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We need to dare to think outside the box when we train with trailers

horse entering the trailer
Line Hummel loading her horse. Foto: Kamila Tworkowska

Are you playing with your trailer training? We need to dare to think outside the box when working with the trailer. Unfortunately, there are WAY too many horses that are very uneasy about the trailer. Over the years, more and more persuasion is needed before the horse goes in. But it does not have to be that way.

The trailer should be something easy. Something as easy as when we lead the horse into the stable. Unfortunately, it is unnatural for a horse to go into a small stable and be shut in, but they do it because they are used to it. They are used to getting food there, relaxing, and not feeling any expectations or pressure.

That is why they voluntarily go into their stable every night, even though they are prey animals that have survived for thousands of years by always having an escape route. 

If we look at the trailer with the horse's primal brain, it seems illogical to go into such a small enclosure that is also difficult to balance. Many horses that are afraid of the trailer generally have poor balance. That is why it is extra uncomfortable for them to be in the trailer. Therefore, trailer training must involve much more than just teaching the horse to go in and out of the trailer itself, as many people think. 

About the author 

Line Hummel is the founder and owner of the company Hestekræfter. She visits riders and their horses to help solve behavioural problems, develop training programs, and provide instruction. Line's authentic and professional approach to both horse and rider is truly special and is based on the unique APPEAL method. If you would like more information about teaching and training, you can contact Line via email at, through Messenger, or visit her website.

My search for trailer help led me down new paths

I have had many clients who had problems with their horses and the trailer. I have had horses myself that would not go into the trailer. That is why I looked for help in many places. But I kept running into a wall because the help I could get went against my core value in horse training, namely that I invite my horses and do not use unnecessary pressure when possible. And it is possible to get horses into the trailer without pressure.

But it seems like we do not accept that it takes time. If the horse has had a bad experience with being sedated and losing even more control of its balance, or it has only been driven when moved away from family or friends, it's clear that it will take even longer. 

I found that in the places I sought help, the solution was to put pressure on the horse, and I wanted to move away from that. If you are sharp in your timing and put minimal pressure on the horse, you are most likely to succeed in getting the horse in the trailer. But there is still pressure on the horse, which it associates with the trailer. The pressure can contribute to the horse trying to avoid the task by saying no again and again.

Read also: Loading horses: Just as hard as a dressage lesson


Right to reprimand

At Store Hestedag 2023, my son and I performed a play where I pointed out that it seems like the horse world is saying the same thing as parents and teachers did 26 years ago. When the Danish Parliament abolished the right to reprimand – the right to hit individuals over whom one has authority – it was said that then one could not raise children!

Fortunately, we have learned that yes, we can do that, even though it – for some – requires a different attitude towards upbringing. Even though fear really can keep people in line, just as it can with horses. 

Line Hummel og søn
Line Hummel and her son Valdemar performed a play at Store Hestedag 2023, where he pretended to be afraid of riding in a car. Line showed the different methods used in trailer training with horses. See the video further down. Photo: Line Hummel

My – at that time – 10-year-old son Valdemar and I made a play where he pretended to be afraid of riding in a car. I took my riding crop and tapped his shoulder until he walked towards the car, and I praised him and released the pressure with my riding crop.

We played that I let him out in the paddock and picked him up the next day. On the way to the car, Valdemar thought, "Oh no, Mom, not that game again. It wasn't as fun as you might think," so he hesitated with more distance to the car, but this time I had candy with me, so I put a little pressure, but I also feed him candy when he did as I said.

Finally, I managed to lure him into the car. I said loudly that it would be really good if we just did it often enough. Then it will also be fun for him. Because that is what we believe with our horses.

But if we are not allowed to force or make a pull on the halter, what can we do?

I asked Valdemar if we could investigate the car together. Look at it for as long as he wanted, poke at it, sit in it, and just be around it. Valdemar was completely up for it, and I am sure the same goes for your horse.


I use the trailer as part of our everyday life. If my horse, Karo, has traveled extra far, I know she has gotten a little tired of going up. So, we have some days where she eats dinner in our trailer. Just because there should also be days when the trailer means nothing but peace and relaxation. 

I also play with pallets, yoga mats, blankets, and seesaws. These tools help my horses dare to explore and try new things with me, and they challenge their balance. As my horses become physically strong, agile, and good at shifting weight and finding balance with and without a rider, they also become much better at being in the trailer.


They need to be able to do all that for the trip to be good for them and not end up sweaty and tense in all muscles when they come out of the trailer. 

And then I trained my mindset. Without thinking about it, I thought it was a bit sad and very hard for my horses to have to stand in that closed room and not know where we were going. I could sit in the car and think, "Oh, how is it going? Is Karo afraid, is she getting tired?"

I could also worry about taking up too much space in traffic and being a nuisance to other drivers. 

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Good horse training is about the horse's physique, your physique, the horse's mindset, and your mindset. All four parts are equally important – no matter what you want to achieve with your horse.

But research shows us that the horse mirrors your mind, and they can feel you from a long distance. A much longer distance than from the driver's seat to the trailer. So, riders who are very connected to their horses and are nervous in traffic have a much bigger challenge than they think. They must go to their half of the court and get a grip on themselves before they believe the horse has something to learn. I was one of those who had to go back to my half of the court. 

When Karo and I were going to ride, I said, "Wow, you have strong legs, Karo. You're good at standing in that trailer since you have such a strong body." I was very aware of my body and calmness in the car. I let thoughts like, "Oh no, now I'm in the way," pass through my head like clouds passing in the sky.

I gave them no energy, no thought. At first, it is always a bit artificial when you are forced to create new thoughts and strategies. But if you have walked that path of thought enough times, it becomes natural. Sometimes you need help from others to move your ingrained thoughts. 

Read also: 10 tips: How to work with and train your youngster and be succesful


Before planning trips away from the stable with your trailer, start playing with your horse first. Find out what you can investigate together with your horse.

  • Find out if it is the closed space that is the challenge
  • Practice your invitation to go forward or backward
  • Train your horse's balance
  • Assess when your horse is calm and ready for the next step
  • Learn to understand what signals your horse shows when it is worried
  • Find out how you feel about driving in traffic with your horse 

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