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The Great Trailer loading drama....

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  • #21
    The best advice my MIL ever gave me was to never let someone help you when you were trying to load a difficult horse.


    • #22
      My first mare had been (we're pretty sure) in a trailer wreck before we bought her. She would load fine in a stock trailer, but not a two-horse straight load. We spent AGES (read YEARS) working with her on loading. At shows, we created chutes. At home, she ate her grain in the trailer. Everyone learned pretty darn quick just to stand back and let me work with her, because getting behind her and trying to make her get in only prolonged the process by another hour or two. And as a shy teen, it made me grow a backbone and learn to stand up to macho men who wanted to pick her up and stuff her in for me!

      So unless the horse is being dangerous or the person is losing their temper, I mind my own business. I may ask if there's anything I can do to help, but if everything looks okay, I assume the person knows what they're doing and has done this before.


      • #23
        Saje, that is actually the method that my neighbor who is a trainer and now does horse transport (which he also did as a young man) uses. He taught my racehorse trainer husband this method and I love it - no pushing and pressuring to get the horse on the trailer. The key is to keep the horse's attention while letting them move around and find their own way. He and we do use a long stick (basically a longe whip without the cord on it) to tap the horse on the hip if the horse is not making progress, but it is more to annoy and focus than to hit with. Lots of people use this method, but it was pretty scarce a few years ago - especially in racing. I've seen my neighbor use this for a 10 month old rescue filly that had never been handled at all and that could not be loaded to go to her new home - took about 30 minutes but she walked in and out several times and that was after the previous folks had her all worked up. It takes some feel and finesse to get used to when to push and when to wait, but is so much better than the drama we used to have when we HAD to get a horse loaded that had not been trained to load. I always hated pushing a horse in and having a bunch of people all clucking and waving brooms etc. The best thing about this method is that the horse loads so much more easily the next time. I know not all horses are that easily fixed, but in general for horses that have never loaded or load infrequently, this is so non-stress for them and for the people loading/watching.

        One funny thing. I do find that people who are not familiar with this and use traditional methods to load actually get UPSET and want to get behind the horse and cluck or even just pressure with their body language. Drives my neighbor nuts as the key is to NOT pressure the horse in or make it feel trapped. The horse is allowed to go in and come right back out at it's own pace. We were at a sale and had bought a yearling colt. When we went to leave, my neighbor did the transport and the colt had only been loaded the once to come to the sale, so was understandably nervous about loading. The groom that was there just could not stop herself from "helping" even after we kindly asked her to let us load him. It wasn't a time issue, as it was the end of the day and they could have left us there if they needed to leave - we were out of the way and now owned the horse. He loaded easliy once she got out of the way, but even my husband had a REALLY hard time the first time my neighbor did this with one of our TB babies. He kept getting behind the horse and my neighbor kept having to ask him to move to the front of the trailer.

        My take on it is to leave it unless someone asks for help or there is abuse going on.


        • #24
          Originally posted by carolprudm View Post
          By Jan Dickerson? I had that book, lent it out and never got it back. Her other book "Make the Most of your Horse" is also outstanding IMHO she was under appreciated https://www.chronofhorse.com/article/col-jan-dickerson
          Yep, that's the one. Best common sense training book I've ever read. The woman was a genius. It's still available on Amazon if you need a replacement!

          Funny side note: I used to review books for Library Journal and did horse and computer books. Got a horse book to review that sounded eerily familiar and I suddenly realized the author had plagiarized - I mean seriously copied pages - from Dickerson's book. I don't know if he was just generally stupid, thought the book wasn't in that wide of distribution and he could get away with it, or what. Library Journal book review editors couldn't believe I picked it out. Little did they know that I had totally memorized the darn thing.

          I'm dating myself now as the above was obviously before Google, Google scholar, etc.

          Anyhoo, the trailer loading method she describes got that wily rascal trained to load in one session. Amazing!


          • #25
            Originally posted by pAin't_Misbehavin' View Post
            I stay out of it.

            I have a horse who occasionally acts like he's going to give me trouble getting in the trailer. He always gets on, but sometimes it takes a few minutes. If some well-meaning person ran over and tried to insert themselves into the situation, it would just complicate things. I'd hate that, and I'd ask the person, as politely as possible, to please leave us alone.
            I owned one of those years ago.
            While in the process of "fixing" it, it sometimes took a considerable time for the horse to voluntarily load. Thing was, if you tried to force it at *all*, it took much longer.

