How do you get a horse to get on th trailer? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 03:16 PM Thread Starter
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How do you get a horse to get on th trailer?

Our new horse, Duke, is a great horse in more ways than one, but doesn’t like the trailer and refuses to get on.

He used to trailer at least a few times a year and his living situation wasn’t completely stable as he’d go to Toronto island for the season and be in photoshoots with weddings (pulling a carriage) and such and then he’d go to a riding school on lease for the winter. When we got him I asked how was he with trailering and we were told he can be reluctant but will get on with grain. When we loaded him to take him home, he walked on with treats as a lure no fuss.

A few months later we trailered to go ride at a nearby trail. At home he got on, Although he didn’t really want to and We had to get the other horse loaded first. The trail is less than 3min drive from us, and when we got there it took some maneuvering back and forth to turn around in a small parking lot. When he came out he was soaked. Rode on the trail for a few hours and when we got back, he flat out refused to load. The other guy went on first and with Duke, no amount of treats got him even close to it. So after trying for about half an hour I just decided to not push the issue and rode him home instead. I’m really glad we tried to close to home trail instead of one that’s a half an hour drive. As that was initially the plan lol. That would have been a long ride back.

I have tried again recently not to load him but just to walk him up to it and he refused to. He will walk around the trailer and touch it no problem.

So do I just not have enough of his trust? Does he not like our trailer (two horse ramp load)? How do we fix this issue?
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post #2 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 03:22 PM
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Um, I don't know if this has anything to do with it, but that trailer looks a bit small for him.

Have you ever tried taking out the center divider and having him ride kind of sideways?
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post #3 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 03:36 PM
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I am NOT a fan of Clinton Anderson. But. This works. You want the horse to WANT to go in the trailer, you want to fight them to keep them out. The way you do that is you want them to associate the trailer with a place of rest and doing nothing but relaxing (Horses LOVE doing nothing) and you want outside the trailer to be the place to work her feet (Or his).


What's not shown in this video is that he will get a horse to lunge, always coming around to face the open part of the trailer. If the horse slows down and thinks about going in the trailer, he lets them stop, then tries to load them, and if they don't want to, he works them again... rinse and repeat. The horse will get closer and closer to loading as they come to associate the open trailer with doing nothing.

This is my husband's mare. In October, 2018, she got in the trailer and while I was tying her head, she decided to lose her mind, sat back, and nearly popped two of my fingers off - they were still tying the slip knot. After several months of a constant fight to load in the slant, I asked my cousin's daughter, who had just gone to a CA clinic on trailer loading, if she could see what could be done with Gina. This is the end result. I didn't get video of the very end result - you can open the trailer, point her that way, throw the lead rope on the neck and she'll load without any problem at all.


Had the same problem with Sarge. He didn't want to load in the slant, he wanted to just walk off and drag J along with him. Video 1 is the beginning, Video 2 is the end result 20 minutes later.



Others here may have better suggestions, but this is what has worked for us.


ETA. I agree with AnitaAnne, that trailer looks to be a squeeze for him and he may be very uncomfortable, mentally and physically in it. Rule this out FIRST before you try any of what I posted Up There.
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post #4 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 03:45 PM
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You may have inadvertently given him a bad experience. If he was sweaty from all the backing and turning, then that may have been enough for him to go from disliking the trailer to hating it. In the future, I suggest unloaded him first and THEN turning the trailer around while he happily grazes nearby.

Horses do have preferences about trailers (size, type, ramp or step-up) but most can learn to get in any kind of trailer with enough training. I think you're just going to have to do a lot of work with him getting him to accept the trailer again. But make sure every trailer experience is as pleasant as possible. That means no sharp turns or braking, driving slowly, keeping the rides short for a while, making sure there is something he likes at the other end of the trip (eg. a really lush field of grass), etc.

Of course the trailer needs to be a certain size for a horse to be comfortable so you should check those measurements and make sure they are adequate. If they are, you're just going to have to go at this problem systematically. Don't let him win again - next time you have to load him, follow through no matter how long it takes. We used to have to use a lunge rope tied to one side of the trailer and wrapped around my daughter's horse, then apply pressure until he would move forward to get him loaded at first. Now she can just walk him on. But it took lots and lots of tries to get it done.
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post #5 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 04:27 PM
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Oddly enough, the only time I have had to do this type of training is when assisting others to load their horse so they could get home.


My method normally is much less intense, but achieves the result of the horse self loading. But it takes time, and careful understanding of the horse's actions.


It also takes successful trips. Safe, careful driving. Something nice for the horse after they ride in the trailer. I like to think of it this way, if you can "load" a horse in a stall, you can load them in a trailer. It is much in the handlers attitude. Calm and careful.
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post #6 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 05:06 PM Thread Starter
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For some reason those are the only two pics I could find. I’m sure I had a bunch more. Anyhow, nose to tail the trailer fits him I think, he was leaning on the butt bar with about 3-4’ of space still in front of his nose. It’s not the largest trailer though. I was thinking that maybe he felt squished side to side. But at the time I didn’t really think to look. There butt bar was hanging straight down not tilted to the side. So It couldn’t have been too bad. I asked my farrier who trailers quite a bit to take a look and he said size wise it fits him. But he looked without a horse in there.

