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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2010

    Default I'm at my wit's end trying to get her on the trailer...

    I absolutely can not get my horse on the trailer. I have tried every approach I know of. "Natural" and "traditional" ways.

    I have excersized her, then tried to load (with two strong men helping me "guide" her - we even used full buckets of grain to bribe her!).

    I have walked her around the trailer for twenty minutes, letting her sniff every inch of it, the best that happens is she puts two feet on the ramp then spooks and goes away.

    I have done ground work (walking over tarps, scary objects, pushing her against the fence to make her claustrophobic).

    I've tried using the motivator (dressage whip with grocery bags tied to the end), lunge whip, lunge line, etc.

    The next step I can think of is move the trailer into one of the empty fields and move it right up against the fence so that she has no where to turn or side step away from the ramp.

    When I bought her, she was so emaciated and malnourished that she just went right in, no fight. She has had no bad experience since then, it's just now that she's healthy she won't go on It only started towards the end of summer; I bought her a year ago. She definitely prefers step loads, versus the ramp - but this is the only trailer I have access too. We move the divider so that it's open all the way, but I don't know what else to do.

    Someone suggested blind folding her..but I worry about that affecting her balance (she's a bit of a ditz). She definitely would follow me just about anywhere with the blind fold, but once she gets on that ramp she'd freak out.

    I am going to try loading her with her boyfriend (he loads just fine), but I don't really want her dependent on him being in the trailer.

    Any other crazy tricks? I'm willing to try just about anything.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec. 20, 2006
    Clemson, SC


    20 minutes everyday.. or close enough to see a hint of progress until the day she gets on. Use your judgement on what approach to use, some horses respond better to NH others to "come to Jesus" but 20 minutes of nothing but her focus soley on the trailer.

    Stay relaxed, do not expect her to get on or get through, but you want her to be relaxed at the end of the ramp to the point of udder boredom. When she can walk up to the ramp, bored out her mind, then push for the next big step on the ramp. When she stands on the ramp. Stay relaxed, let her hang. Repeat until she's bored with the ramp. Ask her on YOUR terms to back off the ramp. Only spend a few seconds on it, gradually build to a minute or so. Just hang out. When she's bored with the ramp, move to sticking her head in. Once she begins to hang around inside the trailer for up to 5 minutes. I will be she loads. May take a few weeks, but having done this with claustrophobic OTTBs its the best method IMO. The key is to not let her go more forward on her own until you are satisfied she's bored with where she's at. It will make a horse more curious... but why can't I go in, its probably cool in there. And always hang a hay bag... the interest of the hay.. all.. the.. way.. up..there will make it more inviting. Without being a quick fix coaxing of feed.
    Fourth N' Goal Training LLC.
    ~Specializing in Mom and Kid Approved Equitation and Jumper Horses

    *Horse Collector Status = Six Pack*

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Mar. 8, 2009
    Montreal, Qc


    If you have access to a paddock, could you leave your trailer in it and only feed and water your horse in there? So she would have to go in!
    Start with food/water bucket around the trailer first then gradually put it further inside the trailer. It might take 2-3 weeks until it really works.

    Then, when you are able to get her in, work on doing really quiet, slow and short travels, always coming back to her paddock. Then, try unloading her somewhere else not too far (if ever she doesn't want to go in, you'll be able to bring her back by hand...) and try loading her back right there.

    Try loading just before meal time and feed her in the trailer.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Dec. 12, 2010


    I know your pain. My mare was the worst loader a few years ago. It took us at least 45 minutes to load her every time.
    I used to trailer her in to my lessons, so I had to load her every week and she has gotten progressively better. She follows her best friend in, but she also will go in without her now.

    My mare wasn't necessarily scared of the trailer, she was just STUBBORN. She would just stand and look at me like "what? you want me to do this? I don't feel like it."
    We just annoyed her until she would walk on. We used a broom and pushed her butt with it. She didn't like it, so she stepped on the trailer. Then she got LOTS of praise, snacks, pats, etc.
    Also one time one of the people at our old barn helped us by standing by her left rear leg and tapping her with a riding crop. She kicked out a few times, but after a few minutes she decided it would be easier (and less annoying) to just get in the trailer.

    What we also do now is to stop right next to a tree so that she can't bolt to the left because there is a tree there, and she can't bolt to the right because the trailer door is there.
    Hope you figure something out that works for your horse!
    The New Banner's Choice- 1994 ASB Mare
    Dennis The Menace Too- 1999 ASB Gelding
    Dreamacres Sublime- 2008 ASB Gelding

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jan. 17, 2008


    I would set her up for success.

