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Teaching a yearling to back out of trailer

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  • Teaching a yearling to back out of trailer

    Tips/tricks needed! My yearling will get in the trailer but hates getting out backwards. She will lock her legs and the only way to get her out is to either turn her around (did this twice) or basically pull/push her out. I have a trainer working on it once a week but after three sessions it isn't going very well. She isn't scared of the trailer but pretty much refuses to back out unless forced physically

  • #2
    If she gets on good, and off good...well..

    Since she's small, and can turn around, she does. Work on her backing skills on the ground until you can back her quite a way, anywhere, any time. At some point, she'll likely be too big to turn around (although I have had several really big horses who choose to fold up like Gumby and walk out forward.) As long as they load good and come off good, I truly could care less which way that happens. In my world, if you are willing to get in the little metal box, and get out when we get where we're going, it's all good, I'm not going to sweat the small stuff.

    You didn't say if you have a ramp or a step up, with a step up, I actually prefer it if the horse turns around and steps down, much less scary.


    • Original Poster

      It's a step down. I don't mind them turning around except it'll be much harder to teach when she is older and weighs more. My trainer says it is much more dangerous for them to walk out because they tend to jump or land hard. To be honest, I'd rather turn her around than deal with this. This seems to be causing all sorts of trauma to me and her!! But I do eventually want her to back out.


      • #4
        Obvious questions: are you letting her look behind her to see where the edge of the trailer is, and are you using verbal cues to distinguish between when there is room to keep moving backwards and when she needs to step down (I use "back" and "step" because I am wholly unimaginative)?

        If there is a ledge/step anywhere on the property, you can practice the back/step cues there.
        She Gets Lost


        • #5
          I would make sure the edge of your trailer is padded or will otherwise prevent a bad laceration if she backs out in a panic. Then, I'd work with her on the ground and in the open. Practice backing her in a straight line and she should get lots of rewards. Then, progress to backing her over a cavaletti in the arena or other soft ground (you can use a smooth log, too). You can teach her a verbal cue, like "slow" to tell her to go slow and cautiously. Keep her lead loose and let her pick her way over.

          Once the idea of backing over something isn't scary at all and she is doing it with appropriate caution, take her back to the trailer and give yourself all the time she needs. Load her and relax. Let her pick the time to back out. Gently discourage her from turning but don't fight her. Praise for every movement backwards, even leaning back. Don't hold her tight. Give her her head and but shorten only to her from turning, then loosen back up. Keep everything low key and be prepared to move with her or even let go so she doesn't panic and rear. That's where all the ground work pays off. Once she is all the way out, give her some time to relax and then try again, if she's ready. If she does well but seems nervous, let her think about it overnight and practice again the next day. Don't push her. Quit when she shows any slight improvement. She's a baby and what you teach her slowly and carefully will be with her for life.
          “Pray, hope, and don't worry.”

          St. Padre Pio


          • #6
            Just keep practicing. I taught my two year old to load and unload in a straight load step up last summer, and she has been hauled several times since. She is just now getting to the point where she really *understands* the backing up and stepping down process and is considering backing up with a pull on the tail and a verbal command. I could have gotten there a lot faster with more practice, but we were able to get her on and off and she wasn't uncomfortable with the process, so I let it be. As a stop gap, I just tossed the lead rope over her back and held it at the back of the trailer, encouraging her to back up with the signal on her halter.

            I suppose you could also work on a solid response to a back command and a tail pull on the ground, as it would transfer to the trailer.

            Also be sure that you use a separate command for the step down part. I really think it helps them know when to expect the drop. I use "back, back, back" to get them to the edge then "STEP, STEP" when they need to step down.


            • #7
              Make sure she backs confidently on the ground - with you in front, you at her shoulder, you near her butt (I have my horses self load/unload so backing with me behind them is very important). Do this along a fence so she must stay straight. Then add a pole behind that she has to back over. Teach her "step" to pick her feet up and over the pole. Have her partly load (front feet only) and then back down. Try little things like this before asking for a full back out.
              Crayola Posse - Pine Green
              Whinnie Pine (June 4, 1977 - April 29, 2008)
              Autumn Caper (April 27, 1989 - May 24, 2015)
              Murphy (April 28, 1994 - May 5, 2017)


              • Original Poster

                Great ideas! I will try the backing over a pole. She does back very well on the ground and we practice all the time. It's the step down that freaks her out. I do give her a different cue to step down but it never seems to work because she just won't step out. She pushes her way further back in. The backing over a pole is a great idea!

                Oh and I do let her turn her head to look. She knows its there. I can understand how scary it must be!


                • #9
                  had a horse like this before. She loaded great and hauled great and unloaded great with a ramp. One day i had to haul her with a step up and once we got to our destination she refused to come out. we had to take out partition to get her out. Even tho she could see behind her she would try to step down and when she felt no ground she would not back out.
                  What worked for me was i would take her up to the step up trailer and let her put her front feet and back her right back out before she put her back feet in. I did this a few times for a few days in a row until she really understood the ground was there. Then after a few days i got all 4 feet in and right away backed her out while it was fresh in her mind the ground was there. I did this a few more times and never had a problem with her unloading from a step up again.


                  • #10
                    I got a wide stock trailer with lots of room to turn around to solve this issue after hauling one too many big young horses that would NOT back off... Much safer to turn them around inside and walk out frontwards.


                    • #11
                      I have a slant and like my horses to be able to unload frontwards and backwards.

                      When I am training them to back off, I say "back" while they are backing up, then pause/stop them before they step down. I then say "step down" and back them up.

                      I find that pausing before the world drops out from under their feet helps with the anxiety, personally. YMMV.

                      I do most often turn them around - but all of them will also back off if required.


                      • #12
                        These are great suggestions so far. The ground work is a must to install the backing before asking for it in a stressful situation.

                        One thing that helped my horse become comfortable with the step down:
                        Once the hind legs are off, stop the horse, then bring them back into the trailer. Basically, have the hind legs only step up and down a gazillion times until they are totally bored with it and could do it in their sleep.

                        Then go in and out of the trailer completeley but not up too far, rinse and repeat.

                        The final test will be if they can go all the way into the front of the trailer (slant load's) and back out. I've found the anticipation of the drop is just as much of a challenge.


                        • #13
                          In one of his books, Mark Rashid tell of a horse that wouldn't back out of a trailer, but loaded willingly. His feeling was it had just not been "taught" to back out. So he led it up, let it put one foot in, then backed it out. Then two feet, back out; then two feet and half the body, back out; then finally entire horse, then back out (Repeating stages as necessary). This assumes this horse will back willingly under ordinary circumstances, of course.


                          • #14
                            I learned an old trick if it is a two horse straight load. If you take a long lead rope and put it on her left side if she is on the left...between the horse and the outside wall so to speak. Then go to the back of the trailer and gently pull. This way they can't get their head around to the center and will usually back right on out. I do not like to have one come out forward and always make them back out. Once at a farm I worked on, they were trying to get a couple of 2 year olds out of a straight load trailer. The "trainer" was trying everything they could. I tried this trick and it worked. The only problem was the owner of the farm was there at this point and the trainer thought I had made her look bad....it does work.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Sandy M View Post
                              In one of his books, Mark Rashid tell of a horse that wouldn't back out of a trailer, but loaded willingly. His feeling was it had just not been "taught" to back out. So he led it up, let it put one foot in, then backed it out. Then two feet, back out; then two feet and half the body, back out; then finally entire horse, then back out (Repeating stages as necessary). This assumes this horse will back willingly under ordinary circumstances, of course.
                              This. Teach him to lead and back willingly on a lead rope.