If all else fails then we may need to sell this trailer and look for a bigger option although I would t mind keeping this one for the time being due to all the hassle of selling and buying and how great shape it’s in.

When I tried to see if he’ll go on recently, I had the centre bar of to the side to open it up more. He kept his distance and I didn’t force anything as I really didn’t ask him to get on. Just to get close to the ramp. Once I succeeded with him taking a step closer and putting his nose on the ramp we quit.

If I can get out tomorrow I’ll try working him after the ride to get him to step closer. Re

We always drive ‘horse wise’ when trailering. And he was fine when we first got him home and that was just under an hour trip.

I have seen the Clinton Anderson trailer video (and a bunch of others). I also am not a big fan of his after a few stories I heard from people who had met him up close and personal, but I don’t mind some of the training methods he uses as they do seem to work. I will give it a try when I can make some time. I’d like to be able to also just point him in there and he walks up.

He prob did get a bit of a bad experience as when he walked up he banged what I thought was his hoof but may have been his cannon bone on the side. And then we had to fiddle with the bit at on the one side as it was crooked and it made some noise but not overly crazy. The other horse was also on there and he went on after.
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post #7 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 05:33 PM
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He may also be testing you. My daughter's horse loaded fine when we first bought him. But then he had two bad experiences which were entirely due to my inexperience with horse trailers - nothing really serious, just enough to make him decide he'd had it. And because we were still new to horses to a large extent (I had horses when I was young, but then went a long time without before we got him), our hesitation was probably sensed and he took advantage of it. In any case, he decided he wasn't going on anymore. We tried all sorts of things (I'm not one for the CA methods either) including rewarding for every step forward. We spent four hours getting absolutely nowhere. So then we resorted to the lunge line and he began trying to avoid getting in by jumping sideways, off the ramp, at the last minute! He did that at my daughter's lesson barn and her coach came marching to our trailer and told us what to do. She got everyone positioned around him with the lunge line behind his butt, stood at the side of the ramp where he would always try to jump off, and when he tried to jump sideways, gave him a good whack in the ribs. He went on. We kept at it, loaded him regularly, but made sure to reward him once in there with praise, food, etc. In the end, I think it was just his way of telling us he wasn't really keen on doing this lesson thing where we trailer him somewhere, make him work hard for an hour, then come home to his buddies. Eventually, when he realized we weren't letting him win, he gave up and now has resigned himself to going in, but it doesn't mean he likes it.

You say he used to load ok, but not without some amount of convincing. I'm guessing there was probably more than the seller cares to admit. He has just upped the ante to see if he can now get out of this chore with a new owner and he has succeeded. I'm not saying you did the wrong thing, but you did reinforce the behavior. You will just have to take a few steps back now and make sure he understands this is not negotiable, even if it takes all day.
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post #8 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 05:50 PM Thread Starter
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It’s quite possible he is testing. We did try with the rope behind his butt and crops as the last resort but he still didn’t care to go on. At the time I didn’t have much choice but to ride home, as there was young infant waiting at home lol. But I know that he ended up winning in his mind. Although the ride back was not leisurely. I made him trot and canter all the way except for the last bit as I just simply needed to get home. But he probably preferred that anyhow. So I know it’ll take more work. First thing I will try is the CA method of working outside the trailer. Rest in front and eventually inside. That seems to be the most reasonable right now. I always thought that using but tropes/crops and force to get them on will make its that much more difficult the next time.
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post #9 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 05:54 PM Thread Starter
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I found some camcorder footage and took pics of that. It looks like there’s less space in front of the nose than I thought but still he’s not jammed into the wall by any means. Where the paint is there’s a man door. I could possible try and load him on the right side and leave the door open for space, BUT that would mean putting the bigger, heavier horse on the right side.
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post #10 of 39 Old 01-02-2020, 07:15 PM
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It doesnít matter if you think he is not jammed in the trailer - itís what he thinks.

For my part, heís a pretty big guy for such a small space.

1. Many years ago Arab/Saddlebred stopped giving me loading sass the day I traded the 2-horse for the 4-horse open stock

2. Also many years ago I made a lot of money hauling horses to the local fair in my 4-horse open stock that would not load (without an argument) in their owners 2-Horse:).

I already had a big truck to pull a stock trailer and it did not cost me any more in gas than the two-horse.

Not saying you should buy a big stock trailer but I would look into something with more room and plexiglass windows. if a straight load is your preference.
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I CAN'T ride 'em n slide 'em. I HAVE to lead 'em n feed 'em Thnx cowchick77.
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