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Discussion Starter #1
My mom's horse has issues trailer loading. We've been working with her for about 3 years now and she still only gets on the trailer when she wants too. She will pull back and rear if you try to pull on her halter to get her in the trailer. She has never had a bad trailering experience because when we first got her she walked right on. I've run out of ideas and I need help, we've tried professionals and they haven't gotten anywhere either.
 

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What methods HAVE you tried? Will be easier to suggest something new if you describe what you've tried already!
 

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We started by tapping her on the hip with a dressage whip until she would move forward and rewarded her by stopping tapping when she did move forward. Needless to say that doesn't work anymore. Then I moved on to bribing her with treats and snacks and that worked until I went to hook her in and then she would just fly backwards out of the trailer. We used to have a trailer in her field as a run in shed and she used it so I know she's not afraid of the trailer. I've run out of ideas for other things to try.
 

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If you know she is used to it now it sounds like she just knows that she doesnt have to. She knows that if she flys backwards she doesnt have to stay in there.
 

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it's not about the trailer...do everything around the trailer...play with the horse, but ignore the trailer that is right by you. Don't try to trailer when you are already late or going to be late. Remember a trailer is a metal cave on wheels. It can be quite scary to some horses :)
 

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OK so she knows what it is, but just stubborn in knowing she doesn't have to. Get stubborn back. Walk her up to it and when she stops, back her up FAST. Make it more work for her to refuse to load than to just walk in. This might take a bit of time...I once spent over an hour in a training session with one of my 2 year olds working on loading. Be patient, don't get frustrated, and if you DO start getting upset, find a place to stop and come back to it instead of losing your cool and making it a bad experience for her.

Another thing I'd try is a butt rope. Hook it to the center divider, around the horse's back end, and apply pressure at the same time as the halter. When she steps up, release the pressure as her reward and ask again. If she steps BACK into the pressure, I'd pop her on the butt with a crop. Make it count and she'll scoot forward, be prepared to take in the extra slack. Reward for stepping up witht he lack of pressure, and ask again.

It's a LONG process. Easier if they're not scared of the trailer in the first place though. Good luck and keep us posted.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
Butt ropes don't work...she almost flipped over. I forgot we had tried that before. It took me over 2 hours to get her on the trailer one time and I missed my first class at the show. She's not scared of the trailer, the biggest problem is trying to get her to stay in the trailer so we can hook her in. Some people have told me to shut the door behind her once she steps in, but I see that ending very badly. Has anybody else ever tried that?
 

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Discussion Starter #10
I'll get a picture of the trailer tomorrow because there's a 5 foot gap between the end of the divider and the door. She's also 14 years old and extremely stubborn. It makes working with her very fun...lol
 

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Another thing I'd try is a butt rope. Hook it to the center divider, around the horse's back end, and apply pressure at the same time as the halter. When she steps up, release the pressure as her reward and ask again. If she steps BACK into the pressure, I'd pop her on the butt with a crop. Make it count and she'll scoot forward, be prepared to take in the extra slack. Reward for stepping up witht he lack of pressure, and ask again.
quote]

I disagree with this. I bought a mare who didn't load. We tried this multiple times. The only thing it did for me was make the problem worse.
I believe the best method is, to make the right thing easy and the wrong thing hard. If she stops at the door and kinda looks in and smells things let her be. If she doesn't put her attention on the trailer move her off and make her do circles. Everytime she heads toward the trailer release the pressure. After a few circles guide her to the trailer door. Keep doing this. My trainer did this with my mare. Ten minutes after he took ahold of her lead rope she was in the trailer. Not only did she get in the trailer she stopped backing out once inside. She used to dance around a lot in the trailer and would step on her other hooves. She has stopped all of that. Yesterday I trailered her for the first time in months and didn't even have to point her into the trailer when I opened the door.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
Jillsmarine...my mom seems to like your idea the most so far and we're going to try it tomorrow. You're talking about basically lunging her right next to the trailer right? I just want to make sure I'm understanding properly, because if that's the case I think that would work the best for her.
 

