident.

I just had to share this side of the story to an otherwise “cute” video. I knew you folks would appreciate it.


About clickertraininghorses - Peggy Hogan

I teach people and train horses using positive reinforcement. The horses I work with are given choice, the freedom to volunteer behavior. The joy is that they strive to volunteer what works for both of us.
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