Help? Horse Trailering Problems!

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Help? Horse Trailering Problems!

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  • Horse extemely nervous on trailer
  • Horse trailering issues but no trailer

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    07-09-2011, 11:21 PM
Unhappy Help? Horse Trailering Problems!

Today, I was supposed to take both my horses to a show but unfortunately I could only take one because my first horse, Grace, refused to get on the trailer.

We have a two horse front load trailer that is pretty roomy. Grace has been on this before. In the past, she has had trailering problems, but usually she just gets used to it. HOWEVER, we have never loaded her on a trailer without the trailer being backed up to an enclosed area. (barn, arena, etc.) Now my two horses are at my house and they are outdoors 24/7 and there is no place to back the trailer up to.

So today, we tried loading Grace on the trailer first like we always do with the seperator pushed to the side so there was a lot of room for her to get on. Before, whenever Grace would get on a trailer, she would be fearful but today it was more like she was stubborn. She was relaxed around the trailer but as soon as we got to the ramp she would plant her feet and not move an inch. You could pull and bribe but she would not move. And if she felt like enough was enough she would rear.

We even tried putting my other horse on first to see if that would make it more inviting, but that backfired because it made my other horse nervous just standing there the whole time.

After an hour and a half, she still was not on the trailer. I was so frusterated with her. I was to the point of tears.

Can somebody please give me tips, anything! I just need her to trust me and I don't want to fight with her or worry that she won't get on the trailer. Please! Anything will be appreciated.
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    07-10-2011, 12:13 AM
First of all, DO NOT pull your horse by his head. This teaches them to rear when at the trailer, the last thing you want. Go from behind.

If your horse was nervous around the trailer and you didn't do anything to desensitize him then he won't magically get used to it, or "just get over it". You have to re-teach him to load. It's a leading lesson. When he moves forward, pat him, and back him up. All you want is him to go forward when you tap his hip and back up when you tap his front legs. Practice this away from the trailer first.

Not so simple as it sounds but that is the basic idea. DO NOT force your horse in, as it sounds like you have been doing using an "enclosed space". You will make the problem worse. Teach him how to do it properly, without you leading him in. The safest way to load is when your horse self-loads without you in the trailer.

*sorry- didn't see your horse was a she :) oh, and don't always take her somewhere when you load her. Do it every day so eventually itbecomes routine. Then, when its time to go she will be used to the trailer as not such a bad place after all. And when it seems like the problem is fixed, don't stop practicing just loading every once in a while. Horses can always regress.
    07-10-2011, 01:22 AM
I make the trailer a place the horse wants to be, by making outside the trailer a place of work, and inside the trailer, the place of rest. I also teach my horses to self load, I never lead a horse into a trailer...but that's just my preference.

This means practicing loading on days when you have no intentions of hauling anywhere, and making sure you have a good chunk of time to do so.

If she doesn't know how to lunge, do sending exercises, back well, yield her hips, shoulders, and is soft in the halter on those exercises, you NEED to conquer those first, before even getting to trailer loading, but you can teach those in a matter of days.

Now when you move onto trailer loading, lead her toward the trailer, and before you even get really close to it, start working her; lunge her, both directions, and make her move those feet, don't settle for slow shuffle pace...the more she has to work, the quicker she will catch on. Change directions frequently. Stop at some point, and walk a little closer to the trailer, then before she can really eyeball, and get sticky feet, turn around and walk away, and put her feet back to work for a bit. Then walk back toward the trailer.

Now Do some sending exercises on all sides of the trailer, and get her used to 'squeezing' between you and the trailer...big distance at first, then gradually decrease that distance. Eventually, ask her to stop and rest between you and the trailer...if she does, let her rest for a minute and catch her breath, if she tries to shuffle away, then put her back to work...remember, you are reframing her mind that the trailer is a place of rest, while outside, is a place of work.

When she is comfortable sending between you and the trailer, and stands close to the trailer without moving away, start asking her to send into the trailer, one foot at a time...get one foot in, and then back her out, and put her back to work. Get two feet in, back her out, and then put her back to work, so on, so forth... when you start getting four feet in, start allowing her to stand in there and relaxing...if she backs out on her own...LET HER!!! Just put her butt back to work, and then send her back in! Remember the more you can move her feet, and make her have to catch her breath, the quicker she will figure out what you are teaching this case, where her place of relaxation will be. It might take her 10 minutes to catch on, or it might take an hour the first time, so be prepared, and what ever you do don't give in...she won't pass out on you, but she will remember if you give into her pressure, which will make it harder each time!

