You are probably asking ‘Now what does floating the horse have to do with the farrier?’ I shoe a lot of horses from my home property – most of my clients bring their horses here and some arrive very late, citing the same old problem that the horse wouldn’t load, and consequently arrives still in a distressed state, which makes shoeing it less than desirable. There is also the danger involved in loading an untrained horse that jumps sideways off the ramp and splits its hooves or pulls a shoe off, or various other injuries which all add to the drama.
So what is the problem with training the horse to load properly?
There are many and varied ways of training your horse to load, and training the handler to train the horse is the first step in almost all methods, or should be. I agree with any method as long as it is peaceful and doesn’t waste time. Horse owners spend great amounts of money to learn to ride correctly, but float training seems to be way down the list.
So often the handler leads the horse up to the float, the horse hesitates, so the handler pulls on the lead rope (which lifts the horse’s head up), then the horse resists some more, the handler pulls a little harder and the head goes even higher.
The rule to remember is that the horse will never go where he cannot see what he is expected to step onto. You wouldn’t either, so can you blame the horse!
The solution is a lunging rein – nearly every horse owner has one in their possession, and this can be an excellent aid to float training your horse. Simply make a loop in one end, big enough to fit comfortably over the horse’s rump and to rest just above the hocks. Pass the other end through the lead ring of the halter. Now lead the horse to the float ramp and apply pressure on the rump rope while at the same time releasing the pressure on the lead rope.
You will see the horse lower his head to look where he is about to put his feet, then he will walk straight up the ramp. The handler has used logic and the horse has responded.
So then lead the horse all the way into the float, and use the rump rope (sometimes referred to as a breeching rope) to tie him where you usually secure the lead rope. Then you can go back and secure the tail bar and ramp.
The reverse of this process will often cure a horse from rushing out when unloading, and needs only to be repeated a few times for both handler and horse to reach a peaceful understanding about floating.