A sometimes loader.....
My pony is hard to get on a float!
Thank you for your question Sofia. Float loading is something that lots of people have
trouble with. For a long time I had a horse that was a “Sometimes loader” and I found it
incredibly frustrating until I learnt that it is not about the float at all; it was about teaching my
horse to understand my cues.
My pony runs me over, and runs Mum over too!
If your pony is running you over then you only have partial control of your pony's feet.
This is where we start. If you want your pony to trust your decisions to go forward onto the
float, you will need to have control of your pony’s feet.
This is something you will have to work on away from the float. Start establishing “your
space”, that is the space that you can reach around you…. That’s your space, anytime he
comes into your space you will move his feet until he is out.
Sometimes he will go on the float, but…
Horses will always take the option that they believe to be the easiest for them. If he is
loading sometimes and then being taken off to hard work each time (riding, jumping...etc.),
there will be an association between the decision to load on the float and hard work. Take
some time to test your cues at the float without heading off to a competition or lesson. Just
load the pony on a few times and not ride him at that time.
He avoids by going off to the side of the float.
It’s great that your pony is choosing to try something. If he is running around to the side of
the float let him make the mistake of pulling to the side, then without letting him stop for a
rest and getting release of pressure, go with him around to the side and start doing the
opposite to side-ways: make him go forward or backwards.
It can take ages!
Initially it might take a few sessions to teach your pony the cues he needs to load safely. The
more short sessions you do, the faster he will learn. Take the time that it takes and you will
find your sessions get shorter and shorter.
We all get nervous when we know we have to load him on the float.
It’s understandable that you get nervous; being run over by a pony is never fun. Confidence
comes from using a system that you know will succeed.
Can you please give me some tips - to make this easier for him and us?
It is not about the float. Take your pony away from the float and work on moving his
feet, forward, backward, side-ways.
Establish the boundary between what is your space and his space.
Teach and test the two cues you need to load your pony on a float; the forward cue
and the backward cue. Teach your pony away from the float first.
Set some time aside for testing your cues at the float. Do this when you don't have to
be anywhere and you have plenty of time.
It is ok for you and your pony to make mistakes. Let him make the mistake of leaving
the float before moving his feet in the opposite direction to what he chose to do.
If the situation is escalating and feels dangerous, hire a professional trainer to help
A few final words:
Your pony is not being ‘stubborn’ or ‘silly’. He may genuinely be afraid of the horse float and
for that reason we should never use force or get angry when he is on or even near the float.
That would only serve to validate his fear. “I knew it; bad things do happen to me when I go
near that big dark cave on wheels.”
We need to establish the forward cue well away from the float and then simply test to see if
the cue works. Start practising by leading your pony over poles and then onto a piece of
carpet or rubber. Any response other than forward means your pony is telling you that he
doesn’t understand the forward cue well enough. Move away from the object (pole, rubber
mat or horse float) and resume practising the forward cue.
It is well worth investing the time to educate all horses to the cues on the ground (forward,
backward, side-ways) for safety reasons and the enjoyment of owning an obedient pony.
These cues also translate perfectly to float loading, dealing with any obstacle, and to ridden