Teaching your horse to load in a trailer - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 18 Old 06-17-2009, 10:45 PM Thread Starter
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Teaching your horse to load in a trailer

Tonight is the last time I"m letting my mare get away with putting up a fight with the trailer. It took me almost an hour to get her in. I have recently gotten her over our old rusty stock trailer. She'll walk in/back out of that one no problem. Unfortunately, that trailer was unavailable tonight, so I was stuck with the new slant. Getting her to the clinic was no problem, but coming back was hell. I don't want to have to teach her all over again every time she encounters a new trailer. How would you teach your horse to load in a trailer, any trailer?
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post #2 of 18 Old 06-17-2009, 11:13 PM
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Its tough if you don't have your own trailer, but the trick is to get them to think of the trailer as a safe place. Its not something to do quickly it takes time and patience. Unfortunatley most people just want to get the horse in, get to where they are going and get the horse out. Ride. Repeat.
I start mine out just getting in to eat and rest, gradually working up to going a few 100 feet moving up and down the driveway working our way up to driving down the road.
Its not the loading and unloading thats hard on them, its the trip itself. Its not fun back there for the horse, and can be terrifying for a young or inexperienced horse. I wish everyone would train this way. It would make it easier for future owners. Take a ride in the trailer with your horse. It will give you new perspective on what its like.
You know your horse will load. Next time you have a trailer available try making it a less scary experience for her. Don't get mad, that will get you no where.
This is one of those times that patience will be your best asset. Once she is in take a short trip let her out, let her eat some grass or do something pleasant, load her back in and repeat. Spend a few hours or a day doing this, I guarantee she will load in any trailer.

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post #3 of 18 Old 06-17-2009, 11:39 PM
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Vida, that is a good idea. The way that I get my horses used to the trailer is also to have them think of it as a safe place or a place that they can rest. We take care of about 500 head of yearling cattle every summer and they are spread out over many pastures that are spread out over a large area. We go and ride through 3 or 4 pastures at a long trot or a lope then go load back up in the trailer, then go through 3 or 4 more pastures the same way, then load back up in the trailer, etc. When they figure out that trailer = rest, the same result happens. I can leave my horses ground tied while I open the trailer gate then just smooch a little and they jump right in. The only problem that I have ever encountered is a drastic change in trailer style will need just a second to look at to decide that it is in fact a trailer, then everythings fine.
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post #4 of 18 Old 06-18-2009, 04:41 PM
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Yep, that's how I prefer to do it - outside of the trailer is boot camp, in other words, they have to work alot. Inside the trailer? Rest.

Start by lungeing her outside the trailer, between you and the trailer, on either side of the trailer, etc, until you feel they are thinking about you, then point their nose to the trailer. If you have a ramp load, send her over the ramp both ways. She'll learn that she can rest in the trailer and outside means work.

Clinton Anderson does it this way. It was amazing to watch him at one of his tour stops, working with a mare who HATED the trailer - in thirty minues, she went into the trailer willingly. Way cool.

"Horses are proof that God wants us to enjoy life"
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post #5 of 18 Old 06-18-2009, 05:55 PM
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I'll just add 2 things..

Besides being patient, remember that it can take a lot of practice/experience before the horse will consistantly load. Many people stop practicing after their horses loads without problem a few times and then don't understand what is wrong when the horse won't load at 9pm, 100 miles from home, in the rain.

Make sure you recognize the different between the horse being scared and the horse just being ornery. Just like most things with a horse, even 'good' horses sometimes just don't want to do what we want, e.g. I was riding out at a friend's ranch one weekend and they were hosting a 4H horse event. When I was ready to load up and go home, one of our mares (the very curious one) wanted to stay and watch her buddies in the arena. This is an entirely different problem for which we resort to the quick swat on the butt with a broom.

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post #6 of 18 Old 06-18-2009, 08:06 PM
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I am totally with Sambo on this one. My 2yr old Rem hated to load in trailers, she was probably one of the worst loaders that I ever had. She was so stubburn, she wouldn't even fight. Just freeze. It wasn't something she wanted to do so she just would not do it.

