I think I figured out PJ’s head shaking with the bridle. I don’t think it is his mouth that he’s worried about. I think it’s the bridle going over his ears – just by his reaction yesterday, which was definitely in reaction to his ears. Today I lowered the bit so the bridle wouldn’t hit his ears going over his head. I’ll do this from now on but his behavior seems to be quite ingrained, so maybe he won’t ever get over it but at least he won’t be bothered by it from now on.
I was undecided while tacking up what I wanted to do with PJ today until I saw on the board that a woman was trailering in for a lesson and the last time she came she let us practice loading in her trailer. I was hoping she would again (she said yes), so I decided to make up for WOSW, which would take less time that really riding him would. I trotted, mostly posting, for 15 minutes, which I thought was pretty good. Then when her lesson started, I untacked and took PJ out to the trailer.
It’s a nice and open trailer and I had no trouble getting PJ in it, but then he backed right off. I got him back on and we stood for a while, and then I backed him off. Then we got back on and he ran back again. We repeated this for a while. It finally got to the point when he took a step back, I could put a little pressure on the lead rope, stuff a sugar cube in his mouth, and he would stay there. I wanted to be able to slide back and leave him there so that one day I would be able self load, so I could go to horse shows on my own (not that I know how to drive a truck and trailer). Every time I tried to go back, PJ thought he had to go back too, but the fact that he didn’t try to rush off was a good sign. We’ll keep working on it.