View & Print Coupons
  • |
  • |
Please insert a friend's information that you would like send an email to.
Friend's Email Address:  
Friend's Name:
Your Email Address:
Your Name:
Special Message:

Trailer Loading Made Safe and Easy


By: Kenny Harlow, Training with Trust

Over the past decade, I have traveled more than 500,000 miles teaching my Training with Trust™ techniques to horse owners who wish to develop a more effective relationship with their own horse. During this time, I have received thousands of requests from people asking me to help them teach their own horses to trailer load. Many of these folks have had disastrous experiences trying to load a frightened or unruly horse. I have found that trailer-loading problems are relatively common, and I am angered by the many risky, unconventional ways that people use to force a frightened horse onto an unsafe trailer. Depending on the horse’s temperament and the extent of the handler’s patience, a trailer-loading lesson has the potential to become an extremely dangerous assignment for both. Because of the risks involved with training a horse to load safely and easily in the trailer, I have developed a method that any horse owner can use to ensure that their horse has a positive learning experience.

Essentially, there are three basic rules that horse owners must follow to guarantee a successful trailer-loading lesson. First and foremost, the handler must stay safe.  Second, the horse must stay safe; and third, the horse must be as calm, or calmer, than it was when the lesson began.  Before I begin each trailer-loading lesson, I examine the trailer for any defects or faulty equipment that could injure the horse or handler.

In order to prepare your trailer for the lesson, you should make sure the following conditions exist:

Horse Trailer ready for loading.

A Horse Trailer ready for loading.

  1. The ramp or back edge of the trailer should be smooth – having no tabs, hinges or hardware sticking out on any side.
  2. The taillights and reflectors should be recessed, and the back corners of the trailer should be smooth.
  3. The trailer floor should be solid without any cracks or rotten areas.
  4. You should have both mats and sawdust on the floor.  These are important for a safe and pleasant ride once the horse has been loaded.  And,
  5. All bolts, window guards, breast bars and dividers must be sturdy, smooth and rounded so that neither horse nor handler is injured once the horse has entered the trailer.

Opening the front and side windows will create an airy, inviting feeling inside the trailer.  If possible, you should allow the side doors to remain ajar during loading.  That way, the horse won’t feel confined once inside the trailer.  When you have determined that the trailer is safe and structurally sound, you can begin the trailer-loading lesson.

Leading a horse forwards and backwards.

Leading a horse forwards and backwards.

It is important for your horse to lead both forward and backward correctly before you can safely load the animal on the trailer. Therefore, every trailer-loading session should always begin with a leading lesson. I always use a bridle with a full cheek snaffle bit on the horse that I plan to load. By using a bridle, I can safely increase the amount of control that I have over the horse’s movements without adding pain or pressure. I attach a cotton lead rope to the side of the bit, take the reins off, and throw the lead over the horse’s neck.

The Trailer-Loading Lesson

*As you approach the trailer, the loading lesson begins where the horse’s feet stop.  Always remember that the lead rope is never used to pull the horse forward or backward.

Step 1

Ask the horse to move forward.  Always keep the horse’s nose pointed to the trailer.  If the horse hesitates, cue it forward by tapping it on the hip with a dressage whip.  As soon as the horse steps forward—even if it’s only one step—reward or thank the horse immediately.

Step 2

Now, ask the horse to move back two steps.  Again, if the horse hesitates when asked, tap the horse’s front legs (below the knee) with the dressage whip.  When the horse responds correctly, reward the horse.

Step 3

Stand quietly for a few moments before asking the horse to move forward again.  It is important that the horse moves forward or backward according to YOUR cue.  The horse should not be moving either direction as it chooses.

*Once you have moved close enough to the trailer that the horse can put its nose inside, follow these simple rules to keep both you and your horse safe:

  1. Stand on the ramp.  That way you will appear to be the same height or higher than the horse.
  2. Never circle around once you have moved to the trailer.  All of the horse’s movements should be cued forward toward the trailer or backwards away from the trailer.  Circling teaches the horse that it is okay to run over you.  If you have to lead the horse away from the trailer always step into the horse, toward your right, having the horse step back and away out of your space.  If you lead the horse with you turning toward the left, you have just told the horse that it’s okay to step into your space and run you over.
  3. If you can’t reach the horse’s hip with the whip, it is okay to tap the horse’s side.  Trying to reach the hip by stepping or reaching can cause you to lose control of the front of the horse.
  4. If the horse trailer has a center divider, stand behind the left compartment and load the horse into the right compartment.  This gives you more room to move and makes the horse less apt to try to escape towards your side of the trailer.

Step 4

Focus on loading the horse’s nose.  It is not important that the animal be standing straight behind the trailer.  If the nose is loaded, I guarantee that the rest of the horse will be within 15 feet. 

Step 5

Whenever the horse’s nose is inside the trailer and you are able to simply raise the whip toward the hip (instead of tapping) for the horse to move forward, you can ask for another forward step.  It is common for people to become confused as to whether to ask for forward or backward movement at this point in the lesson.  The rule is, if you need to tap 4 or more times to have the horse step forward, the horse is saying that it is uncomfortable entering the trailer at this point.  However, once you have asked for forward movement, you must continue to ask until you get at least one forward step.

Step 6

If the horse is hesitant to move forward during Step 5, ask the horse to move backward a couple of steps, stand quietly for a moment, then ask for forward movement again.  It is not important to make up any lost ground immediately if the horse moves back away from the trailer.  You must realize that until the horse is comfortable with entering the trailer, you shouldn’t think of this as a loading lesson.  It must simply be a leading lesson until the horse is comfortable entering the trailer.  Remember, the trailer is just an obstacle to overcome within your leading lesson.

Step 7

Once the horse has put both front feet inside the trailer, pull on its tail gently and ask it to back out of the trailer.  As soon as the horse begins to move back, release the tail.  It is very important not to rush this part of the loading lesson.  It is here that you begin teaching the horse to unload, as well as load, in the trailer.

Step 8

Repeat Steps 5, 6 & 7 until you can successfully load the entire horse into the trailer.  Then, ask it to step back off the trailer at least 10 times in a row without incident.




To contact Kenny, or to learn more about his schedule or training programs visit www.kennyharlow.com.


Related Products

GridList

Duraflex Muck Tub Blue 70 qt
COMPARE
$17.99
Duraflex Muck Tub Blue 70 qt
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability
Duraflex Muck Tub Red 70 qt
COMPARE
$17.99
Duraflex Muck Tub Red 70 qt
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability
Decker Blue Ribbon Brush
COMPARE
$7.39
Decker Blue Ribbon Brush
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability
Decker Pocket Brush
COMPARE
$5.29
Decker Pocket Brush
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability
Duraflex 10qt Rubber Pail
COMPARE
$12.99
Duraflex 10qt Rubber Pail
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability
Duraflex 20qt Rubber Flat Back Bucket
COMPARE
$19.99
Duraflex 20qt Rubber Flat Back Bucket
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability
Duraflex 5gal Rubber Corner Bucket
COMPARE
$17.99
Duraflex 5gal Rubber Corner Bucket
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability
Duraflex 18qt Rubber Pail
COMPARE
$15.99
Duraflex 18qt Rubber Pail
Check Store Availability
Check Store Availability


Product availability and pricing may vary by location.
These products may be purchased at your local store.
Images are representative only. Color and size may vary.
Your Current Store:

You will see pricing and specials based on this store.