Loading 101

I know this is the way I do it, how about you?

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65 thoughts on “Loading 101

    • You’re absolutely right, easy to do with most horses. So, tell me, what’s wrong with a good chunk of the people involved in various horse industries who can’t get a horse to do this?

      Maybe the way to start, trailrider20, is for you to put together an article on how *this* (what’s shown in the video) is accomplished. 🙂 At the end of the video there’s a little Parrelli training advertisement that’s likely turned/will turn people off. So when you write the article, try not to use any of his buzz words or suggest that people need a trademarked trailrider20 piece of equipment for $49.95.

      • HA! I think the people here are horse savvy enough to figure out how to do this with any horse that loads easily, a horse that has been trailered by people with lead gas foot would probably not. As for advertising, I do sell by patented extra kind horsie bridles, anybody want one?

        • Ah, but that’s not the point of this blog. Education of the masses, trailrider20. It does the horses no good if we keep the knowledge to ourselves.

          So, can you have that article to me by next Wednesday? Thanks so much, you’re a dear.

  1. It’s been one of the pleasant discoveries of returning to riding to find out that happy horses love getting in the trailer and going somewhere new. That said, the guy in this video does have a fenced pasture with just two horses loose, plus the ground is firm enough that he can drive into the pasture without getting his wheels stuck 🙂 . So it’s kinda staged that way. What would he do if fifteen horses came running? But the real takeaway is that you can bring a horse up to a trailer, stand back and let them load themselves, even in a busy parking lot at a show.

    • I recall my boss from a barn watching a bridleless demo. The demo was well done, the rider rode the horse in an enclosure and did different things at all of the w/t/c gaits. At the end, my boss said to me “Well, that’s all fine, but really, I bet he couldn’t control that horse bridleless in a wide open field!” I kept my thoughts to myself, but what I was thinking was that his remark sounded like sour grapes. He couldn’t have done 1/2 the stuff in the demo with his horse with a saddle and bridle on, so who cares if the demonstrator could or couldn’t do it in a field? The point is, his horse and he could do some nice work without a bridle for control, stuff that many can’t do with gadgets all over their horse, regardless of an enclosure or not.

      That’s what Paint Mare’s comment makes me think of. “What would he do if 15 horses came running” or if he couldn’t “drive right into the pasture”… really? Could you honestly crack a whip and have your horse, alone or with any other horses, come running up and load himself? In a pasture or not?

      • Sorry to sound sour! My first reaction was wow! and then I started to think about why I’ve never seen this done before, when people have both components in place (horses that rush to the gate when you arrive at the pasture, and horses that self-load). I didn’t mean to discount the trainer’s skills in getting this to happen, just to say that it’s maximally staged for beauty and drama, and you couldn’t stage it in the usual situations where you have a big herd, or have to walk the horse through a parking lot. Well, that would be a nice video — open the stall door, horse canters loose down the aisle, past the announcer’s booth and the hotdog stand, into the parking lot, picks out your trailer and climbs in — but I’m going to guess that even a Parelli franchisee (like this trainer) wouldn’t feel entirely comfortable with that scenario 🙂
        As to whether one could work up to this video, given the right physical set-up: I don’t see why not. You could for instance feed the horses grain in the trailer every day for a week, and it would be just like running into their stalls for them. Same for cracking the whip as a signal to come running.
        I do however think that if I were doing this, ideally I’d like the horses to wait for my cue before getting in. It wouldn’t make such a good video, but I’d like to see the horses stop and wait to be signalled in. Rushing in and out of trailers isn’t a good habit, even if it’s happy rushing, and I’d want to be sure that I wasn’t encouraging rowdy behavior for those moments when we were in more constrained circumstances.
        So for me the takeaway is not so much “this is the best way to load” but rather as an illustration of how happy and excited horses can be to get in a trailer, and how you can aim for that emotional state even if your circumstances mean you need to walk them up to the doors in a halter.

  2. What’s wrong with a good chunk of the horse people is that trailer loading doesn’t cross their minds until it’s time to take the horse somewhere. 5 a.m. on the morning of a horse show that you’ve paid a non-refundable $500 to enter doesn’t make for stress-free loading. Thinking of trailer loading as a basic life skill that horses should have – like leading, standing for the farrier, etc. – and teaching it with patience and positivity when you’ve got all the time in the world, makes for horses that will happily hop into the trailer. My horse will cheerfully load into anything, including the odder spaces with the big commercial hauler that I use for long-distance shows (up ramps, around corners, etc). With no Parelli and no patented gadgets. Just a patient, stress-free, positive introduction to trailers.

