Trailer Loading 101

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Today Dori went for a trailer ride for the only second time since I bought her. The first time she got in the trailer pretty good, but getting out of the trailer was a challenge. Today, she was loaded into the trailer so that I could haul her to a friend’s arena to ride and get back to business.

I own a 2 horse straight load trailer, which to a young horse who was used to riding in big open trailers, is a horse eating cave that surely would kill her. I loaded my good horse first so that Dori had a buddy already in the trailer and since he was going with and just loads so easy. I asked Dori to load and she started to but get a little spooked, pulled back and ran backwards away from the trailer. Attempt number two, three and four consisted of getting a little farther in the trailer, but ultimately resulted in her running backwards out of the trailer. She would put her front feet in the trailer, I would let her stand, the trailer would move a little and she would fly out. OK no big deal because I wasn’t giving up.

When I worked for Bright Ranch in San Martin, I was taught bu Dennis the right way to load a horse into a two horse straight-load, if the first few attempts didn’t work. I had recently purchased a new lunge line which was still in the horse trailer. I pulled it IMG_4744out, hooked it to her halter, tied the lead rope around her neck and dug out my stock whip. I put the lunge line through the manger window and walked around to the back of the trailer where Dori was standing. I was used the stock whip to encourage her to move forward and up into the trailer, keeping tension on her head, but releasing pressure of the lunge line and with the stock whip every time she took a step forward. (Releasing the pressure was the reward for moving forward, pressure would be increased if she stepped backwards.) As she figured out that is was just easier to get into the trailer, Dori would creep closer to getting all 4 feet up into the trailer. Finally she loaded, I closed the door, THEN hooked the butt chain (do not hook the butt chain until the door is closed with a young horse loading for the first time in case they decided to come back out). Gave her a few pats, told her she was a good girl and walked around and tied her head.

Unloading the first time up at the arena was a bit of a rush as I had unloaded Rocket first, but reloading and unloading at home was much smoother. Reloading at the arena did involve the lunge line, but not the stock whip! Very proud of my girl for being brave!

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