Help Your Horse Enjoy Traveling cont

Well I am sure that if the owners had been reading the horse’s body language on previous boxing attempts they may have just had all the information they needed to prevent the situation of the horse not boxing. The horse would probably have shown one or more of the following indicators when asked to box

  • Stepping back
  • Increased respiration and heart rate
  • Stopping on the ramp and trying to avoid going in
  • Taken longer to box than usual
  • Needing a guide rope around its bum or other assistance to go forward
  • Fecal output is increased and different to normal consistency
  • Slightly higher head carriage than usual
  • Muscles are trembling

Most horses are never trained to box, they are just expected to know how to do it and if they do load easily once or twice people presume they can and do box. Also horses are usually only loaded when they need to be taken somewhere. Horses that go to shows clearly travel more and thus get experience ( either good or bad) as they do more traveling they become experienced. This however doesn’t mean they enjoy traveling. Many show horses that need to travel long distances loose weight and bet off the transport muscle bound and weary.

Boxing needs to be seen as a behaviour and as such needs to be taught in a step by step way. Each step should be trained so when the horse is faced with boxing it has the tools to help it cope. Even horses that have traveled a lot can benefit from going back to basics and having some positive connotations associated with boxing. Here are some basic steps for you and these sessions can be done anytime. When horses are in horse sickness or not working doing box training is a good way to still work your horse and also set your self up for success in the future. Always be aware of your safety and that of your horse! The horse box must be hitched or supported in such a way that it is secure.

Loading your horse

Work on the following as often as you can and remember to keep sessions short and positive:

Teach your horse to back up and come forward on the lead rein, then ask them to do it on the ramp progressing to inside the box
Incorporate clicker training into these sessions to improve communication and inspire a positive response
Box your horse and give him a full meal of concentrates in the box. Take him out as he finishes eating
Always ensure there is an extra special hay net in the box, hide some of your horses favorite treats in the hay. ( bread, carrots, apples etc)
Load your horse close the ramp, then take him out and put him back in his camp or stable without going anywhere ( older show horses will look at you like you have lost the plot but you have them guessing next time you box them)
Box your horse and just go for a 5minute drive and return unload and carry on as usual.
When you have unloaded the horse ask him to load again and keep him in for 5minutes or so rewarding him well.

If you have a horse with a boxing or traveling issue please seek an experienced or professional to help you. There are also a few things you can do to set yourself up for success:

  • Take a bag of the horse’s bedding or manure and spread it in liberally in the box. A sparkling clean horsebox smelling of cleaning agents will not put a horse at ease; horses have a highly evolved sense of smell. Having his own familiar scents around him will go a long way in helping him settle.
  • Always have someone calm travel with the horse
  • Wipe the horse down with lavender essential oil mixed in a carrier oil before traveling
  • Put some sprigs of fresh aromatic lavender in the bedding on the floor of the box, as the horse stands on it the fragrance will be released
  • If you are tense take some rescue yourself and give the horse 6- 8 rescue tablets in a piece of bread before you start the loading session
  • Always stay calm
  • Give the horse a clear idea of what is expected of him.
  • Do not trap the horse or trick it into the box ( you will only catch him once and create a bigger problem for yourself next time)
  • Transport the horse with a calm traveling companion he knows

Enjoy the training and be creative, also remember when you start a training session you need to be committed to finish it so ensure you have enough time at your disposal.