Loading issues with a draft? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 08-23-2009, 09:57 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Mar 2009
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Loading issues with a draft?

My big guy is only five and he's a really nice horse except when it comes to getting into the trailer (aka the metal cave of death). He's horrible. It usually takes two hours or more to get him in. He rears and shies, and being an 1800 pound draft, it gets dangerous really quick. I don't know what to do about it. The last time he had to be loaded, it took a professional trainer almost two hours to get him in (the trainer was more of an old-time cowboy type. I don't know if that makes a difference).

However, once he's in the trailer, he calms right down and is completely fine. He gets out of the trailer nicely, too. Help...? Thank you!

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post #2 of 8 Old 08-23-2009, 12:35 PM
Green Broke
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Practice, practice, practice! I am not sure if you have your own truck and trailer, but if you dont, could you possibly borrow someones? And walk him near and around the trailer, but dont force him IN the trailer, make him stand next to the trailer opening, and if he stands quietly, give him treats. Just keep doing this until he calms down near the trailer completely, then step into the trailer, and see if he will get in, if he doesnt, make him stand near the opening until he gets quiet again. When you finally DO get him in the trailer, give him treats, and put some hay in there for him to eat ect. Thats what worked for my mare anyways. Just keep reassuring him that the trailer is a happy place. And just reward him everytime he gets in, or out of the trailer quietly.

Hope that helped some.

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post #3 of 8 Old 08-23-2009, 12:43 PM
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I've heard of placing the trailer [if you have an extra truck] and the truck in the pasture with the horse and putting a dish of food or some treats in the doorway then gradually move it back until the horse will get in on its own...never tried it, but I've heard of it from more than one person.
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post #4 of 8 Old 08-23-2009, 12:54 PM
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Do ground work where you work on him putting his feet where you want them to go, forward, backward, to the side. Another method I have heard is the advance, retreat. You lead him toward the trailer, then stop and back him up, then lead him toward the trailer, stop and back up, keep advancing closer and closer, get one foot in, keep doing the advance retreat. I've heard the horse finally is like "Would you let me get in already??!!!"

Does he fit in your trailer? May sound like a silly question but he might feel crowded.

If you can, park the trailer and feed him in it. Goodluck!

Riverside, CA
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post #5 of 8 Old 08-23-2009, 02:19 PM
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I had a horse that hated trailers enough that he even refused to go into a huge warmblood/draft size trailer, and he was only a 15.1 hand arab pinto. We had a trailer that was definately not too small and we just started always feeding him his supplements inside the trailer. He got to the point that it wasn't scary, and he was better about going in, but he wanted to follow the human, so he wouldn't go in unless he could see me which was our biggest issue at the end. In my opinion, I think that doing the "old cowboy" smack him, smack a whip into the ground behind him, yell at him ect., makes such a big deal out of the whole thing that he thinks that its worthy of being a pain, since everyone else is making noise about it. I would start by making sure you have a big enough trailer for him, then feed him in the back of the trailer, so that he has to stick his head inside it, depending on whether you have your own trailer or not and where its set up, tack him up behind the trailer so he sees the inside ect., but isn't actually being asked to go inside, which will help with any potential nervousness he might have. Also ask yourself, and take into account, who does the driving, and how they drive. My horse's previous owner drove her own trailer, and never learned how to drive one properly, and she would put the brake on too hard, or the gas on too hard, so he could never keep his footing, and was always slamming into the door, or the feeder, or the divider, and obviously didn't like it. That could be his problem too. Someone may have trailered him somewhere, and driven a bit roughly, and so he'd rather just not get in. Just do lots of stuff around the trailer with him, groom, tack up, feed ect., and get him so he's completely fine just being around the trailer. Definately work on ground manners too, and getting him to move when asked, and pay attention, and that will help.
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post #6 of 8 Old 08-23-2009, 02:58 PM
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How high is the roof of the trailer? We have smaller horses (One 14.3, the other 14 even), and due to an inability to buy 2 separate trailers (we raise beef cattle) we bought an H&S aluminum stock trailer to do double duty. At first, both horses would get on easily. Over time, though, my pony refused to load without a ramp (yeah, we built him a "special" ramp), and my sis' horse plain refused to get on at all. My pony would load beautifully in my grandmother's legit horse trailer, so, as a last ditch effort, Dad and I chopped the top off the trailer and added a foot more of aluminum tubing to the vertical height, bolting everything securely back together. Instant loading horses, no ramp, no food "bribes." Trailer looks great, like it came that way. Sometimes height makes all the difference to the horse.

Also, what color is the inside of the trailer? My grandma's is burgundy, and looks for all the world like a deep, dark, cave. Shoot, I porbably wouldn't get in there if I didn't know what's going on. You might try brightening it up inside, open the windows if you have them, paint the interior white (that's a bit major, maybe borrow a white trailer to test), etc. It sounds more like a fear thing than a straight training issue, IMHO.

