Horse Backing Out of Trailer Before Being Asked - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 03-27-2020, 06:25 PM Thread Starter
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Horse Backing Out of Trailer Before Being Asked

Geez, I haven't been on here in years! But this forum was the first place I thought of when I realized I was out of ideas.

So I have a 11 year old OTTB. I've had him just over 5 years. His quick history with trailers. Our first boarding barn had a two horse straight load w/ ramp, and we used it a couple times in the few months we were there. I don't remember any problems, he loaded like a dream and I don't remember any drama. When I moved for school, the second boarding barn had a 3 horse slant load step up. No problems ever. He would load, and usually was the first on so he could turn around and walk out. The couple times he was last on, he would have to back off. He didn't like it, but he would slowly and shakily back off. We even used a friend's straight load (also step up) once and no problems either.

Present day: My best friend buys a nice 2 horse straight load that is a step up. I brought my horse out to pop him on just because. He went right on. He backed off after a few seconds. I thought it was odd and laughed it off and asked him back on. He came on again, but then shot back out without being asked. I was super confused as to why this was suddenly a problem. I decided to call it for the day, and come back the next day to really work on it when I had plenty of time and game plan.

Day 1: Basically I asked him to get on with his front legs and then back off. He would. At first, he was choosing to back off on his own but would eventually just stand there halfway in. I finally started asking him to get all the way in. He would, and would stand and sniff a bit and then off he'd run. Now, I should say whenever he backed off crazy or when I didn't tell him too, I would take him off and make him hustle around. Backing up, vigorous hind quarter yielding, generally making it uncomfortable for him to be outside of that trailer. He would continue to load, and after about an hour/90 mins- He was willing to come in, back a couple steps, come back in, wait a couple breaths and then back all the way off at my choosing. He did it three times and I called it quits. I should also say, by the end of this day, he was walking calmly back, rather than shooting back, so that's nice.

Day 2 was a little better, but I keep trying to extend the time he has to stand in there before I back him off. Sometimes he seems keen to wait and I can get a minute or two before asking for a back (this only happened maybe twice today), other (most) times he'll wait maybe 15 seconds and want to back off. Even when he decides to back off, at least he is going slowly now. I try and ask him to step back in the trailer if he starts to back off, but once i pull his head a bit forward with the lead, he'll throw his head and he quickly backs off. Like once he's decided to leave, he's gone. But if I ask him myself in time, he's a real gentleman about it.


Currently, I am working him with a chain over his nose. I did it initially because with a lead rope, he'd shoot off and try and wander (while I was still standing in the trailer) so the chain allowed me to keep his head straight and gave me a bit of leverage. The barn owner says when he tries to back off, I should hold onto the rope and let the chain pinch him at least once before I release it. The problem with this is, when I allow the chain to put pressure on him, his head goes up. He's bonked himself twice on the forehead, thankfully not bad, but it makes me very uncomfortable. Sometime he will rear when he's back on the ground. He'll do this to some extent with the lead rope, but not nearly as bad as this (rearing, sudden head throws etc). I just don't want a vet bill as a result of this.


At the start, I was just planning on letting him back off if he wanted, and then work his feet and try again until he would stand quietly and back out (slowly) on my say so. Am I wrong in this thinking? Or should I try and "hold" him on the trailer with a chain? I'm a 20 yo girl, so I'm not likely going to win an arm wrestling contest with him.....

He was a bit better today, so is this something that will just take a lot of practice and patience?

I've also thought about enlisting a friend to stand to the side and tap his butt with a sturdy lunge whip if he tries to come out. Not sure if that would work? Good idea or no?

He has good ground manners normally, but it all seems to fly out the window when it comes to getting of that trailer.