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We were in the process of teaching our horses to load calmly for a show tomorrow....we had one in particular, a donkey/TB cross who was SO stubborn. Finally one of the NH followers at my barn just decided to start over....they started first by working on walking up calmly to the trailer...that means no balking, no head tossing, space invading, etc. The trick was to just get them to accept that all she wanted him to do was walk up to the trailer, not actually get up into it. When he acted silly, he got reprimanded and they started over. Then once they had that down, they worked on getting him to just lift his front feet (one at a time at first, and then the front two together) up into the trailer without a fuss, and finally walking all the way into it. This process took three 45 minute sessions over the course of three days. Her trick was no pressure, instead of making all four feet in the trailer her goal, she set smaller goals. He was very obviously confused by the whole thing ("wait, there's a trailer, but i'm not supposed to be in it?") but I guess we'll see tomorrow if it all paid off or not.

Her one real piece of advice was "fast loading means fast unloading" in essence she was saying that if you just shove the horse in there, its going to want to get out of there as fast as possible, and create problems later down the road.
 

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if she gets grain & you have a good chunk of time you can use during the day, i would try to feed her her grain every day in the trailer. this way she has a very good reason to want to get into the trailer. if you cant do this everyday just feed her the grain everytime she gets into the trailer.

what is your trailer like ? is it safe to just shut the door, or is that the only way out ?
 

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Discussion Starter #15
The trailer is safe for me to get out, I just worry about her throwing a fit and hurting herself. There's a big gap between the end of the divider and the back door, almost enough room for another horse. But I guess it's worth a shot if I just have somebody hold the door and not latch it.
 

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I've had butt ropes work for me so many times I've lost count. I've never used the lunging method but I suppose I could see it working for some horses.

There was one time Moki and I went on a Children's Wish Foundation Trail Ride and we took Zierra, her 10 year old arab mare, and Dove, my mom's 12 year old Appy/Mustang mare - both mares loaded like a dream at home, 5 minutes flat from catching to driving away. We rode the 10 miles or whatever, had our fun, the girls were awesome. Untacked and put our stuff in the truck, gave last slurps of water for the 30 minutes drive home and mother of all that is holy those mares were NOT getting back in that trailer. I don't know if they just had too much fun or what, neither are scared of it, both know how to load, both loaded perfectly at home! After trying to bribe, coax, repremand, beg, kick, and tap those mares in we called on 2 300lb cowboys to come up behind them, link arms, and HEAVE them in. They KNEW better. In they went, not knowing what had happened, and away to home we went. This is when alot of the butt rope work started! LOL!

I'm just saying it's worth a shot, but if you've tried it and it ended badly, then try something else. Whatever you go with, let us know though!
 

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Now - I don't mean to be offensive, but - If she loaded fine when you got her, and no-one else has handled her, then the problem is either how you are loading her, or how you are driving the float. Many good floaters become bad because the driver drives too fast, not smoothly, brakes/accelerates too quickly, etc. We have a camera in our float to watch the horses, and it is invaluable. We have fixed scramblers by being able to see exactly what was going on and adjsting accordingly.

Most loading problems are actually leading problems - If you have even the slightest resistance when leading under normal circumstances, then there is no way it will work when under pressure loading. Does she lead on a loose lead, wherever you take her, past scary objects, not invading your space, not pulling or lagging, stopping when you stop, etc? If not, then you need to address these issues BEFORE trying to load.

How did you use the butt-rope? I have NEVER had a horse react violently to the way we use a butt-rope and we have never had it fail.

A key point is though, we never use it to pull the horse on. All it is is a barrier - It sits quietly unless the horse tries to duck out or run back, and then it becomes firm - It simply blocks the escape routes and helps keep the horses attention in the trailer instead of on finding escape routes.

I load differently depending on the horse.

The MOST important thing to have control of when loading, is the horses attention. If a horses attention is focussed on the float, looking, investigating, etc. - Then I stay gentle and calm and encouraging, and don't ask for too much. As long as their attention is IN the float, they are thinking forward, even if they aren't moving forward.

If their attention moves elsewhere, wether it be escaping, background distractions, etc. - That's when I ask for more. If their attention is eslewhere, then they are NOT thinking forward - They need to start thinking forward again or they get a consequence. I only ever use a butt rope when I can't keep the attention in the float - It cuts out thoughts of escaping and focusses attention back into the float. If they run backwards, I hld with as much firce as I can and move with them, and as soon as they stop, I QUICKLY take them back to where they were - They don't get any ground by running backwards. As soon as they reach where they were and have attention in the float again, I relax.