Everytime I went to load her I would lunger her at the back of the trailer and then ask her to load. If she didn't load then back to lunging but this time faster. She soon realized that loading was much much easier than running small tight circles and now loads like a dream! I also always make sure that while I'm doing this I don't just load them once and say okay I'm done. I load a couple of times with lots of reward when she goes up into the trailer! And to top of off when she got up in the trailer I always let her have her fave treat once she is in the trailer!

Another very important thing, make sure the person driving the truck knows how to haul a trailer with horses in it. Slow down a good ways in advance before you have to stop, take corners wide and slow, etc. I've seen tons of horses that load fine and then they have one bad hauling experience. It takes hardly anytime to teach a horse something but a lifetime to fix something.
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post #7 of 18 Old 06-18-2009, 08:45 PM Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by FehrGroundRanch View Post
I've seen tons of horses that load fine and then they have one bad hauling experience. It takes hardly anytime to teach a horse something but a lifetime to fix something.
This is exactly my mare's problem. She's scared, not being bratty.
I had her to where she'd load perfectly fine into our stock trailer, and she was if-y about the slant load but loaded up after a minute of sniffing at it. When it was time to load up after the clinic (in the slant), she completely froze. I was doing fine trying to get her over it, but then one of the girls there decided to 'help' and started whipping her hind legs with a lunge whip. This completely scared the crap out of her because one of her main reasons of being scared of the trailer is because she's afraid of people hitting her from behind like that. She's also afraid of going in and having the door slammed on her.

This completely ruined our little training session, and the girl didn't go away in fact she thought she'd be nice by bringing her friends and they ran a lunge line along each side of her to pull her in. Now she has rope burns above her hocks! I tried being nice, and asking them to stop but they insisted. This seems to happen every time I go to a clinic and Athena has a trailer problem. Someone comes for help, but for all the wrong reasons.

Today, I took her over to the old stock trailer by ourselves. She was a little afraid at first, and would swing her butt around the side of the trailer so she couldn't walk straight in. After about 15 minutes of just letting her eat grass around it & walking her right up to the trailer but not in, she had put her front feet in the trailer by herself without me trying to pull her in or anything. And after about another 15 minutes she followed me all the way in (all four feet) on a loose rope, or in other words I wasn't pulling her in or anything. I think having tons of people around her makes her nervous, and having a different trailer doesn't help much either. I 'll probably stick with the stock trailer until she's very comfortable. I know that when we take breaks at gas stations, and I check on her she's shaking like a leaf. I think I'm going to have to take this trailer training really slow.
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post #8 of 18 Old 06-18-2009, 09:28 PM
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Poor Athena (I absolutly love that name BTW)

Next time someone tries to help you load politily say know if that doesn't work just tell them "I know you are trying to help but you are actually making the situation worse. She loads better when it's just the two of us." It's your horse and you can't have people trying to help you with her but in reality wrecking her!

If I were her and I had rope burns on my legs and had been whipped I wouldn't want to be anywhere near a trailer either! I'm not saying you did anything wrong, but be patient with the poor sweet girl. She really does have a reason to be geniunly scared! It's gonna take Athena a long time to get over her fears, just be sure that something like this never happens again please!
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post #9 of 18 Old 06-18-2009, 09:49 PM
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I will add my experiences.

1. 4 horses that would not load were taught to load with patience and work. They would be lunged outside near the trailer and then lead up to the trailer and asked to go in. I would run the rope up through the side of the trailer and encourage them from behind. After several attemps, all four horses will load without having to led them into the trailer. I should also add that I did leave some feed up in the front of the trailer as a treat, but just a little. I would load and unload several time and then take a good long break and try again. The break would last as long as an afternoon or a couple of days.

2. I had one horse that I could not get into the trailer with the method above. We ended up taking a lariat and puting it around the horse's withers and running the end up through between the front legs and then through the halter. This attempt taught the horse to move foward and as the reward was the release of the rope. You may have to play the yo yo affect and were gloves, and encourage from behind with a buggy whip.
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post #10 of 18 Old 06-18-2009, 09:52 PM
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I don't want to leave the impression that the use of a whip is to slap the fire out of them. I use it as an extention of my arm and to try to pat them and rub them.
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