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Trailer Phobia

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  • Trailer Phobia

    My OTTB mare used to be really great about trailering. When I picked her up she got on the two horse, straight, stock sided trailer. She's ridden in my friend's enclosed two horse, straight, and on a more open stock riding loose.

    But somehow over the year that I couldn't ride her due to a joint issue she had, and then I got deployed and she wasn't trailered at all she has decided that all trailers are evil.

    On a non-show/trailering morning I've gotten her to stand for a few seconds inside the trailer. I've gotten her to stand and eat in the trailer with much getting on and getting off.

    She happily stands on the old stock training trailer I have out in the pasture. I've caught her resting inside and stomping flies.

    But if I ask her she does not want to get in. I have tried everything I can think of to try and get her to want to get in the trailer, nothing has worked.

    So anyone out there have or had a similiar situation? How did you get your horse to be okay with getting in and staying in the trailer?

    Eventing at Midnight Blog

    Rodan and Fields, Ask Me About it
    A Measure of Grace Blog

  • #2
    Is she AFRAID, or has she just decided that she'd rather not get on trailers any more, thankyouverymuch?

    If she hasn't BEEN on a trailer in ages, I very much doubt she has suddenly developed legitimate fear based on a bad experience. Much, MUCH more common would be her just deciding you really aren't the boss of her any more.

    A sad day for her, as she must be reminded that, in fact, you ARE.
    Click here before you buy.


    • #3
      I'd get the John Lyons Horse Loading video and actually train her to load. It will help to reinforce just who is in charge while you're doing it.


      • #4
        Yeah, if she's hanging out in a trailer on her own, her aversion isn't likely a phobia, it's an "Eff You, I don't feel like it."

        She just needs to be reminded that she doesn't get a vote.
        Full-time bargain hunter.


        • #5
          I would I agree -- it doesn't sound like she has any trailer issues at all. Rather she has decided to give you the horsey finger and do what SHE feels like thankyouverymuch. Time for a reminder that she is back to work and YOU are the decider of activities.
          Life doesn't have perfect footing.

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          We Are Flying Solo


          • #6
            She happily stands on the old stock training trailer I have out in the pasture. I've caught her resting inside and stomping flies.

            But if I ask her she does not want to get in.
            She won't load into the old stock training trailer when you ask her? or do you just mean, another more closed-in trailer?


            • #7
              With mine, we backed up to the barn to make a chute, then whacked him with a lunge whip until he went in, quickly put the ramp up, and made a big fuss over him and gave him lots of treats/ food. Then repeated, on a regular basis.

              He'll never be the kind of horse that leaps eagerly on as soon as you put the rope over his neck, but he's reasonably good.


              • #8
                I have one with a loading issue and it has taken rocket science to figure him out. His was trauma from the loading process at the track. It is more of a "let's do this, it will be fun!" approach for us. He would literally fight til death if forced. The patience of an oyster is required.
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                • #9
                  Sounds like she has your number for sure.

                  One of my TBs is not a good loader and does the death fight if you try and push him. It's kind of silly because he wants to get in the trailer. He gets really excited when you pull it up and he has to be restrained so I can pull it in the pasture to load him. Once the door is open he runs up, on his own, to get in, then he panics and runs backwards. *sigh*
                  One day I hooked the trailer to the truck, hooked the door open and left it all in the pasture with him, then went to hide in a place where he couldn't see me watching, but I could see him. After he went around the truck and bit everything he could and bent the windshield wipers, he started trying to work himself up to get in the trailer. At one point over the next hour and a half, he made it in with 3 legs before backing out, so I went out and walked in the trailer and he followed me inside. I had a friend shut the door and we took him for a ride and came back. He was loose in the trailer so when we returned I just opened the door, but he wouldn't come out. I had to get his halter and lead and put it on him, then he walked right out. He will always eventually get in the trailer, but as mentioned above, it just takes patience.

