I recently moved my horse to our new home. I had no idea if he would box well (or at all) – so I was a bit nervous on the day that I was going to move him. Interestingly enough, my uncertainty was strong enough to show in my behaviour and in how I was working with Chubb.
Naturally he picked up on this, and by the time we got to the box he had already decided that he’s not going in there. He didn’t fight me, he simply planted his feet and would not move forward into the box. In that moment I thought “Oh no, it’s happening, the worst possible thing that could have happened in this moment. What if I never get him into the stupid box?”
Now I don’t have a lot of experience in boxing horses, because I hardly ever transport them. Chubb came from our neighbours, so no box was required (therefore I didn’t know how he would load). I was doubting myself big time, and it was like I forgot in that moment everything I had learned about horsemanship. I almost went to a place of not knowing what to do, of losing hope and just giving up – but I didn’t. After some puttering around and some ineffective attempts to get him in the box I took a moment to pause and re-evaluate the situation.
I knew that Chubb is not a naughty character, he is confident and tries hard to listen when we are learning or doing something new. I knew that, while I may not have done a lot of trailer loading, I have done plenty exercises that involve moving the horse into or through a small area confidently and calmly. I recognised that I had messed us around a bit with my lack of confidence earlier, but that it was reparable. I took a deep breath, calmed myself down, and started the slow (but much faster than my previous approaches!) process of getting him up the ramp, one step at a time (literally).
20 minutes later Chubb was in the box.
What changed? Not the horse. Not the circumstances. Just me. I changed who I was. I changed the thoughts I had been entertaining previously. I changed how I was feeling. I changed how I was approaching and perceiving the situation. Maybe it sounds complicated, but it was really very simple. There is no magic combination of things to do, it’s all about what we are participating in and creating within ourselves. That is what our horses see, it is what shows in our behaviour, body language, voice and presence.