Essentially, I want him to willingly stand until I clearly ask him to back myself. I want it to be my idea and not his. I'm open to any ideas or suggestions that you have tried! I'm so sorry this is so long!
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post #2 of 11 Old 03-27-2020, 06:41 PM
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I am NO trailer loading guru. Not at all. but I can share with you what happened when I was doing pretty much exactly the same thing you are doing, and what my trainer recommended I do.


in our case it was a slant load, with trying to load 'X' into the first position (furthest inside), with divider tied open. X would come in , more or less, ok. But, would almost immediately decide it was unbearable. HE would first try to turn around , and with me standing next to him in the trailer, I had to immediately shut down THAT idea! Then he would decide he had to back out, pronto.
I was using a rope halter and long lead, so I allowed the line to slip through my hands, but did not drop the line. Initially, I came out with him and put his feet to moving, in circles, always FORWARD, never backward. The circles were near the door and every time we passed the open door, if he indicated any interest in 'thinking' toward that open doorway, I allowed him to stop and put his head in. If he couldn't carry that thought to walking in, we went back to moving. Not in a punishment sort of way, but strong enough to get ahold of his attention, so that I might sort of 'send' his attention toward the trailer openning.


Eventually, I was able to send him back in, and step up with him (to disallow him from turning around). I stood next to him and petted him, Of course, he was nervous, and soon backed out quickly. over time, we started to see if we could maintain a bit of a 'feel' on the rope as he backed out.


At first, I went with him, but after a bit, I tried to put just enough feel that after he had all four legs outside, I was able to convince him, with just that bit of forward feel on teh rope, to come back in again immediately.

Then, if he started to back out in a bit calmer manner, I tried to put a little feel on the rope to see if I could change his mind when he only had his back legs off . . . etc.


I'm not trying to hold him on. That would be impossible. But, I'm not dropping the feel on the rope, and am very diplomatically asking to see if he can come forward, even when he feels he needs to back out. If that 'feel' is real hard, the horse will panic and fight. If it's alive enough to suggest something (forward), but not dead enough to just go slack if he backs out, then you give him something to dialogue with.


I'm not sure a chain over the nose can be subtle enough for this, tho. But, if he's ripping out of your hands and running off, well, you do what you have to do.


that's my non-expert experience. In the end, we had success, but horse was not calm about being in trailer, but stood long enough to close doors, and rode reasonably still for a half hour. Did not truly change his mind, tho.
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post #3 of 11 Old 03-28-2020, 01:09 AM
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Maybe Iím not grasping the whole situation here, but it seems to me like you had a problem, and you solved it. Now you have a non problem and you are risking making things worse by trying to solve a problem you donít have.

Your problem was the horse rushing off the trailer. Very dangerous, and you fixed it. Congratulations!

Your non problem is the horse doesnít trust the new trailer yet He still thinks itís an EZ Bake oven or something. So do you think that putting a chain on him and inflicting pain will help him believe that trailer is a happy place? No, it certainly wonít.

I would suggest you start fresh. Breathe deeply. Smile. Sing a happy song. Load him gently, reward him with stroking or treats or whatever, and back him out immediately. Then reward him again for being such a good boy and backing out so nicely. Then load him again and back him out again. Convince him you donít care whether he stays in that trailer or not. All you want to do is load and unload, and you are very happy and proud that he is doing both so well.

On the 20th load, let him stand in the trailer until he wants to move. I donít know how many times it will take, but if your acting job is good enough and he thinks you are having fun and you are both relaxed about it, Iím pretty sure before the 100th load he will decide heís happier to just stand than to keep getting off.
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post #4 of 11 Old 03-28-2020, 01:41 AM
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Joel has another great plan! many ways to skin a cat (so to speak).


I know that the attitude of the loader is all important. I had trouble being calm and being assured of success after having more than 75% of loading experience be difficult. People who have never had an issue are often better at it because they have an expectation of success, whereas people who have had failures, expect more of the same. ask me how I know!
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post #5 of 11 Old 03-28-2020, 04:47 AM
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I am not suggesting this as a cure but an interesting story!

A woman bought a horse from an Irish horse dealer. She was pleased with the horse bar that he would race out of the trailer very fast and she tried everything to stop him to no avail

She called the dealer and he said to bring the horse back for a couple of weeks and he would stop it. To cut a long story short he had the horse and did nothing with it when the woman called to see if she could pick it up.