                  My guy is truly afraid though. When I got him off the track, I was told that he and another horse had been trapped in a 2 horse trailer with a hornet's nest and were stung numerous times, so I knew what I was getting into with him.
                  Rhode Islands are red;
                  North Hollands are blue.
                  Sorry my thoroughbreds
                  Stomped on your roo. Originally Posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' :


                  • Original Poster

                    The last time I was working with her before I broke my ankle I could get her to walk half way in to the training trailer with me. But if I put pressure on the halter her eyes would get huge and she'd toss her head and throw herself backwards.

                    I've tried getting a little rougher with her, reminding her with the tap or swat of a lunge whip that she needs to get in. I even had my husband try and load her and he's more agressive than I am. But the more aggresive with her you get the more panicked she becomes.

                    The truly ironic thing is I have a barely broke 3yr old who taught himself to trailer load to the point that he will go on to any trailer as long as there is some sort of food incentive offered. When we picked him up as a yearling it took us an hour and a half to get him in the trailer. Now he's the first one in to investigate the trailer.

                    And to my knowledge she's never had a bad trailer experience. I think she's just being her Queenly self who has deemed it beneath her to step on to the trailer when I ask. So how do you get a horse that panicks if you pressure her to want to get in?
                    Eventing at Midnight Blog

                    Rodan and Fields, Ask Me About it
                    A Measure of Grace Blog


                    • Original Poster

                      Originally posted by moonriverfarm View Post
                      I have one with a loading issue and it has taken rocket science to figure him out. His was trauma from the loading process at the track. It is more of a "let's do this, it will be fun!" approach for us. He would literally fight til death if forced. The patience of an oyster is required.
                      How did you make it a fun experience for him?
                      Eventing at Midnight Blog

                      Rodan and Fields, Ask Me About it
                      A Measure of Grace Blog


                      • #12
                        My friend is a trainer who uses natural horsemanship methods in her groundwork. Her horses, my horse, and just about any horse she's worked with will self load. Do you know of any reputable professionals who could help you out with this? I wouldn't go the "beat them on the trailer then give them treats" route. It might get the job done, but it's not going to make trailer loading very pleasant for you or the horse.
                        The big guy: Lincoln

                        Southern Maryland Equestrian


                        • #13
                          Well, I think you're doing a good job of training her to not load by not pushing her when she's "aggressive" If she pulls back and rolls her eyes and you drop the rope and pet her then she can put it together real fast. So now when you push she has to up the drama a bit.

                          It's hard to teach without being there, but you need someone who can be aggressive and push her to load while at the same time recognize when she gives and drop the pressure. You don't want to beat her on, but insisting that she mind her manners and behave is different.


                          • #14
                            If her eyes get big and she makes a fuss and then you quit, she wins.

                            A truly panicked horse has a REASON to be panicked. She doesn't, but it sounds like she has you convinced her poor self will fall to pieces if you get after her.

                            One member of the team--the human--has to call the shots. This is an obedience problem, possibly a leading problem, but not a "trailer loading" problem. It can be fixed in numerous ways, but escalating aggression and using whips to beat them on is one of the worst. It is a job for a tactful person who understands when to apply pressure and when to relent, not for one who is in a hurry or has an emotional investment in why Horsey won't load "for them".

                            IME getting the owner and/or the owner's mother to go sit down somewhere at least 50 feet from the trailer is the fastest and easiest way to get a horse to load.
                            Click here before you buy.


                            • #15
                              just to throw in another angle....

                              Could it be her injury causing the trailering issue? The reason I ask this is I had a similar problem with my horse- evented him all over the place, never had any trailer issues, he was so easy to load. Then he injured his stifle, and hung out at the farm for 2 years while I rehabbed him. Then I went to college and the next year brought him up with me. He then started fighting with me to get on the trailer. It would take an hour easy to load him when it use to take .5 seconds. I started having phobias that maybe it was my driving, but couldn't figure out what I was doing wrong (it wasn't my driving)

                              I was still riding him, jumping 2'9, schooling 2nd level dressage, even took him hunting, until January when he went lame again. I took him to the vet and he determined that my horse had a neurological problem- after months of tests we found the source- his cervical vertebrae were pinching his spinal cord causing him to be unsure of where his hind feet were. I had this horse 5 years at this point and he'd never shown neurological signs before. But the injury to the vertebrae most likely happened before I bought him and over time it got worse. The time off he had from the stifle injury was the start of the downward spiral that lead to his retirement. And because he was starting to lose his balance trailering was extremely scary for him.

