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Dear EHH, Should I Buy a Horse That Doesn't Load Well?
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Dear EHH, Should I Buy a Horse That Doesn't Load Well?

Dear EHH,

I'm shopping for my first horse and I found a horse that meets all my non-negotiables. It is the right size for me, a former lesson horse, and very quiet. It's a confidence builder type horse, which is exactly what I wanted in a first horse. I just have one issue. The owners were upfront in telling me that he is not good at all at loading into a horse trailer. They have never put much time into improving his trailer loading because they didn't do it very often. The horse is everything I wanted. Loading on a trailer well was something that I honestly didn't think about until they said he wasn't good at it. Should this be a deal breaker?

Dear Horse Shopper,

That is great that you were able to find a horse that meets all of your non-negotiables. Whether or not the trailer loading is a deciding factor really depends on your plans for the horse.

Obviously, if you are moving him to a new place, he will need to load onto a trailer to move. You mentioned wanting to ride on trails. Are these trails off the property you board at? Or will he have to load on a trailer to go on rides?

Any horse can be taught to safely load onto a trailer. It may take work, time and patience, but it can be done. Ask yourself if you think this is something that you have the skills to work on your self. Do you even have access to a truck and horse trailer to practice with? In the beginning, you will be doing the groundwork to establish yourself as a leader and to get control of the horse's body. Eventually, in order to teach trailer loading, you will need to have access to a trailer, so that is something you should keep in mind.

You should consider if you are confident and willing to take the time with your new horse to teach him this important skill. If you have already been told he doesn't load on a trailer well, you will have to find the time to teach him how to. Are you willing to wait to trail ride until you can confidently load your horse?

If you have the means to afford it, you could choose to send your horse to a trainer to learn this skill. You have to be willing to learn what to do though, so you can reinforce the lesson when you get your horse back home.

I don't consider a horse that won't get onto a trailer a huge problem since I'm able to handle it myself. As a first-time horse owner, it may be biting off more than you can chew.

Before you make a decision, talk to your trainer about their experience with teaching horses to load. Ask their opinion about if this horse is such a perfect unicorn that you can settle for having to work on this one thing!

If you have trail access off of your boarding property and you don't have to plan on loading the horse regularly, it isn't as big of an issue, though I believe it is still a skill all horses should learn to do well in case of emergency. 

Consult with your trainer and consider your options! I'm sure they will help you make the right choice. If this isn't the horse for you, don't worry. Your perfect horse is out there! You just have to take the time to find him or her! When you do, it will have been well worth the search.


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  1. jst4horses
    Great answer. I loved the part about learning to load the horse. Every horse needs to learn to load because of the risk of forest or even just a barn fire. And it really takes little to learn to load a horse properly. I remember at a six week intensive certification class at the ranch, one of the world famous horse trainers was confronted with a horse the woman had WALKED (luckily the two ranches were not too far apart, a few miles) to the trailering class because she could NOT load the horse. It took 20 minutes for that master trainer to get that horse to go in and out of the trailer, and let the door be closed without a fuss. No hitting, no ropes under butt, no forcing. That horse was 32 years old and used to NOT doing it. It made me realize how easy it actually is to train a horse to load. I used to play with a colt a young rodeo guy had bought, he was pretty much a whack em, sock em, spur em kind of rider, and I felt sad for the colt, so when out at the stable with my own horses, or training another horse for someone, I spent time to train that colt in many things to keep him from being abused. I had trained him to trailer load. One day the young man came to take him so some kind of halter show, and he would NOT load into the trailer, I came up beside and made my personal get in sound, the man turned his wrath on me, and told me rudely "This horse does not need kissing, he needs kicking". He turned back to see the horse standing inside the trailer, happy as could be. He decided that day to stop laughing and learn more about Native Natural Horsemanship. I would like to say to this woman, think about what is best for the horse, first horse sounds like a dress, or pair of tennis shoes, if YOU can not offer a forever home to your horse, leave that horse be, maybe it will get one. People always want to say, oh, I will find it a good home. Yep, I have seen trucks loaded, head to tail, with two levels of horses shoved up there on the way to slaughter of horses who were surrendered from "good homes", or just left to starve when the people moved away and decided not to deal with the horse.
    1. Ellison Hartley
      Ellison Hartley
      Thanks so much for your comment! Yes, trailer loading is a skill that has to be taught and it is our responsibility to teach the horses and get them comfortable with it. If we don't do that, we can't blame the horse for not wanting to load.

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