I don't disagree with you, either, DW. It seems to me one problem here is that the horse is not calm. When a horse is calm and paying attention to the handler, it can back off, turn around, whatever. The lack of calm and rushing are what's dangerous for both the OP and the horse.
I agree that letting a horse turn in a slant and walk off isn't a problem. As long as the horse can do it calmly. And always has access to a slant. That's the rub for me.
The Great White North, where we get taxed out the wazoo
I have been blessed with all good shipping horses who learn to both self load and unload. I had an older gelding we got given who would fairly canter backwards off. Once he started self unloading (I stood off to the side and caught his shank as he came back) he slowed right down. I think trying to hold them to make them go slower increases the "pressure" and ends up having the reverse(no pun intended) effect. Maybe see what happens after a few tries of this on home turf.
I recently learnt a trick from a very experienced transport person (has been doing international shipping through Europe for some years now) that seemed crazy at first, but worked for my bolting mare.
I've had quite a number of scares and actual injuries from her jumping off of the trailer without any care for her own safety or mine!
The trick is actually really simple. Have someone on the front of the horse holding the lead, and someone at the back o the trailer. The person at the back takes off the butt panel, the person at the front then lets go of the lead, the horse starts to back down and the person at the pack picks the lead up again.
Since I have her, it was the first time she actually backed off the trailer slowly, without panicking. I guess this works because the horse doesn't feel held by anyone, so just takes its time.
My horse that flies off doesn't have anybody at his head, since I load and unload by myself. I untie his head, go around to the butt bar, we have our little conversation about "STAND" and he unloads with the rope draped over his back.
I got a horse that had been trailered occasionally - and in stock trailers only. He would load quite easily, but wanted to turn and LEAP out! When I purchased a two horse straight with ramp, it had a completely moveable divider, but I still wanted him to back out safely. I actually had a good friend's hubby, who is a good Western rider and does NH stuff, help. He first started with a few ground sessions, no trailer, to work on leading and backing - with a rope halter. Then he took one day and led him in (the easy part) and had me pull gently on the tail as he stood at the head and kept him from wanting to turn. This horse is close-coupled enough - he'd want to turn his head and SQUEEZE out which was terrifying! So, made him stay facing forward, gently encouraging and praising/releasing pressure with each tentative step back. We did lots of praise, and did this about 5 times and VOILA - lovely horse to back out. However, the next time we went to load to go somewhere, the little imp (he's an Azteca and VERY smart!) remembered having been loaded/unloaded multiple times and didn't want to LOAD to begin! HA! This just took one CTJ session - he was not scared to load but was being obstinate - to fix.
I would absolutely have a helper with the retraining process, but for loading/unloading alone safely, I learned a great trick in TX - works in almost any trailer. I use a lunge line that goes from the opening of the trailer through wherever the horse is to end up and out the window/door around to the back. I lead the horse to the ramp or opening of the trailer, hook it to the lunge line, and then keep hold of the horse and pull gently on the lunge line to load. I like having something connected to them and in my hands for safety. Plus, I always worry they'll put their heads down too low and step on a lead rope and scare themselves if I have a loose lead rope around their neck, or tied around the neck. The lunge line seems much safer to me.
Teaching a horse to load is one of my favorite things to do! LOL I agree with the ground work, having a(or many) quiet, free day(s) to practice loading/unloading. It all starts with correct, effective groundwork/communication with the horse.
My friend had a gelding who was a panicker - and she was panicked too at the thought of loading/unloading him. Bad combination. He would panic and jump on the trailer, but once on, he'd panic about getting off- would fly out and bang his head in the process. So I stepped in and helped him learn to load. I broke down each step for him so he couldn't just check out. i did use a reward system, rewarding a specific try (whatever it was we were working on).
I also helped him on the ground before the trailer was introduced- backing him over poles, down an incline, up an incline- basically anything but level/even ground. I backed him through gates, into stalls, over tarps, poles - whatever - I set up using barrels and poles a narrow passage he had to back through.
Once he had all that down, back to the trailer we went- practiced loading, staying, unloading. Then when he was good with that, we would load, take a short trip, unload.
Again, just taking it slow and using building block type steps. It was no quick fix. But in the end, he was much more confident about loading, and his confidence wore off on his owner, too.
I have a slant, so we just turn around and go out head first. But I have backed them before. The only thing I did was to put a chain over the nose for a quick correction if they start to pay attention to something other than me. Back one step, stop, good horsie. Back another, stop, good horsie. Until you get to the end and then same thing essentially while stepping down.
Not saying this would work for your horse because it seems like she just rushes before you even get a chance to stop and praise... but maybe once she is a little more calm something like this can work.
I like the idea of backing her down little slopes with voice commands and will start doing this. She already unloads on her own (I untie her and hubby catches her at the bottom of ramp). Will also make sure we unload her first before my gelding until she has mastered it. She is calm though - she doesn't get out all crazed - she just wants out when she thinks it's time to get out. I think having her listening to me really is the key here. Thanks guys!