                              Hopefully your horse is just giving you the finger and decided that trailering isn't fun anymore, but it might be worth keeping an eye on her for a possibly other cause (the bouncing from the road could be causing her joint to hurt??). I honestly had no idea that my horse had a neurological problem and neither did the vet (who is a well known and respected vet) until that day. As the saying goes- don't look for zebras when you hear hoof beats, but in my horse's case it was a zebra that went galloping by!
                              proud owner of a very pretty but completely useless horse (and one useful horse!)

                              Horse Thoughts


                              • Original Poster

                                [QUOTE=besum1;5754763]just to throw in another angle....

                                No her joint issue was related to the fact that the previous owner failed to mention, and I didn't think to ask if the mare was on a joint supplement when I got her. She was, and when she stopped getting it and it worked its way out of her system she went lame on her right rear leg, though the issue was actually in her right rear hock.

                                I put her on an oral joint supplement and now she's very sound. I don't think it's a physical issue though I think its an angle that while not right for my case might be a possibility for other horses when no other reason presents. I also think that most people would over look a physical issue.

                                I think most of it is probably a her vs me issue that we will eventually come to terms with. I just wanted perspective from other people. I really can't do anything with her right now other than hobble to the gate and pet her, groom her once in awhile, and on rare occasions with my husband as back up I get to do am or pm feed. I broke my ankle in two places back in May, and still making the long road back to being able to ride.

                                Thanks everybody for the advice, when I'm up to it I'll let you guys know how it goes.

                                Eventing at Midnight Blog

                                Rodan and Fields, Ask Me About it
                                A Measure of Grace Blog


                                • #17
                                  yow, sounds like you are way more hurt than your horse!

                                  My mare was well-trained to self-load when I bought her, but I didn't know it. She wasn't thrilled about being led onto a trailer, and then one terrible experience took her from cooperative to not wanting to get within 50 feet of a trailer. We gradually worked through it, using her breeders' exact protocol and commands for self-loading and by the time she went lame (early 2010) she was 90% good about self-loading.

                                  And then she went lame and basically went over a year without getting on a trailer, being babied through a long, painful rehab. I wonder if your mare picked up a fondness for being babied as mine did; mine is now... well, like a yo-yo, she'll go in but she won't *stay* in. She clearly knows the routine but she has a big case of "Do I Hafta?" in her brain. It's getting better, so OP, I wish you the best of luck with her, and don't push yourself too much in the meantime.

                                  (Side note: I do wish breeders/young horse raisers would put together a written or maybe even video manual of "this is how we do tasks X Y and Z." )
                                  You have to have experiences to gain experience.

                                  1998 Morgan mare Mythic Feronia "More Valley Girl Than Girl Scout!"


                                  • #18
                                    what worked for me....

                                    obviously take this with a grain of salt, I'm just a faceless internet person. But for teaching to self load (I didn't have a problem loader, just a horse with an opinion... no knock down drag out fights or trauma involved) I would first teach him a cue for "Walk Fwd now" Leading him around the pasture, ring, wherever, and stop. ask to walk fwd, if no response tap with dressage whip on top of croup. Light tap, mosquito bugging you kind of a tap. If I get no walk the tap keeps a tapping and can get more strong.... no whipping... so when horse understands the cue we go to the trailer. I ask to walk fwd if horse stops I tap... annoying taps not with force... I just annoy him towards the trailer.... if that sucker backs up I back him and back him, and back some more making sure that he backs up straight until he understands that backing is work, easer to walk fwd. I can reward with a carrott piece at this point for a fwd walk, reinforce that fwd is fun, but backing is work.. not pain, but work. Eventually horse figures out that its easier to go fwd onto the trailer. Thre will be a fair ammount of back and forth movement, just be patient and never loose your temper. Make sure you've eaten, hydrated, pee'd and doen what ever it is that you need to make sure you are in a nice calm focused state of mind... once you start its important to stay the course til you're on the trailer for whatever ammount of time you've set for your achievable goal... that might be a 3 second or 3 minutes or 30 minutes with grain for dinner.

