Gain your horse’s trust.,
Get your horse used to the trailer.,
Adapt your body language.,
Use positive reinforcement.,
Teach the “go forward” command.,
To make loading as not stressful as possible, build trust with your horse. You want to make loading something that is a safe experience that can be done with ease. Practice these steps to gain trust in your horse.Be responsible for your horse’s actions. Often, your horse’s actions (or reactions) can be attributed to your leadership. For example, if your horse is spooked easily, you may be giving off body language that triggers the horse to get scared. If your horse is lazy, you may not be giving confident instructions to your horse.
Establish a healthy relationship with rules. You should be kind to your horse, but still have established boundaries.You do not want your horse to develop bad habits because of ill-established rules. For example, practice grooming or touching your horse. If you notice your horse is uncomfortable with you touching or grooming a particular spot (for example, his hoof), then proceed at the horse’s pace until a routine and boundary is set. This helps to establish trust and a routine.
Be consistent. You do not want to send mixed signals to your horse. Always be consistent in behavior and rules. This will help establish continuity and patterns. The more you practice anything, the easier it gets!
Redirect, do not punish. You want to use positive reinforcement when working with your horse. If your horse does something you do not like, do not hit or punish it. This will establish mistrust, fear, or anger. Instead, redirect the horse into a behavior that you want to see. For example, if your horse is hesitant to do something, do not hit it. Instead, work with the horse to assuage its fears or discomfort.
, Trailers are not something that are natural for horses; they are closed off spaces where a horse cannot easily escape.Therefore, do not expect your horse to naturally love the trailer. Instead, let him get used to it on his own time. Consider:
Putting the trailer somewhere your horse can interact with it on his own time. If you leave the trailer in a grazing pasture, for example, he can encounter it when he wants and become used to it.
After the first few days, when the horse no longer seems to care about it being there, start feeding it in the trailer. Start by putting the feed in a bucket inside the door with the ramp down and the doors open. Secure the trailer if you can so that the horse doesn’t just dump it. Place the food further and further in each day. Just let the horse go in on its own and exit on its own when the horse has done eating. When the horse is comfortable with this, start closing the ramp while it eats. Have a hay bag available in there, too.
Practice walking near the trailer, touching it, interacting with it while your horse is near. Instead of loading your horse as soon as you get a trailer, practice interacting with the trailer around your horse without actually loading him in. Get your horse used to seeing you act naturally and comfortably with this piece of equipment.
, If your horse trusts you, then how you interact with the trailer will signal to the horse how he should interact with it. Do not get frustrated or angry at features of the trailer. Do not be intimidated by using it.
Practice using the trailer on your own before even bringing the horse into the picture. Get used to its features so that you can confidently use it and focus on loading your horse.
, Apply positive reinforcement when working with your horse.In each step of the loading process, let the horse know what he is doing right and well. You can do this in a number of ways:
Presenting small treats when he does something right.
Always verbally giving good cues: “Good work!” “Good boy.”
Giving comforting touch/pets.
, When approaching the back of the trailer and getting the horse in position to load, tap the horse on the rump/upper hip to give it the “go forward” command. You will want to give clear direction to your horse that you want him to move and load himself.
When tapping the horse to move forward, you can use a positive sound to let your horse know that you want him to move forward. For example, you can use a “kiss” sound or a click to indicate you want your horse to move forward.As soon as your horse begins to move, stop the tapping to signal you want him to continue to move forward.
You can repeat the load and unloading process with the ‘go forward’ cue until your horse becomes comfortable with this procedure.
Remember to reward your horse every time he makes a positive effort to load or unload. This will establish a good rapport and making loading a habit.
, All of this will take time. It will take work. There will be some hardships and mistakes. The important thing to remember is to be patient and to keep working toward your goals. Practice makes perfect!