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Trailer Loading Tips

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How Many People Does it Take to Load a Horse in a Trailer?


Joe Andrews

    I recently ran across a couple of trailer loading tips. While I admire the ingenuity of the originators of these techniques, they do beg the question, “How many people does it take to load a horse in a trailer?”

    The first answerfive. Here’s how it’s done. Have the trailer ready with the ramp down. Attach a long line to either side of the rear with assistants ready to cross over the lines behind the horse as he moves up the ramp. Lead the horse resolutely towards the trailer with someone ahead holding a bucket of treats. If the horse stops at the ramp, lift one foot at a time and place it on the ramp. When the horse has all four feet on the ramp, the lines should be quietly crossed behind and slowly tightened, to keep up the pressure to go forward. Lastly, a person behind encourages the horse by tapping on his behind with a bristle broom.

    The second answernone. Here’s how it’s done. Attach a wire cable from a ring in the front of the trailer to a fence behind the trailer, attach the horse’s lead rope so it can slide on this cable, and place a supply of food in the front of the trailer. Given enough time, the horse will go in the trailer on its own.

    My experience working with difficult horses has taught me the best way to load a horse is to make the trailer a good place. If the horse feels safe and comfortable in the trailer he will load. Our efforts to encourage a horse to get into a trailer often only serve to reinforce the horse’s idea that the trailer is not a good place to be. The following is a list of things I’ve found helpful in loading horses:
  1. Eliminate the step up. The one thing I have seen help the most in loading horses that have never been in a trailer before is to back up to a bank so the horse can walk in without having to step up. Anything you do to reduce the step will help, but eliminating the step altogether works the best.
  2. Have hay in the trailer. I don’t believe in bribing a horse into the trailer, but it is good for the horse to find a reward when he does load up. For horses that are very food oriented, this can be a real incentive.
  3. Use a combination of leading and driving. Simultaneously keeping pressure on the lead rope and tapping the horse’s hind legs can elicit a try from the most reluctant horse. This should not be used as an attempt to force the horse into the trailer, but the tapping must be strong enough for the horse to want to get away from it. Stop tapping and release the pressure on the lead rope to reward each try. Keep in mind that too much pressure on the lead rope will cause the horse to resist your efforts.
  4. Lead the horse by a front foot. Occasionally I’ll run into a case where the horse thinks he must protect himself from all the normal methods of loading. When everything I try brings up the horse’s self-preservation, I look for fresh ground to establish communication. Leading by a front foot will be new to most horsesit won’t be on their list of things they need to protect themselves from.
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Last modified: 20 May 2019