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The loading and floating of horses is the stuff that divorces are made of. If you are a horse husband and the wife’s horse isn't wanting to go in the float, get out of there fast!! Kids and dogs have been known to get into major drama if within range when things go wrong. Horse Floats are called Horse Trailers in the US.
If this happens whilst you are at a Show, you will quickly inherit a dozen other experts as well as onlookers. The experts will be all trying their pet system out on your horse and the onlookers will all be hoping like hell that the horse doesn't go in and that the embarrassment goes on for as long as possible.
Each year, horses all over Australia get severely injured and killed by floating accidents of varying degrees. From Float rollovers to horses getting down because they have lost their footing from either slippery surfaces, too much speed around bends by the driver, over braking because of a lack of concentration or horses with psychological disorders caused by all of the above and other reasons. Climbers or scramblers being the most common. Then there are the injuries caused outside the float.
Since the invention of the rope halter and the Parelli lead rope in this country, 13 years ago, and due to the fact that they are not sold with instructions, many severe accidents happen during the dangerous tying up procedures coupled with the ill designed horse floats in this country. Each combine to make the outside of horse floats as well as the inside, death traps waiting to happen. Here are just a few examples that I see in my everyday work as a horseman and re-educator (SEE: GOOD AND BAD DESIGN OF HORSE FLOATS.)
THE TEACHING OF HORSE OWNERS
So, who teaches all of the existing horse owners and those born into or entering the Industry Well the answer is basically, no-one!! Pony Club doesn’t. T.A.F.E College doesn’t. The parents have never been taught. So is it any wonder why horses are hurt and terrorized Australia wide on a day-to-day basis?
It is a mystery to most people; just what it takes to put a horse on the float, every time, regardless of the drama. The answer is simple.
Horses go on to horse floats because they are made to and if you know how to make them, they will go on every time. Mind you, you cannot blame them for not wanting to go on. The horse float is the most frightening, unnatural environment for a horse to enter that man has devised. The only thing that is comparable is Racing Barriers.
In Australia, a high percentage of horse floats manufactured are of a substandard design in so far as horses are concerned. This is because mostly engineer's design horse floats not HORSEMEN!
Lots of horse floats manufactured in Australia, used for horses over 15.2hh, are too low. During the last 20 years in this country, horses have been bred far higher than ever before, except back in the old days of the heavy horse, but they weren’t floated much then. Virtually every Warm blood Horse Float manufactured in Australia is made too low. Fact!!
That is why I spend half my working life re-educating psychologically distressed horses. There are also floats with stability problems, a lack of room for the horses head and neck up front, too short in the stall and in particular, the view.
I have not found one Manufacturer who sells a float with the view being as horses want it. I am not going to tell why this is so for commercial reasons.
These should and will be in the future, banned from the road for safety reasons. Anyone who inflicts one of these upon there horse is irresponsible.
FLOATS WITH POINTED FRONTS
These are not preferable for two reasons.
FLOATS WITH CENTRE DIVISIONS TO THE FLOOR
There are horse floats around that have the center division that extends all the way to the floor.
These floats are largely responsible for the ruination of large numbers of horses as they turn horses into wall climbers or scramblers. Even the perfect floating horse can be turned into an unloadable horse by a center division that extends to the floor, in one trip.
I doubt if there would be one float with such a division or divider in Australia that hasn't got major climbing marks and dents in it. Take a look. I bet you!!
REASONS WHY HORSES WON'T FLOAT
Why should a horse go into a horse float? The answer is they shouldn't. They are most frightening and unnatural things for a horse to enter.
So you can understand why you have to make horses go into horse floats and you can equally understand why they don't want to go into one.
So it all gets back to how good you are at putting them in somewhere they do not want to be.
THE FLOATING PRINCIPAL THAT WORKS
To make a horse do something or go somewhere that they don't want you must do two things.
GIVE THEM REWARD & RELIEF FOR TRYING & GIVING TO THAT PRESSURE.
