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Reluctant Hauler

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    Reluctant Hauler

    I wasn't exactly sure where else to post this, so I just plunked it here in Off Course.
    I've never really had the best of luck with having good loaders so I've spent many an hour researching, training, and talking to trainers about loading and hauling. I currently have a pony that has no blatant fear of the trailer and refuses to haul. When we bought her, she loaded and hauled like a champ but then had about two years off from hauling (I was about twelve when we bought her and she wasn't mine, so therefore there was no reason to haul her). Since then, she has become possibly one of the most aggravating loaders I have met. She is excellent about going into the trailer but she doesn't stay. As soon as any move is made to close the divider, the door, or attach a chain, she launches out.
    I've attempted to simulate loading with fake trailers (small areas with gates that swing shut behind her) and she is perfectly fine until it's transferred to the trailer.
    I've talked to multiple trainers, worked with a few trusted ones, and none of them have been able to help with this issue. One suggested that we free haul her since she's a small horse and really dislikes being confined by the dividers. Butter does seem to like this better but we are still unable to find a way to close the door with her still in the trailer. Any advice is greatly appreciated.

    So you are 14 now?

    The quality of the advice you have received so far is dependant on the quality of the "trainers" you have accessed so far. This is unknown to me or others here. And since you are young, you do not have the life experience to know if you are getting good advice or not. Don't be surprised by this, it happens to everyone.

    There is a reason why the pony does not want to be shut into the trailer. It may be claustrophobic, for some reason you can identify, or from some reason you can not identify. The trailer CAN run a current through it's metal frame, this can turn a good hauler into a bad one fast. Your trailer may be driven too fast around corners, or the stops and starts may be to sudden, concerning the pony in the trailer at some time, changing her mind about loading again. 'She may not feel safe, or respect your cues. The trailer may not be the size or configuration that she finds acceptable. Some of these things can be changed, some can not be.

    The suggestion to ship the pony in a box stall rather than in a confined stall in the trailer is a good one. This often relieves stress that horses can feel in a trailer. You just need to find a way to close the door once she is in. If she is running over you to get out before the door is closed, this needs to be addressed.

    With stressful situations with horses, often some mild tranquilizer is helpful, to reduce the stress chemically, while the horse learns that the situation is actually not as stressful as they had originally thought. Atravet "acepromazine" may be helpful to your problem too. Talk to your vet.

    Good luck in your search for help with this problem. It is one of the most researched problems that many horse owners seek solutions for. Time, experience, and exposure to many different horses and many different horse trainers/handlers will build your repertoire of skills, techniques, and tools to help deal with problems like this.


      Is it the same with all trailers or just one trailer, if so, what type of trailer? Do you have a helper? Does the drive of the trailer drive appropriately for a horse being towed?

      She needs to learn to stand on the trailer. Try feeding her grain in there, twice a day, for a month.


        Original Poster

        Jealoushe, I'm not sure how she is with all trailers. We don't have access to other trailers (we live on our own property and my parents don't want to ask other, even trusted friends, to let us try her in their trailer). I have a suspicion that she would haul well in a slant load, but all I have is a two horse straight load that is converted into a single box stall. It's an older more stock type trailer. Whenever we work with closing her in in any way, I have a helper.Otherwise, I work with her solo. We've been careful to take the simplest path to and from wherever we're headed, and are extremely careful at turns an stops. Nancy M, the electric current does sound like it could be an issue, as the majority of the trailer is metal, aside from the padding on the walls and floor.
        She gets her feed in the morning and night on the trailer, and I spend time grooming her on it as well.


          To me, this sounds like more of a disobedience issue than a fear issue. If horse is regularly getting on trailer to eat and be groomed, she's not fearful. I would hazard a guess that one time she went backwards when someone tried closing the door, wasn't made to get back on and decided that was a neat little trick to avoid riding in trailer.

          You said you've talked to trainers but has your horse been seen by one? You are going to need help. The issue that you have now is that your horse knows you won't make her stay on trailer to close door. Get some help so neither of you end up hurt.


            Is the flooring on the trailer ok?

            I knew of a horse that was a good loader/hauler that became a bad loader. Upon investigation, the floor was rotting and giving way. It was a good thing it was found before a foot went thru the floor.
            Do not confuse motion and progress. A rocking horse keeps moving but does not make any progress.
            Alfred A. Montapert


              We had a mare who was simply a terrible, terrible hauler. As an FEI horse, she had travelled extensively, but she would try to kill herself and her neighbour in the lorry. She was equally awful in a large space as a small, only after lengthy conversations with old riders and various shipping variations, we found that at least loose in a larger space she had difficulty getting the necessary leverage to damage herself or the trailer. This is a horse who destroyed steel dividers in multiple vehicles and would injure herself in such a fashion that the wounds took weeks to heal but somehow she was never unsound. You could not drug her enough to settle. I actually thought we were going to kill her at one point from all the drugs.

              In the end we left her in Portugal with another rider who travelled more locally, rather than bring her back to Holland to continue competing internationally.

              It was a very expensive mistake.

              In my experience, many issues can be managed and resolved, but not all of them. And never, ever again will I waste any time with a horse with unresolvable hauling issues, because it puts everyone--including the horse--at risk.
              Let me apologize in advance.


                Original Poster

                Dun, you're right, it's absolutely not a fear issue. Whenever we have a failed attempt at closing her in, we make sure to load her again and make her stand, but I'm always fearful of her injuring herself against the door. She hauled well once to a lesson and gave us hell trying to load her again, so I'm beginning to think that she just dislikes the trailer. I've purchased POMMs and the like to minimize the road sounds she hears, but her ears are sensitive so she's just incredibly distracted. I've had multiple trainers out to work with her and they helped to an extent, but nothing has been effective with the backing out issue. Most just resort to more violent/forceful methods, which just shut her down as she was abused and neglected as a foal. I'm honestly completely at a loss, we've tried nearly everything except a different trailer (which I would LOVE to try).

                Pluvinel, we refloored the trailer a couple years ago when we purchased it, so I don't think the floor is an issue, although I definitely will check it out! It's much better to be safe than sorry!



                  You have a big issue to address with your horse before you put her in the trailer. You have to thoroughly desensitize her to noises and touches and movements so that when she gets onto the trailer and you close everything up, she is relaxed, and the noises, touches and movements don't bother her.

                  Horses respond to the RELEASE of pressure. When your horse gets on the trailer, the interior of the trailer causes anxiety, or puts pressure on her. When she leaves the trailer, the pressure is released, since now she is back outside and all that stuff is not bothering her.

                  Watch some trailer loading videos after you have completely and thoroughly desensitzed her. You will want to apply some form of pressure to her while outside the trailer, and release the pressure at, and finally in, the trailer.

                  It has nothing to do with "luck" or what your horse "likes." It is 100% your interaction with her. If you put some time and effort into understanding the whys and hows of horses now, you will have a fun, safe and wonderful life with horses as you grow up.

                  All the comments about a possibly "unsafe" trailer issue are simply excuses for being unable to train a horse. It is not rocket science and you do not need to be an expert. You do need to be very patient and thorough and willing to put a good bit of time into it.