How to Load a Frightened Horse Into a Horse Trailer

Three Methods:Loading Your Horse with Another HorseUsing Sweet Feed, Grain, or HayLeading Your Horse Patiently

Loading a horse into a trailer can be a huge ordeal, but it doesn't have to be. Here are a few tips and tricks to get a frightened horse to load into a trailer.

Method 1
Loading Your Horse with Another Horse

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    Prepare to load two horses together. If your horse is of the trusting nature, having a friend might help him or her load. If you don't have a trailer that accommodates two or more horses, ask around your barn to see if you can borrow someone's for a few hours.
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    Load the other horse into the trailer first, making sure to tie him or her before leaving. It's best to use a horse that loads well into trailers, so your horse will see that his/her friend isn't frightened.
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    Come back for your horse next, and be patient. Even though she/he sees a friend, s/he may not be too trusting. Walk up patiently, and reward every step forward with a praise.
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    If your horse loads, tie him/her up and close the trailer. It's best not to quickly unload your horse, as they will expect that to be normal. Close the trailer and leave your horse and his/her friend in there for a bit before unloading them.
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    Unload your horse's friend first, and then your horse. Make sure to give your horse a treat or praise, so they know that they did the right thing by loading and unloading. If you wish to try again, let him/her have a few minutes to calm down
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    Work your way towards solo travel. If you want to try this exercise again, try it without your horse's friend, with your horse's friend loading second, or with your horse's friend tied to the outside of the trailer. Your horse can't always travel with a buddy, so be sure to wean him/her off loading with one, so they don't freak out when it comes time to inspect it.

Method 2
Using Sweet Feed, Grain, or Hay

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    Find a treat your horse loves. Horses are very motivated by food, so try that to get him/her loaded. This method works best with sweet feed or grain, but hay will work too.
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    Let your horse get a good whiff of your treat of choice, then place said treat into the trailer. You can also hold the treat in your hand as you enter the trailer, to keep your horse motivated.
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    If you choose to put the treat into the trailer, make sure to keep a handful or pocketful of it to feed to your horse as s/he loads, as praise for doing the right thing.
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    If your horse properly loads, let him/her have the rest of the treat as a reward, then leave him/her in there after closing the trailer for a few minutes. It's best not to quickly unload your horse, as they will expect that to be normal.
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    Unload your horse and give him/her a good pat on the neck. If you wish to try again, wait a few minutes to let them calm down.
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    If you want to try this exercise again, try only having treats when they properly load or only after they have successfully loaded and unloaded. Giving your horse treats every time you load is fine, but you also want to encourage them to do it one their own.

Method 3
Leading Your Horse Patiently

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    Know that you can't just expect your horse to do what you tell them when you tell them if the result is often negative. Trailers are an unfamiliar place where your horse experiences rocking, odd movements, and general insecurity.
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    Walk into the trailer and ask your horse to follow. Avoid entering the trailer before your horse does, if possible. It may sometimes be necessary. Horses are herd animals and, by instinct, will follow someone or something that they trust.
    • Your horse may balk at loading, but hold firm and do not let your horse back up.
    • Eventually, your horse will get tired of you putting pressure on his/her halter that s/he will move forward a few steps. Horses don't like pressure and, while you should never be trying to pull your horse's head off, gently pulling on the halter is enough of a nuisance that they will try to relieve the pressure.
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    Praise each step forward. Your horse should know that by moving into the trailer, they are doing what you want and should be rewarded.
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    If your horse successfully loads, make sure to tie him/her up and close the trailer, so that they do not automatically equate loading with getting out.
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    If you wish to try this exercise again, give your horse a few minutes before reloading. Practicing will make perfection, and your horse should be a pro by the time you're finished

Tips

  • If your horse tries to back away from the trailer, hold firm to their halter and don't let them leave. It's the same principle as not letting your horse get away with refusing to do something.

Warnings

  • If your horse spooks, make sure you calm him/her immediately, especially if s/he is half loaded. Their actions should not tip the trailer, and you should invest in a new one if they do, however, I have seen a few frightened horses fall of the ramp while loading and seriously injured themselves.
  • Do not give up while loading your horse, or s/he will think they can do it every time. No matter how long it takes, if you start loading your horse, load your horse.


Article Info

Categories: Horses