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Trailering Question - spoiled horses or crap trailer?

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  • Trailering Question - spoiled horses or crap trailer?

    I'm new to trailering my horses myself. I bought a 1996 Sundowner Sportman 2 horse straight load b/c it was a good price and I didn't foresee a lot of trailering.

    Two of my horses have always trailered well in my trainer's large slant loads. They did fine the first couple times with my trailer, now one has become difficult to load and one is becoming almost impossible to load. My daughter has a weekly lesson we need to trailer in to.

    I've noticed after a short haul to the vet my senior mare's back legs were trembling. One unloaded and back in the pasture it took her about 10 minutes to work it out. There was only one red light between my house and the vet - so not a lot of start/stop. After a 45 minute haul my younger horse had the same issue, but not as bad.

    I'm thinking my driving sucks or the trailer sucks and they're having a hard time balancing. I do drive very slow and careful. The trailer was serviced when I bought it 2 years ago and it has new tires. We've used it 10 times max. Is there some sort of service it may need?

    I'm not sure if there's an issue with the trailer or if my horses just have a good bluff in on me. I have considered a new trailer just b/c the current one is very awkward to load - you have to have one person up front to tie the horse thru the front window and one in the back to do the butt bar. It's also borderline too short for my gelding.

    Any ideas? Suggestions?

  • #2
    I don't think horses are bluffing with trembling back legs. Not sure what kind of service could fix your horses not being comfortable in it.

    Can you borrow a different trailer to see how they haul in it?


    • #3
      Do you check the tire pressure every single time you trailer? A trailer that has low pressure all around or one corner that is low can be a very challenging ride for the horse.

      If you do, then I'd get someone who is very experienced to ride along with you and critique your driving - maybe you are accelerating before the trailer is completely straight?


      • #4
        Does the partition in the trailer go all the way to the ground? Some horses have a very difficult time if they can't spread their legs wide to balance. Most slant loads have a partition that doesn't go to the floor. If this is the case swing the partition over to give her extra space or modify your partition.
        Entropy Farm
        Home of Roc USA
        I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.


        • Original Poster

          They do fine in my trainer's Sundowner 2 horse Charter and the Sundowner 4 horse. That's why I'm inclined to think it's the trailer or my driving, but my trainer has also told me in the past I'm not firm enough - so I'm not sure how to go about getting to the root of the issue.

          I don't check the tire pressure. I will do so when I get home. That's a good idea to find someone to do a ride along.


          • Original Poster

            The partition doesn't go to the ground - but it has to be closed to latch the butt bar.


            • #7
              I'm not sure. I will say pulling horses easily is an art and takes practice. Maybe have the trainer ride with you and she can maybe help to see if there is something in the driving that is causing them to have a harder time balancing and wearing themselves out when they are being hauled.

              ETA. Maybe even have your trainer haul them in your trailer to see if that makes a difference.
              Horses aren't our whole life, but makes our life whole


              • #8
                Definitely could be your driving. My neighbor went thru this. I began going to the same competitions as he did and we would caravan together. After I followed him one time I realized that he just took the curves too fast and would accelerate and brake while turning. Once I got him to slow down and do one thing at a time his horses began to load and ride better.

                Another issue is horses used to slant loads (where they can wedge into a corner with their butts and lean against the partition) often have to learn how to stand up in a straight load.

                ALWAYS put bedding in the back half of the stalls to absorb moisture from manure and urine. Wet mats are like ice. Horses in straight loads can easily loose their hind feet and slip or even sit. You may never even know it's happening but you'll find horses scared to death and maybe shaking in fear.



                • #9
                  The driver can make all the difference when it comes to a comfy ride for the horses. Braking a little too fast or taking off a little too fast can really make for a rough ride when you think about it. The horses can not see what you are about to do and they can only react to the sudden change.


                  • Original Poster

                    Originally posted by chicamuxen1 View Post
                    Definitely could be your driving. My neighbor went thru this. I began going to the same competitions as he did and we would caravan together. After I followed him one time I realized that he just took the curves too fast and would accelerate and brake while turning. Once I got him to slow down and do one thing at a time his horses began to load and ride better.

                    Another issue is horses used to slant loads (where they can wedge into a corner with their butts and lean against the partition) often have to learn how to stand up in a straight load.