I think it all boils down to "will my horse 'whoa' on command, no matter what the circumstances?" The "whoa" can come in the form of pulling on the rope, verbal cue, or otherwise, but if the answer is "no" then there's an opportunity for a fairly simple rehab.
This is kind of off topic...but I realized I needed to teach my yearling and two year old about trailering.
I have a Trail-ET straight load two horse. I can pull all the dividers and posts out and just make it a box. I did that and left it open in the field the babies were in.
Well, I got distracted in the barn after I had pulled everything out of the trailer.
Pretty soon I heard some thumping and banging. I looked out of the barn and they are both in the trailer.
The yearling backs slowly out on to the ramp, turns around on the ramp and lays down...on the ramp.
The two year old turns around, steps over him and walks off the trailer. She then turned around, stepped back OVER him and walked back in!
The yearling gets up and goes back in the trailer.
Then the both turn around and stand looking out the trailer and just hang out for a while.
Loading lessons that involved me, a helper, halters and lead ropes were a total non issue after all that!
Kanoe Godby www.dyrkgodby.com See, I was raised by wolves and am really behind the 8-ball on diplomatic issue resolution.
I accidentally fixed the rushing off issue with one of my horses by teaching him to load better.
I did a variation on the load one foot on/off business. It was more forward/back though. We worked away from the trailer on the halter cues - because I wanted him working off head pressure, so that he wouldn't e concerned when he felt it. It was very simple - I put a steady pull forward on the rope and release as soon as he moves (in the beginning leaning forward was good enough, then it was moving a foot). The release comes before the foot hits the ground again. Same thing going back - I applied backing pressure on the rope and released as soon as he moved. If I wanted a second step I put the pressure on again. It sounds like it would be slow, but once the horse gets the response/release thing figured out I could apply the new pressure before the first foot hit the ground and get the next foot. We practiced step up, and back (oh, I used those verbal commands too "Step up" and "back" but use whatever falls out of your mouth in the situation - it will be easier for you to be consistent). We'd go three steps forward, two steps back, one step forward, four steps back, five steps forward, two steps back.
And then at the trailer back and forward again. At first he'd just back all the way out as soon as I asked for "back", but then he'd be okay to yield to the halter pressure and stop backing when he was partway out. Then he got to be okay with stopping partway out and stepping forward again. Then we could yo-yo partway in, partway out easily. Three or four steps forward. One or two steps back. Repeat. Loading and unloading were non-issues after that.
The key was to be able to get him to back up and come forward again before he'd completely left the trailer.
Agree with all the suggestions-- one foot on/off, food held low, etc.
One other thing to check: is your ramp steep or slick? My trailer unfortunately has a short, steep-ish ramp, and a horse who rushes out might slip a bit (which causes more panic). I always throw an old bath towel on the ramp behind the horse, which gives a little more traction and security. No need to give the horse legitimate fear to worry about!
I taught mine to load with the 'tap on the butt means move forward' method. I think it's John Lyons, but could be any of them. If they were leaning on the butt bar, I would tap them until they moved up a little and got off of it. If they rushed out when it was dropped, they had to do it again. As a reminder, I would drop the butt bar and have my dressage whip touching their butt until I pulled their tail and asked them to come out. It didn't take long for them to figure it out. Now they don't lean on the bar and just wait to come out.
I also load and unload alone. I just throw the lead over their backs before I drop the ramp. then as they walk out, I grab it, so no loose horse. It's always worked for me.
One of our horses used to rush off the trailer and slip on the ramp. We taught him to slow down by letting him eat from a bucket of grain on his way out. The problem totally disappeared after we bought the big, roomy, Sundowner with the nonslip ramp. EventerAJ's towel idea is really good.
Simkie, Buck and someone else had it right, or how I start them. Groundwork first -backing, stopping, forward, backing, etc.
Then one foot in, back out, then two feet, back out, etc. waiting etc. As long as it takes.
I had a TB who went through that a bit, and she had to get used to a tap (well, more than a tap sometimes) on her bum even as she was thinking of starting to back out on her own timetable. You have to be quick.
Proud member of People Who Hate to Kill Wildlife clique
I do lots of work getting on and off and generally hanging out by the trailer. I bring a big bag of carrots and have a carrot party.
One really important thing is to make sure they give to pressure. So that if I put pressure forward on the lead rope, they don't go back against it. That is really important, They must walk forward in response to pressure on the lead.
Eventually I add the partitions and step them on and off the ramp, go partway in and then out. I make sure they have their heads down really low.I let them eat carrots as they come out. Usually this really helps them relax about the whole procedure.
This is a really difficult problem because there is fear and a habit already of rushing out. Take lots of time and it should get better. Good luck!
I do this too. It has worked very well. Have them put their feet on the ramp and then back off slowly while giving to pressure. Then, have them step in the trailer and slowly back off. Then, get them all the way in and have them back off. You may need to go for a short test ride around the block to see if this has all sunken into the horsey brain And, as always, have lots of treats!
You may have to repeat this a few times to make your point, but it should solve the problem! Good luck!