Horse Afraid to Get Out of a Trailer? Ideas? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 10:32 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Minnesota
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Exclamation Horse Afraid to Get Out of a Trailer? Ideas?

The horse: A 14 year old Thoroughbred mare named Sassy, about 16hh.

When we got her she was deathly afraid of trailers, but we worked with her last summer and she would walk in/out just fine. Then we didn't trailer her for about a year and we had to take her to the vet a month ago and well she wasn't afraid of the trailer she just didn't want to go in. The last 3 days I have been working on trailering with her using the method of teaching her that she is going to get her butt worked outside the trailer and rest inside. So she loads fine now. Sassy is not my horse, but I work with her and nobody else does so thats why I kind of call her mine. haha. But we use her owner's trailer. He has a 6'5 Stock Trailer. She always has to ride facing backwards. ALWAYS! Her owner goes down south for the winter and he had bought this trailer before he left so he didn't have time to put mats in it. Our old trailer was only 6ft tall and she barely fit and we sold it to a friend. It is also buried under a ton of snow so we can't get it out and use it, and most of everyone else's trailers are buried under snow piles. So this is the only trailer we can use. The floor is wood and I put a ton of straw in it.

She is 100% afraid to get out of the trailer. Yesterday it took her 5 minutes to get out. Yes, get out. The ground isn't slippery it just has a few inches of snow, there is no ice in the trailer. She is barefoot. I do have a video of the 5 minutes it took to get her out but I can't upload it at the moment. I told her owner and he will be putting mats in and make a ramp for the trailer. She will dance at the edge of the trailer and gets scared the moment a front foot goes off the edge. She attempts to 'leap' out of the trailer. I stand out of the way and just let her come out on her own, she doesn't give up. And pulling on her just gets her more worked up. The other day she ended up clipping her back foot on her front leg when getting out. So yesterday when I practiced I put her sports boots on so she wouldn't get hurt if she clipped her leg again. Lessons are only about a mile away but that really isn't the point we have to trailer her down there because of certain reasons, plus it would be pitch dark by the time I would get done. And she needs to know how to get out of a trailer anyways we have a barrel racing clinic in a week.

Last summer she was a little scared about getting out of the trailer. Any ideas on how to help her?

We can't back her out. The moment you turn her around in the trailer to back out she gets all worked up, and if you do get her to the edge the moment her back foot goes off she just flips out and half the time when it goes off she will run backwards out, throw her head up and hit it on the top hard. And she might have hock issues, might. And doing research, horses with hock issues don't like backing out of trailers.

On the way to the barrel racing clinic I probably will polo wrap her legs. Just for when she gets out. I might be able to throw by boots on her quick before I get out. But one way or another she is going to have something on her front legs. Tonight at lessons I will ask if we can back to the trailer up to the indoor arena to unload her.

So any ideas at all for her to become more comfortable with getting out of a trailer? I know strange, a horse that doesn't want to get out of a trailer.

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post #2 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 10:52 AM
Join Date: Mar 2011
Location: Somewhere in Wisconsin
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My horses are trained to go in with a point and smooch from me, I toss the leads over their backs and then to back out when we arrive with no assistance as well!

I teach them from the beginning some get it right away, some don't. I start with loading just asking for a foot and back out. Then two and back out. So on and so forth until we can get into the trailer just fine. I normally do this from outside the trailer, this later then helps sending them in. You need a few hours here! It takes repitition and time, lots of it, but so worth it. For unloading if they don't really get it or keep turning around I put a lead on the horse from both sides then have each person help guide the horse to back out. I don't allow the horse to turn around! Do NOT let them, ever, no exceptions. Usually doing this a few times solves the problem and you have more control with two people if the horse decides to bolt, or take off.

It does get easier over time and will be great for you in the long run! The one factor here though is slow and easy! When you rush this process and the horse, you get the head tossing, spooking etc. You have to bring your energy down and make the process peaceful, so to speak. The more agitated you get, the more the horse will and that's not how you want to teach a horse to load -- I can say that from experience with my Arab. The minute I'd get agitated he'd get flighty throw his head, paw, snort. I brought it down and we accomplished what we wanted.

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Last edited by Annanoel; 03-07-2013 at 10:58 AM.
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post #3 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 10:57 AM
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can you load a buddy with her and let buddy out first?

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post #4 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 11:04 AM
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Originally Posted by Critter sitter View Post
can you load a buddy with her and let buddy out first?
She could, but I made this mistake in the beginning as well. We did this and then when you trailer with the horse by themselves you're right back to the beginning. The horse refuses to leave and is sometimes scared because their "trailer buddy" isn't there. I want my horse to be independant when it comes to trailering.

It may be fine to introduce a buddy in the beginning, but make sure he/she can load/unload without said buddy when the time comes.

"Every person you will meet will have at least one great quality. Duplicate it and leave the rest." --Clinton Anderson
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post #5 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 11:14 AM Thread Starter
Join Date: Feb 2013
Location: Minnesota
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Thanks! I read it hurts for horses with hock issues to back out of trailers. I don't know if this is true.

We have another horse but she has a foal with her. So it would be a little difficult and Sassy already takes up half the trailer. This summer most of the time she will be hauled with the filly (I'm selling/leasing out the mom). The filly is a training project and probably will be my showmanship horse. Sassy is a really dominent horse so bringing another horse in the trailer I think would cause some issues. As Sassy is a bit of a claustrophobic horse. But good ideas :) I also had my mom grab grain to see if she would be more enticed to get out and it didn't make a difference. She is just plain afraid to get out.
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post #6 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 11:44 AM
Join Date: May 2008
Location: Texas
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Leave her in the trailer (hooked to a truck) in a closed area and let her figure it out. It's possibly it's not comfortable for her. Leave food and water outside of the trailer and let her take her time.
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post #7 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 12:04 PM
Green Broke
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5 minutes!?

5 minutes is nothing!!!

Just keep on working with her and she'll get the idea of loading and unloading nicely.
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post #8 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 12:14 PM
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Yup, just keep working and being encouraging. Food always helps! It could be worse, my guy used to like to turn around and bolt out of the trailer...super dangerous and he ended up hitting his head quite hard a few times.. being consistant and after hours we got over it and now he is trained to back out and turn around quietly

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post #9 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 12:22 PM
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She has probably slipped at some point and is scared. I would back it up to an incline so she does not have to step down much if at all.
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post #10 of 12 Old 03-07-2013, 01:08 PM
Green Broke
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I'm in the camp that leads my horses out of the trailer rather than back them out (this is in a step up trailer, not ramp). The horses and I have nothing but good things to say for this method. They behave just like they are going in and out of their stalls in the barn - very calm and comfortable. My rationale for this is that the horses get a chance to look around first if they want (predator alert), they can see where they're stepping and consequently go out with their heads down all the time plus it really does appear that this is the least physically stressful way for them to come out.

It's been my observation (with horses who are otherwise experienced travellers) that one of the reasons for those who are reluctant to enter or leave a trailer is because the physical change they go through in positioning their legs and body to get in or out of the trailer causes them pain. In your instance, if your horse is reluctant to step down is it because she's sore in a front leg or perhaps her back , etc., and this limits her ability to shift herself the way she usually does and that in turn causes her to hesitate coming out?

Also, if I may, I think that if you start backing her out of that trailer, based on its height, the horse's height and what you mentioned of her personality, you would need to be careful that she does not hit her head on the way out and that becomes a whole new set of difficulties to handle.
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Last edited by Chevaux; 03-07-2013 at 01:11 PM.
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