    Give her a sedative (I use Omega Alpha Chill), throw the boyfriend on the trailer, get the food she likes best and be patient.

    Leave the strong men and the flapping grocery bags at home.

    No offense but what you describe doesn't sound like a low-key experience. I get it, I had a terrible loader but being impatient or using any sort of force would just set us back even further. I had to remain calm and patient.

    Baby steps and reward any sort of calm, positive steps in the right direction. Call it a day before she makes a mistake. If she gets on let her off again right away.

    Good luck

    ETA the lungline behind the bum would make my horse flip over. He would rather hurt himself when pushed in any way then submit. I also learned that once I put a lipchain on he would walk on like it was his idea. Not sure if yours is this bad but once I took all the excitement out of the event things went much better. I needed a functioning brain to work with and provided I allowed him that he was much better.
    Last edited by sisu27; Mar. 7, 2011 at 03:43 PM.
    "look deep into his pedigree. Look for the name of a one-of-a-kind horse who lends to his kin a fierce tenacity, a will of iron, a look of eagles. Look & know that Slew is still very much with us."

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Feb. 23, 2005
    Spotsylvania, VA

    Default I know I'll get slammed for this

    Clinton Anderson has a great trailer loading technique. Often you can get a DVD of it on eBay. Basically his idea is to work the horse around the trailer until the trailer is the best place in the whole wide world to be.

    It may take a while but it DOES work.

    Another technique I have seen is to lead the horse onto the trailer as far as you can then when he stops back him up 30 feet as fast as he will go.

    I do not recommend this.

    Nor the "nagging mother" technique....let the horse stop in front of the ramp and just keep tapping his butt.

    Nor bribery or brute force.
    I wasn't always a Smurf
    Penmerryl's Sophie RIDSH
    "I ain't as good as I once was but I'm as good once as I ever was"
    The ignore list is my friend. It takes 2 to argue.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Oct. 10, 2006
    Gotham City


    Not a trick and it could take weeks, but I've seen it work with food-motivated horses....

    Remove anything extraneous in the trailer that Mare could possibly bump/hit/bang into. If possible, remove metal bars or dividers. Pad any exposed metal that can be padded.

    Park trailer in paddock or pen. Place Mare's hay and grain on the ramp of the trailer. When she's comfortable eating off the ramp, move the food back a few inches. Then a few more inches. Repeat, again and again.
    "Go on, Bill — this is no place for a pony."

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul. 17, 2009
    south eastern US


    My tried and true method that has NEVER failed: If you really need to load her in a trailer you will need at least two people for the first time. Get a long nylon lunge line, replace the little snap that comes on it with a stronger bull snap. Attach it to her halter along with a separate lead rope. Run the other end of the lunge line into the trailer and wrap (not tie) it around one of the supports (I have a stock type trailer). Make sure what ever you wrap it around is good and strong. Then walk the mare up to the trailer and allow her to look a make up her own mind. Have the other person take up the slack on the lunge line but not pull on it. Gently pull on the lead rope encouraging the horse to move forward. Because of the lunge line she will be unable to move backwards or pull you back out of the trailer. She will only be rewarded by moving forward by the release of pressure. As soon as she does come forward, have the person holding the lunge line take up the slack again (again not putting pressure with the lunge line) and continue until the horse is in the trailer. This has worked for me many times no matter how stubborn the horse. However, should a horse seriously panic and is in danger of hurting itself the lunge line can be released easily.

    I used this method on my gelding who one day decided he didn't need to get on the trailer anymore. He still tries me sometimes and as soon as I break out the "magic red lunge tape" he gives up and walks onto the trailer like a good boy.

    Quote Originally Posted by sisu27 View Post
    ETA the lungline behind the bum would make my horse flip over. He would rather hurt himself when pushed in any way then submit.
    This is very true for my gelding as well, butt ropes, whips, people standing behind him waving their arms only made him worse. The lunge rope method I used for him took all the pressure off, he had to decide on his own that the only way to go was forward into the trailer. There is no "one size fits all" approach to anything to do with horses. My method has worked well for all horses I've tried it on so far but I'm sure there are those out there that it won't work on.
    Last edited by PRS; Mar. 7, 2011 at 04:29 PM.
    "My biggest fear is that when I die my husband is going to try to sell all my horses and tack for what I told him they cost."

