We all know someone who’s been there, or we’ve been there ourselves. We’ve got a horse that doesn’t load but we usually manage to get them on the trailer somehow. It’s not exactly pretty but we manage to get the job done.
We spend weeks, maybe even months getting ready for an event. The day of the show arrives and the horse won’t load regardless of what we try.
It’s at that moment that most owners start searching for answers and looking for what they and their horse might be missing. That’s when the quest for knowledge begins. However the problem isn’t a trailer issue, it’s a foundation issue.
It’s true that the horse isn’t comfortable being on the trailer. But the root cause is also a lack of the necessary cues to get the horse on the trailer as well. It’s a combination of trust and conditioned response.
There are few things that can ensure safe trailer loading success. The first is consistency. Trailer loading is not something that will be fixed overnight or in just a few training sessions. The top clinicians will tell you that while your horse may improve quickly, at some point they will regress. This is why it’s so important to be consistent in your training. Just five to ten minutes a day will result in progress. The next important thing is recognizing the try your horse gives you. At first your horse’s attempt may be as subtle as a weight change. Be looking for those subtle tries and be ready to reward them when they occur with a release of what you’re asking.
Another important component of good trailer training is patience. When problems occur it’s usually because we ask too soon. Don’t ask for the next step until they’re definitely comfortable with giving you the current step.
Horses are a conditioned response animal. If you make the trailer a place to rest and away from the trailer a place of work, it doesn’t take too long for the horse to figure out that when he’s at or in the trailer he works a lot less. This is one of the simplest things you can do to help improve your trailer loading issues.
Next, remember your basics. If you can’t control your horse’s feet away from the trailer how are you going to guide them to get on the trailer? You won’t. So go back to the basics of getting control of your horse’s feet. Fine tune the cues for making your horse go forwards, backwards and sideways so that your horse is light in asking for these three things. Don’t forget to work on your whoa as well.
One last trailer training safety tip is to teach your horse to go forward on the trailer by themselves. The last thing you want to do is be trapped in the trailer with a scared thousand pound horse looking for any way out, which by the way might be right over the top of you.
Have you got a horse that won’t load? Why do you think you horse doesn’t load and what do you think you can do to change that?