            My friend and I would park as far from the general crowd as possible at gatherings, hoping that no one would come to try and help with a "sure fire" way to load any horse.

            As Karen mused, "Why would they think I was over here sitting and watching quietly if more people was the answer?"

            And yes, he loaded reliably by the time I sold him.
            "It's like a Russian nesting doll of train wrecks."--CaitlinandTheBay

            ...just settin' on the Group W bench.


            • #26
              When I got my mustang he wasn't a good loader - actually, I have no idea how the guy I got him from loaded him, as he was living in a 100-acre field with a bunch of other horses and could barely be caught!

              At first when I had him he would follow me onto the trailer if someone was behind him. I'd have to duck under the chest bar, though, and soon decided that this horse needed to learn to self load because I couldn't always have a second person with me when I go somewhere and I often trail ride or go to lessons alone.

              Had a local NH guy come over and help me with three 2-hour sessions that seemed to work. In the meantime, I did my homework and practiced, put him on the trailer with a buddy and drove around and came home, put him in solo and drove around and came home, etc.

              One day after all my practice I loaded him up no problem, went out for a trail ride, and when I went to load him to go home, he would.not.load! Someone did come over and ask me if I needed help and I was so embarrassed I said no. Tried, tried, tried some more - he wouldn't load. So I swallowed my pride, went over to the person and just asked her to stand behind him and he would walk on. And he did. And I went home and practiced and practiced and practiced some more.

              What I figured, which still seems to be the case, is that he makes friends wherever he goes and he doesn't want to leave them. Sometimes he still plants his feet on the ramp when I'm going to leave a place. But I stand there with a steady pull on the lead rope until he gives to the pressure, then I release and he walks right on. So I know the deal and I know it will work out.

              I've had a bad loader and it sucks when 50 million people are trying to help you. It is like trying to learn to back up and park your trailer - it is not helpful when you have a bunch of people telling you to turn this way, no turn this way, no turn this way! Sometimes you need to just slow down and take a deep breath and work through it.

              I am in no way a loading expert. I tried to help a friend a couple weeks ago and fear I made the problem worse, although ultimately a bucket of grain made the horse jump on the trailer, so I do think she was holding out on us. I generally keep my mouth shut and don't offer advice or help unless asked. I've been on the other side and know how much it sucks.
              "A horse's face always conveys clearly whether it is loved by its owner or simply used." - Anja Beran


              • #27
                I just mind my business. When I was younger I almost got killed helping someone with a bad loader - he broke the butt bar and slammed open the ramp just as I was closing it. It literally missed me by about 2 inches. Even talking about it now scares me!

                I did however have a stubborn old Appy that I almost always used a broom on. He wasn't scared - sometimes he just didn't feel like getting on. A couple of taps on the butt with that broom and he went right on. After a while I only had to say "don't make me get the broom!", and he'd give me the stink eye and hop on.


                • #28
                  Ugh, I had this happen at the last show I took my greenie to on Easter weekend. He would not get on the trailer to go home. His buddy was even on the trailer already, but nope, no go. Tried with an empty trailer and still wouldn't get on. So I lunged him for a bit just to get his mind off the trailer. Back to try loading, and still wouldn't get on. He'd walk right up to it and plant his feet. No drama, just not going forward. Finally, someone offered to help who had experience with young horses. She did something similar to teaching foals how to lead. Five minutes later, he had both front feet in the trailer, shortly followed by his back feet. I was so thankful for her help. Everyone else at the show pretty much stayed out of our way.

                  I worked with my guy for the next two to three weeks following the show. I used the same technique the lady used at the show. It took him a few minutes to figure out what I wanted (coordination on my part wasn't all that great to start off). We finally got to the point where he would get on with no rope and no hesitation. Next time the trailer is hooked up to the truck, I think I'm going to do a refresher.
                  My May boys: Beau , Neon, Criss


                  • #29
                    Originally posted by oldernewbie View Post
                    My point here is...we would often get "experts" stopping by to tell us how to load him. This would only make things worse as they would want to do things that we *knew*, from long experience, would.not.work! So then we would have to argue with the experts and try to load the booger.

                    So, I guess I would plead for forbearance unless the situation was completely abusive and, in that case, go for the authorities.

                    As for other situations, I try to be friendly and helpful when people seem to need help. So far, it's worked.
                    Exactly. How do you know that the person needs help? Some horses just need a bit more time to get on. As long as they are not being abused I'd leave them alone. I've had people come along a few times when the horse was balking. I didn't need help, knew it would just take some time. On the rare occasion that I did allow them to help it never worked. They didn't know the horse and didn't know what buttons to push. Their techniques probably worked well on their horses but were not right for this horse.

