I studied horsemanship under a guy who used this saying a lot. “Take the time it takes to take less time”. My introduction to the phrase came when he was demonstrating how to train a horse to load in a trailer, but it applies to almost everything you do in life and I find myself quoting it often.
We went to an outdoor arena, and the instructor had a young horse that was terrified to go into an enclosed trailer. He was very nervous; he felt threatened and trapped in such a small closed in space. As the instructor was coaching us on what to do, he said if the horse learns this today he will remember it the rest of his life, and it will make your life easier every time you want to haul him somewhere. Hmm… take the time it takes, and spend as much time as you need to today as an investment. Now it takes less time every time you want to haul the horse. He will walk right into the trailer; no fuss, no hesitation, just time saved every single time you want to go somewhere.
With horses it goes something like this: you want to get the horse to think that they can rest in the trailer. If they make any motion or look toward the trailer, you let them go that way. However, if they back away or make any move at all away from the trailer, you keep their feet moving with no rest until they go back toward it.
This mare was not scared of the trailer, but she wouldn’t go in without one person pulling and another pushing with all their might. Not cool when you are already running late to be somewhere.
I started her out with a large rubber ball and rode her around, letting her front feet come into contact with the ball. The movement does wonders for their confidence, as horses are natural born cowards.
Next we went to the trailer, and my goal here was to make it her idea to load. I wouldn’t get up in front and pull her in; I wanted her to walk in on her own. Notice her right heel cocked? We were in this position for a long time, just letting her go at her own pace.
The worst thing you can do here is make a sudden move to try and swing the gate shut! Horses play games pretty much all the time, and she would know that you tricked her if you slamed the gate shut. If this happened, the next time she would not load. The only thing I would ask at this point is that she back out when she is ready. I wouldn’t allow her to turn around and walk out. This is a stock trailer, but most horse trailers are walk in and back out only, so I want her to be comfortable with the backing and stepping down.
She is trying to get the lead rope in her mouth in this picture. Always playing games, as I said! I was riding her with a rope halter and taught her to bend, flex, and stop from the ground before I ever climbed on. Every horse I trained went through this trailer loading exercise, and my first ride was always bareback with a halter. They need to be able to feel your cues before advancing to the saddle. When her owner came to get her, I led her up to the trailer and said “load”, and she jumped in. I was all smiles, and he was very impressed and had lots of questions. I just told him to take the time it takes so that it takes less time.