How Many People Does it Take to Load a Horse in a
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
The first answer—five.
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 answer—none.
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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 horses—it won’t be on their list of things they
need to protect themselves from.
Mountain Magic Ranch stresses: Safety, Balance,
Communication and Unity.
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Last modified: 20 May 2019