Trailer Loading... tips and tricks?
I have this gelding, 2-Pak. He's a pretty big guy, and he has fair ground manners and everything. His only major problem is that he -will not- load in a trailer. We've tried all sorts of different solutions... his first trainer taught us to lunge him before hand, and then try to load him, and if he refuses, lunge him again. My uncle (the one who bred 2-Pak) has tried just forcing him into the trailer and reward him for standing calmly inside, then take him out and repeat. I've heard all sorts of "Lock him in a round pen opened to the trailer, then feed/water him inside of the trailer." The only idea that resulted in mild success is luring him into the trailer using treats and food, then rewarding him for standing quietly inside.
I've gotten him loading fairly decently with the last one, but he just seems to be learning so slowly, and he'll only load in one of the stock trailers... I can't even get him to stick a hoof in the other two trailers.
We've also tried backing the trailer up to a hill, so there's hardly any step up, and he refuses all the same. If we just leave a trailer open in the pasture, he has no problem crawling inside of his own will. It's just that he does not want to load when someone else wants him to load.
Do any of you have any tips or tricks that might help him? I'm still luring him in with treats, and I've gotten him so that he'll walk in behind me with only a little hesitation, but only if I have treats in my hand, or, on better days, his favorite brush, but he still will only load in the one trailer, and it's not exactly in horse-hauling condition. Any other trailer, he'll stop just before the step and stretch out his neck, trying to get the treats.
I know that repitition is what's best, but if anyone has any help that might help him learn faster, I'd be eternally grateful. It's a problem we've been working on since I've gotten him, and I started getting him to walk in with the treats (no halter/lead, just making it think it was his idea) nearly two years ago.
You say 'pretty big guy'. How big and what type of trailer?
If he is a big guy and you are trying to load him into a straight two horse or even a slant load depending on his size, he may be feeling claustrophobic. I'll wait to say more since I have the same question as mls
He's around 15 hands -- I've never officially measured how tall, so I'm guessing based off Ruby's height. ^^: I'm 5'6", and his withers are at my eye level, if that helps. The trailer... two stocks and a slant. The one he loads in is a wide (maybe 6 1/2 feet?) stock, about average height. The other two are both 7 1/2 ft tall, not sure how wide.
And with the slant load, we usually take out the dividers and don't use them at all. We used them once, and I didn't like how any of the horses fit.
I'm guessing you have tried in small or dark interior trailers. 15 hands is an average sized horse. We have a 15'2 1250 mare and a nearly 16 hand gelding that both get into my 3 horse slant without hesitation.
Our problem is getting them to wait their turn to be loaded . . .
Another question - when did the problem start? I've said it before and I will say it again - it's often not the trailer but the person driving that worries the horse. Most of the trailer loading issues start after a bad experience being hauled.
My other horses all load easily... Bandit and Dante we can hardly keep out of an open trailer.
Umm, I can't say I remember a time that he ever loaded well. The first time I remember him entering a trailer, he was two and we had one person at his head and two people running a rope behind him, urging him forward. Before then... I can't say if he'd been loaded or not. I believe my dad was driving that day, and he's not all that awesome a driver, I'll admit, but his driving hasn't seemed to scar any of the others.
I know my dad's impatience has probably messed him up pretty bad (my dad is not good with horses... his philosophy consists of brute force for everything. He's also no longer allowed to have anything to do with them.), but dad is pretty much banned from entering the vicinity when any horses are being loaded.
I had a horse that HATED to be trailered!!!! His 1st trailer ride was from Kansas to Tampa, Fl, so I can't say I really blame him. I tried several different ways & techniques, & it was always a crap shoot if he would load or not. Then we met a "Cowboy preacher" who used Horace for a Sunday Church demo. There are 2 differences....the horse that REFUSES to load, & the horse that CHOOSES not to load. Horace CHOSE not to load. After about 10 minutes of working with him @ church, he'll now load. I should say that we have a big rear load stock trailer with a step up.
Try to park the trailer parallel to a fence on 1 side. Leave the back & 1 side open for you to work him. Make sure there is a bucket with a little bit of feed up in the front. Doesn't have to be a full meal, a few handfuls will do. When leading the horse in, don't stand to the side or behind. Keep your energy up & walk up without stopping on a loose lead. Do not turn around. Keep your back to him & let him follow you up. If he hesitates, keep facing forward & have someone stand behind him to put pressure on his rear legs by standing back & spinning a rope. If he still is refusing or you are by yourself, then let the head lead be long enough that you can string thru the trailer & stand by the back doors. Pull in by the head lead while spinning a rope behind him. Remain calm at all times and don't rush him. Keep in mind, he's a big boy. You will not be able to pull him or push him in. He has to put himself in.
Once he realises that this big contraption will not eat him alive and there is a reward of a little feed up at the front, eventually it will get easier. Keep practicing & keep calm. At the church, I loaded & unloaded several times, the preacher loaded & unloaded several times, plus my non-horsey husband, & my 11 year old son. Brought him home, & a few days later loaded him up all by myself several more times with no more problems.
My husband is not a very patient person either, & he's not into horses like I am. Brute force is his answer, too. Our kids show cows, & to get them in the trailer, then you tighten up the lead ropes & pull them up, having someone push from behind if needed. Ya can't do that with a horse. Horses are stronger on thier legs, and have more power behind them. And you know that horses pick up on "vibes", so by being tense & worked up, the horse will be tense, too. "Keep calm, baby" is my mantra for my husband when he helps! lol
We've tried pulling him in before, like you mentioned, but it simply doesn't stick. More like, he'll brace against that pressure until someone gives up, the ropes snaps, or his halter snaps. One time or another that we tried it, he actually stood there bracing for nearly an hour, and then he started to move forward, so we let off the pressure a bit (using the whole 'pressure-release' system), and he violently jerked backward, reared, and then lost his footing and fell. After that, we tried again... only for him to repeat it. Four or five times in a row, though he didn't consitantly fall.
But it's like I said, I don't think he's actually afraid of the trailer at all. Once he's inside, he's perfectly fine. He'll stand there happy as pie, lead him out, and he'll just refuse to get in again.
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