                    ALWAYS put bedding in the back half of the stalls to absorb moisture from manure and urine. Wet mats are like ice. Horses in straight loads can easily loose their hind feet and slip or even sit. You may never even know it's happening but you'll find horses scared to death and maybe shaking in fear.

                    The braking while turning - I bet I do this. I know I probably do this. And I have mats so I didn't think to put shavings down.

                    Ugh. I thought I was being so careful.


                    • #11
                      I do not put shavings/sawdust in my trailer. Not all mats are the same. If yours do get slippery then sure put shavings down.


                      • Original Poster

                        If anyone can offer any do's/don'ts that may help my driving and make it easier on the horses please feel free to post.


                        • #13
                          Also check and make sure there are no bug nests in the trailer.

                          A friend had a similar problem and discovered there were some kind of bugs (sorry, don't remember what kind) that had taken up residence and freaked her horses out.

                          Of course, I also have another friend that had the same experience with her horses. When another friend followed her somewhere she discovered that she was a TERRIBLE driver! Not saying you are terrible, but that could have something to do with it.

                          Good luck sorting it all out.
                          Kanoe Godby
                          See, I was raised by wolves and am really behind the 8-ball on diplomatic issue resolution.


                          • #14
                            That is an excellent point, CDE. Bees love to move into horse trailers.


                            • #15
                              I like the phrase "drive like you're holding a glass of champagne and you don't want to spill one drop." I've seen horses that are good in the trailer become very reluctant to load after a couple of rides with a less careful driver.

                              My very smart and very dominant mare, who was trained to self-load, had a fit after I bought a used trailer... She would NOT load for me so I handed her over to a more experienced person to load, who had a huge fight with her... got very ugly, but the mare got on eventually. I got a lot of "oh you're such a wimp, she has your number blah blah blah" over that.

                              A few months later -- and with mare still not loading willingly onto that trailer, I came into some money and decided to trade it in for something new, light and airy (a Hawk 2H straight-load BP, if you're curious.) When I took the old one to trade it in, the dealer found some things wrong with it that could have caused a catastrophic failure at any time... My SMART mare was trying to tell me something, I think. It still took some doing to turn her back into a good loader, but I should have listened to her.

                              So I'd say get the trailer checked first (just like, if you have a horse whose behavior changes radically, you usually get the vet to see it before implementing a training program.)

                              Good luck!
                              You have to have experiences to gain experience.

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


                              • #16
                                May I just commend you for considering that it IS your driving? A lot of people refuse to believe that it is their driving that is making the horses not want to get into the trailer.


                                • #17
                                  Might be you, might not, but...

                                  I had a friend with a suitable trailer for her horse. As a driver, frankly, she sucked. Her horse Would NOT Load on any trailer "if" she saw or heard her owner prior to loading.

                                  I or anyone else could load her on her trailer or any other as long as she didn't see her owner til we got where we were going.

                                  Your trailer may also seem like a little metal box after your trainer's trailer.

                                  Get help before it gets worse. Some horses just don't like loading because, hey, I get in that little metal box and shaken around, then when we get where we're going I have to WORK.

                                  My previous horse went to a new owner because sometimes, he just wouldn't play.

                                  my best show horse ever would have leapt into the back of a station wagon just to go.


                                  • #18
                                    Two other things to consider.

                                    1. Is the trailer riding level? If it's tipped forward or back then it's very uncomfortable for the horses. Easy fix by getting a hitch and ball the right length.

                                    2. Check the electrics. It's not unheard of for faulty wiring to cause the horse in the trailer to get an intermittent shock.


                                    • #19
                                      I would also have someone check the stability of the floor - is anything wearing thin, is the floor still firmly attached to the support beams? It may feel fine to you but at their much higher weight your horses might feel something "squishy" that is unnerving. I think I remember that some years of Sundowner models had metal corrosion problems with the trailers that combined steel and aluminum. Yours may not be in that group but it would be worth a check from underneath, I think. Just a thought...

                                      And another thing, one horse acting strange could just be an issue with the horse but two previously good loaders acting weird makes me think there could really be something else going on. That is, if it's not your driving... ;-)
                                      It's just grass and water till it hits the ground.


                                      • Original Poster

                                        It's really out of character for my guy to be a jerk about anything so there really has to be something going on.

                                        I'll def. take the trailer in for a check up. I have checked for obvious flooring problems, wasps, etc but who knows? I'm no professional.

                                        I really would like to replace it anyway.....but the problem needs to get solved b/f I end up with a couple ruined horses.