For those who own horses or ride them for leisure, it is important to know how to transport a horse safely from one location to the next. The good news is that modern horse trailers are built with horse safety top of mind and offer a comfortable, smooth ride for livestock being transported from one place to another.
While a horse trailer might provide a comfortable place for a horse during a trip across the country, horses don't always naturally want to enter a horse trailer of their own accord.
Whether you're looking to take your horses on a nearby mountain trail for a ride, or you need to load up for an equestrian event located states away, learning how to load a horse in a trailer is an important step in ensuring the safety of you and your horse.
For those who are ready to learn how to load a horse in a trailer, check out the following tips and tricks.
#1: Understand Your Horse
First and foremost, before attempting to load a horse into a trailer, you need to understand your horse. Whether you are loading a horse you have owned for years or a horse you are meeting for the first time, it is critical to understand upfront how the horse might behave.
For example, if a horse is reluctant to step into the trailer, is it because of a previous experience? Is it because this is the horse’s first time being transported via trailer?
Most horses will hesitate when entering a trailer. It is, after all, not a natural choice for a horse to confine itself into a small space. Having a basic understanding of what might make your horse hesitant to enter the trailer is key to knowing how to combat the horse’s anxiety or reluctance.
#2: Keep a Cool Head
Let’s face it. Horses can be stubborn animals. Added to this reality is that horses are also extremely large animals that are difficult to force into doing something they don’t want to do!
Trying to lead a horse into a trailer when it isn’t interested in the activity can be frustrating. This is particularly true when you are working under a time constraint.
Nothing will make the situation worse than losing your temper or taking out your frustrations on the horse. Horses can sense your emotions, including your own nerves about loading them. Any negative emotions on your end can actually make the horse less likely to climb into the trailer.
For this reason, if you feel yourself losing your temper, take a quick time out. Always keep a cool head when interacting with livestock of any kind.
#3: Take it One Step at a Time (Literally)
Whether you are training your horse how to enter a trailer for the first time, or you are working with an older horse who has severe anxiety around being trailered, it is critical to take it literally one step at a time.
Invite your horse to move forward slowly. Let it take one step forward and then let it relax. In many cases, the horse will want to step one foot lightly on the trailer ramp or opening and will then retract its foot.
This is a natural part of a horse determining whether or not the ramp and trailer are stable. Horse trailers make loud noises and move around as a horse enters them. This can be a scary, unnatural experience for your horse.
Allow your horse to take one step forward, and even one step back, over and over until it becomes increasingly comfortable with its footing.
#4: Reinforce Positively
While it might be tempting to resort to pushing, shoving, and pulling your horse into the trailer, this is not the ideal method for training a horse to behave the way you wish.
Instead, look for ways to positively reinforce good behavior. If your horse takes a few steps toward the trailer, praise them and reinforce them with a reward.
Try to make the process of being trailered as pleasant as possible. The more negative interactions a horse has with you while being trailered, the less likely that the horse is going to behave well the next time you attempt to guide them into a trailer.
#5: Change the Scenery as Needed
Sometimes, a horse simply becomes overwhelmed. After a long period of working to coax your horse into the trailer, it might be time for a quick break. If your horse seems extremely stressed, anxious, or ready to bolt, give them a change of scenery. Take them on a walk around the area and give them a little time to calm back down.
It is easier to resume the process with a horse who is in a better state of mind. Think about it the same way that humans sometimes need to leave their desk after a stressful meeting and take a quick walk. Changing up the scenery can change mindsets.
#6: Return to Your Groundwork
If you are battling a stubborn horse or dealing with high anxiety, it might require you to do more than just keep trying. In some cases, the only way to coax a horse into a trailer is by returning to the basics.
If your horse is not responding to basic queues, such as move forward, you might need to spend some more time training your horse on groundwork queues. This will go a long way in ensuring a smooth loading and unloading process.
Find a Comfortable Horse Trailer for Your Needs
While many horses are not naturally drawn to the tight quarters of a horse trailer, providing them with a comfortable ride is key to reinforcing that transportation can be a pleasant experience. When shopping for a horse trailer, be sure to look for a trailer that is large enough for your horse to stand comfortably. A good rule of thumb is that your horse should have proper clearance for its head during the loading process.
The good news is that over the years, horse and livestock trailers have come a long way in regards to comfort, safety, and space. Talk to our team at Transwest today to learn more about the best horse trailer for your specific needs. We look forward to helping you find the perfect fit for you and your horses.
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