    It’s a lesson I had to learn the hard way; younger me allowed “helpful” people with brooms and lunge lines and so on to turn a young horse that I used to own, from a little fearful and nervous about the trailer into a true problem loader. But with help from a good trainer and working with patience and positivity (no whips, lots of carrots, even more TIME), that horse came around and become a reliably good loader too. It’s hard, especially if you don’t own a trailer of your own to practice with, but there’s usually a friend with a trailer who take a quiet afternoon to help.

    • This is off topic, but I’ve always been troubled by people who own a horse/horses and don’t own a truck and trailer. The need to depend on others, especially during a troubling time – like a very sick horse needing to get to a vet clinic – is not something I’ve ever been able to wrap my brain around. But then I admit to not having enough faith in people in general, and so I leave very little to having to depend on others.

      • No, it’s right on topic. Like Ponyfan, most of my life I did not have a rig. Of course it’s better to have one, but is it a requirement? Not if the alternative is having no horse at all. I somehow managed to trailer my horses around when needed, and as soon as I could, I got my old rig.

      • I agree it’s on topic. It’s something I’ve struggled with. A truck and trailer are such big-ticket items and on the one hand it is not economical to own them only to use them a few time a year, plus the environmental disaster of driving a giant pick-up truck for daily commuting – most of us can’t afford to keep a separate vehicle for hauling. But of course the alternative of potentially having a sick/injured horse and no way to get to help is also disturbing. At one point I was uncomfortable enough with not having a trailer that I bought a diesel SUV set up for towing with the idea of buying a lightweight trailer, not a rig I’d go long distances with, but so that I’d have the option to haul to the vet clinic if need be. But I ended up changing barns to one where the owners keep their trucks and trailer on standby for emergencies, I haven’t needed it myself but have observed it enough times with others that I have confidence they’d be there for me. For non-emergency hauling like horse shows and trail rides it is simply far more economical for me to pay for trailering than to own, insure, maintain my own truck and trailer. Particularly for some of the long-distance showing that I do; I am much more comfortable with my horse riding in a comfy air-ride commercial unit with professional driver for long rides than towing myself in an everyday type of trailer. But this is absolutely something I’d revisit if my situation changed.

      • I’m too much of a control freak to not own a trailer and truck. I spend extra time each snow storm to be absolutely sure that I can get my trailer out without issue. I wouldn’t sleep if it was buried in snowbanks and people can eye-roll all they want. Truck, trailer and tractor need to be ready to go 24/7. Even if I never need the trailer for any of my horses, I’ve been called by friends at all hours with broken down trucks and I’ve always been able to get their horses home for them. (note to haulers, carry an extra serpentine belt!)

      • I have a truck but not a trailer. It would cost me a fortune to maintain a trailer for emergencies as I live right on the Atlantic – EVERYTHING rusts, corrodes and rubber rots quickly in the dampness. Even if I did have a trailer, the nearest vet clinic is about 6 hrs away, so getting a horse there in an emergency isn’t an option. My vets do respond to emergency calls 24/7 as it is a very rural area with no large animal clinics.

        In my 32 years of owning horses here I’ve yet to be in a situation where I needed to haul a sick horse. Perhaps people wouldn’t need to drag their colicing horses off to the hospital so often if they stopped feeding so much crap, and let them live out with a herd. Accidents can happen, but they shouldn’t be frequent.

        • Why do you believe that only colic is an emergency situation? There are procedures which can’t be done in your barn and require a horse to be sedated or in a sterile environment. I have hauled a horse to Tuft’s for a Myelegram in short notice to determine an acute neurological condition and another due to a freak injury. The only severe colic case I ever hauled was not mine, he belonged to a friend of a friend who called me in a panic needing to get her gelding to the hospital as she had no trailer. For my infrequent accidents, I’m ready to roll at any time and I can’t imagine trying to rely on someone else in a panic situation.

          • I am very fortunate to have a fantastic equine surgical centre only about 30 minutes drive away. In the years I’ve lived in this area I’ve known several horses whose lives were saved by being able to be trailered in an emergency to this facility. Not just colics but also injury and one case, a severe allergic reaction. So I totally get being ready to roll at all times; but I just don’t need to own the vehicle to make it happen. At my facility there are three trucks and two trailers; at least one combination of them is left hitched and ready. The owners and two staff live on the property, between those four people there is always an experienced driver available. So I am confident with relying on others in this situation. Like I said, I would revisit if/when things change.

          • You’re misinterpreted what I said. If you’d like to respond to my actual comment/situation/reasoning then I’m all ears.

            I already stated the reasons why I choose not to maintain a trailer, which I think are reasonable. To prepare myself every single day for something that I haven’t needed for 32 years (and that wouldn’t serve me much purpose anyway) doesn’t seem reasonable to me. If the situation comes up where I need to send one of my horses away for surgery or whatnot, I will hire a professional hauler or rent a trailer and haul the horse myself. At that distance (6+ hours) I CAN’T just load up a horse in a critical situation and rush them to the hospital. I’d be better off buying a ferry for emergency situations – I’d get the horse there faster.

