Training Your Horse to Trailer Load
Making Your Trailer a Horse Sanctuary
I have tried a new method for trailer training that I really love and works great. The problem I have always had with trailer training is that I eventually win and they go in but its not like they really want to, they do it because I bug them enough that they go in so that I will leave them alone. The problem with the trailer is that it resembles a cave and caves are where a horse’s predator lives. Horses are basically claustrophobic and it is against all their instincts to go in a trailer. If you have ever ridden in a horse trailer (an experience I think everyone should do once) you would wonder, if they ever went in once, why would they ever go back. It is not a fun ride, noisy, rough and hard to keep your balance on easy turns. So the challenge has been to make it a place where they want to be, a place they will willingly and eagerly go into. So here is the best method I have ever tried and one I will always use from now on. It makes it their choice and the trailer becomes their sanctuary. Here is what to do....
The Horse Trailer is the Only Place to Rest
Make sure you can lunge your horse, turn him and send him in the opposite direction. This is necessary to train first. Put him on a long lead, about 10 to 20 feet in length. Start by standing at the rear of the trailer and sending him from one side of the trailer to the other. Once he is going to one side of the trailer, turning and doing a half circle to the other side of the trailer and turning and going back start to move your position to one side of the trailer. Now you are standing at the side of the trailer and when he does the half circle he should be making the turn at the truck and doing the half circle to the rear of the trailer where you have the door open and you want him to enter. Keep turning him back and forth until he is tired and wants to stop.
Tapping To Get Your Horse to Move Forward
Stop him at the opening and tap him (with a lunge whip or training stick) to go forward. If he moves forward, stop tapping. This is very important to stop within 3 seconds if there is forward movement. Not just a learn forward but a step forward, no matter how small. Give him a moment (not too long, don’t let him rest) to think about it and ask again with a tapping. (your tapping should not be hard, just annoying, it should be with rhythm on his rump). If he does not take a step forward (which he probably won’t) start him working again. Back and forth at the side of the trailer and if he wants to stop at the rear, don’t let him. Then stop him at the rear and tap him to enter. Be sure not to let him stand there if he does not give you a forward step within say, 15 to 30 seconds, work him back and forth again. Keep repeating this until you have him half way in., if he wants to go all the way in, stop him, back him out and work him some more. Repeat the front half loading into the trailer a number of times until he is going in and coming back out easily (this will help you to get him out once he is in).
The Horse's Front Half Then the Rear Half
Again, make sure you don’t let him rest too long when he is half in, just a little to let him think and let him get used to it. Repeat this until he is loading half way fairly quickly, backing out and doing the half circle. Your lead should be fairly short at this point so that you are doing small half circles and you are standing to the side of the opening at the rear of the trailer. Now ask him to go all the way in using the same tapping method, if he does not lift the rear foot within a short amount of time pull him back out and do the small half circles again. You want him to learn that the only place he can find rest is in the trailer, thus making the trailer his sanctuary. It won’t be long until you have him all the way in.
The Horse is Loaded in the Trailer, What Next?
Make sure you have the keys in the truck and you are ready to roll. It doesn’t hurt to have a bit of grain as a reward once he is in and this will keep his mind busy while you put the butt strap on and close the door. Now get moving right away! Many times they will panic once they find they are trapped but if you get moving he will have to keep his balance and think about that rather than being trapped. Take him for a short ride and when you stop get the back door opened and butt strap off quickly. Make him back out slowly, not bolt out.
When to Trailer Load Your Horse Again
Don’t let but a day or two pass before you try it again. The next time won’t take you as long and within the forth of fifth time he will walk right in. The first time will take an hour or two. Make sure you allow enough time to finish the job the first time so he doesn’t think he can resist and get out of it. You want him to believe that you will keep working him unless he gets in.
Step Up or Ramp Horse Trailer
This process will work on a step up or a ramp. With a ramp I will also lunge him across the ramp so he’ll get used to stepping on it, the sound and the give under his feet. By doing this he will be less likely to step sideways possibly scraping a leg. Soon your horse will be anxious to get in and will want you to hurry and open the door so he can get in the trailer and out of the work.