Snappy departures are often a weak link in the communication with horses, but they are very important, especially with trailer loading. The other day I was helping someone load and transport her two horses. As she saw me loading them, she quickly noticed her weak link: she was not assertive enough with the departures. You can read about this in my e-book, but this article will complement the e-book on this subject.
There are some commonalities with the previous article on “teaching your horse to be tied”. The area just behind their ears invokes a lot of reaction/resistance with many horses when they feel pressure there. This is instinctive, but we can help them by teaching them to yield for pressure of the halter.
This would be the ideal response: You stretch your arm out in the direction you want your horse to go and on to the slightest pressure he feels on the halter he smoothly leaves in a walk. With a little click of your tongue he should offer a trot and if you add a little driving he should go into a canter from a standstill. A common mistake is to work with a belly in the rope. That way you miss out on all the advantages to teach your horse to yield from pressure from the halter. This way you avoid the situation and when you need it (like with trailer loading), your horse can use it against you (consciously or subconsciously).
The signals: 1. Your body language is active and you turn your shoulders to the new direction 2. You stretch out your arm in that direction and make contact with the halter through the leadrope 3. If you want you can use a click of the tongue 4. By driving with your other arm (including an arm extension) you should be effective until you get the desired result (= snappy departure)
Mark the result with a number between 0 and 10 (if your horse goes against the pressure, the mark is even negative and you do not stand a chance with the trailer). “0” is where your horse does not react at all to pressure from the halter. “5” is where your horse starts to walk, but he responds very slowly (still not good enough). “10” is into a relaxed canter from a standstill, solely on pressure from the halter (combined with correct body language and energy of course). For trailer loading to be successful you will at least need a “7”: from a standstill snappy into trot … solely on pressure from the halter and with appropriate energy in your body language.
Feel free to leave questions or comments underneath.