Trailer loading seems to be a very common problem with many horse owners. One of the very first things any horse needs to learn is trailer loading! Since horses are naturally claustrophobic, entering a strange, dark, tight space, i.e. a trailer, is very un-natural. As soon as possible during my foundation training, even with foals and yearlings, I like to introduce the horse to as many unusual, circumstances as possible such as water, obstacles and especially the horse trailer! Even if you don’t own a trailer this is important because if an urgent need arises where you may need to transport the horse to a medical facility or evacuate due to a fire or hurricane, you will want to know you can quickly and safely get the horse on the trailer and, be able to reload the horse afterward! While I won’t be able to provide a “complete instruction manual” on trailer loading in this short article, I can provide you with some helpful tips.
Be Patient - The first thing I will tell you is that you must be patient! Give yourself plenty of time to get where you’re going! Too many people create their own loading problems by not being patient when a horse balks during loading and starts whacking the horse yelling “get in you …..!”.
No Pressure - Never apply pressure or stress while the horse is close and facing your trailer, in your trailer or exiting your trailer. If a horse has a bad experience in or around the trailer, he probably will not want to repeat the bad experience by approaching the trailer again!
Send the Horse - If you’ve already taught your horse how to “send”, this will make teaching your horse how to load much easier. You can bring your horse up to the trailer and send them in. (I prefer to “send” my horses into the trailer as opposed to leading or pulling them in as this is easier and safer!) if not, you’ll need to at least be able to move your horse’s feet fairly well when training your horse to load.
Drive Smooth - While transporting your horse (assuming you got them in), don’t drive like Mr. Toads Wild Ride bouncing your poor horse off the walls. Again, this creates a traumatic experience for the horse and you may have issues getting him back on. Leave early and give yourself plenty of time to travel smoothly and safely!
Teaching this is not that difficult but it does require patience and a certain degree of skill.Just like all other aspects of horse training, educate yourself and/or seek out help from your favorite trainer/clinician.
The idea is that you want your horse to feel comfortable in the trailer and wants to be there!