They soon learn that attention IN the float is a calm, quiet place to be. Attention anywhere else is uncomfortable and has no advantage.

Most horses who don't have fear don't focus their attention in - These horses will get the butt rope straight up and small efforts won't impress me. They know the job, but they are choosing not to do it.

Horses who DO have fear are very good at one of two things: 1. Keeping attention IN (Mostly horses who have never loaded - More curiosity than full blown fear) and 2. Keeping attention on escaping.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Wild spot, we never had a problem with her until she started using the trailer as shelter. Until then she loaded great. Once we actually get her on the trailer and hooked in she stands great. It seems like she has just decided that she should only go on when she wants to. She doesn't scramble or call to other horses, she just stands there. She leads on a loose lead at my shoulder, she doesn't invade my space or balk. She was like that when we first got her and I fixed those problems. We've used a butt rope but when she hits it after deciding she doesn't want to go in the trailer she panics. I don't understand what's going on with her, because I don't think it's anything I'm doing (I could be wrong though).
 

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Discussion Starter #19
Also if you touch her or pull on her halter, even just a little bit, when you're trying to get her to load she flies backwards. I guess my biggest question would be how to fix that because butt ropes don't work with her, she panics.
 

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The flying backwards when you touch the halter is a tying issue. Can she tie solidly and stand, alone, calmy, for a decent amount of time? If she spooks and hits the end of the lead does she pull back, or move forward to release the pressure?

Wild spot, we never had a problem with her until she started using the trailer as shelter.
What do you mean by this? As in she uses the float as a shed of sorts?

Once we actually get her on the trailer and hooked in she stands great.
Okay - Let me clarify. She walks into the trailer fine - Relaxed, happy, etc. It's only keeping her in the trailer long enough to get her tied and the back shut that is the issue?

(Sorry, I keep flicking between float and trailer - Different countries, lol!)

^ If that's correct, then there are a few things you can try.

1. I usually do this anyway. As soon as she flies backwards, put your whole body weight on the rope (I advise wearing gloves!) but move with her - Keep the weight on the rope constant. I also tend to say AH-AH-AH-AH in a stern voice as they fly back. Now - Only release the rope for a moment when she stops backing up - Just a moment so she know stopping was the right thing. After that moment, you need to take her back to exactly where she was before she flew back. Be mean if you have to - Backing up can never give a reward. As soon as she is back in place, give her scratches, kind words, treats, whatever rewards you like to use. Just let her stand and relax - Where you want her to be should always be the most pleasant place to be. If she repeats the performance, then so do you. Stay with her as she flies back, keeping as much weight on the rope as you can manage. Then that tiny release, and straight back in without a rest.

(^ Note - This will only work if she 100% knows that if she gives to pressure it goes away. She has to tie solidly as above before this will work - Or she will just keep running back and fighting the pressure with no clue how to make it stop).

2. I'm gonna keep coming back to the butt-rope, because seriously, it is the most useful tool we have in our loading arsenal. If you are 100% convinced that any type of rope will freak her out beyond reason, then ignore this bit.

Ok. If she freaks out at the butt rope, then I would get a super, super long rope, and some gloves. Stand her far enough back from the float so she is relaxed and just looking in - Not thinking backwards. Bring it around her, gently, so it is sitting in that hollow between her butt and her hocks. Just let it sit there with enough pressure that she can feel it but not enough to be pulling. She has to know it is there - She should not feel it for the first time when she backs up. Also, you need a helper for this - One needs to lead and one needs to hold the rope. I tie one end to the side of the float that the horse is going on, and my helper holds the end of the rope on the other side of the horse, at the shoulder round about - Or at the side of the float when the horse gets in a way.

The rope needs to stay in the same position on her legs as she walks up - Not pulling, but there. If she backs up, the leader does the same as is no. 1. The person holding the rope does a similar thing - They put SOME pressure in the rope, but also move backwards with the horse and let the rope run through the hands (hence gloves). The horse should feel an obstruction, but not enough to cause rope burn or pain. It is just a block. The onyl difference is that the pressure doesn't come off until the horse moves forward again - As soon as she is forward again it returns to 'neutral'.

I had more ideas in mind but they have just left the building. Will try to remember!
 
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