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Tips for getting mare to back out of trailer SLOWLY???

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  • Tips for getting mare to back out of trailer SLOWLY???

    We have a 2 horse straight haul trailer. My hubby's draft/warmblood mare bolts out backwards like a bat out of hell when we unload her. Any tricks to get her to slow down? I know that cowboys in the area say to back onto a pond and let her go but I am not into doing that. Tips please???

  • #2
    That's a tough one, and there is not (IME) one simple trick or method. I think it all comes down to how much she's listening to YOU instead of being focused on getting the H*** off the trailer.

    One of mine likes to rush off, and will bash his rump against the butt bar repeatedly, which I hate and consider a terrible habit. We're working on it--I am getting him used to waiting for me to give him a very definite "OK" via voice command AND a tug on the tail (gently!) to let him know it's OK to step back and off. If he's ramming the butt bar, I give him a tap on the hocks and scold him verbally. If he gets upset, I just wait until he settles. (he's a very good shipper, not scared, this is just a rude habit) Rinse, repeat, ad nauseam. If, once I've dropped the butt bar he then chooses to rush off I load him right back on and we repeat the exercise.

    It's helping, but still is something he tends to want to do and if I don't take the time to insist he use his manners it undoes a lot of the teaching in a hurry!

    I load/unload by myself 95% of the time so it's a bit of a pain, but even more important that the bad habit get unlearned!

    I know that cowboys in the area say to back onto a pond and let her go but I am not into doing that
    Good lord, way to use fear and danger as a teaching method!
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    • Original Poster

      Thanks deltawave. Good idea about re-loading and trying again until she can disembark like a lady! I'm thinking maybe if I'm up front with something totally delicious, like a carrot, and we slowly disembark together, that might work too. Will maybe have a few practice days when it's not so icy out


      • #4
        I have a slant and I turn my gelding around to face out before someone else opens the doors - he likes to rush off too. We just need more practice. He's horrible at trailering, gets all lathered up, kicks, the whole nine yards. I can't figure out how to load or unload all by myself, always need someone else to help with the doors.

        I like the idea of making him load again if he rushes.
        What's wrong with you?? Your cheese done slid off its cracker?!?!


        • #5
          One reason horses rush off is because of fear. It is difficult for them to see where the are going. Some even refuse to get off. The problem is they can't see the ramp or step because their butt is in the way. I teach my horses to lower their heads way down so they can see the ramp in between their hind legs.

          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. I eat some, give them some, put lots of carrots on the floor so they put their head down to eat them. The idea is to get really relaxed. I usually take all the partitions out of my trailer so I can walk them in, turn them around and lead them out frontwards--doing lots of halts and walk ons. 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. Then I put some chopped up carrots in a tub and put it on the floor. It helps if they are hungry when you start. Let them eat out of the tub on the floor, then scooch the tub back so they have to step back to continue eating. You can also hold it to do this but it is hard to hold the lead to.

          One other thing is if you have two horses is to ask the rusher to get off first, not after her buddy has gotten off and walked away. Or you can get the buddy off and bring him around to the side door of the rusher so she knows where he is and isn't rushing off to find him.

          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!


          • #6
            With my guy, when he'd race backwards out of the trailer (straight load, step down), I finally wised up and just loaded him right back in the trailer. Asked him nicely to back out, loaded him again. I swear one night he loaded at least 20 times before he finally got it. We had the one big lesson, and then I made sure to reinforce it any time he came out even just a little too quick.


            • #7
              Take a day when you have time and load and unload her about a thousand times over and over and over again.


              • #8
                Teaching them to step up and back one step at a time can also aid. Start OFF the trailer until you can control the feet reliably. Practice backing over poles, off little drops or over anything and everything that is odd looking at your farm.

                Then bring in the trailer and ask for *one* foot on. Pause, praise, and ask for one step back. Continue until the horse is reliably stepping one foot on and waiting until you ask for the step back, and then work up to two feet on, waiting for the cue to back and backing in a controlled manner. And on up to all four feet.

                I've found backing very quickly to be an evasion, just like refusing to load. Sometimes you've got to go back to beginning and reteach loading like you would to a totally green horse to solve the problem.


                • #9
                  A good solution is to teach them to step down carefully one foot at a time. The way you accomplish this is basically by doing the hokey pokey and loading one foot at at time and unloading it each time too.

