I was recently given an OTTB [Off the Track Thoroughbred]. He has been
off the track for at least 4 years, and has been retrained. He is calm, responsive,
and sane everywhere except near a trailer. He has obviously been forced and abused
into getting in. He isn't explosive and dangerous, he simply won't get in. To
get him home, we had to result to tranquilizing him, and it still took 6 people
to get him in. I will NEVER load a horse that way again.
I've spent hours sitting behind the trailer with him. I lead him around behind
the trailer, and as soon as we turn to face it he stops and refuses to move an
inch closer. I try not to pull at all, since that makes him back up. I've worked
with him and rewarded him for every step forward. The farthest I've gotten him
is right up to the trailer, but he just WON'T put his feet in. If I try tapping
with a crop or even raise my voice, he just shuts off and won't do anything. Baiting
him in doesn't work either.(and it doesn't for most horses) He just leans in.
Since he feels confident enough to put his head in, I don't think he is completely
terrified of the trailer.
I've reached a point
where we're not making any progress, and I don't know what the next step should
be. I hope to do some dressage and eventing with him, so it's very important that
he loads. How can I get him past his bad trailering experiences?
Thank you very much for your time,
I know this is going to sound like a plug
for my book "Trailering
Your Horse" but that is why I wrote the book which has hundreds of photos
and drawings in it.
Most of the training takes place
away from the trailer. As you'll see if you read the book, you set up circumstances
that mimic the various things about trailers that frighten a horse such as:
horse that has loading issues needs a review of in-hand work. Refusing to walk
forward shows there are underlying problems that need to be worked out and the
obstacles will help in that regard. You may find that the horse refuses more than
loading in a trailer.
When the horse has mastered
all of the lessons, is no longer afraid of the components of the trailer, he will
more likely be willing to enter freely.
The book is
divided into three parts:
know and understand all there is about trailers and trailering, you will project
a sense of confidence to your horse. And if you use systematic lessons to overcome
your horse's fears, you will help him become a willing partner when it comes time
My advice does not include bribery or sitting
behind the trailer for hours but rather is action oriented - lessons filled with
progressive, positive goals that will get you working with your horse and get
him listening to you and trusting your judgment.
final thought. Without knowing your level of experience with trailer loading and
trailering, there is the possibility that you could be adding to your horse's
insecurity. A very accomplished rider can also be inexperienced when it comes
to trailering. It is actually very common.
you can raise your level of experience as well as your horse's by going through
the ground training exercises together that I suggest in the book.