If someone asked you to load your horse or pony into a trailer right now, would you be able to do it? Would you know the safe and correct way to put your horse in the trailer?
Would your horse hop right into the trailer or would he back up and refuse to enter it?
Loading into the trailer should be a simple task and if you teach your horse how to do it properly at first, you should have no trouble with him later on. A horse that won’t load is a real problem and can really ruin your fun when you go to shows or on trail rides.
Read on to learn how to make your horse 100 percent trailer friendly.
Before you try loading your horse, you must have control over him on the ground. He must lead quietly, turn and halt and listen to your commands. He should not pull you around and put his head down to eat grass.
Your horse must back up when you ask him to. Put pressure on his chest and push on his shoulder with your hand to encourage him to step backwards.
Lead your horse over strange objects like a tarp or a flat piece of plywood so he get used to following you over unusual things. If he trusts you, he’ll be brave. Doing this exercise prepares him for walking onto a ramp.
Get your horse used to squeezing through small spaces. Set up a jump filler (shown here) or a row of barrels next to the fence so your horse has to walk through a narrow space. This gets him used to walking into a straight-load trailer.
Put shipping boots and a head bumper on your horse and practice walking around. Some horses will kick out and act silly in shipping boots. Your horse should get used to them in no time. It’s a good idea if you wear a safety helmet and gloves when loading a horse. Gloves prevent you getting rope burn if your horse pulls back, and a helmet protects your head if he rears up or acts dangerously.
Now you can load your horse. Take a firm hold on the lead rope and lead your horse in a straight line towards the trailer. Walk beside him until you get to the ramp, then move a step or two in front of him. Walk confidently into the trailer and he should follow you up the ramp.
Once he’s in the trailer, give him a tasty treat to tell him he’s been a good boy. Don’t tie him up yet. You need to fasten the butt bar behind him before you tie him up.
Go round to the back and fasten the butt bar. Always fasten the butt bar before you tie him up. You don’t want a tied horse backing up and snapping his lead rope or halter. Some horses will panic if try to they back out of the trailer and are tied up.
Go back to the side door and tie him up. Fasten a slip knot with the lead rein to the trailer tie ring or snap him to a quick release (panic snap) trailer tie and remove his lead rope.
Now he’s secure in the trailer, put up the ramp. Stand to the side so you don’t get squashed if he backs out, breaks the butt bar and steps on the ramp.
Remember to fasten all the locks on the trailer ramp. You don’t want the ramp falling down while you’re on the road, do you?
Once you get to your destination, untie your horse before you lower the ramp.
If you have a helper, they can lower the ramp and you can back your horse out of the trailer and follow him out. If you’ve taught him how to back out on the ground, this should be easy.
If you don’t have a helper, untie him then go to the back and lower the ramp and unfasten the butt bar. Stand to the side of the ramp and pat your horse or tug on his tail to ask him to back out. As he walks out you should be able to grab hold of the lead rope.
* This article first appeared in the November/December 2005 issue of Young Rider.