            Owner induced emergencies are something that I hear about ALL the time, typically the same people, and often colic. These are the situations that I’m criticizing.

          • Blondie,
            I am with you. I cannot imagine having to depend on someone again to get somewhere with the horses. In 2001 we blew the engine on our dually and I was to leave for a national show abut an hour away. One neighbor hauled us in with our trailer and his semi-tractor and another friend came and picked us up with her trailer ten days later. The stress and strain were beyond imaginable as of course the entries had been paid in advance, and I had to depend on others…… We eventually got the dually rebuilt ($7000. later) and used it for years then sold it after we quit showing,
            BUT we have a 3/4 ton not only to haul when nessessary but to drive the two miles to our hay dealer to pick up hay whenever we need it. The vet clinic is 15 miles away and we are on a main paved highway. Being without a tow vehicle is NOT an option. We also own two other trucks, as I am NOT interested in owning another car. One of the trucks is a small Ford Ranger that gets very good milage, but still a truck. But then, we have notifed friends in our rural area that should there be a problem, such as a wild land fire they can cut our gates if we are not home and turn their horses into our arena as we will no doubt be out on the fireline in the area. WE are relatively safe, but others are not. I also drive some of the fire trucks and fill the tankers when the crews are out on the fire(S). As I said we are fairly rural, not to mention being part of the local fire district. NOT Having the proper equipment for our horses even after semi retirement is not an option, Being prepared is however the ony option.

          • I’m with you Arab. To each their own and some people would be too scared to haul their own horses, which I understand. But for me, it’s a 3/4 ton truck everywhere I go. When it comes time to save $, I head to the hay fields, hook onto a big flatbed and stack nearly 200 bales on the trailer and tow it home. Saves me $2000 a year on my hay bill.

            I can see where boarding a horse doesn’t require owning a trailer but I think it’s necessary to have an emergency plan with the stable or friends just in case.

  3. I love this. And would love to teach my horses to do this. But the problem is that I don’t own a trailer.

    So although my horses load reasonably well, they do not load themselves. My horses became good loaders despite me actually, because when I needed to load them I usually had a limited time frame, a hauler to please, and an attentive audience. There were a few. . . incidents, but once my horses realized that I was loading them regardless of their feelings on the matter, they became grudgingly good loaders. After a lot of trips, they realized that hauling was generally a very pleasant experience, especially if they cooperated. Now they are eager to load, and this only took me . . . years.

    • I think people in general who board do not have a trailer. People who keep their horses on their own property generally do.

      In an emergency, I am confident in my vet. She is excellent about responding to an emergency call. I have back up vets who I have equal faith in.

      When I need to move my horse, I hire a hauler or I rent a trailer and haul myself. My boarding facility also offers hauling services, and in an emergency, they have a trailer available for rent. Because I have a good relationship with these businesses, and because I am good about paying my bills, they are extremely good about accommodating me. I also have friends and family I can call on in a pinch.

      Because having a horse means maintaining a rigorous budget to me, I will admit that faced with a life or death situation and no trailer in sight, I would likely opt for on site euthanasia. I have trailered my horses to hospitals in the past and likely will again, but I need to know the expenses I am occurring when I do so. I have a firm cap on my emergency spending because I have to be honest with myself and realize that saving my horses life is meaningless if I cannot afford to feed, care and board him after.

  4. Very simple rule to trailer loading: If you act like you’re in a hurry, it will take all day, act like you have all day, you’ll be done in no time. Keep the horse facing the trailer at all times. Reward every, single movement forward by a complete release and reward. Breathe. I have no issue with using the suggestion of or tap of a whip to get a seasoned loader in but with the babies, take the time to build their confidence. You may beat ’em in this time, but next time it’ll be even worse.

  5. It is not necessary to own a truck/trailer to own a horse, you are setting the bar rather high. This is a slippery slope, in my opinion. You must own your own trailer, and you must also live within 50 miles of a equine university hospital, you must….etc. Don’t like the way that conversation is headed.