Good luck!

A stubborn horse walks behind you, an impatient one in front of you, but a noble companion walks beside you ~ Unknown
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post #7 of 8 Old 08-28-2009, 02:58 PM
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Hi, I'm very new here...just signed up in fact. But, I had to respond to your post - 18 hands is a lot of horse to be having trouble loading! Everything here is from my own personal experience. I have two half-drafts, the largest being 17 hands and a little over 1500 lbs. To start, as the others have suggested, make sure the trailer is big enough...open, inviting, and not dark and cramped. I ordered a 7'6" tall trailer that has a total of 11 ft. length for each horse (8 ft. body, 3 ft. head). Don't try this when you're on the way to an appointment with the vet, a horse show, etc. You need to allow as much time as it takes without quitting, whether it is 30 minutes or 6 hours. On a Quarter Horse of mine several years ago, it took 3 hours.

When I trained my two to load, we backed the trailer up to our round pen, which is built out of standard livestock panels. We opened one panel, and backed the trailer up just so it was right inside the round pen, then made sure to close off each side so there was no encouragement to try and escape. It's much easier if you have a helper the first couple of times. I opened the drop down windows AND the full size escape doors, and my husband stepped up on the running board outside the escape door. He had treats within his reach, and I had treats on me as well.

Before you ever try it with a trailer, make sure your horse understands the voice command for "back" or "back up", and this exercise: take a dressage whip (or similar length), stand on your horse's left side, near his shoulder, and ask him to move forward with your left hand on his lead rope well away from his head. Use a clucking sound, or a word (walk, come up, whatever works for you). If he doesn't move forward, away from you, tap him lightly on his hip bone with the whip. If he moves, even just picking up a foot indicating he's going forward, praise him & treat him. If he doesn't move, tap him a little harder. It may take a few times before he gets it, but he will with practice. Once you've mastered the tap on the hip and move forward, you're ready to deal with the awful horse eating monster (trailer).

With treats in your pocket or a fanny pack, lead the horse as close to the rear of the trailer as he is comfortable, without fighting with him. The trick here is pressure and release. When you pick up the lead, you want him to be looking at you wondering where you want him to go. It just takes lots of practice, and they'll get really light. When he stands relaxed (drops his head, licks his lips, or sighs), pat him, praise him, and give him a treat. Then, use your dressage whip to ask him to go forward, even if it's only one step. Each time he indicates a willingness to go closer to the trailer, reward him with praise and a treat. Remember, no rushing and no pulling on him...everything is driven from the rear...the head is only to serve as a "rudder" for direction. Eventually, he will get close enough to the trailer to sniff inside...perhaps even putting his nose to the floor. Depending on whether or not you have a ramp or a step up, the method may vary a little, but it works for either type trailer. If it's a ramp, guide him with your left hand and arm as if you're sending him forward away from you, and cluck. If no movement, tap lightly with the whip, and progressively harder 'til he moves...any movement forward. Praise, treat him, and let him relax. Continue to do this until he finally puts a foot on the ramp or in the trailer. Then immediately ask him to back up. Then, start the whole process over. Don't let him get on the trailer...make him back up every time. Progressively ask him to put more of his body in the trailer (maybe it's two feet). Then back him out, praise him, treat him, etc. Keep doing this over and over, and eventually he will be comfortable enough to put his whole body in. When he does, DO NOT close the butt bar or door behind him, back him off again. Once he's doing that comfortably, put him on and off the trailer several more times (at least 2 or 3). Then stop for the day. Don't "lock" him in the trailer, and don't haul him anywhere.

This is absolutely the best and safest method I have found for loading any size horse, especially a draft or draft cross. I've taught at least 6 horses in this manner. If they learn to enter the trailer without you from behind, you "send" them in. Your helper can pat and treat the horse while you eventually get to the point you can shut the rear door. The helper is also there just in case you get into trouble.

Hope some of what I've said helps...happy trailering!
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post #8 of 8 Old 08-28-2009, 10:57 PM
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A lot of ground work and make sure your trailer is tall and wide enough for him.
When I train a horse to trailer load I will start in teaching them to pass to the left between me and a fence, yield their hind quarters to me then pass back through to the right, yield the hind quarters. When you want them to go right raise your left hand to the left and ask them to move forward as soon as they get past ask for a yield of the hind quarters. What you are doing here is teaching them a cue to go forward. The raised hand in the direction you want them to go is their cue to do in that direction. Do this over and over and over along with your other ground work. This is basically the same cue you give your horse when you want to teach it to load onto the trailer. The trailer loading lessons should start away from the trailer and not when it is time to load for a show or a ride. Keep practicing, he'll get it .

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