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Hi everyone

I’m looking for some help here. Since I’ve had Darcy (3 years now, yay!) he has always scrambled in the float and for the first time last week I actually sat in the float with him while my Dad drove through our estate and around the PC grounds. I was able to watch what he was doing and while it was certainly eye opening to see, it was also a bit scary seeing him suddenly go from calmly standing in the float to braced and scrambling up the wall of my float! I also videoed him and you can see how he randomly braces, and if it happens to be a left turn that is when he scrambles.
 
I know this has something to do with his confidence however I’m not sure how to approach it. He loads and unloads beautifully and can load in anyway you can imagine, and at a standstill and during most of the float trip he is calm. He also doesn’t seem to have problems with claustrophobia and will go through basically any strange obstacle I ask.
 
I have talked with Fiona about it and she explained that it is because he isn’t comfortable moving his hind legs in the float. This makes sense and I saw it firsthand while I was in the float with Darcy. However I have tried asking him to move around in the float bay a few times and while he quite easily goes forward and backward, and even moves his forequarter across he won’t move his hind. I have tried going through my asks and phases like I would do normally when asking for a hindquarter yield but he stays stuck and if I keep asking he gets really worried, so I have avoided doing this as I want the float to be a nice place to be. For the time being if he is going anywhere with Khmari I put Darcy in the passenger side bay which prevents him from scrambling (and potentially hurting himself), however I know that this is just a bandaid for the problem until I can fix it.
 
If anyone has any helpful tips that would be amazing! I have attached a video filled with small clips and some photos that show him bracing and a small scramble (I have seen his hind legs go up to the bottom of the padding however I didn’t get it on video), plus some photos of the imbalance of sweat on his body after a trip (from bracing). I really worry about Darcy and I want to help make floating a more pleasurable experience for him. Thank you!
 

 

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Hi Luna,

Thanks for posting, that's really interesting to see thanks!

I don't think there is one easy answer or solution, looks to me like because he's braced he's not flexing through his body and therefore can't balance himself properly and his hind feet don't move enough. The only thing I can say is to keep doing what you're doing to improve his emotion fitness and lateral softness. It may take time and perhaps many float trips for him to work it out.  ;) Just keep layering those positive experiences.

When you see how braced they are while travelling it just makes you appreciate how hard they try for us when they load. (and Darcy is just a mild case!) 

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Poor fella. Yes as Jen says he is braced and not widening his stance which is causing him to lose balance. Many things can cause this to happen, like banging their leg when trying to balance, lack of lateral softness or even just plain old scared of the float. Doesn't really matter what causes it we just need to fix it.

Need to build his confidence with the program of course but also make it easy for him to widen his feet by putting the divider across, you may need to make a new rope for across the back and make sure not to tie him up until the tailgate is closed. Doing a few trips like this should build his confidence back up but whether he can ever be brave enough to travel in a slim trailer will depend on him. Good luck and keep us posted.

 

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PS: some old school horsemen would take the divider out if they were taking 2 horses, to allow them more room to move.

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Thank you Jen and Shane,

I completely agree that he is bracing and not balancing himself properly, and fingers crossed he will improve slowly as his education increases. Now that I have seen just how bad he is travelling in the float I can't believe that he loads at all, let alone quite happily! 

I will try moving the divider across the next trip we do and see if that helps Darcy at all. I might see if my Dad can just drive us around a little on the property and see how Darcy reacts too.

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Poor Darcy, it amazes us how much they try, and how willing he is to go on the float when he obviously is uncomfy in there!

Might need to consider an anti scramble float to help him out.  I would be happy to take him for a ride in mine when we are together next to see how he feels in there.  Might be an option for the future to help him build confidence. 

Thanks for sharing the videos, its a good example of whats happening for Darcy while travelling.

 

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7 hours ago, retrorods said:

Poor Darcy, it amazes us how much they try, and how willing he is to go on the float when he obviously is uncomfy in there!

Might need to consider an anti scramble float to help him out.  I would be happy to take him for a ride in mine when we are together next to see how he feels in there.  Might be an option for the future to help him build confidence. 

Thanks for sharing the videos, its a good example of whats happening for Darcy while travelling.

 

Yes. I can't believe he even loads at all! I would love to invest in an anti-scramble float but there is no way I can afford one unfortunately.

Thank you. I think a trip in your float might really help him gain some confidence.

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Wow, this is interesting and scary to watch. I only watched a couple of minutes but it looked like the partition was actually helping keep him upright! What is an anti-scramble float? How does it differ from a regular float? 

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Yep....it'll all come down to his confidence and ability to soften his hind (doesn't everything!) and be happy to move his back feet around.  It's a bit like when we do a hind1/4 yield or a sideways move and our horse just steps / shuffles across without really committing to the hind coming under. So often they just step across and then step together without the hind coming under at all.  It'll give us trouble in many areas, and is highlighted in trailer travel.

And anti scramble trailer just narrows at the top where the horse's body is and is wider (usual width) at the bottom for the feet to have 'more room' supposedly.  But it doesn't fix the problem of the horse not being confident enough to move their feet.

Very often trailers are made too narrow so the horse can't move enough.  And of course, front loading trailers are the worst design for a horse float as it tips all the horse's weight on the front end all the time and so they brace to try to be able to stand up.