TYPES OF PRESSURE THAT WORKS
THE FLOATING PRINCIPALS THAT DON'T WORK (most of the time)
THE SYSTEMS THAT WORK
KEL JEFFREYS METHOD
The "Kel Jeffrey's" method is probably the most user friendly. Especially for amateurs. It involves two handlers, one holding the lead rope and the other at the back end with a long whip so you can't get kicked. This gives the most control over a horse and the most success for casual horse owners.
Start out in the car park to pre-programmed the horse that tapping on the rump means go forward and that for going forward, it will be given immediate 'reward and relief'. You will find that the horse does this very easily out in the open so the leading handler may have to stop it now and again and make it stand, so that the back handler can place the whip on it's rump.
You must be using a whip that is made by cutting the tail off a lunging whip. Any shorter is dangerous. The whip person must stand side on, like the fencing competitor, with arm full outstretched. This then gives the appropriate distance away from the hooves of the horse, should it kick. You must never take your eyes off the horse, should it go to kick and if it does, you should have read it first. Most don't however but there is always that chance.
Here are the steps:
Once a horse has learnt this system, it will always load and it will never forget it.
When you are learning, all you have to do in order to give you maximum chance of success is to place the float alongside a fence to cover one side and if you want a complete sporting chance, just position the float in a raceway. You will still be doing better than Monty because he builds a yard around the horse and attaches it to the float. Blind Freddy can even do that.
This is the best system of all for the learner people.
TOM ROBERTS METHOD
The "Tom Roberts" method, is and has been very successful and encompasses the same principals as all of the good methods, that of reward and relief. It involves only one handler and a dressage whip which is used to tap, tap, tap behind the forearm of the horse until it makes any move forward and the tapping ceases. This procedure continues until the horse learns and gives to pressure of the tapping, understands it's "reward & relief" and gives to it. The one downfall of this system is that there is very little control of the back end of the horse that really wants to evade and I have seen one win over a Mounted Police Officer for 5 hours to the point of total embarrassment and failure. I learnt that day that this system does not have control over the back end of the horse. The front yes, but not the back. It wasn't until I had a flick through the Tom Roberts book recently, that I saw ladies hiding around the sides of the float in the photo's of horse float loading. Small world, I happen to know the ladies and I know what they were doing. Flicking the horses with a whip to attempt to force the back end back where it should be. Proof that the system falls down against other ones. It is indeed ironic that the name appearing above this paragraph and the one appearing below it are the two gentlemen who taught Mr. Roberts.
JIM WILTON METHOD
The "Jim Wilton" method works on every horse and is so good it works on the tough ones as well. He is dead now but was Australia's most famous master horseman back in the 1940's and 50's. He challenged all horseman of the world to a horse breaking competition with his own 500 pounds put up, but the only taker he got, happened to be Kel Jeffrey's, but Kel pulled out in the end as well.
This system entails the ownership of a stock whip and the technique to be able to lay it along the ground so it remains always near the back near side leg and to be able to get the whip just to jump up and flick the back legs like a snake. Only a flick,flick,flick. No hitting.
Well, this has the greatest effect on horses than anything else I have tried. It gets a reaction and that is what you want. These horses that "Dog it" are tougher to load than the ones who are willing to react.
This is a one-person system and the handler simply holds the horse with the reins of a bridle with an FM bit fitted. As in all of these good systems, horses react and normally run backwards worse than they normally do when putting it over their owner in a casual way. This is what makes the proper training systems good. It means that the horse gives it his best shot, looses and therefore suffers a bigger defeat that he thought ever possible. This has the lasting effect and puts trainability into a horse and removes the words, "I can't, won't"
Anyhow, in no time, this system will put the worst horses in. It doesn't matter if the whip jumps up and hits them behind the back leg, in front of it or up on their gut.
I have had the totally unloadable horse that has beaten people for years, put pressure on this system, only by extending the length of time by dancing and careering too far away from the float but there is a very simple method to fix this in conjunction with the Jim Wilton Method. He used a set of stockman's hobbles, put on over float boots and around the back cannon bone of the back legs. This is a professional's job, but is completely safe and stops the fun and games of the highly trained evader.
Once a horse has been trained or re-educated with this system, they will never say no to a float again.