  6. Interesting question. I’m in a self-board situation where we are not allowed to park trailers long-term on site, only one overnight per week maximum, and I live in a townhouse where my one parking stall is taken up by my compact car and I could never back in a trailer anyhow. Life in the suburbs. You can’t leave an unattached trailer on the street overnight, and really there are no trailer parking options in the general area unless you paid for mini-storage. I can rely on my coach to take me to events, pasture and emergency if it came to that.
    But I have actually been thinking about getting a truck and trailer, or a truck and working out a share deal on a trailer, since now I could probably park them at my coach’s new barn. But first I need to take some driving lessons (never been behind the wheel of any kind of truck or pulled any kind of trailer), then buy a truck which would be a second vehicle since I could never afford the gas to commute to work 40 miles each way in a truck. I suppose if I never drove the truck except with the trailer I could leave it on the street outside my townhouse complex, but I think there may also be rules about how many days you can leave a vehicle without moving it. There is certainly going to be some (unstated) rule about how long you can leave it without it getting vandalized or stolen for scrap.
    The main idea of the truck and trailer would be getting out of the suburbs to go on proper trail rides.
    Any advice about gear, bearing in mind I have yet to even start the driving lessons? 🙂

    • Make sure that your truck will be able to do what you want to do with your trailer. Remember that the weight of the trailer will include your horse and gear. My mechanic recommends having the hitch welded to the truck. (I’m talking a 79 chevy 1/2 ton pulling a old 2 horse bp slant, so I would not know about newer rigs.). I just took things slow, I had never pulled a trailer either, just practiced with it empty.

      • I agree – I’m in a situation where I can hardly afford maintenance and insurance on my little sedan, never mind on a 4WD capable of towing and a float. What I do have, however, is a couple of amazing friends who will – and have in the past – dropped everything, left work early, loaded my horse and taken him to the vet when he sliced himself open on a fence and I couldn’t get there in time. I board my horse because I don’t have any pasture where I live, and I don’t have the money for my own float. But because I have to rely on my friends for floating to and from shows, etc, I made damn sure that he’s not an inconvenience. Straight in and straight out. Didn’t take long to convince him going places is fun.

    • A little cheat trick for backing up. Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. If you move your hand right, the trailer will move right (passenger side), move left, it goes left. The rest is just time and feel for how much and when. Get a vehile that’s at least as heavy as the trailer and has a long wheelbase. I’m a gooseneck girl all the way now. The weight of the trailer on the middle of the truck makes for a much nicer ride. Expensive hitch to install but well worth the expense.

  7. Interesting discussion on trailers. We are from the Midwest US where pickups and trailers are ubiquitous. When we moved to Tennessee, we were astonished that only two other people in our little breed club had horse trailers, although many had more than one horse. It proved nearly impossible to schedule any kind of club activity together. I guess I am so used to having the overhead expense of a truck and trailer that it does not bother me. I have an old two horse with a full size escape door in the front and a slant 3 new aluminum trailer. The babies are taught to load in each one and they are happy to hop in because there is some good stuff in the manger.
    I can certainly see the point of a person who just has one horse and has to economize to afford that, but I could not sleep nights either if I did not have access to a truck and trailer ready to go.

    • Morgan,

      Your whole post is a pleasure, but your last sentence pretty much somes it up. We have other livestock, exotic sheep, but are a very small operation. It truly blows my mind when people call to purchasean exotic sheep lamb and want to put them in the back of a car…LOL! We are 40 miles south of a 500K city in the southwest, so get some really interesting calls on the exotic lambs when we are selling them. When I last lived in a suburb area … a long time ago, I still had a truck and trailer, and commuted with the truck. I guess it is a lot to do with what you are willing to ddo and how you learned to have horses.

  8. Most people at our barn don’t have their own trailers; I’d say 10 out of 60? And five of those are accredited coaches. I know I can always get a ride in a pinch. Our local vets make house calls promptly for stitches and colic, so people generally don’t trailer out for emergency treatment. So really I’m getting the trailer urge just for more fun and autonomy. On an actual cash basis, it would be cheaper to just go out and hire a professional hauler each time, just like it is cheaper living downtown if you don’t have a car, and take taxis when the buses shut down for the night. But I don’t think I can call up a profesisonal hauler on a sunny Sunday morning, and ask him to take me to the beach and wait for two hours while I find out what my horse thinks about going wading. The trailer urge in my case is absolute frivolity. And who knows, it may not make sense at all after I try the driving lessons and price gear and insurance. The big sticking point for me, even more than cash, was where to park it if you don’t live in a house with a driveway. Things just get so much more complicated when you try to mix horses and suburbs.

    • I get it Paint Mare, I liked hearing from someone else who owns horses but doesn’t get to live on a nice rural acerage. I live near the downtown of a big city and a truck and trailer would be very problematic for me too. Any vehicle big enough to tow a horse trailer with would be a nightmare to parallel park on busy city streets.

      What I considered, when I boarded somewhere that I didn’t have faith in others to trailer for me, was a mid-size diesel SUV. Decent towing capacity but not as large, awkward or inefficient as a pickup truck, something that can still fit in a city parking spot. And an ultra lightweight trailer; had my eye on a Boeckmann. If you want to see North American horse people go crazy, tell them that you plan to tow your horse around with anything other than a full size pickup truck (regardless of what people do all the time in Europe or Australia). I bought the SUV but never got the trailer as I ended up changing barns for other reasons and then determined I didn’t need a trailer after all. For the record, I never planned long-distance hauls with that set up but to have it for trips to the vet, local shows, nearby trailheads. I still think it could be a workable compromise plan, with using commercial haulers for longer distances, but of course, you’ll want to do your own research into what might work for you.

