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Butt Rope Beware

I hate to wake you up with a big ol' b-hole in your face picture, but hear me out - this is important.

Can we talk about trailering for a minute?

This is the hind end of our new paint girl. It's obviously from a "butt rope" session that went on far too long.

Now, I don't post this to shame the people who did it, they might not have known any better. I post this because trailering doesn't have to be this way. When you know better, you do better.

In effort to raise funds for our rescue, I haul horses for other people. I don't ever know these animals prior, most are rescues with behavioral problems or minimal handling and I rarely (if ever) use a butt rope. If I do, you would never see marks like this or in this area.

If you're going to use one, a butt rope is supposed to go under the hiney cheeks, about a hands length up (depending on the horse) from the hock. You want your pressure to encourage a forward movement off the hind end to engage the front feet to move up and forward into the trailer. It's momentum. Think about the flow of energy, it's working for you, going up and in the trailer.

When your rope slips and moves up to the bhole unexpectedly, you may have a horse fly into the trailer out of surprise/pain/avoidance (ladies, we've all been there)...but trust me, you're not doing the horse any favors and I can almost guarantee you will have more problems loading the next time. Anxiety creates hesitation and you don't want to add that to your toolbox when loading.

Think about the sensation you would get, and I'm completely serious, if someone continuously ran a rope across your most vulnerable area. Think about the movement of your body, the violation and the tension that would consume you instantly. Horses are no different. We don't want a rope to sand paper our assholes anymore than they would, so why do we expect results from this ridiculous technique?

Why? Because again, we are an instantaneous society who wants results now! And when we don't get results we have trained ourselves to believe that we let the horse "win" if we don't follow through. So we create this fight between horse and man where people mark their victory by getting the horse loaded.

Let me tell you right now, if you used force, you didn't win. In fact, you lost. You lost trust, an opportunity to work with your horse on confidence, and you lost hope of an easier, compliant load next time.

I hate to break it to you, but baby steps apply to trailering as much as they do with any other form of training. Stop looking at what the horse didn't do and praise what they did!

Our most important tool is time. If you're in a rush to load a horse, you shouldn't be doing it. If you wait for an emergency to try and load a horse you have owned for several years, you should expect a disaster. If you're amped up and annoyed, that's going to travel down the lead rope.

Trailering is like any other form of training. You want voluntarily compliance with minimal force. Don't force a horse in because you were too busy/lazy/forgot to trailer train your animal. Give your horses the tools to work through their fears without adding to it by loading forcefully.

Trailering is progressive, don't expect your horse is going to jump right into a 2 horse straight load if they have never seen one before. Work them through it one step at a time. You might not get him loaded on the first session, or second session or even the third but if you're listening to your horse, they will tell you their needs. "I'm afraid, I don't want to leave my friends, I don't trust you to keep me alive, I hit my head before on one of these, I don't like you yanking on my head, please don't go behind me, I'm crowded, I don't want you in there" ...horses are always talking to us. We just need to listen. If he/she isn't ready, it's your job to HELP them, not hurt them.

I know there are horses who are just plain stubborn, herd bound, or defiant, but that's a training issue as well that should be addressed before you ever try to load a horse. If your herd animal doesn't see and respect you as their leader, no butt rope in the world is going to help you. Call a trusted trainer to learn the basics of herd dynamic and how the human component plays into that. Set yourself up to succeed. Don't be one more person who fucks up a horse because you didn't know better.

A popular phrase in the horse training world is, "if you're not getting the answer you want, try a different question." It applies to loading/trailering as well. If the butt rope wasn't working for the first hour you tried it, the next hour isn't going to be any better! Cut your losses and slow it down or call a reputable trainer...but please for the love of all things holy, please stop rope burning horses by trying to load them! It doesn't have to be that way.

I loaded this mare in 15 minutes without any force using a just a rope halter. Don't punish the animal for a people problem.

Heather and I both have availability for training. If you or your horse need help loading, let us give you the tools for your toolbox. Our rates are very reasonable and all funds go toward supporting the rescue! PM the page for details.