Loading Your Horse onto a Trailer

Loading your horse onto a trailer is one of life’s many challenges.  That is especially true if the horse isn’t sure that is where he wants to go.  Loading a horse onto a trailer can be dangerous if people become frustrated and impatient, and then they start trying to yank or shove an unwilling horse into the trailer.  A frightened or annoyed horse can start lashing out with his hooves or just mashing you into the side of the trailer.   The end result will be the horse will not be in the trailer and you could be hurt.

There are ways to teach a horse to load onto a trailer, and just like all the other lessons you are teaching your horse, the horse’s smooth progress onto the trailer will depend largely on your patience and the horse’s history.

If the horse has had a horrifying experience being loaded onto a trailer, such as someone pushed, abused or roped it to get it on the trailer, it will take some time to get your horse accustom to going up the ramp and into a dark trailer.  Of course if you start this training early in their life, you will have a horse that thinks it is perfectly normal to get onto the trailer to go somewhere.

Since your horse will need to walk up the ramp, stop at the end and don’t back up, you will need to break his training down into those separate parts.  Your first objective will be to make your horse “walk”.  In an arena, using a long lead rope with a 32-inch chain over his nose and up his side cheeks, take the lead in your left hand and a dressage whip in your right hand.

Give him the lead and say, “walk”, with a light tap on the rump to urge him forward.  After he has taken a few steps, say “whoa” and pull gently on the lead to tell him to stop.  Tell him to walk again, and after he does, praise him.  If he shows signs of displeasure by shoving or turning sharply in front of you, start all over again and continue to keep at it until he can walk when you ask him to and stop without backing up.  Preferably he will walk when you say, “walk” and the dressage whip will sit there and gather dust.

Now you are ready for the trailer.  Since your horse has learned “walk”, now it will only be a matter of convincing him that it is required for him to walk into the trailer.  Do not get in the trailer and attempt to lead him in.  Trying that method has injured many people.  The general idea is to get him to walk into the trailer on his own steam.  You may have to walk him up part way and then stop, then finish the rest of the way in.  He may try to back up.  If he does, let him and then start all over again.

You will need lots of patience to do this.  You will need to have more patience than the horse to win and you will have your horse loaded.  If you let him win, he will for the rest of your days make it difficult to get him in the trailer.  So when he backs out, remember your patience.  You won’t take a break, leaving him to think he has won.  You will patiently, walk him back into that trailer until he realizes that you will never become bored with this project.  He will understand that he’s going to keep walking up that ramp until the end of time or until he stays put in the trailer.

If you must, tap your horse on the rump to get him to move forward.  Don’t ever hit your horse inside the trailer; it is dangerous for both of you.  Also never hit him as long as he is doing what you ask.  Once he has obeyed, make sure to praise him and let him rest.  This will let him know that what he did was right and the monotony will stop. Training your horse to “walk” and “who” will take time.   Dealing with steps will take more time.  You will want to practice loading at different times of the day.  Loading at night isn’t any different than loading in the daytime.

Another Method of Loading a Horse in a Trailer

Since there is no one right way or one wrong way to train a horse, you may want to change the method you are using to train your horse.  You have several different ways to choose from.  If you are not having any luck with one method you can always try another.

Here is another method of training your horse to go into a trailer.

The first thing that you need is communication between you and your horse.  It is necessary for the horse to understand what it is you want him to do and you must make it easy for the horse to understand what you want him to do.

Once the horse gets good at moving both directions then it is time to hook a lead rope to his halter and lunge him left and right.  Just as an example, when you point left you want the horse to go to your left, and when you point right you want the horse to go to your right.

The end result will be this.  You are holding the lead rope while facing your horse.  While you are holding the lead rope in your right hand, you will hook the lead rope in your left thumb.  Lift the rope to the where the horse can see it and point to the left.

Because your horse knows what to do, he will immediately go to your left.  After a circle or two you will switch hands and using the same motions will make your horse go to your right.

After your horse has mastered that, send him or lunge him through a gate opening, barn door opening, etc.  You will also want to use smaller spaces to lunge him through to give him the opportunity to deal with his natural claustrophobia.  You can accomplish this by lunging him between you and a fence.  As he goes back and forth from left to right make the space between you and the fence smaller.  Take care you don’t get stepped on.

Once he has mastered that, you can take him by the trailer.  Open the door to the trailer and allow him a chance to sniff it.  Then you will step back and while facing your horse, you will lunge him to the left and to the right in front of the trailer as he passes back and forth by the opening.

After all the pointing and sending your horse knows what you want.  You have communicated to him when you point to the left he is to move to the left and so on.

The next step will be to make him face the trailer.  With his head facing into the trailer and you standing on his left side you will then point and send him into the trailer.  Some horses will simply jump right in the trailer where others may take more work.

If your horse will not go into the trailer after pointing and persuading, take him away from the trailer and make him work.  Now you are transmitting the idea that being in the trailer means he gets to relax.  Being outside the trailer means he has to work hard.  Sooner or later he will catch on. After you get him into the trailer, you need to pet him and let him relax.  You want to let him know how well he did, so talk to him.

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