                  So for instance, start with RF, have them take one step on the trailer, then back off. Rinse and repeat the one foot until everyone is bored out of their skulls. Then do both fronts on, both fronts off, over and over and over again. Its important to repeat this until you're both completely bored about this because the hind legs get exciting so if you go into it all blasé you'll have an easier time of it.

                  When you get to the hinds its especially important to load only one hind at a time. This one foot stepping up and down over and over is what breaks the habit of racing back. When you're both thoroughly consumed by boredom with getting all 3 feet on the trailer and then back off again one step at at time, then do all 4 with the emphasis on one foot at a time.
                  Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


                  • #10
                    In hand, teach your horse "whoa" and "back". Practice this. Then incorporate what candyappy and simkie offered. The horse must respect you and trust you.

                    My small mare started scooting out of the trailer as soon as I would open the slant divider and step up to her head. Bad deal and dangerous. Now when I open the divider I remind her with "whoa" and she stands there stock still. Then I tell her "back". Sometimes if she gets rushed I'll immediately reload her and redo the exit, making her "whoa" once or twice and WAIT before she steps down. Sometimes after one "back" I will make her walk forward and WAIT to be told "back" again. The key is the horse is paying attention to you.

                    Good luck, it can be frustrating but it is fixable!


                    • #11
                      What simkie and Buck22 said...one foot on and off at a time. And take a day where there is no rush to be anywhere or do anything. Actually take as many days as you can without actually going anywhere. So many trailering issues come from people being more concerned about the show or other fun event they are desperately trying to get to than the trailering process itself. Remember to keep calm yourself. I have seen some people who always seemed to have horses explode off the ramp, somehow they were amping up the horses to do so.


                      • #12
                        My mare is learning to not rush. I make her load up again if she does. However, one reason I found that she was getting agitated and rushing is that she was stepping on her tail! I now knot it up, and that really makes a difference. See if there is a reason they are rushing off besides bad manners...


                        • Original Poster

                          Thanks for the advice everyone!

                          She was very reluctant to load when we first got her last spring. She is a very big girl and I know that she was squeezed into a trailer that was way too small for her before we got her. We would do what you suggest Pally - in the summer we would leave our (x-large) trailer hooked up and routinely load the horses in and have them eat a snack in there and then unload without having gone anywhere. She now loads great; time to work on getting off nicely. She is very calm by nature and doesn't seem nervous in the trailer, but she is is a mare with a mind of her own and when she wants off, she wants off NOW. Will work with her more as soon as the ice thaws.

                          Good tip about the tail Jackie!


                          • Original Poster

                            This is how calm she is - she let me roll around on her in a fancy dress for our engagement shoot


                            She doesn't look as big as she is in this pic. It's decieving because my hubby is almost 7'!!!


                            • #15
                              Dealing with this right now with a 17hh mare. She just arrived but her owner explained that she smashed her head backing off a big 3 horse slant w/a ramp - ended up with stitches.

                              We have an oversize 2 horse straight load w/ramp and are working on self load/unload at a ssslllloooowwww pace. Keeping her focused on me and what she's being asked to do when going backwards is working great thus far. The big test will come when she's asked to back off in a new place where there's LOTS of distractions...pockets full of carrots...


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by bucksnort View Post
                                This is how calm she is - she let me roll around on her in a fancy dress for our engagement shoot


                                She doesn't look as big as she is in this pic. It's decieving because my hubby is almost 7'!!!
                                Love the photo!!


                                • #17
                                  I'm surprised some of you let the horse turn around. I think it's dangerous to the horse. And I could never be sure I wouldn't end up in a narrower trailer.



                                  • #18
                                    I doubt people are letting horses turn around in too-narrow trailers. Most slants are plenty wide enough for an average-sized horse to turn around, and if the 2nd best option is a green or anxious horse shooting backwards, well, I'd turn them around, too, in a pinch.

                                    could never be sure I wouldn't end up in a narrower trailer.
                                    I am pretty sure I can't think of a plausible circumstance where my horse would end up in a trailer I had no intention of putting it on.
                                    Click here before you buy.


                                    • #19
                                      OP has a 2-horse straight load and a big horse. That horse just needs to learn to back. Even people with trailers occasionally need or want a ride on a different trailer. I don't have a trailer so I emphasize training that will protect us in as many situations as possible: step-up, ramp, 2-horse straight or 3-horse slant. It's part of her insurance policy.


                                      • #20
                                        No disagreement there, the horse needs to learn (and the OP is working on it) but turning a horse and leading it off a slant is a very easy thing for most animals and is one of the things a well-travelled horse should also be able to cope with.
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