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Loading Horses: Just as Hard as a Dressage Lesson

You have probably met some horses in your life who did not like being loaded onto a trailer. At different competitions you can often meet people struggling with the horse when it has to get in the trailer before heading home. It is quite annoying and stressful for both the owner and horse. For the same reason it can really pay off to invest some time in teaching the horse to enter a trailer.  

Too much stress

Many horse owners have a wish to participate in competitions, go to the beach or the woods with their horse but give up beforehand because they have trouble loading the horse. You can also be in an emergency where the horse must go to the hospital. In this situation, it is crucial that your horse walks into the trailer.  

Often many horses are only familiar with the trailer when they are going to competitions or are moved to a new facility. Often you have a deadline, and you are therefore in a rush to be somewhere at a specific time. This stage of mind of stress and being in a hurry are projected onto the horse and does not make anything easier when it comes to entering a trailer.  

You may also like to read: Did You Know This Before You Bought Your First Young Horse?

Very normal to be insecure 

Behavioral specialist Karin Rosenberg Engelbrecht explains that it is very natural for a horse to be afraid of the trailer especially when they are closed and quite dark. Horses are by nature designed to walk around on big wide open fields, where they have a huge view and are able to spot possible danger.  

Horses are depended on being able to orientate. This is not possible inside a trailer. Photo: Malgré Tout. 

When we ask the horse to enter a trailer we ask them to walk into a small dark room where they cannot escape possible danger. Some horses do not care at all, while others are more reluctant. It only takes one bad experience with the trailer before the horse connects it with something unpleasant and dangerous. 

You may also like to read: 5 Tips When Training an Old Horse

Patience and mental training 

It does not have to be very difficult to teach your horse to walk into a trailer, but it does require patience and an understanding of the horse. Perhaps it has had a bad experience with a trailer which is the reason for its insecurity. Furthermore, loading in a trailer is just as demanding of the horse as any other type of groundwork, Karin Rosenberg Engelbrecht explains.  

“Mentally 10 to 15 minutes of training with a trailer is about the same as an hour of intense dressage for the horse”

  3 guidelines teach your horse to enter a trailer 

  1. Have patience – it is not a natural situation for your horse to enter a trailer. 
  2. Permit the horse to back out of the trailer when it needs to and follow it. Then try again. 
  3. Only practice for about 10 to 15 minutes at the time. 

Behavioral specialist Karin Rosenberg Engelbrecht

 

Loading with focus on learning psychology  

Karin Rosenberg Engelbrecht believes that there are several different ways of teaching the horse to walk into a trailer. Karin’s method is based on principles from leaning psychology and divided into steps. Many of these can be taught outside the trailer. 

  • First part is to make sure that the horse walks forward on a signal. Teach this in the arena before you begin with the trailer. 
  • Teach the horse a stop signal so that the horse stops when you pull the rope.  
  • Make sure your horse knows how to move to the side when you gently tap the side of the horse with a whip.  
  • Teach the horse to enter narrow passages.  
  • The horse should be familiar with different types of surfaces as tarpaulin or walking through a puddle. 
  • Combine the training with narrow passages and different types of surface.  
  • Remember lots of treats and praise.

    This article was originally published in November 2020 and has since been revised and edited.

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