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Trailer Loading

Well, there are many ways to get a horse into a trailer; some work better than others.  My thought is that trailer loading is a lesson each horse must learn and keep for his/her entire life.  The easier and more pleasant this lesson can be, the easier a horse will learn the lesson and accept the fact that he must get into this big steel/aluminum box.  We should also remember that a trailer is simply a "trap" to a horse.  The fact that they trust us enough to get into this trap and go rolling down the asphalt to go ride somewhere is truly an awesome leap of faith. 
When starting young horses with trailer loading, we start with plenty of time and an older, experienced horse.  This example is led in and out of the trailer while the young horse is standing close by and watching.  After several times of doing this, the horse is led into the trailer and tied or held (if we have an extra person to help.)  We then walk the young horse to the trailer and ask him to load.  The handler does not tug on the lead, but does ask the horse to continue forward motion.  Refusals are not punished--we just do a bit of lungeing or walking and then lead forward and ask again.  If  the horse continues to refuse, a rump rope is placed around the hindquarters and gentle tugs ensue until the horse comes forward and places at least one foot in the trailer.  The other front foot will follow, and lots of praise is given at this point.  Usually the horse will then step up into the trailer, but some horses will hesitate with the back feet. Again the cue to "walk up" and a tug on the rump rope will bring the horse forward and then we lead up to the older horse, who has been waiting and watching.  More praise and a small food reward (handful of grain, bite of hay, a carrot or apple) can be offered.
When the young one has relaxed and settled, we will ask him to unload, then load, unload and load again.   This method creates a good foundation for loading and the young horse does not become fearful of getting into the trailer.  By the time we have this horse ready to haul to a competition or to his new owner, they will get in and out of the trailer with ease. 
Of course, we all know that after miles of hauling and going down the trail, our seasoned competitors are what I call, "self-loaders"--point them to the trailer and say, "let's go!" and they are in.  ~VBS~
T-P Ranch Equine Massage
Gretchen Patterson

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