      And you still need a place to park the damn trailer of course… I own a little camper trailer and a friend lets me keep it on the parking lot of their business. Having to go retrieve it when I want it is a minor hassle for planned trip but it would be an added complication in the event of an emergency.

  9. Didn’t Cathy on the original Fugly Blog had a great posting about how she got the difficult loading horses into the trailer. Involved a super long lungeline, didn’t it, for the panicky ones? Wish I could remember the rest.

  10. In 50 years, I have probably seen as many ways of loading horses as there are. Patience is the key, I find. I have had to train a few adult horses who had never been properly taught. While there are other ways, what I have found is that a long soft rope with a good snap, running from the horse halter through the trailer and out the front, and then back to my hand will help keep the horse facing straight into the trailer. I try all the usual coaxing with grain, etc, before I resort to the line, but I have had some older horses who absolutely will not be fooled by such. (When you think about it, it is astonishing that horses ever consent to ride in a dark, claustrophobic horse trailer. For a prey animal, it must look like death is waiting. There are so many things our horses put up with which are in absolute opposition to their instincts. We should remember that more often).
    Once the line is returned to my left hand, I stand by the left side of the horse, about 6 feet away, clear of any harm and I take a lunge whip in my right hand, WITH THE LASH WRAPPED around the shaft, and I gently tap the horse at the top of his croup with the end. A long stick would probably serve as well, but you may well be doing this for a long time and a whip is better balanced. Tap hard enough to be noticed, but not to cause pain. Instead, you will basically bother the horse until he decides to step forward. The slightest step forward, you cease the tapping. When he stops, begin the gentle tapping again. I have stood over an hour doing this, with the horse occasionally running back or sideways. Just bring him back to the trailer, face the opening, and begin again. I find it is often helpful to fill in the space below the trailer base with something solid like a log. Many horses find it scary to step up over that dark space under the trailer and if they cannot see the shadow, they tend to treat it like a sill to step up over. I have also seen very bad injuries to the back legs from a horse rearing up and then sliding his back feet forward under the trailer. My main trailer has a drop-down ramp, but I also keep the two horse to train the youngsters to step up over the bumper.
    I have also found that horses do not like to load into a trailer behind the human leading them up. I train mine to step up with the lead rope draped over their back. Once in, I can put in the back bar and then walk around to the front and tie the head. Of course you get the occasional horse that will load and then immediately runs backward again. I find these horses will stop this after a while when they realize they are not going to get their heads trapped and tied down right away, but instead the back bar and the door will be in place. A few times of backing into the bar and they tend to stop this very dangerous action.
    This could be an interesting thread to follow. Any comments?

    • Over the years, I found that most horses do better when not tied and when in a stock trailer than a straight load. Almost every one will turn and face backwards for the ride given the choice.

      There are some horses that do better ‘walled’ for balance, for those a slant trailer works well. As such, my trailer is a combo slant/stock. 🙂 Point being, sometimes the horse doesn’t get on because the ride is crap.

      I cringe at the mention of ropes/longe lines. I’ve seen the rope slip too low on the horse and take the horse’s legs out from under it, fracturing hocks. I’ve seen people lose bits of fingers as the horse leans back on the rope, panics and then thrashes about. I’ve seen horses load in fine, only to then panic and fly out backwards before the butt bar can be put up, taking out people, themselves and the trailer.

      A while back I heard (read) someone say, if your horse won’t load on a trailer then go back to basics and teach your horse how to lead. A horse that leads well and proper, will load on a trailer. There’s a big chunk of truth in that.

      When I thought back to all the horses I’d had over the years. Any of the ones that gave any trouble at all getting loaded were the same ones that didn’t lead as well as they should have – for a variety of reasons.

      • Amen on the leading comment. A horse needs to have a go forward cue that it responds to 100% of the time. A horse needs to know it cannot pass or turn tail to the person leading it. I see horses dragging people all over creation and there is no need for that rude behavior. A horse that is respectful to the handler and understands go forward, will nearly every time make an effort to get on a trailer solely because it was asked. When the respect and trust for the handler outweigh the horse’s natural chlostrophobia, they load. No ropes, whips or lungelines.

        • I agree that a properly raised/trained horse who trusts will at least make the attempt to load, and if everything is kept low-key, will usually load. I only use the method I set forth when I had a horse who had ingrained habits and fears that had to be overcome. When you have an aged horse of indeterminate history and you have to train him to load in order to have a hope of selling him (and not wanting a basically good horse to go to slaughter because he would not load), then I think any non-violent means to get him to load easily is justified.