                    I routinely thank them and send them along. Last time I had one that normally loads himself but this day he just wasn't having it. After a considerable time he still wasn't doing more than putting front feet in and the on-site "trainer" offered to help. If I hadn't been really tired I still would have said no, but she had a good reputation. Talk about a train wreck! She first tried her "nice" method then she proceeded to use force. I was too stunned to react as she is supposedly all about being natural (HAH!). She got the horse on after he took a big hunk of hide off his forehead trying to evade her. He was shaking so badly it was frightening.

                    Now I don't care who it is, I'll do it my way. It may take longer but I'll get them on. Thankfully that horse is back to self loading but it was 2 days and a lot of hours undoing the damage she caused.


                    • #30
                      Sometimes, it is really nice when people offer to help. When my daughter was 11, we bought a trailer and her first horse. When we tried to load him and take him home after the prepurchase, he wouldn't get on. I had no idea of what to do. The big guys at the vet school offered to help. They lifted that horse onto the trailer. The horse never again gave us a hard time about loading.


                      • #31
                        Originally posted by AKB View Post
                        Sometimes, it is really nice when people offer to help. When my daughter was 11, we bought a trailer and her first horse. When we tried to load him and take him home after the prepurchase, he wouldn't get on. I had no idea of what to do. The big guys at the vet school offered to help. They lifted that horse onto the trailer. The horse never again gave us a hard time about loading.
                        This. I bought my very first horse eons ago at Frying Pan Park. It was the end of the auction, I was by myself, the horse was 4 and obviously not used to loading (my guess is that was one of her first trailer rides ever). I actually got her on the trailer and while I was tying her head she thought better of the whole thing and came out backwards, UNDER the butt bar, scratching her back and scaring both of us badly. Two obviously experienced horsewomen who had seen this happen took pity on my shaky self and linked arms to basically push the mare onto my trailer and shut her in. Then they gave me a talking to about the quality of my leadrope. I didn't get their names, but I remember how grateful I was for the assistance and I try to 'pay it forward' by at least making an offer to assist people who are having trouble. They can always say no.


                        • #32
                          Situations where I offer to help: kids with non-horsey parents and the horse is taking advantage.

                          People by themselves and the horse is taking advantage/person needs to be in 2 places at once.

                          Adults who appear to be baffled and frustrated but not getting abusive. Sometimes it just takes a more knowledgeable (than owner) person to tell the horse "let's go" and they do. When I was a kid I did have a bratty loader and it was a lifesaver when some adult horseperson would come along and tell him to get on the trailer in an authoritative voice and he'd march right on - and roll his eye at me. He knew which end was up.

                          Situations where I do not offer: People being loud and angry, plenty of people already involved, horse appears dangerous, although if the horse is about to hurt the person, I might step in the way most do to catch a loose horse.

                          I do happen to have had several self loaders and find that many problem loaders are not scared, they just don't have great manners and take advantage.

                          When I do offer, it's as the others have said: quietly ask 'do you need a hand?" and walk away if they say no. Now, I event, so offering/being offered help is the norm where I go.


                          • #33
                            Originally posted by Duramax View Post
                            The best advice my MIL ever gave me was to never let someone help you when you were trying to load a difficult horse.
                            A wise woman. I had a horse that was sticky to load when I first got him. Nothing got him more riled up than having a bunch of strangers try to work their "magyck" on him. Those were the only times when I thought he might get hurt.

                            The only thing that worked was patience. Eventually we had rinsed and repeated enough so that he would self load.
                            Equine Ink - My soapbox for equestrian writings & reviews.
                            EquestrianHow2 - Operating instructions for your horse.


                            • #34
                              There are never so many opinions on horse training as there are in trailer loading. I will not get involved unless it has gotten to the point of abuse or danger, then I'll talk to show management.
                              If there was a novice person who was obviously bamboozled I would offer to help, though I don't like getting involved in these things with people I don't know. When Snickers steps sideways off the ramp and scrapes his leg, it's my fault.
                              I am not getting in a pissing contest with 12 people who want to drag the horse in, winch him in, lift them in, drug him, ear him, twitch him, longe him in, beat him in, coax him in with treats, or recreate the entire Clinton Anderson DVD series from #1
                              As Peter, Paul, and Mary say, a dragon lives forever.