A horse in a loose area, like a truck, will turn sideways or even backward, to balance when traveling.  Makes sense to the horse but not always to trailer builders!

So if you ever get a new float, get an angle load.

:)

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Hi Luna,

Red started scrambling after we had an accident where the float came off the tow ball & the horses were thrown around.  I can understand why he became very nervous in the float as it was a pretty scary incident.   After that I could still get him on the float but his legs were absolutely frozen in fear.  With advice from QS I took out the centre divider and just starting asking for small sideways steps - this was with the car turned off and float not moving. Just rewarding the slightest try.  We then eventually started again with the float moving but still with the centre divider out & then progressed to putting the divider back in.  It has taken time but he's pretty good now. Good luck!

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Hi Lunea,

Some fab advise from everyone.  I can only ad that if you cant get him to step sideways (it might be easier for him when you take the divider out) try starting by asking him to lift his feet with just a good old contact yield.  Make sure you are in a safe position to do this of course.  I would also try the front feet with this too if you can. 

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Hi everyone.

With all of your advice in mind I went out today and took the centre divider out of my float, then I loaded Darcy in. When I first shut the ramp he turned around backwards to look at me, so I had to turn him back around again! :lol:

Then I asked him just to move forward, backward and sideways in his double bay for a few minutes. He once again had no problem moving his forequarter but his hind was a bit stuck, although he did give me a few good tries of moving his hind from one side of the float to the other. He didn't however offer to disengage his hind (definitely an emotional thing), but I didn't pursue it as he was at least moving around a little - even if it was only a shuffle. I will try again tomorrow and see if he can offer me his hind.

Then my Dad took us for a drive around the estate and I went with Darcy in the float to observe what he was doing as well as to be there just incase he were to go down in the larger space. I did film a little bit too, which I can upload later if anyone is interested.

Here are some observations I made:

  • Darcy will choose to stand on the passenger side of the float so that he is able to do his brace where he pushes to the left. He would only move into the centre of the bay after I asked him to move sideways a few times.
  • Darcy was unable to scramble, but he did however spread his legs a lot a couple of times, especially when he was bracing. His hind took over about 1 1/2 bays a couple of times.

I would like to float him like this a few more times to see if he gains confidence with the larger area, as well as getting him more comfortable to move around inside the float. Then the plan will be to float him with Khmari and without the divider, so that if Darcy tries to brace he will push on Khmari and hopefully Khmari will have a go at him and it might discourage Darcy from bracing so much.

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Hey Luna thanks for posting this all here it is so interesting to read about Darcy's journey with the float. It definitely sounds like your making some progress so keep at it. It will be interesting to see how he goes with Darcy in the float with him, hopefully he will be able to help him figure it out a bit more :)

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Yep....that is exactly the problem Luna.  With a forward facing float, the natural stance of a horse is going to be quite wide for them to be able to balance.  Forward facing forces them to stand narrow.  So unless they are happy to move their back end around a lot, they soon get braced and stuck and the scramble begins because they loose balance.

Angles are great but failing that, giving them the chance to stand with their feet wider by taking out the divider.

Horses don't really need dividers...it's more for our sake (we like things tidy! and to keep our horses separate).  They'll travel quite happily loose in a stock truck just like cows will if we let them....but I guess we don't want to turn up to our horsie events with a stock truck.  ;)   Well actually I do want exactly that but most don't.

Keep at it.  You're doing great and everyone is learning from your efforts Luna so thank you for sharing.

:)

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Hi Luna!

Ditto to what everyone else said - I was going to suggest Mel´s advice here, I´ve seen it help quite a few horses. Teach him that he can move his feet by doing basic yields in the trailer. He will soon learn that he can move his feet in there and might help him to understand how to balance himself.

Good luck! It will get better :)

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Hey Luna, i've just got to say that I really commend you for getting in there with Darcy to see what is really going on. Must of been a bit of a shock for you. Definitely sounds like you are making some progress now from all this great advice. Thank you for sharing. 

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HI Luna, 

Great and very powerful observations. Like Kerry said, it is awesome that you got in the float with him, understanding exactly what he is doing and where he puts himself to find comfort has told you a lot. 

Im wondering about floating with Kamair at this stage though, if Kamari pushes his him around and pushes some buttons it could make him more emotional, but at the end of the day, you know them both the best. 

It sounds like your making great progress helping him out.Great work

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Hi everyone. Thank you for all of your tips and encouragement! I actually floated Darcy out to the Play Day last weekend without a divider on the way there and then with the divider pushed over at an angle on the way home. 

I did watch what Darcy was doing a little bit through the back window and I'm happy to say that without the divider he was making the decision to stand on the passenger side (where he can't brace) for a majority of the trip, or more frequently angle himself with his butt pointing towards the centre of the road. He also seemed to be bracing a little less and he didn't scramble once. He was also great with the divider in at just an angle. 

I will definitely be floating him like this for a while to get up his confidence, then hopefully we can go back to bays eventually. :D 

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That’s fantastic Luna. I’m sure this will be a great help to teaching Darcy that he can balance himself and move his feet while travelling, well done! 

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