Panic when braking
I have a 9 year old gelding who has always been a dream to trailer. Our first trailer was an old, 2 horse straight load that he barely fit into, but he never balked and never had any issues.
My husband and I have been saving up for a couple of years now and finally bought a brand new 2 horse slant load that's much larger and comfortable for my boy. However... The first time I pulled him in it, he started panicking whenever I hit the brakes.
I have a couple of ideas of things it might be, but wanted to run it by people who know more than I do!
1. The new trailer has brakes, whereas the old one did not. Is there some kind of "breaking in" period with new trailer brakes? I didn't feel anything abnormal when braking from the truck, but I know next to nothing about how trailer brakes should feel. Someone at our barn suggested backing down the power to our brakes, but I didn't think we had it set that high to begin with. Is this something I should figure out how to do? (Our brake controller came with the truck, and we have no instructions on how to use it.)
2. Is it possible that he just feels clausterphobic in the "smaller" portion of the slant? Should I try closing the divider and putting him into the back section to see if having more space helps?
And last but not least, if he's panicked, how do I unload him without getting myself or him hurt? We managed to get him unloaded, but it was a little scary, and he was definitely in a hurry to get off the trailer. Since he always backed out of the old trailer, he backed off rather than letting me turn his head and walk off, and he all but ran backwards, which is something we broke him of over 2 years ago. I don't want him reverting to that behavior!
One thing it could be is the smell of the new trailer. Our horses did the same thing until they got used to the new trailer - they didn't want to go in and wanted to come out. They pawed and whinnied but after a while they got used to it and settled down. That could be one reason.
How are you stepping on the brakes? and how is the brake level on your trailer? You want your trailer to start braking just barely before your truck does - if you can control the amount of braking. You dont want the car stopping the trailer and you don't want the trailer stopping the car - but have the trailer stop just barely before the car does.
Have you tried putting another horse in with him? If it is because its a new trailer then sometimes having a buddy at first can help settle him.
You could also try opening the windows slightly.
and also - how does he 'panic' when you hit the brakes? does he kick constantly, whinny uncontrollabley, what?
Do you have a separate brake controller under the dash? The brakes should be set up so that the trailer brakes come on barely before the tow vehicle. Try taking your foot off the gas well back and lightly touching the brakes. The horse may have felt more secure with the snug fit of the two horse. Now, he's responsible for maintaining his balance.
try to drive slow (10mph) and squeeze the brake controller, when it brakes turn it 1 -2 settings down....so you know you got the right brake setting.
I didn't think of the smell... I don't notice it with my puny human nose, and assumed since it's open (no windows) that it wouldn't have a "new" smell, but I'm sure it's different.
He was by himself, but that's never been an issue before - it did cross my mind.
Brand new trailers sometimes have "surges", meaning your horse is getting a shock when you hit the brakes. Go in there and see.
Otherwise, I agree with checking the brake controller settings.
Do you have a long driveway or maybe a large parking lot close by?
Have your husband drive and stop and you ride in the trailer. That will tell you exactly what the horse is feeling. It is illegal to ride in the trailer on a highway which is why I mentioned the driveway or large parking lot. It's a real education being in the trailer!
Also, you may want to have a trailer repair shop check out the truck and trailer brake connection.
Sounds like you may have a scrambling problem. We have one of those. We tied the divider to the wall and gave the horse the whole space. It worked.
Electric shock? Oh my gosh.
No end of the things to learn here........
OP, what trailer brake controller do you have? Cheap "time based" controllers typically create herky-jerky trailer braking that could be annoying your horse - the brand new brakes on your trailer would be exaserbating a cheap controller because the brakes are super-effective vs your old trailer on which they might have been heavily worn and much less grabby.
A high end brake controller, setup properly (an important part of the equation, obviously!) will provide seamlessly smooth braking between tow vehicle and trailer.
This thread at the DieselPlace forum I help run might be a good read for you:
FAQ: Timer Vs. Proportional Brake Controllers - Diesel Place : Chevrolet and GMC Diesel Truck Forums
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