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Nov. 13, 2007
    NW Louisiana


    This is going to sound absurd, but I have one who WILL NOT be led onto a trailer. She doesn't want to follow someone. However, if you toss the lead rope over her back, point her at the trailer, and encourage her forward, she will walk right on. It took me 5 years to figure that out. I never trailered very often, and always with someone else's rig, but once I got my own and out of desperation just stood next to the ramp and pointed her own, she started loading easily every single time. If I forget and try to lead her on, she will hit the ramp, freak out, and fly backwards.

    It also helps that my trailer is light and open, so it's about as inviting as a trailer can be.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Apr. 12, 2010


    I prefer a good old butt rope and a little patience for tough loaders. It hasn't failed me yet.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Mar. 27, 2010


    I know EXACTLY what you are going through. My mare used to be a pro at loading. NOT.ANY.MORE. She refuses and I'm fine with it because she doesn't have to go anywhere and hopefully she never will. The last time we actually got her loaded in a reasonable amount of time, and after trying to load her for over an hour, we had to back her on. She went right on. But she hasn't done that since. We have spent up to two hours trying (back then) to get her on. The only way she would go on forward (when she would go on) was with food. But she got smart to that too and now just flat out refuses. She has never had a bad experience, the trailer is big enough for her, she is just a stubborn animal and I don't have the gumption to worry about it anymore. I know she may need to get on it one day, so I plan on putting the trailer in the pasture gate (it takes up the whole gate so there is no way anyone can get out, and I plan to feed her in there for as long as it takes, so that she doesn't have to play this game anymore. I wish you the best. It really stinks when a horse doesn't load, I know that for sure.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2010


    Ok - I just want to clarify that I'm not using "brute force" and going all crazy on her. The men that helped me were mainly helping me keep her in a straight path, she will literally pull you everywhere if there isn't someone behind her. I absolutely have to stay calm or she'll start sweating and then get so worked up that she'll start rearing. I work on it with her until I absolutely can not stand to work with her anymore. As soon as I get frustrated and can't stay calm, we call it quits. She's a sensitive girl, and she definitely can read people's moods.

    I really like Hampton Bay's idea. She didn't lead when I first bought her (was scared of any pressure on her face) so maybe that's the way she prefers to load. I'm sure my dad could rig some form of shoot to help with that. She doesn't go in her stall if you lead her, she has to go by herself. Why didn't I think of this months ago?!

    We don't have a small paddock that we can use because we have a horse with a broken pelvis that is currently occupying it

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Nov. 8, 2008


    I used the same approach as City Ponies. It took ten days, about 15-20 minutes of trailer training each day.
    My mare had slipped and fallen on the ramp of this trailer backing out so she had a legitimate reason to be afraid and we had to start from scratch.

    Day 1: approaching and hanging out near the ramp without nervous pooping and pawing
    Day 2: approaching and stopping right at ramp, letting her smell and paw the ramp, but no further
    Day 3: approaching without hesitation, stopping on my command, and stepping two feet onto ramp on my command
    Day 4: same as Day 3, but with more confidence
    Day 5: approaching and immediately stepping two feet onto ramp without stopping
    Day 6: same as Day 5, but going further up the ramp with front feet
    Day 7: approaching and immediately stepping two feet onto ramp, stopping, then all four feet onto ramp on my command (and slight tapping with whip)
    Day 8: same as day 7, but more fluidly and with more confidence
    Day 9: (placed grain pan in middle of trailer so she could see and smell it), approach and step onto ramp with all four feet, stop, then front feet into trailer, a little grain in pan as reward
    Day 10: same as Day 9 put placed grain all the way up front so she only got a reward when she went all the way in... which she did

    Slowly backing out on voice command and doing it perfectly straight was also a huge part of this exercise. Other than a handful of grain during the last few days, there was no reward other than praise and pets.

    After the horse gets it and walks on by voice command only, I recommend frequent "refreshers" even if you are NOT going anywhere!

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul. 11, 2004


    A good electric winch?
    Hot-Shot Cattle Prod!
    Yelling with a smack on the butt with a dressage whip!

    Yep, all of these are mighty tempting, especially when the horse is being a jerk....but like most things, they won't work more than once.

    I had a mare who wouldn't load, just bullheaded hussy. I put her in a sand round pen with a trailer attached to the gate. Food and water in the front of the trailer...hungry and thirsty horse outside the trailer....I walked away and "let her rot".

