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Tips for Stress-Free Horse Trailer Loading

Tanja Dietz


2 Min. Lesezeit

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Loading and trailer driving can be stressful for many horses. The trailer is tight, the horse is confined, unable to escape, and the ground beneath its hooves moves. This can be unsettling for many horses at first.

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If horses are not introduced to loading and trailer driving as foals or young horses, it can become a test of patience for both human and animal. Getting the horse onto the trailer often requires great persuasion, and when there is a deadline looming, stress is inevitable for everyone. Stress for us, as we must arrive on time, and double stress for the horse - because it is reluctant to get on the trailer and also senses our stress - a challenging combination.

What steps can I take to avoid stress during loading?

The three magical words for loading are Time, Calm, and Patience. It's best to practice loading when there's no pressure to go anywhere - no deadlines, no rush.

Here's how to prepare:

  • Position the trailer close to a wall on the side where you'll be loading your horse. This gives your horse a side boundary and prevents them from escaping.
  • Spread some straw or shavings in the trailer and also place some on the ramp. Many horses don't like stepping on the "bare" ramp.
  • Open the small side door at the front. Insecure horses usually load better when the front is open.
  • A treat from your hand, some grain, or hay can also help your horse associate the trailer with something positive.

What can you do if your horse absolutely refuses to get on the trailer?

It is crucial to have assistance when loading. Always load the horse with at least two people - one person leads the horse by the halter, and the other provides the boundary, the rear frame of the horse.
  • When leading your horse into the trailer, avoid making eye contact with them and instead focus your gaze on the interior of the trailer. If you look at or turn towards your horse, there's a high chance it will hesitate or stand still.
  • Once the horse is inside, the second person can close the bar and then the ramp.
  • It's essential to only tie the horse once the bar and ramp are securely closed to prevent any sudden movements. This will help ensure a smooth and stress-free loading experience for both you and your horse.

To give your horse more confidence, it can be beneficial to introduce a calm, older horse into the trailer first. Anxious horses tend to load more easily and ride more calmly when accompanied by a reassuring companion. You can also adjust the partition to provide more space for your horse to enter the trailer, making it easier for young horses to step in. Additionally, some trailers offer the option to convert the ramp into a door, offering horses more side support. This adjustment can be particularly helpful for young horses who may prefer stepping up a step rather than onto the potentially intimidating ramp.

Do you want to learn more about how horses react to stressful situations, how their flight instinct manifests, and how we as owners can make stress more manageable for our horses? Horses respond differently to various stressful situations and exhibit individual behaviors. Download our new e-book on stress right now for valuable insights!

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