          • I agree. The thing that bothers me the most is people who never take the time to teach a horse to load and immediately resort to ropes, whips, etc. Not to say I haven’t used them myself. There are situations where the horse just has to get on and we do what we can in those instances. I moved a horse today – first time hauled. We did a trailer swap in a parking lot, backed them bumper to bumper (stocks) and lead / spanked him from one to the other. Not viciously but kept raising the bar with a baseball cap until he made the crossover. His next experience with trailer loading will be with all the time in the world once he has trust and respect for me and understands signals inside and out. Trailering is a must for all horses.

        • And just as much, the horse needs to know how to back off slowly and safely, and how to move the shoulder or hind end over to line up better. I had a horse come into my rescue years back that I was told would not trailer under any circumstances, after repeated ‘professional’ trailer training session (yeah, professional my butt!).

          The first thing I discovered when he arrived was that he didn’t have a clear idea on his ground manners, and was apt to fly into a panic over the slightest confusion and react dangerously. So back to basics, and two ten minute sessions later we’d established what I meant with each cue and that I always meant exactly the same thing every time, and his anxiety melted away to reveal a happy sane horsie.

          Later on when he was nearly ready to rehome I borrowed a trailer from a friend to do some trailering lessons, and after a couple of minutes discovered what the real problem was – it wasn’t walking on, it was how to get OFF without panicking, throwing his head up and whamming it on the roof then going into maximum warp speed reverse. Because he knew he was going to freak out when getting off, he quite reasonably didn’t want to get on in the first place.

          So back to basics, and we worked in the arena for a couple of sessions on backing from between poles, over plywood etc with reminders of keeping his head down so he got the idea of how to actually go back down the ramp without losing the plot. Then back to the trailer for repeated one step forward, one step back, two steps forward, two steps back etc, with lots of rewards for backing calmly with his head lowered. And a little while later he was wandering onto the trailer happily like he’d been doing it that way all his life (and probably he had until some bad incident made him forget how to back off safely).

          So the moral of the story is to identify what the horses issue is and address that specifically – is it leading in general, is it how to step up or back off, is it an issue with going into a dark space, is it worry about leaving a friend or having to walk up after the alpha bitch mare who is threatening to eat him, is it a pain issue (all things I’ve come up against at some time or other), is it…

          Claire
          New Zealand

          • Very keen observation on your part. The panicked scramble backing off a two horse trailer is one I see many times.

    • I agree and have used that method with a little variation quite successfully. Yes – TIME. I knew my horse was a problem loader – it was a real song and dance getting him home when I got him. After a couple of days for him to settle I called three friends and we spent three long, boring hours getting him in. One on either side of the trailer with a dressage whip (his trick was to swing around and stand beside the trailer), one safely behind to tap his croup and hocks, and me leading him forward. It was cold and rainy. He missed his lunch. When he ran back I stayed with him and kept the pressure steady – no release until you step forward. In the end he heaved an almighty sigh and stepped aboard. I praised him, gave him a carrot and immediately unloaded and took him back to the barn. Next day we did it again – this time it took 20 minutes. He’s never given me a lick of trouble loading since – and we trailer at least three times a week.
      With my youngster the method was different – when he was a yearling I had the trailer parked in his field and fed him his dinner in it ( with the devider removed) for about a month before I ever closed the door. That could probably done quicker but I had the time. I took the time.
      Loading is a lesson like any other – accepting the saddle or picking up feet – it must be taught with the same patience and repetition for the horse to learn it

    • Morgan,

      We sold a seven year old unbroke gelding last year to a really nice gentleman from one of the Apache tribes in our state. He was exceptionally interested in the gelding, kind attitude and gentle with the untrained horse. This gelding had never been in a trailer, let alone a two horse trailer ( we have a slant three open inside rig.) The buyer brought a really cool two horse with the center back pole removable, which made the whole back of the trailer one open area. Center partition was also not in this trailer. I put a long rope through the front of the trailer on the driver’s side and led the gelding to the back. Used a lunge whip with the lash held as you discribed andjjust tapped the hind quarters to move him forward, when the gelding put his front feet into the trailer the buyer and I linked arms behind him and encouraged him to move forward. (my husband was at his head at the front of the trailer) He loaded in less than five minuetes. We put the centr pole back in, shut the doors and tied the head so he could not turn around and off they went. No fuss , no fight, no problems. This gelding had solid on the ground manners, was used to being tied, lunged and trimmed. Had been ground started, just never finished as I had a work injury that prevents me from starting youngsters at this time , not to mention my advanced age…LOL. But the buyer was a very gentle understanding person, and really wanted that horse. It was a very good match.

