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Everything You Need to Know about Trailering Your Horse

Before you can go to far-away shows and trails, you need to prepare your horse and your trailer.

If you plan to take your favorite horse to a show or a trail ride that is more than a few miles away from your barn, you'll have to load him into a trailer and drive there. An experienced adult should drive the truck, because pulling a trailer can be tricky and requires practice.

The Trailer

  • The floor should be solid and thick. Don't load your horse if the floorboards look weak or there are holes in it.
  • There should be rubber safety mats on the floor so your horse doesn't slip.
  • There should be windows in the trailer for ventilation.
  • The trailer should be big enough for your horse. Ask a horsey adult if he or she thinks your horse will fit into the trailer comfortably.
  • Ask the driver to test the lights and brakes before loading your horse.
Horse in Trailer

Getting The Trailer Ready
Put straw or sawdust on the floor of the trailer. This absorbs liquid if your horse urinates in the trailer. Hang up a haynet so your horse has something to nibble on during the trip. Open the door at the front so the trailer is full of light and looks inviting.

Getting Your Horse Ready
A ride in a trailer can be bumpy, and a horse can fall down or bang into something. This is why he must wear protective gear. Here's what you need:

Shipping boots: these are padded boots that fasten easily with Velcro straps. The best boots cover the knees and hooves of a horse's forelegs, and the hocks and hooves of his hind legs. Shipping boots are easy to put on and take off.

Shipping bandages: some people use bandages made of stretch fabric instead of boots. You must put some sort of padding under them or they won't offer any protection. Bandages take longer than boots to put on and take off.

Head bumper: if your horse throws his head around in the trailer, he should wear a head bumper, a little padded hat with ear holes that attaches to a halter.

Tail bandage: some horses rub their tails on the trailer door. This makes the tail look messy. A tail bandage is stretchy and wraps around the top of a horse's tail. It usually stops halfway down, where the tailbone ends.

Loading
Some horses know how to load all by themselves. Just walk them up to the trailer, toss the leadrope over their neck and on they walk! Others need to be led in.

  1. Lead your horse as you would normally until you reach the trailer. Then you may have to walk a step or two in front of him. Walk briskly up the ramp or step. Your horse should follow.
  2. Tie your horse to a piece of twine attached to the tie-up ring in the trailer. Don't tie him too loose. He should not be able to turn around or reach over and nip any companions.
  3. Exit through the escape door, and help an adult lift up the ramp or close the door. Always stand to the side of the trailer when lifting or lowering a ramp. If a horse backs out quickly you could get squashed.

Unloading

  1. Ask a horsey adult to open the doors or lower the ramp. Untie your horse and gently nudge his chest to ask him to back out of the trailer. An adult may have to push his hindquarters over so he backs out in a straight line.
  2. Follow him slowly, holding the lead rope. When he's done backing out, give him a big pat so he knows he's been a good boy.

Loading Problems
If a horse has a really bumpy or scary ride in a trailer, he may not want to get in again. This is why the driver must drive slowly and sensibly. He should give himself plenty of room to go round corners, and keep an eye open for stop lights and stop signs well in advance so he doesn't have to slam on the brakes at the last second.

Don't ask your horse to get in the trailer for the first time on the day of the show. Practice loading him before going to a show. Feed him in the trailer so he associates it with food.

If your horse won't load, you'll need help from a horsey adult or a trainer. Don't try to solve the problem yourself. And never lose your temper when loading. If you start screaming and waving a whip around, you'll never get your horse in the trailer, and he'll remember the negative experience the next time you try to load him. Take a deep breath, ask an adult to help you and try to load again.

 

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