Some horses are great about riding in a horse trailer and jump in within minutes, while others take hours to load. If your horse is the latter, you probably cringe at the thought of taking him for a ride in a trailer. But do not fear, even the most impossible horse will want to load. My OTTB mare was quite claustrophobic and the sight of a trailer sent her into a panic. She would rear, kick out, and refuse to move forward to it. But after following the steps that will follow, she now freely follows me into the trailer because she wants to.
Look at the trailer through the horses eyes. There could be other reasons why he refuses to load and not just because he doesnt want to. Listen to him and observe how he behaves near it. If you understand him, you can get him to understand you. Success doesnt happen overnight, but if you are patient and dedicated to making it happen, it will.
I like to start with Join-Up, communicating with the horse as he is loose in a round pen or similar set up. This establishes you as the leader so the horse looks to you for support when he is not sure or afraid. The next step is to work with him in hand extensively with the Dually halter (on the horse in the picture), which is explained in my previous blog Ground Tying. Once he is responding freely without much pressure on the lead rope, he is ready for the trailer.
It is best to use a stock trailer when working with a difficult loader as there are no partitions inside, and there is usually enough room for him to turn around inside. Park the trailer in a safe area with minimal distractions. With the horse outfitted with the Dually halter and a long cotton rope attached to one of the training rings, lead him up to the trailer to let him sniff the ramp or floor. Turn him around and walk away. Then lead him back to it, stopping about every five steps to back up a few steps and continuing until you reach the trailer. Now you will put him to work, backing up a few steps, forward a few steps, etc. before proceeding to lead him into it. If he gets one or two feet inside, praise him and let him stand a couple minutes. Back him off and repeat it again. Each time he goes inside let him stand and rest as his reward, but if he backs off by himself put him to work immediately. This will take numerous times before he realizes that it is actually pleasant to be in the trailer. But before you know he will be eager to get in there.
If my horse can do it, yours can too. Good luck and happy trailering.
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