Saturday, April 5, 2014

Imperfect Trailering Loading

Well, both boys got on the trailer, but it took some work on all our parts and required a second person.  And more work is surely required - I'm hoping things will get a lot easier with the work we're planning to do at the clinic.

It took a while for me to figure out the right order to do things, and what each of the boys and I can manage at this point.  I've never owned a straight-load trailer before - just a slant, which is easier to lead on to and easier to close the partitions on.

First I put Pie on the trailer (Red was still in the pasture).  He wouldn't send in, but I was able to lead him in with the partition pushed over.  If I tried to exit out the back of the trailer, he would back out.  Then I tried leading him in and ducking under the chest bar to get out - awkward but doable.  After a number of tries where he backed out, I managed to get the butt bar up and him secured in his part of the trailer.  A friend was handy, and I asked her to stay with Pie while I went to get Red.

This took a while, and apparently Pie wasn't too happy while I was gone - he got very nervous and did a lot of pawing.  Next time when I load, I'll have Red nearby so the time gap is shorter.

Red didn't want to get on the trailer with Pie on it - I was a bit surprised by this, but I guess the opening to his side looked small to him.  Leading him in and ducking under the chest bar wasn't a good option since I wasn't close enough to him to give him a secondary cue when he stopped moving or started going backwards - and I wasn't interested in pulling him into the trailer.

So we tried things a different way.  I unloaded Pie and gave him to my friend to hold.  I swung the partition over so Red's side was open, and had my friend keep Pie at the escape door on Red's side of the trailer, so Red could see that he was there.  It took some more work to get Red to load - he tried his usual evasions but I kept up the secondary cues every time he stopped or moved backwards.  Pretty soon he was getting on, but then he was immediately backing out - this was about where we got to the other day.

I asked him to step forward and back a step or two, and after that he seemed to understand that I wanted him to stay on.  The butt bar coming up alarmed him a bit, and he backed off quickly once I took it down a couple of times.  But we kept working on it, and pretty soon he would stand and wait for me to get off, swing the partition over and attach the butt bar.

Once we got that far, getting Pie back on wasn't too hard.  He still wouldn't send in, but would lead in.  I was able to have my friend stay by his head - he was pretty comfortable since Red was in there already - while I ducked out the escape door and around the back to attach the butt bar.

I closed up everything and had them stand there for a few minutes.  Then I unloaded both horses - Red first and then Pie - I took down the butt bars and just asked them to back by moving my hand on their sides, and out they came.  Back to the pasture - they were pretty happy about that and galloped off, bucking and farting.

It wasn't perfect by any means, and I had to fumble around and experiment a bit, but we have a make-do procedure now, although I still need an assistant to hold Pie while Red gets on.

I'm staying hitched up overnight, and we'll do more tomorrow.  Now at least I think I can get both boys on the trailer in order to go to the clinic . . .


  1. some might disagree, but i trained mine with a treat reward. there is always a small pile of oats or some apple bits on the shelf and always have hay in there as well. i have a tall, but tight vintage straight load so i had some of your problems. i always have every window and door open to make the trailer look more inviting, and always have the treat. it did not take long for my two to be heading right in and looking for the grain. you can also leave them in awhile to eat the hay. i'm also not adverse to feeding peppermints thru the front window to reinforce the trailer is a nice place to be. p.s. for safety, don't leave them unattended in the trailer without closing the back door, and the escape door, and attaching a head line to the bridle. there are lots of ways for the horses to get hurt in a straight load unless you do these things. i've learned a couple of lessons the hard way, or been warned by more experienced people what horses can try to do.

    1. Anon - thanks for your comments. I've had good luck using clicker (with treats) for some things, but have never tried it with trailer loading. Appreciate your comments about safety, too - my trailer is pretty safe from a design point of view but horses are very creative in figuring out ways to hurt themselves.

  2. Both horses ended up in the trailer, and you ended on a good note.

    That is perfect!


    1. Bill - It was good enough for where we are in our training (and by we I definitely include myself). I think if Red could load more easily and calmly, he would then be more comfortable once he gets in the trailer - he's still very nervous.


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