He said the next day.

With that he and his son went out and loaded the horse. They drove the trailer to a deepish pond and backed the trailer up. Dropped the ramp, horse galloped out and got a dunking, moved trailer and loaded and repeated. After the second dunking the horse stood stock still when the rampmwas dropped.

Weeks later the woman called to say she was very pleased that the problem had been solved and that she had to push the horse back to unload.

Most trailers in the UK, and they are all straight load, have a breaching strap which clips across the back so if the horse goes back he feels that and stops. This obviously needs a second person to put the strap across.

Secondly, with a horse that would raise his head both entering and leaving the trailer bashing it most times, I would put a roller on him. I had a loop of string on the roller under the belly. Using a second lead rope on his halter, I would use the clip on the string and then tie it back to the halter so he had to have his head down.

Once in the trailer I would unclip the second rope and reattach before unloading. Within a few trips he caught on to keeping his head low.
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post #6 of 11 Old 03-28-2020, 12:51 PM
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Well welcome back OP!

I wrote up a trailer loading thread a few years ago (find it here). It may be useful to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post

Present day: My best friend buys a nice 2 horse straight load that is a step up. I brought my horse out to pop him on just because. He went right on. He backed off after a few seconds. I thought it was odd and laughed it off and asked him back on. He came on again, but then shot back out without being asked. I was super confused as to why this was suddenly a problem. I decided to call it for the day, and come back the next day to really work on it when I had plenty of time and game plan.
Personally, I think you handled this okay. It's never a bad idea to think about the situation FIRST, and then access with a calm mind what needs to be done. But in the future, what I would suggest, is I probably would loaded him right away again, or at least the front feet, and made sure that **I** was the one to decide to unload those feet (not him). Doesn't matter if he only stood there for a fraction of a second before I sensed he was about to move; it's just as long as I have "made the first move" and actually asked him to do it before he did.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post
Day 1: Basically I asked him to get on with his front legs and then back off. He would. At first, he was choosing to back off on his own but would eventually just stand there halfway in.
Whether it is trailer loading or riding or anything --- NEVER allow the horse to be the one to make decisions. It should be the rider/handler that is asking the horse to do something; not the horse deciding to do things. And I don't mean that we should be this big forceful dominant mean rider/handler. It is the ultimate goal to create a horse that is willing and WANTS to do what we ask. But again, we still want the horse to always comply with what we are asking, and waiting on us to let them know what the next step is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post
I finally started asking him to get all the way in. He would, and would stand and sniff a bit and then off he'd run. Now, I should say whenever he backed off crazy or when I didn't tell him too, I would take him off and make him hustle around. Backing up, vigorous hind quarter yielding, generally making it uncomfortable for him to be outside of that trailer. He would continue to load, and after about an hour/90 mins- He was willing to come in, back a couple steps, come back in, wait a couple breaths and then back all the way off at my choosing. He did it three times and I called it quits. I should also say, by the end of this day, he was walking calmly back, rather than shooting back, so that's nice.
In my opinion, 90 minutes is way too long to be drilling him on this single topic. Way too long. A lot of horses would not tolerate this for that long and would completely blow up on you. Your horse sounds like a saint.

15 minutes is plenty to work on a specific item like this.

Secondly, I'm not a real big fan of "correcting" them by making them back all over the place. Yes, they can and will make mistakes during the training process, and you have to do what you need to do to correct it. But you also want to try to set the horse up for success as much as you can. So if it were my horse, I would have never loaded him all that way on that first day. I would have just focused on one front foot - maybe both front feet based on how they were doing. Just load and unload that one foot over and over, and if they did a great job several times right off the bat, heck, we might have achieved our goal for the day in 60 seconds. Great! They would be done and we would go do something else. Absolutely no need to drill them for 90 minutes.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post
Day 2 was a little better, but I keep trying to extend the time he has to stand in there before I back him off. Sometimes he seems keen to wait and I can get a minute or two before asking for a back (this only happened maybe twice today), other (most) times he'll wait maybe 15 seconds and want to back off. Even when he decides to back off, at least he is going slowly now. I try and ask him to step back in the trailer if he starts to back off, but once i pull his head a bit forward with the lead, he'll throw his head and he quickly backs off. Like once he's decided to leave, he's gone. But if I ask him myself in time, he's a real gentleman about it.
Again, he should not be the one to decide to back off!!! That is your decision, as the handler. And he should wait on you for that cue. That's why I think you are progressing too quickly, and skipping vital basic steps.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post