This system is more difficult for the learner people
THE PAT PARELLI METHOD
The Pat Parelli method is also a fantastic one and works every time. It is a one-handler system that has the added bonus of being able to stand outside the float and just driving the horse in.
The main reason why a lot of people don't use this system is that they don't know how and with this system, it is a matter of the handler learning the system before the horse can be trained it. It is a sophisticated system that everyone should learn. The world would be a much better place if everyone did. It's downfall is found in the difficulty for the human to learn it. You must learn the system properly and that means adapting to a different World for most people as it is a radical shift away from holding horses up by the jaw with a lead rope.
Go to Pat's accredited trainers or get the books and videos at the Saddlery shop. http://parelli.parellinet.net/
The horses that are trained properly with the Parelli system, will not say 'No' to anything, let alone the float and you can send them in from 10 metres away.
I cannot recommend this system as I saw Monty fail with it and have seen the video. Substandard imho
THE JOHN O'LEARY METHOD
Well, why shouldn't I have a method? Everyone else has got one!.
But seriously, I am not claiming this as my method, but I don't think anyone else has.
I have found that if you can halter break a horse so well and so lightly, that they will go where ever you ask and never say no, they will go into a float every time. That is the meaning of true halter breaking and true lightness and it is achievable on every horse. The young horses are the easiest ones to achieve this with as they are not set in their ways and haven't developed the ignorant heads that a lot of older horses do. You know, all the ones in the Racing Industry. The ones that are used to handlers swinging off their heads like “Christmas decorations.” It works on older horses as well but there is effort and strength required. Have your horse equipped with the rope halter and 3.6m Parelli type rope.
The fact that you have backed your horse off, just when it thought that it had given in to you, cements your position two fold.
GO TO THE SECTION ON HALTER BREAKING FOR MORE
COMMON MISTAKES AND THEIR RESULTS
Once you present a horse to the back of a float, that’s it. They load or else. If they want to be smart about it, and walk around to the side of the ramp, then they can load from there too. NEVER TAKE THEM AWAY TO STRAIGHTEN THEM. Unless you may be using a whip to move them with correct systems.
If you take your eye off a problem horse floater you will get "Stuff Ups" I would like a dollar for every time I have seen the horse commit itself and the horse go to walk in, wander off the side of the float only to see the owner loaded up nicely and the horse around near the mudguard. Don't ever take your eye off them.
Asking the horse to load onto a float---not telling it!
How many times have you seen the unwanted helper come and stand at the side of the ramp and the horse? Sometimes they even put their hand on the horse. This causes all horses to either walk sideways or backwards depending at what angle to the shoulder the problem person is.
THE REASON HORSES ROCKET OUT OF FLOATS
Not having the triangle in between the A-Frame of the draw bar of the float covered in with mesh or steal plate. Every year, horses all over the world have their legs broken in such a situation. (I have seen the hoof pulled completely off a horse with the bone sticking out) They catch their hoof in the V and that is the end.
CHECK THE FLOOR
Check the floor of your float every year. Get under the float and have a good close look. Horse urine rots the hell out of them and many stories are told of the horse traveling down the road with its leg been worn off as it drags on the road surface.
OTHER DANGERS ON HORSE FLOATS
I have been looking at horse floats all over Australia and I doubt if there is one manufactured that has the tie-up points high enough. Tying horse low is dangerous, high is safe. Further, the location of tie-up points are often in dangerous places. i.e.
The horse begins to come out, the back leg gets hooked on the back leg of the centre division and the horse panics. That can lead to all sorts of problems from rocketing out to a fear of floats.
GETTING THE PUNCTURE
If you get a puncture or other type of breakdown, whilst on or near the edge of a road, do not unload the horses. You should also not attempt to jack the float up with any type of jack. This is because floats fall off jacks when horses move in the float, especially a fractious one.
You should not remove them because of the dangers of them getting hit by traffic, escaping from you, where do you tie them. If they don’t tie up solid and they haven’t got rope halters on and Parelli lead ropes, they will most probably break away and run into the traffic. Do not tie to twine under this situation. Solution?
