Early on, we were fortunate to find an excellent horse transportation company. Chuck Erb, the owner-operator, is just what Lukas likes: steady, friendly and fastidious. Chuck’s massive truck pulls a trailer that can accommodate eight horses plus equipment. Chuck always makes sure, though, that Lukas travels privately with a box stall for him to move around in. Even so, the first trip we took together involved some, um, discussions. As is customary, wooden rails were attached to the ramp leading up to the stall area for safety – a hoof might slip off and a horse could fall. After securing the heavy mat and rails to the ramp, Chuck allowed Lukas to examine the set-up. Lukas firmly planted his feet and no amount of convincing could entreat him to even touch the rails. “Come on, Lukas,” I said, “you’ve done this a bunch of times before; we’re just going for a ride,” I pleaded. After numerous circles and refusals, I had a hunch. “Can we take the rails down and see if it makes a difference?” Sure enough, Lukas proudly marched right up the ramp as if he were entering a ritzy party. He seemed satisfied that we understood that he certainly did not need “training rails” to keep him in place. On every subsequent trip, he made a point of pausing at the ramp edge to assess the entire presentation and to emphasize that he could indeed do without any type of guidance. According to Chuck, Lukas travels like a dream – hardly moving or shifting – as if content in the expectation of exploring new territory.

Many animals are upset by big changes, but in all of our travels and moves Lukas wasn’t bothered a bit by this. I always informed him about our relocations beforehand, and as soon as he sees his stall signs coming down he knows the routine. Since he doesn’t get attached to neighbors or other people, it becomes a matter of ensuring his comfort. New homes are carefully cleaned and scrutinized for sharp objects, rough surfaces and lumpy spots. My husband Doug and I usually spend two days readying each new residence of Lukas’: decomposed granite tamped down at a certain slope for optimal run-off, mats cut to exact size both in and out, fresh water outside and inside, a new feed tub, thick shavings banked (piled) up on all sides, his mirror hung at a particular angle (for wider viewing), name plate, menu and contact information for emergencies along with painted plywood surrounding the outer yard. From our first trip, I promised Lukas that I would always be waiting for his arrival at each new home, and as soon as he’s munching hay in the trailer I speed off in my car. As soon as the horse trailer enters the unfamiliar driveway, I return his searching call with my whistles. Until he sees me, he keeps calling: UUUHUHuhuhuhuhuhu – a plaintive whinny that starts out loud and high pitched and dwindles to a little whining sound.

Released in his new home, Lukas scans the area and checks his yard. A deep whiff of air to take in the neighborhood scents, a roll in the shavings and he’s settled in, just like that.

Author's Bio: 

Copyright 2012 Karen Murdock is a retired psychiatric nurse, who has been fixing problem horses for over 30 years. Owner of PlayingWithLukas.com. She uses a combination of shaping techniques, a specialized version of clicker training and positive reinforcement. Her unique approach uses games and play as a way to connect and bond with horses to develop confidence, increase focus, improve performance as well as build willingness and trust. All of her services and proceeds go to benefit the horses.