Currently, I am working him with a chain over his nose. I did it initially because with a lead rope, he'd shoot off and try and wander (while I was still standing in the trailer) so the chain allowed me to keep his head straight and gave me a bit of leverage. The barn owner says when he tries to back off, I should hold onto the rope and let the chain pinch him at least once before I release it. The problem with this is, when I allow the chain to put pressure on him, his head goes up. He's bonked himself twice on the forehead, thankfully not bad, but it makes me very uncomfortable. Sometime he will rear when he's back on the ground. He'll do this to some extent with the lead rope, but not nearly as bad as this (rearing, sudden head throws etc). I just don't want a vet bill as a result of this.
Lose the chain. Instead, slow down on your training because you are trying to progress too rapidly. The holes are emerging, and that's why you need the "band aid" fix of a chain to try to force control him.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post
Or should I try and "hold" him on the trailer with a chain? I'm a 20 yo girl, so I'm not likely going to win an arm wrestling contest with him.....
Even a body building would never win a contest with a 1,000 pound animal. If they don't want to listen to you, you will NEVER win a force contest.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post
He was a bit better today, so is this something that will just take a lot of practice and patience?
Yes, you need TIME and PATIENCE. And taking a read of my trailer loading thread will help! Please read it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by angelswave88 View Post
He has good ground manners normally, but it all seems to fly out the window when it comes to getting of that trailer.
Ultimately, trailer loading problems ARE ground work problems. Your holes are exposed when the trailer comes into the mix. Ground manners is about being able to move your horse's body and control their feet at all times, at all speeds, and in all situations --- even if there happens to be a trailer there.

∞ē*˚ Βгįťţαňγ ˚*ē∞
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post #7 of 11 Old 03-28-2020, 02:49 PM
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The adventures of trailer loading. Ok you're all gonna laugh at me, but this worked, so laugh on.
We'd had issues of not wanting to load more than 2 feet, then he backs up over the course of many practice sessions.

One day I had the idea of showing my horse what I wanted. I visualized, and said, I would like you to go walk in, turn around, and stop. If you do this three times, that will be it and we can go for grass. To my surprise, he walked on, turned around, and stood. We exited, and then did it two more times. I was so shocked, as it had taken about 2 minutes. I briefly thought of doing it one more time to make it 4 times.....but then thought, no. I promised only three times!
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post #8 of 11 Old 03-28-2020, 10:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by beau159 View Post
Well welcome back OP!

I wrote up a trailer loading thread a few years ago (find it here). It may be useful to you..
Brittanyís loading article is one of the great resources of the forum. I recommend it.
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post #9 of 11 Old 03-29-2020, 12:59 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by livelovelaughride View Post
The adventures of trailer loading. Ok you're all gonna laugh at me, but this worked, so laugh on.
We'd had issues of not wanting to load more than 2 feet, then he backs up over the course of many practice sessions.

One day I had the idea of showing my horse what I wanted. I visualized, and said, I would like you to go walk in, turn around, and stop. If you do this three times, that will be it and we can go for grass. To my surprise, he walked on, turned around, and stood. We exited, and then did it two more times. I was so shocked, as it had taken about 2 minutes. I briefly thought of doing it one more time to make it 4 times.....but then thought, no. I promised only three times!



Many horses prefer to ride backward in the trailer. But, in a straight load, this is not an option.
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post #10 of 11 Old 03-29-2020, 01:06 AM Thread Starter
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@beau159 I read through your previous forum post that you linked, lots of good info on there. I aim to put it to use. I really appreciate you taking the time to read and respond!
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