New to trailer loading - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 10:27 AM Thread Starter
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New to trailer loading

In one of my previous posts I mentioned that we were trying out a 8 year old British Riding pony. We ultimately decided to keep him. Realizing that we didn't want to always be at the mercy of asking other people to trailer him to shows or riding events we also bought a truck and trailer to tow him with. We brought him to our first show the other weekend and on the way to the show he loaded great. Loading him when coming back we learned the hard way that trailer loading can go wrong quickly. The trailer we have is a 2 horse straight load step up. It has a center divider that swings one way or the other in the back and has a small escape door but only on the passenger side of the trailer. We tried loading him by having my wife lead him straight into the trailer on a lead line. The center divider was closed. Just as she got to the front she hooked the trailer tie and a soon as I went to go hook the butt chain he started to panic. My wife got some good bruises on her shin and legs from him bounding up and down next to here with no place for her to go and the horse stuck there being tied. I realized now after reading more about loading that you are not supposed to tie them in until after the butt chain is on exactly for this reason. So my question is, what is the safest way to do this. Other than not tying him until fully loaded do we swing the center divider open before loading? Do you hook the butt bar first or do I just close the one side door after he steps in and then hook it? In my mind the safest way seems to be to swing the center divider open, lead him in, close the door after he steps in, have my wife exit out the other door, close the center divider, hook up the butt chain, and then tie him through the hay manger door. Is this right or do I have some of the steps backwards. My biggest confusion is on the center divider since nobody really talks about it when referring to loading, and the doors first vs butt chain first. Butt chain first makes sense for a ramp load but not sure if it makes as much sense or is even needed for a step up?

Keith
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post #2 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 10:44 AM
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I always left the center divider in place. Load, butt chain, door, go around front to tie was always my routine. I would shut the door before fastening the butt chain if I had one that wanted to back out.

If the pony needs a person to go in the trailer with it load it on the left side with your wife staying in the right, center divider between them. She can then either come out the back door if you have 2 separate doors or the escape door. If the pony is an experienced loader you may only need to throw the lead over it's neck and send it in by itself.
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post #3 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 11:05 AM
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Originally Posted by kmacht View Post
So my question is, what is the safest way to do this.
You teach him to SELF-load, so that no one has to go up in front of him. That's the safest.

I'd also leave the center divider in place. That shouldn't matter.

Close the butt bar and then close the back door BEFORE he gets tied up.

Then when you unload him, untie him FIRST. Then open the back door and undo the butt bar. Also teach him to self-unload so no one has to crawl up inside.

For myself personally, my horses load and unload good so I honestly don't even use the butt bar. And there's no possible way that my back door can open up, the way it is rigged unless someone smashes into us ... which then we'll have bigger problems.

If there's a chance your back door could jiggle open, then I'd use a butt bar.
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post #4 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 11:21 AM
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Exactly what Beau said. I won't lead a horse into a trailer; I send them in ahead of me. With your trailer set up I'd start practicing it with the divider swung open, but eventually the pony should go in with it already in place.

Another thing to think of is the height of your chest and butt bars/chains. Most trailers are made with bigger horses in mind, so your bars may be too high to be safe for a pony and allow him to try and crawl under them. Depending on how they're attached, it shouldn't be too difficult/expensive to get it modified so you can move them lower for the pony.
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post #5 of 17 Old 09-22-2015, 11:32 AM Thread Starter
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I was thinking that swinging the center gate open would be more for the safety of the person loading the horse than a mechanism to get the horse on the trailer. With the center gate closed there isn't a whole lot of room for someone to sneak out past the horse and also no way for them to get out once one half of the back door is closed. My only concern is with spooking he horse by trying to close the divider after they are loaded.

I agree that self loading is ultimately the way to go but in reality he probably won't be the only horse we ever trailer. My daughter attends monthly gymkhana events with her instructor and there are always between 9 and 12 horses that go from the farm. Depending on what kids are riding it could be any one of 20 horses that get loaded in the trailer along with ours. Not every one of them is going to self load so we need to find the safest way to do it by leading them in when necessary. We have always had slant load stock trailers in the past so loading into a straight load without an escape door on both sides is new territory.

As far as the size of the horse, yes it is a pony but he is about as big of a pony as you can get at 14.2 hands. He fits comfortably in the trailer and the but chains look to be about the right height.

Keith
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post #6 of 17 Old 09-23-2015, 09:02 PM
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Originally Posted by kmacht View Post
I agree that self loading is ultimately the way to go but in reality he probably won't be the only horse we ever trailer.
Exactly. All these riders that own their own horse and have all day/month/year to train it to do these sorts of things, all the power to them...but that's perfect world stuff. Most horses are not trained that way, and accordingly, one must follow what most people consider standard best practices...which have been covered.