                                    Again I just had an opioniated horse and a lot of time on my hands. He was never dangerous, crazy or frightened, just opinioated.

                                    only other thing I had to do was to correct his flying back off the trailer at the speed of light manuever... nice big heafty jockey bat hard on the butt when he started back. Stopped that nasty habit pretty quick. If I undo the butt bar you will stand until I give you the cue that it's ok to back off slowly.


                                    • #19
                                      I just went and picked up a horse who would reportedly walk up to the trailer, say Eff you, and then have a FIGHT TO THE DEATH reaction to any attempt to "make" him get on the trailer. (which I believe, because that is his reaction to ANYTHING he doesn't want to do, including picking up his feet for trimming when I started working on him!) It apparently took two tranquilizers and a blindfold to get him on the trailer when these people bought him from the home where he, like your horse, had been just chillin' out doing Whatever The Heck He Wanted in a field.

                                      I just put a longe line with a shank on him (only used the longe line instead of a lead because his reaction to anything he doesn't want to do is rearing and striking, so I needed enough rope to not get nailed) and carried a dressage whip. Spent a couple minutes on "you will go forward when I say"--good ground manners make a BIG difference. Walked up to the trailer (big open slant). He stopped and I started tapping him on the hind end. He reared and struck and got shanked HARD and whacked HARD on the butt (aggression toward humans is a NO NO). He kicked in response to getting whacked and got whacked harder (see: aggression) which he jumped away from instead of kicking. Went back to standing in the trailer doorway and tapping. He tried rearing and striking and kicking a few more times and realized quickly it wasn't getting him anywhere. Never pulled him forward using the lead.... just held him in the area behind the trailer and kept tapping. If he went backward I went with him and drove him forward with the whip. If he stepped forward, or even rocked his weight forward, or picked up his foot like he was THINKING about it, stopped tapping. Stood still or backed up, tap tap tap. Owners were astounded. I was pretty shocked too, I had blocked out my ENTIRE day to load him (this is IMPORTANT!!! You cannot have a deadline when working with a problem loader!!! If you quit because you have an appt., they WIN, again!)

                                      Usually nothing more than tapping is required, but this particular horse has been pulling the rear-and-strike card for a LONG time and that nonsense needs to stop......

                                      I have loaded a LOT of problem loaders with this method. If they refuse to go NEAR the trailer (REALLY bad ground manners), longeing them at each refusal to move is useful. Going to the trailer = not having to work. Stepping toward the trailer = no annoying tapping. Etc. etc.

                                      Third Charm Event Team


                                      • #20
                                        hah, yeah the annoy them into the the trailer technique was what I was trying to describe in my previous post. It does really work. your post made more sense esp for a horse that had such a strong reaction, After reading your post it made me think of mine.... and now I could see how my use of backing "could" get you into trouble if you had a horse with any inclination to rear. which I didn't have any issue with, but that was one horse, one situation. every horse and situation is unique, and I was glad that you posted your response.


                                        Originally posted by ThirdCharm View Post
                                        Usually nothing more than tapping is required, but this particular horse has been pulling the rear-and-strike card for a LONG time and that nonsense needs to stop......

                                        I have loaded a LOT of problem loaders with this method. If they refuse to go NEAR the trailer (REALLY bad ground manners), longeing them at each refusal to move is useful. Going to the trailer = not having to work. Stepping toward the trailer = no annoying tapping. Etc. etc.