    She evenually got thirsty and hungry...I left her to figure it out on her own. It took all day and she eventually loaded herself. I never asked her to load, it was her choice...get on the trailer or starve. I then put up the ramp and let her wait for an hour or so. Put down the ramp and she went on faster this time to get food and water.

    It eventually sunk abuse, no fuss or muss...just took patience and putting up with the hand-flapper "but she's starving" crowd mewing.
    "Sic Gorgiamus Allos Subjectatos Nunc"

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jun. 28, 2003


    From what you say the mare had leading issues when you first got her.

    She still does.

    Treat this as a leading issue.
    I'd be doing a lot of plain old groundwork, leading, standing. When you ask the horse to move off with you, there should be no question that she moves off, right away, and calmly. Same with backing. Same with going through narrow doorways onto different surfaces etc.

    Rule 1 - you can't allow yourself to get frustrated

    Best method we found was the many sessions of 1 step at a time per City Ponies and Liesalot. Don't let it escalate to excitement and reward every positive move with release of pressure.

    Warning if you use the trailer method suggested, which can also work, remember Horses are perfectly capable of moving that trailer in the field if it's not connected to the truck.

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Jun. 15, 2007


    Are you releasing the pressure when she gives any forward movement, even a shift forward? I have seen a lot of people that continue to pull and never let up, then the horse starts to fight. Give them a release to let them know they are doing what you want. That is a reward. It might take a long time at first, but it can be done without a fight and will get easier.

    If she doesn't lead well, you need to work on that first.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    May. 22, 2002
    where the grass is greener


    If you have 5 minutes, it'll take all day. If you have all day, it'll take 5 minutes

    One young gelding has a phobia about anything over his head. When he came, it took the seller an hour to load him. After a few months we figured we'd better practise! So one day we got prepared - bottles of water, snacks, bucket of Sr, gloves, parked the trailer in the middle of a paddock and collected said Horse.

    Our attitude was "we had all day, no pressure". Took 10 minutes! Seriously, we loaded him twice.

    I have another horse, big WB, and I START with a stud chain, dressage whip, and "get your butt on the trailer" attitude, then he'll load. I can't give him even an inkling that there's any other choice. He's so big he's actually lifted a grown man off the ground and run off rather than go on the trailer. I don't need to jerk on the chain or flurish the whip, my body language tells him there's only one option.

    A lot of your success will have to do with your attitude and the amount of pressure you put on the horse.
    You're entitled to your own opinion, not your own facts!

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Oct. 26, 2010


    She leads great NOW, we do ground work every time we ride or have a day off. It's just the stall and the trailer. She's gotten better about the stall, she lets me in there and will back and move when I ask her too. She used to freak out and pace but now she's fine.

    Going to go out and see how she does tonight with the trailer, I will let you guys know how it goes.

  19. #19
    Join Date
    Oct. 29, 1999


    With loading a resistant horse, the time when they are ALMOST ready to go on, IS when they begin to get upset. If they rear, I back them FAST for 20/30/etc steps and re-approach.

    If you have 3 people, here is one way to get a resistant horse to load. Remove all partitions in the trailer, or at least open them up to one side. One person is inside the trailer with the horse on a LONG rope. The other two people are on either side with buggy whips. The game is to send the horse away from each side as soon as they get stuck around that side. It is not by whipping them, but using the whip to shoo, and keep the horse in motion, going back and forth - the faster the better. Each time the horse passes, give a few firm tugs on the rope to turn their heads to look inside, but don't hold. Again, when the horse starts getting upset at being chased to the other side, they are close to loading. Keep going.

  20. #20
    Join Date
    Oct. 27, 2010


    Quote Originally Posted by carolprudm View Post
    Clinton Anderson has a great trailer loading technique. Often you can get a DVD of it on eBay. Basically his idea is to work the horse around the trailer until the trailer is the best place in the whole wide world to be.
    We used this to get a rank, sour 2 year old that we worked with in college to finally trailer load. She was so bad that the people that brought her to us had blood on them (yeah, no idea) when they dropped her off. It's sort of like round penning with a trailer - if the horse doesn't want to do X (be with you, load in the trailer) his only other alternative is to run. Eventually they tire out and do what you ask and they are not asked to run anymore, so the trailer becomes a safe place rather than a scary place. We worked with her over a number of weeks, but this was the only thing that worked.

    I like this technique because the horse has to be the one to rewire his own brain. He has to put two and two together and come to the conclusion that the trailer is a good thing. I feel like some other techniques teach toleration ("You will do this because I am the trainer and I say so.") rather than thinking.

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