Never tying until the butt bar is secure is a critical one, for sure - a horse that panics and tries to bolt out in reverse can snap it's neck.

I also have a personal policy of never loading with the man-door (escape hatch, whatever you want to call it) open as well - anyone who's been around horses long enough has seen a situation where a horse panics and tries to exit through that door, and they almost alway don't fit - you can imagine the rest of the story.

I also have someone stay in the trailer with the horses until I've closed all my ramps, latched windows/vents, etc etc etc - and just before we roll I open the man door, let them out, and away we go.
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post #7 of 17 Old 09-25-2015, 04:18 AM
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My trailer is also a two horse straight load with a ramp and butt bars.

I often haul two horses by myself to my trainer's to ride so my horses MUST load calmly and easily. They have learned to self load so I lead them up to the ramp (center divider in place), wait until they walk in and close the butt bar behind them. They all travel well, are friendly with each other and content just to eat hay from their hay bags, so I don't tie them if its just two of mine. That when I arrive if I'm buy myself all I have to do is open the ramp and butt bar and they are ready to unload.

If loading someone else's horse or a new horse that doesn't self load yet, I will walk into the trailer with them. But I load this horse first and stay on the other (empty) side of the trailer with the divider in between the horse and myself. That way if something goes wrong I'm not going to get smushed. Once they are on, I can walk out and close their butt bar on my way out. Then I can go around, open the man door and tie their head after the butt bar is all closed up.

I haven't yet had to load two who don't self load, but if I had to I would one in first and then see if I could get the other to self load in with his buddy by pointing him straight up the ramp and giving him a little tap or two on the rump with a dressage whip if necessary for encouragement.
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post #8 of 17 Old 09-25-2015, 04:22 AM
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Self un-loading is also helpful. I teach mine to back up when I tug gently on their tails and say "back". I start by practicing this on flat ground with a helper. The helper stands at their head and gives the normal cue for backing up that the horse already knows while I tug the tail and give the verbal command. They catch on quick.

Also, this way even when I'm by myself I can stand on the ground off to the side of the ramp and keep a hand on the side of the horse and put a little pressure on their side if necessary if they are not backing out straight and I'm worried they may step off the ramp to the side rather than taking the ramp the whole way down.
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post #9 of 17 Old 09-25-2015, 10:42 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kmacht View Post
we also bought a truck and trailer to tow him with.

....

My daughter attends monthly gymkhana events with her instructor and there are always between 9 and 12 horses that go from the farm. Depending on what kids are riding it could be any one of 20 horses that get loaded in the trailer along with ours. Not every one of them is going to self load so we need to find the safest way to do it by leading them in when necessary.
I guess I don't follow.

Why is it YOUR problem that you have to haul a strange horse with your horse in YOUR trailer for someone else's kid?

If the instructor expects you to haul another horse in YOUR personal trailer, then I would expect your instructor to teach the horses how to self-load. Or the owner to teach the horse. Etc.

I think it's ridiculous to put your safety in jeopardy, with a horse that will only lead onto a trailer. If I were you, I'd only accept self-loaders if they were going to be traveling in my straight load.

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post #10 of 17 Old 09-25-2015, 11:02 AM
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Originally Posted by beau159 View Post
I think it's ridiculous to put your safety in jeopardy, with a horse that will only lead onto a trailer. If I were you, I'd only accept self-loaders if they were going to be traveling in my straight load.
When I haul with other people's horses I generally have them load their horses themselves. If they want to lead their horse in that's fine with me.

But I have only trailered with other adults. I can see how you wouldn't necessarily expect every kid to be able to safely load her own horse, and the parents may not be much better if they're not horse-y. Perhaps the first time you load a new horse you could try to coordinate with the trainer to do it while she's still there.

Quote:
I was thinking that swinging the center gate open would be more for the safety of the person loading the horse than a mechanism to get the horse on the trailer. With the center gate closed there isn't a whole lot of room for someone to sneak out past the horse and also no way for them to get out once one half of the back door is closed. My only concern is with spooking he horse by trying to close the divider after they are loaded.
I find that anything you can do to make the trailer more open and inviting helps with a hesitant loader. Your horse may be uncomfortable with the divider closing the first time or two and back out, but should get used to it quickly. And that just gives you more opportunities to practice getting him in Even if you'll be loading unknown horses in the future, I'd still highly recommend spending a session or two getting your own horse self-loading calmly and confidently.

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