Go and buy a “Bushmans Jack” or make one. Get two feet long piece of railway sleeper and cut one end down into a ramp of a slight angle. Merely back the float onto it if the puncture is in the front tyre or drive the float onto it if the puncture is in the back tyre. Loosen nuts first.
This then is your jack and your float is off the ground. Change wheel, tighten nuts reasonably, drive car off jack and tighten nuts totally. You can buy an aluminum one of these fabulous products in the shops now.
The golden rule is, you can technically go as fast as you like in a straight line and crawl around bends. Specifically though, here is how you should drive a car towing a float:
Over 50% of drivers' that I have watched, do not drive as they should. This would probably be because hardly anyone ever gets taught how to drive a horse around. No-one teaches it. There should be a license procedure imho.
WHERE TO PUT THE HORSES
Newly broken in horses or unbroken ones in fact, do not have any floating hang-ups ever. These come later when taught by us humans.
Almost all in Australia are angled to the left with the horse standing down hill. We copy America and we cannot get our mind around leading from the right. Why would you want the horse facing down hill. Why would you want the majority of the weight down hill? What do you think happens when your left hand float tyre slides off the bitumen and into the holes or gravel? You swerve right and the horse swerves left, throwing it's weight through it's left shoulder, thus causing the float to spin out. Not good for safety. I am not a fan of these floats anyhow, because of the lack of neck room and the lack of view for the horse.
WHAT IS A SCRAMBLER?
This is a horse that has been involved in a floating accident but more often than not, just traveled too fast around corners by an incompetent driver. The horse, when it feels the float move sideways etc, thinks it is tipping over and literally climbs the walls of the float with all four hooves, normally cutting itself to ribbons in the process. Or falling down when the center divider gives way under the stain of the weight of the horse leaning on it in order to climb up the wall parallel with the ground.
WHAT TO DO WITH A CLIMBER?
Here are varying options
Don't try this but I will tell you a story about how I fixed a horse that was off to his death. He was a very bad scrambler and would end up down in the float every time. I first trained him to hobbles over a number of weeks. Front and back and then four at once. Then I took him to a cement floor in a shed and painted around his 4 hooves. I then installed 4 rings into the concrete, just outside where his feet would be. I then hobbled him to the floor, clipped to the rings. He gave to this well too because of the prior preparation. I then walked him into the centre of a double float and painted his hooves on the floor. I then installed rings in the floor of the float. I then clipped him to the rings and drove off. He could not scramble. He tried but he could not. When he had gained his confidence and belief that he could not scramble, I put the hobble straps on and only clipped his fronts. No problems. Then the next trip, hobble straps on all 4 legs but not clipped at all. No problems. He found his comfort zone in the wearing of the straps. I saved his life and I felt good.
STOPPING THE HORSE THAT RUNS OUT OF A FLOAT.
The problem regarding running out of the float is caused by one of three things. All people problems. The horse hitting itself on the roof of the float at some stage (caused by someone hanging off it's head whilst it was walking out) being left tied up when the bum bar was removed (the number one dumb thing in the Horse Industry) which always causes a massive pull back fight with the horse smashing it's head side to side or just a bad float or driver. Easily fixed but needing two people. One on the head end ( WHO MUST NEVER PULL AGAINST THE ROPE IN AN EFFORT TO SLOW THE HORSE) and the second handler at the back, DEAD CENTRE behind the horse, NOT OFF AT AN ANGLE. The rear person has the whip (LONG and preferably the handle of a lunge whip with the thong cut off) standing side on in the stance of an Olympic Fencer so as to be out of reach of a kicking horse and to remain dead centre behind the horse to the degree, regardless of whether or not the horse comes out straight or crooked. Ask the horse out. The whip tapping is used vigorously to stop the horse's backward movement and bring it to a halt. Re-load from that point. Back it out, using the training scale of pressure from the whip, improve upon the ceasing movement each time and back off each time to look for proof of improvement. The horse will be looking for the rear handler so allow improvement to happen. Up and down the scale of pressure with the whip and following the principals of reward and relief, ON THE MILLI-SECOND. End of problem. 5 minutes work on every one I have ever met. Cheers