Balancing Billy – boxing an anxious horse
I spent this morning on the beach with Billy, a horse that I’ve done some work with on boxing (trailering) and a couple of other more general issues.
Tracey (his owner) made it clear to me that she wanted to be able to trailer him safely and confidently to the beach whenever she chose to do so.
Lean on me
Initially he wouldn’t get in the horsebox at all, so I worked him through that (as described in a previous post). Once we got him to the point where he would enter the box, we discovered he had another issue. When the car was moving, he would lean on the side of the box, relying on the box to hold him up. Then he would paw on the side the box trying to regain his balance.
I noticed that his balance would get worse the more anxious or nervous he got. As he lost balance, so he would panic more and this would make him lose his balance more, which worsened his panic, and so it went on. A bit of a vicious cycle.
Before she got Billy, Tracey spoke to a lady who had boxed him once said that she would never box him again as it was such a traumatic experience.
Naturally, Billy also left this very stressful experience with negative memories and associations on the whole boxing thing. So today was really about getting him more confident in the box so that he could keep his balance better and thus be more relaxed.
Slow and steady
After he was in the horsebox, we started driving very short distances with me in the box with him. Starting off with these short trips is important for building confidence. When I saw him losing his balance, I would gently remind him to “find his feet again” by lightly tugging on his halter in the opposing direction to help him to find the balance again. I asked Tracey to drive extremely slowly around the corners as this was where Billy faced the most difficulty keeping his balance.
We’ve done a few trips now and he has made a big improvement, both in getting into the box and keeping his balance while traveling. I’m happy to say that all seems to be going very well with no issues so far. We are now working on getting Billy ok with the beach, but that’s a story for another day….🙂