  11. Mercedes: All very good points. The rope does not go around the hocks in my case, but just leads to the halter. I have seen the other method used of pulling the horse in using a butt-rope. I agree it can lead to flipping horses and thrashing and it can also lead to the horse slipping under the trailer and really injuring itself. The horse that flys out backward is indeed a danger. I just start the whole procedure over again. The key is to have a long enough rope, watch your fingers and wear leather gloves.
    I too have found some horses like the security of a wall to lean on, while others are o.k. in a slant. When I am hauling a horse a long distance (over 200 miles) I like to leave them loose in my slant with all of the dividers taken out. They can move around and find a position that is comfortable. Some ride backwards, some ride frontwards, and then I had a stallion who trotted the whole distance from New Mexico to Missouri! 🙂 If I can allow the horse to walk around, they do not stock up, and unload in excellent condition. Unfortunately, this only works with one horse, unless you have a big goose-neck stock with several compartments. Years ago I hauled 5 horses from Missouri to New York and let them just circulate the length of a 28 foot gooseneck. They travelled very well, and each found a position where they were comfortable.

    • The biggest mistake people make is trying to use physical force to get a horse loaded. If you can get their mind in the game, the rest is easy.

  12. Anyone else ever had the problem I experienced with my old gelding…he was used to a step-up and didn’t like the ramp! He got used to it and I was able to go back to his old loading method…point him at the trailer, throw the lead over his back, and let him walk on. But getting off, he always expected that step down instead of the ramp, and more than once almost fell because he was ‘reaching’ for the step down with a hind foot and found the ramp sooner than he expected. Once he was by himself on a big stock trailer that took him about ten steps to get to the back of and he’d step back and squat, expecting to step off the end every time. It was kind of amusing to watch, but I always worried he fall in the trailer and couldn’t figure out how to break him of the habit.

      • My slant Sundowner has a double back door and you can fold them aside to allow all 3 horses to pivot and walk out head first. I have had a few jump over the ramp though! Mine are all taught to back out as well, because they may end up in the 2 horse someday. I can see why a horse who was used to a trailer step down would misjudge a ramp, but my heart has stood still more than once as I see the hesitance and scramble of a horse stepping off of a conventional trailer. I will say a trailer with a ramp is the single best thing I ever bought. I fell in love with ramps when our riding school had a Bristol 9 horse van with 4 side ramps and plywood barriers and a coconut rug. It was really a commercial van but worked great to haul up to 11 school horses to shows. I never had a horse hesitate to trot up the ramps or walk down, even it they were otherwise a problem loader. I really think the space below the bumper on a conventional trailer makes it difficult for the horses to want to step up and the moment in which they have to blindly step off into space when unloading is a real test.

        • I started with ramp trailers and ended up finally going to a step up. I do have to say, though, that my step up is much lower to the ground than many. Anyway, I’ve seen horses get hurt getting on and off both ramps and step ups. Ramps are notorious when wet to cause horses to slip. Also have seen horses step off the sides of ramps and hurt themselves.

          Basically, if there’s a way to get injured, some horse, somewhere, will embrace it.

        • Morgan,

          Our slant three is a rebuilt stock trailer with one back door. The rebuild was done before I bought it to make it into a gooseneck in another state. We can partition(removable) the stallion from “touching ” the mares and back out or turn and lead out. Our horses are taught the key words “step down” and they all back out decently and when reaching the back drop to step down, the command “step-down” is repeated. It works for us and if we are hauling someone else’s horse, then the option to trun around and lead out is always there. We also use the slant three with the partiotn removed op haul other various livestock. Again to all concerned, not having a pickup is NOT an option. We haul livestock, ha, trash, and fire wood(as we heat exclusively with wood).

          I guess there might be options to be considered when living in the suburbs, but with the various styles of four door trucks and decent gas mileage now days, I will not A) be without a truck or B) live in town. It is what is your priority. Having an SUV is not a consideration. Two of our trucks are 4 door and one is an extended cab for extra space, straight cabs are storage limited and one never knows when you might be in trouble or have to help a neighbor. We had a big dually when horse showing, also a 4 door, but the diesel was a pain and the repairs a nightmare, so we eventually sold it to a bucking bull breeder and everyone is happy.

          • Please. Priorities? I have noticed a bit of a bias against people who do not keep a rig – not to long ago I was one of those. My priorities were to earn enough to keep my horsie habit, save for my half acre of heaven, and then get a rig. Some of us do not show or work in the horse world, but are just as passionate about the one horse we are lucky enough to have.