                              • #35
                                I mind my own business for the following reasons

                                a) Some people really don't want the attention and even offering help may make them feel more conspicuous, more under pressure and more stressed, which would just make everything worse, and

                                b) I am not a horse trainer and don't feel skilled enough to really contribute anything positive to the situation. All I have the skill to do is use my physical person as a barrier, which doesn't feel like a safe thing to do anyway.

                                So if I see somebody, like, gushing blood while their horse is madly galloping away, I'd step in to call 911 or assist with a clear and immediate danger. Otherwise, I just try to stay out of people's way and not make the situation worse.


                                • #36
                                  Originally posted by CrowneDragon View Post
                                  ...or recreate the entire Clinton Anderson DVD series from #1
                                  That's just too darned funny!!


                                  • #37
                                    I bought a project horse this winter who supposedly would not load. Word had it that the mom of the kid that owned her used to pull up a lawn chair at shows because it took hours to get her on the trailer. Well, it was just the root of the problem. They were into "natural horsemanship" and the mare had them "buffaloed". (Is that a word?) Anyway, The mare misbehaved in the cross ties, under saddle, basically anytime she decided she was done, she WAS done! They would get off her when she misbehaved and she learned how to get out of work. It's taken a few months of tough love but mare went to her first show with me about a month ago. I put the ramp down and she followed me right in the trailer. The former owners could not believe it.
                                    And back to the OP's orginal question, I will help if asked, otherwise I mind my own business!


                                    • #38
                                      There was a gentleman at a barn I rode at with an older and very willful Appy gelding. The gelding had been his daughter's horse and when she went to college he took over. He was eccentric in many ways.

                                      Once, when packing up from leaving a show, we saw this gentleman sitting in the manger of his tiny tiny little two horse trailer eating a sandwich, holding the lead line of the horse, who was standing outside the trailer. Eccentric gentleman said something to the effect of "When he sees me eating he'll get hungry and get in."

                                      Yep. Horse got in...took a while but he got in. Somehow I doubt that any 'help' would have been helpful.

                                      Now, I have not and doubt I WOULD use the 'sandwich technique' but it worked for them.

                                      They had many happy years together... the horse is now about 102 and still going strong, and is back with the daughter and HER child.


                                      • #39
                                        I stay out of it unless asked....it's served me well so far.

                                        A woman I know has a horse that absolutely won't load. Throws herself on the ground, bolts, has nearly taken the trailer with her once. Scariest thing to watch. Woman has started trying to load in the arena to avoid the damage horse does to itself on the gravel driveway. But she refuses to work on loading day to day. She's terrified of the horse and waits until the day/night/morning she needs to get somewhere. The most recent event, a couple weekends ago, wound up in the mare being Aced after a 3 hour ordeal.

                                        As far as I'm concerned, people who won't train their horses deserve what they get. Unfortunately it's starting to look like this mare is dangerous to herself and others.


                                        • #40
                                          Originally posted by SaturdayNightLive View Post
                                          Generally speaking, mind your own damn business.

                                          I have a horse that used to be a holy terror to load. He's now a reliable self-loader, but it's taken some time.

                                          When he was bad, I cannot tell you how truly irritating it was to have everyone and their mother drop by the trailer to offer help/advice/whatever. It's absolutely astounding to me how everyone is suddenly a horse trainer in that situation.

                                          The key with my guy was to be patient. We put two feet on the ramp, pause, back off the ramp, pause, take three steps up the ramp, pause, etc...

                                          Getting behind him at all would send him into a blind panic that would have him running backward at mach 30 regardless of what or whom might be standing in the way.

                                          So...just because you see someone dealing with a tough loader, this is not the opportunity to put your trainer hat on. Assume that whoever has the tough loader is not, in fact, a moron, and move on with you life. Also, thank your lucky stars that your horse loads. Not all of them are baggage free.
                                          Exactly this.

                                          Ten years with a mare who would put up more of a fight when loading than I have ever seen out of another horse in any situation has taught me a thing or two. First, every bystander is a self-proclaimed expert. Second, the more strange people crowded behind her, the less likely it was that she would end up on the trailer that day. Third, she is bigger, stronger, and able to outlast the efforts of nearly everyone who tried. She will now self-load into anything, and that didn't come from a crowd of bystanders beating or pulling her into the trailer.

                                          Let them load without your interruption and input. They'll eventually ask for help if and when they've exhausted their abilities.