I have never had a horse NOT learn how to self load, and it takes that one session for it to really click, as a general rule, and while they might test here and there, you won't ever have the "epic" battle that you will experience the first time through. My current mare could be a brat about loading, and all it takes is lunging once or twice each direction, and I send her to the trailer and she is more than happy to get in, doesn't matter what kind of trailer it is!
    07-10-2011, 01:24 AM
Get some of her favorite food (oats, treats, whatever she likes) shake them in a bucket in front of her... don't let her have the food until she is inside. Do not pull her head or put a rope behind her butt.... let her take her time so she will go in comfortably. Let back out of the trailer a couple times if she needs to, that way she wont feel like she is trapped if she goes inside. This worked for my 3 yr old filly and my 2 yr old colt, both had pretty traumatizing experiences getting in the trailer when they were younger. Didnt take more than 20 minutes to get them in without any kind of aid's other than food!
    07-10-2011, 01:35 AM
Originally Posted by loveyourhorse    
get some of her favorite food (oats, treats, whatever she likes) shake them in a bucket in front of her... don't let her have the food until she is inside. Do not pull her head or put a rope behind her butt.... let her take her time so she will go in comfortably. Let back out of the trailer a couple times if she needs to, that way she wont feel like she is trapped if she goes inside. This worked for my 3 yr old filly and my 2 yr old colt, both had pretty traumatizing experiences getting in the trailer when they were younger. Didnt take more than 20 minutes to get them in without any kind of aid's other than food!

If you read in her original post bribery did not usually is the case with most horses; glad it worked on yours.
    07-10-2011, 09:14 AM
Thanks everyone! These are some really good tips. I've never tried sending excersizes before but I think they would really help! I just have to be very patient with her.

Just one more question! Do you think taking the divider out of the trailer would help at first? And then put it back in later and work her with it like that? Or do you think that is a little counter productive?
    07-10-2011, 01:05 PM
I have a two year old filly who took an hour and a half to get in the trailer when I bought her. We went almost 8 hours to get her, so she was definitely getting in! Lol. Anyway, we tryed everything, tapping her with a whip, bribing her, pulling, etc. Try different things, just don't let her get the idea that she can pull away from you. Try having two people stand on each side, take a lungeline and have the two people put it around her butt and pull as you lightly pull her head. It might sound weird and you may not try it, but after a few trys she jumped right in. If that doesnt work, just sit at the end of your trailer, don't pull at all on her, and just let her work her way up to you (make sure you have grass, hay, etc to reward her). As she moves forward, feed her a little at a time and just work your way back. She SHOULD eventually come in. My 2 year old jumps right in now, because I have been working on ground work and building trust every day, so she trusts me to get in the trailer now.
    07-10-2011, 03:48 PM
I have a mare who was horrible to load. We tried butt ropes, bribing, muscling her into the trailer, basically every method we could to get her in the trailer. What finally worked was to work her outside the trailer and relax in the trailer like a previous poster said. I would lunge, do sending exercises and backing and then have my husband stand to the side of the trailer. I would ask her to step forward and as long as she stepped forward or showed interest NO PRESSURE. If she backed, I had my husband spank the ground with the lunging whip. As soon as she stopped or stepped forward, Release ALL pressure. This method only took about 20 minutes whereas before it was a 2 hr process to load her. As soon as she showed a sign of relaxing in the trailer, I would back her out and repeat the process. She is a totally different horse to load now. I load her everyday and feed her inside of the trailer. I DO NOT coax her in with food, instead after she has stood tied and patientlIy while I prepare everyones dinner, I untie her and let her eat dinner inside the trailer everyday. This has worked wonders.
Do not give up....You WILL get there!
    07-10-2011, 04:50 PM
I've recently had great success with 2 exercises.

The first is yielding the hindquarters. In a halter and long lead, (14' or more) practice yielding the horse's hind legs away from you. Not just spinning around in a circle, but actually stepping his entire caboose away from you when you step toward him. Warning - horse will probably kick out until he gets the idea of what you want, stay at shoulder) Keep a little inside bend to help her get the idea of what you want. Flick her with the end of the line if she tries to get into your space.

Other exercise is the send horse between you and trailer. From a good 20' out, using the same long lead, send the horse between you and the trailer (or fence, wall, etc) Then reverse direction and send her back the other way. Once the horse is walking calmly between you and the trailer, close up the space a few feet and repeat. Keep doing this until you can send her through a relatively tight space.

Now apply the exercises to the trailer. Do exercise 1 and then try walking horse onto trailer. If she plants her feet, back to yielding the back end for a good 5 minutes, then try loading again. It might take many times of this before she decides to submit to you. If you see her lick her lips, you're in business. That's the best time to try walking her on. This works. Eventually she will get on.

Now to apply exercise 2, after a few successful loads walking her in, use that second exercise to send her in. While this one sounds hard, it's surprisingly easy after you've got her attention.

My horse pulled all this same crap a few months ago. It took 2 hours to load him. We were already at the show, so talk about tired and wanting to get home. My trainer showed me the above 2 exercises and had him on both ways in 7 minutes. He still gets testy with me, but all I now have to do is yield his butt a few times, he licks his lips and walks right inside. Good luck!

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