Updated: Apr 13, 2020
Trailer loading is a basic and essential skill that every horse needs to know. However, some take to learning how to load better than others. Here are 4 easy tips that can set you and your horse up for trailer loading success!
1. Open & Secure All Trailer Doors. Even if you feel your horse can load through one opened door it is safer and more comfortable for the horse to load onto a trailer that has both doors open. Be sure to secure the doors to prevent them from moving or closing which may spook your horse and cause them to be hesitant to load in the future.
2. Be patient. When introducing a trailer and the loading process to a horse who has never hauled before, be patient. It is entirely unnatural for a horse to be hauled and it may take them some time to understand (and most importantly trust and be comfortable with) what we are asking. Keep this in mind: a horse needs about 7 minutes to assess a new situation and get comfortable. Be patient with your horse when asking for something new. Give them the crucial time needed to understand. If we try and force a point it can often lead to the opposite of the desired result; your horse will lose trust in you and may become more nervous about loading altogether.
3. Never try to force your horse to load by pulling. The driving force of the horse comes from the hind, that same principles applies when loading a horse as well. Additionally, pulling the horse’s head can cause more of a tug of war, which you will never win. Instead of entering the trailer and trying to tug your horse in after you, position the horse in front of the trailer and let him assess the situation first. Give him time to process and once he seems comfortable ask for a step forward (driving from behind). As soon as he steps forward, release pressure, reward and allow him to become comfortable once more before asking for another step. Once he seems comfortable ask for a step forward and reward. Taking your time with this process will help to ensure a horse who confidently and easily loads in the future.
4. Keep the situation as stress-free as possible. In order to keep stress at a minimum, reward and release often. Forcing a horse to load only adds to the stress of hauling which can impact your horse’s health. Once your horse is loaded be sure that food and water are available to keep their gut moving, which will help moderate stress. Sometimes adding another horse to the trailer for company can make a “new-hauler” more comfortable.
Bonus tip: After your horse is loaded and the trailer doors are closed, slip them a healthy treat to reward them for their valiant efforts. (And may we suggest a healthy treat that also benefits the gut? Cue: Twenty Four Carrots Super Food Horse Treats)