Join Date: May 2007
Location: Fairbanks, Alaska
Bribing horses to do things with feed is a peeve of mine. I know that it may have its place at times, but it seems that a horse should do something because they trust and respect you, not because they are bribed.
If you are able to get your horse loading without food, that would be excellent :)
One way that has worked for me witH many different horses has been to lead them up to the trailer with all the confidence and expectation that the horse is going to load. The second the horse quits making forward movement, turn around and either drive them backwards a ways or drive them in circles. If the horse pulls back from me, I usually drive them backwards. You have to be careful about driving backwards because sometimes they will just get furthur from the trailer as you drive them back and they continue to refuse forward movement. For horses like this, driving in circles is better. As soon as they begin forward movement again, relax and remove the driving pressure that you had been doing. Repeat until they understand that they need to keep forward movement all the way into the trailer - otherwise it is a lot more work! Make the idea of entering the trailer more pleasant than refusing by showing them that if they refuse, they must work.
This method worked for all of the horses that I did it with. They now eagerly hop into the trailer and seem to enjoy going places.
Be careful that you know your horse before doing it the way that I do, because you don't want to make things worse. If the above method does not sound like it will mesh with his personality, do not do it - seek other advise. Different things work for different horses.
I actually clicked this thread because I also have a trailering question. We just picked up my sisters horse, and brought him to our house. He apparently has a serious problem with refusing to go in the trailer. Once he gets used to a particular trailer he may do okay with a lot of encouragement, but then he refuses to go in a new trailer if presented. My sister sent him to have this worked on with a gentleman who practices natural horsemanship, and he used pressure, release by wisking him with a rope when he didn't move and stopping when he move. He loaded him into about seven different trailers successfully. Last night when my husband went to pick up the horse, they tried for two hours to load him in our trailer before calling the trainer out who had worked with him. He had him loaded multiple times within 20 minutes.
I am planning on working with him about loading, but am nervous about using my usual method (described above) because he is a very timid horse. I have not gotten to know him well yet, and I am sure it will become more clear how to handle it as I get to know him, but I would appreciate any other ideas. I can continue the natural horsemanship methods practiced by my sister's trainer, but really the way I do it in the first place is a version of that anyway (pressure-release, driving-relax, dominant horse move feet of less dominant horse, etc.). She is trying to sell him, and not everyone is going to want to go through a whole ordeal to load the horse into a trailer.