Mare won't load or stand on the trailer - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 6 Old 10-05-2012, 08:45 PM Thread Starter
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Location: Maryland
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Mare won't load or stand on the trailer

My 4yo mare has a hard time loading in the trailer. It is a 2 horse straight load and sometimes she gets on, sometimes she won't. For example, last weekend she got on and off the trailer perfectly fine at both our barn and the place we trailered to. Yesterday, it took us 90 minutes to get her on the trailer at the barn, but she got on the first try to come home. She will put one foot on the ramp and then back up or swing her butt so she is crooked. I got frustrated yesterday because I was late to my lesson. By the end, I had a person with a whip on either side of her so she couldn't swing her butt around. This just made her rear, not go in the trailer. I've tried to do the lunging thing, but 1) she is afraid to touch the ramp and 2) it's hard to lunge on to a straight load trailer. We eventually got her on the trailer by having 1 person lead her, 1 person at the front of the trailer with grain, and another person to shut the butt bar so she couldn't back off like the other times we got her partially on. I realized that she does better when you take the pressure off of her.

I can't have that many people help me load her everytime and I can't help but think that if there was an emergency, I wouldn't be able to load her.

The next problem is standing on the trailer. Once she is on, she starts bucking and rearing. When I got her off the trailer at the lesson place, she was covered in sweat and shaking, even though all of the windows were open. She was terrified to be on the trailer. At every stop sign, we could feel her kicking the trailer. I had to put a "ree-ree bonnet" on her (as the people at the tack store called it). It's a protective helemt so she doesn't hurt herself when she rears. Funny thing is- she was perfectly fine when we were riding around at the new place, just afraid of the trailer.

I don't know what to do about these problems. I know practice makes perfect, but I need a way to get her on the trailer that doesn't involve stressing her out. I've thought about leaving her in the field or the outdoor ring with the trailer, but the BO isn't too happy about that idea. I'd put another horse on with her to keep her company, but she has never met my other horse before and I don't want her kicking him. He field buddy isn't mine and I have never seen his owner before, so I couldn't use him. I can understand not wanting to get on the trailer because lots of horses don't like it, but it scares me when she freaks out inside the trailer.

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post #2 of 6 Old 10-05-2012, 09:30 PM
Green Broke
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It sounds like a confidence issue. She's afraid of it, most horses are, even the ones who will go into a trailer aren't necessarily confident with it. It really shows itself when a person asks them to load on their own.
Depending on the horse it can take ten minutes or several hours to get them loading confidently.
First off, she is probably afraid that you will force her into the trailer and then she will feel trapped, which is why she may not want to even approach it. You need to make her think the trailer is no big deal - that you have no intentions of making her get inside.
Work with her near the open trailer, have her circle on the line but dont try and aim her into the trailer. Let her move past it and then eventually have her stop and rest next to it. You want her to see the trailer as a place of comfort, not stress.
When you ask her to load, make sure you pay attention to her body language to know if she's unconfident or just testing you. If she's unconfident she might tense up, her head might go up, she might snort or quiver or even paw the ground. here is where approach and retreat can come in handy.
Have her back up, even just two steps and approach it again. Every time she appears to hesitate or if she gets two feet on and is about to come off, MAKE her come off, give her a second and then ask her on again.
Also, be sure you are not pressuring her when she is trying. If she is sniffing it & looks like she is thinking, let her be and then ask for a little more.
When she does get in, let her stand and then take her right out again. Lead her away, do something else and come back and try again.
She may be harder the 2nd time but dont get frustrated or impatient. She'll get it ;)
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"If a horse fails to do something that is because he was not trained to do it. If a horse fails to do something properly that is because he was not trained properly."
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post #3 of 6 Old 10-05-2012, 09:43 PM
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I've seen this before.....this is what the people did....they backed their straight load trailer up to the gate of the horses pen (gate open) pulled the ramp down...and everyday they threw the horses hay into the got hungry and would walk into the trailer, grab a bite and walk out...or rush on the first couple days....eventually the owner went outside one day and couldn't see her was chilling out in the trailer eating its dinner.....then she put the divider back in and let the horse walk in and back out on her own...after sometime the horse relaxed with the divider in....then the owner hung the hay in a hay net to get the horse to really walk right up with its head over the front bar.......after some time the owner would go out and put the butt bar up while the horse ate its grain/hay in the trailer and so got to the point that the owner could eventually put the butt bar and the back gate up and drive around town while the horse ate its dinner.....
This took a very long time, it was a desensitization that didn't flood the horse...
If you really want the horse settled I would commit to doing this the long slow sounds like there is something really bothering her about the trailer....
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post #4 of 6 Old 10-05-2012, 09:57 PM Thread Starter
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That sounds like a great idea and I'm sure it would work with her. The problem is- 1. she is out in the field with another horse 2.She doesn't et hay in the field (she is much happier to run around and play or eat grass and 3. BO said that she didn't want us to put the trailer at the gate because then the truck would be blocking the driveway. I'd put her in another field, but they're all full.
Do you think I could do this same sort of idea by bringing the trailer up to the barn 2-3 times a week and putting her grain in the trailer. I'd put her on a lunge line so she could go in and away from the trailer without running loose around the trailer parking lot.
An older man who spent his life at the track told me to tie a rope to one end of the trailer and then wrap it around just below her butt and add a little pressure. I don't see this working well for her because it's putting pressure on her in a stressfull situation and I know she doesn't handle that well. The thing is- I might be able to get her in the trailer the next time- who knows. She is very unpredictable when it comes to loading. At this point- I'll try any solution that wont get us hurt...

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post #5 of 6 Old 10-05-2012, 10:01 PM
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You really need a pen or yard where you can put the food in the trailer so she has to go in the ideal situation is where you can leave your trailer parked for a month where you can do want her to choose to go in and relax ......
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post #6 of 6 Old 10-05-2012, 10:24 PM Thread Starter
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*Sigh* I would love to have my own place to work with her, which might happen soon. My dad just got laid off so we might me moving, and if we do- he said it would be to a horse property, but that's still an if and a few months away... The trailer parking lot is quite large, but we have to keep the trailers backed up against the fence so people can get out if they need to.

lilruffian- I like your idea. With her, I think it's better to have her think it's my choice to get off the triler and not her fear. As for unconfident- this horse is unconfident in her own pasture or in the arena, or in the grooming stall- any place where she should feel relaxed, she tenses up. BUT, any place where I could understand being unconfident (off the property for the first time, warm up ring...), she is an angel. I've figured out that when she is scared, she becomes very submissive and when she is nervous, she gets tense.
I'm getting the trailer out tomorrow to take my other horse (who loads on any open trailer he sees) for a trail ride, so when I come back, I will spend some time on the trailer with the crazy redhead mare...

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