          • That is correct, priorities. I am not biased for bigger rigs. I started in Nor Cal with a single horse trailer a very, very long time ago. This rig as you call it, I bought by myself on a single income over twenty-five years ago. As stated it was a stock trailer rebuilt into a gooseneck with a walk in tack room. I also bought a old house and 2.33 acers, again on my own, working graveyard and doing repairs myself. Many things have changed since 1985 including the alleged vlaue of the property as well as those properties around it. ( we are still trying to sell out and go home) We have not shown in over eight years, but kept the equipment in good working order. I also do not work in the horse world (other than as a volunteer with AYN), I was and am an independant amature.
            FYI most SUV’s cost a whole lot more than any of our trucks and only one of them, the” toy” truck, the Range,r was bought new.

            Mercedes: This thread has been a lot of interesting fun and comments. One of the nicest I have seen here in a very long time. D.

  13. A little late to the party here, but just wanted to add my two cents on the whole trailer issue. I do not own a trailer, through my family does own a truck we could theoretically haul a trailer with, but this is my parent’s truck, not mine. I drive a Jeep Liberty around. As a broke college student, I work 30+ hours every week in addition to going to school full time in order to pay for my horse. I have my horse because I pay for her, not my family. A trailer is just not anywhere in the picture in the near future. I could not afford it. That said, I board my mare at a very nice facility in the city (of course, this is New Mexico, our biggest city really isn’t that big when compared to other states) where the owner lives on site and owns a big six horse trailer that is mostly used to haul to shows, but will haul for other things as needed. In addition, the vets also have trailers with which they can pick up horses. I also have a couple of friends with trailers that would give me a ride if needed. I am not panicked in the least bit by not owning a trailer currently, I would rather put that money towards caring for my mare. Once I have completed my second degree and hopefully get a “real job,” I’d like to get one down the road. Owning that horse has given me something to look forward to in life, a goal for getting somewhere. I’d rather own the horse than stress about not owning a trailer. Take that as you will, but she is healthy, happy, and safe.

    Back to the original topic at hand – I’m spoiled with my horse. She loads wonderfully. She’s always the end horse when going to and from horse shows because she can be trusted to load right in and not mind the slightly smaller end. And we don’t have to worry about her squishing the loader at the time. 😉 However, she was already like this when I bought her a few years ago. As an amateur and very beginner at the time, I purchased a horse that was already trained, been to shows, and done it all. I’ve never had to try and train her to load up – she was already an old hat at such things by the time I came into her life.

  14. It is so good to hear from a young horse owner who loves them enough to make the economic sacrifice. I empathize with your situation and wish you much future happiness with your horse. Many of us on the blog are “riders of a certain age” (rather than riders of the purple sage :-)) and we realize that we grew up in a unique economic situation of post-war America where it was within the reach of many middle-class families to be able to have a horse. Today, it is much more expensive and you have to truly love horses to keep them. (All of this bodes ill for the future of horse shows and breeders, I am afraid). I do not think any of the posters scorn someone who cannot afford a truck/trailer, but some of us are not familiar with all the arrangements/decisions that trailerless horse owners have to make. I am much more aware after reading the posts above. Thank you.

  15. Well, I am training a 3 year old filly under saddle this month (and ain’t that a hoot!) and I am not sure if I am looking for my lost youth, or just too stupid or stubborn to quit. All I know is that when I settle into that saddle, all my other concerns and cares fly away, and I am truly happy.

  16. There are plenty of variations on this theme – I don’t think anyone should take the opinion that their way is the best way. I’ve owned horses on my own property for 30 years and for the first 15 did not have a truck and trailer, nor did I ever need one. I just could not justify the expense of buying, licensing and maintaining a rig. When I took up training and showing, part of the expense was the purchase of an older truck and trailer which I still have. In that entire 30 years I never had a reason to use a trailer that wasn’t optional (going to a different trail head to ride or to shows or training) so it seems to me this ‘have to have one’ philosophy is just a matter of personal comfort level, not necessity. My vet has always come to me and we only in the last few years have had a vet hospital that didn’t require a ferry ride and 8 hours on the road to a another country (the US – I live in Canada). Rich people with expensive horses went that route – the rest of us cared for our horses at home or euthanized them. I really like the convenience of having a rig now and have helped other people out with it but I still consider it a luxury.

  17. When I lived in Tennessee in the early oughts, I drove a compact car. I could fill the tank over the Georgia state line for $13 and drive out and back to Atlanta at 90 mph without emptying the tank. If I’d traded up to a low-mileage truck in TN and doubled my gas bill, I would have never noticed the difference in my budget. Now in Canada, a newer compact car with same size tank and somewhat better stated mpg: filling the tank is between $50 and $60. I commute three or four days a week and my gas is between $200 and $250 a month. If I started commuting in a truck here, I’d spend far more in extra gas than the cost of insuring a second vehicle. Plus, as another poster pointed out, it’s true: all the parking meters downtown are spaced for compact cars. And as far as buying land: for the cost of a one-bedroom starter condo here, you could get upscale acreage in TN. Costs are very different in different places and they shape what is possible.

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