Training to Load Much has been written on training a horse to load and there are several tried and tested ways to coax a reluctant horse up a ramp (such as crossing two lunge lines behind). However, every owner is in agreement that a horse that has been properly trained to walk quietly into a vehicle is a sheer joy, so we thought we should start from basics. Loading a horse into a the horsebox or trailer is simply a test of how well you have taught him or her to walk next to you. It is not a separate skill you and your horse must learn, It's just a matter of applying the fact that as you step forward so does your horse. When the horse understands your step as an cue, meaning he is to follow each of your steps with a step of his own, you can use that cue to ask him to enter the horsebox or trailer with you. Most horses will not be too fearful of loading. Horses that are very afraid are usually horses who have been beaten into a horsebox or trailer before and are afraid that they will be beaten again. Horses that have had bad experiences when traveling remember horseboxes and trailers as frightening things. If your horse is scared of the trailer because of previous bad experiences you must treat it like a new piece of equipment. All new equipment must be presented slowly and in a calm working environment. You reintroduce loading slowly, in a relaxed manner. If your horse is afraid to even go near the trailer, do calm and familiar things beside it. For example, you can walk the horse in large circles next to the trailer because the circle is a familiar shape. Remember the object is to be quietly and constantly be in control of what the horse is doing. Calmly get him working with your step and walk him up to the trailer. The truly scared horse has a tendency to rock back on its haunches with his attention locked on the trailer as he approaches it. Gradually, you'll coax him closer and closer until you get him right up to the ramp. Finally he will literally try to go up the ramp on his toes as he walks in beside you. Take some familiar-smelling bedding from his stable and cover the ramp and trailer floor about 6 inches deep so there's no chance he'll slip and slide when he first tries to tiptoe inside. When you are reintroducing horseboxes and trailers, you don't want the horse to be afraid to escape or duck away. If he wants to escape, you let him. Stop at the point where he begins to hesitate and acts like he wants to escape. Let him investigate. Make sure you reinforce your friendship with the horse. Groom him, scratch him, talk nicely and do not raise your voice. Do this over and over until the point at which he starts to worry gets closer and closer to the ramp. A walking horse will always feel safest at your shoulder. Most of the time, the horse will be perfectly willing to stay next to your shoulder but if he is not relaxed he will want to escape (with you) when things start getting scary. If your horse gets excited, stay as close to the shoulder as you can. Your body position will calm the horse. If the horse gets scared, it is even more imperative that you remain in position at the shoulder. You must achieve rhythm and relaxation during each stage of introducing the horsebox or trailer. You must give him all the time he needs to get comfortable with loading. Do not force the issue. Let him check the ramp out. Give him time to be curious. Keep his attention on both the ramp and you. Do not let his head go to the outside or behind you. If he backs up, stay at his shoulder, and ask for back. Make it your idea. Let him calm down by giving him something to do that he already understands and can be successful doing. Then walk forward again. Show the horse what to do. By backing and walking forward again behind the trailer, the area that the horse is comfortable in will get larger and larger until he is also comfortable walking into the trailer. So be patient and be his friend. Keep going back and walking around the vehicle, maybe even do some lunging nearby, until he realizes that when he is with you, the vehicle is not scary. Never hit a horse that's afraid of loading with your whip to get him to go in. The object is to get the horse to want to go up the ramp, not to trap him in the horsebox or trailer. He should go in because he trusts you and because he feels safe next to your shoulder. If you start a fight or try to force him you will only make the situation worse. Remember, the big goal is getting the horse to willingly go with you anywhere, to follow your step with trust and accuracy and willingly. If the horse will not go somewhere with you, you must fine tune the heeding and earn more trust. Now that you have overcome the problems - here are a few more tips:- Loading the Horse Whenever loading or unloading horses, it is best if two people are available to do the job. Use a cotton lead rope or leather lead when loading or unloading horses. This is advisable in the event that the horse rushes backwards pulling the lead through your hands. Nylon leads will blister, burn and cut hands when pulled quickly. Before walking a horse into the trailer, make sure that chest bars and escape doors are open for the handler to exit safely. Never climb under or over dividers, chest bars or the horse to exit the trailer. Never leave yourself in the position of being trapped in the trailer with the horse between you and the exit. Make sure that the trailer is securely and properly hitched to the towing vehicle before loading a horse. Never load a horse or leave a horse in an unhitched trailer. Do not unhitch a trailer with a horse still inside. Trailers are very unstable and can easily tip on end. When loading a single horse, place the horse on the left side of the trailer. When trailering two horses, place the heavier horse on the right side. This will make towing the trailer smoother and the ride easier for the horse because of the crown contour of the road surface. When approaching the ramp make sure the horse is in the centre of the ramp so that the horse does not step off the sides. Always secure the rear bar/chain before tying the horses head. If the horse pulls back before the rear bar is in place it wont break the tie, the head collar or fall down. Do not stand directly behind the horse when hooking the rear bar in case the horse flies backwards. When tying the horses head use a safety-quick-release knot or a tie with a panic/safety snap. Make sure the horse has enough rope length to permit head movement for balance, but not to get its head down or over to the horse traveling alongside Traveling Safety Most horses take to trailer travel naturally, while for others it is often a traumatic experience. It is important that a horse is happy and secure when traveling. One bad experience is all it takes to make a horse a bad traveler. Before starting out, check to see that the horse is comfortable, that ventilation is adequate, and that the hay net is securely fastened so that the horse cannot become tangled in it. Test all doors to make sure they are secure and that the tow hitch is secure. Safety chains should be in place and all lights and brakes functioning. Turns, starts and stops should be very slow and steady. Do not exceed the speed limit. Remember to allow extra stopping distance when towing a trailer. Moving horses and the weight of the trailer will push against the towing vehicle. Do not allow anyone to throw lit cigarettes or matches from the window of the towing vehicle. Wind currents often suck the cigarettes or matches into the trailer, causing a fire. Check on the horse(s) at every stop or every 100 miles. At this time also check the hitch, safety chains, lights and hay nets. Keep hay nets full and offer the horse(s) a drink of water. Avoid backing up with the trailer if at all possible. If backing is necessary it is advisable to have a person outside the vehicle to watch and guide you. Unloading the Horse When lowering the ramp keep feet and hands out of the way. Untie the horse before releasing the rear bar or chain. Do not stand on the ramp or directly behind the trailer when a horse is exiting in case it leaves the trailer quickly. It is not advisable to allow a horse to fly back quickly - this soon becomes a bad and dangerous habit. Try to keep the horse straight as it backs down the ramp so that it does not step off the side. Walk the horse around after traveling for an extended distance to restore circulation and ease stiff muscles. Other Safety Precautions When tying a horse to the outside of a trailer, use a safety- quick-release knot or panic snap. Make sure the rope is short enough that the horse cannot get a leg over it, but long enough to allow free motion of the head. Never tie a horse to a trailer with a rope length long enough to permit grazing. This is where the most serious trailer accidents occur. The ramp to the trailer should be in an up position when tying a horse to the outside of the trailer, especially when the tie rings are located towards the rear. A ramp in the down position leaves space between the back of the trailer and the springs where a horse can easily get a foot or leg stuck. The ramp is also the right height for the horse to injure its lower legs. Never leave a horse tied to the outside of a trailer unattended. When leaving a horse inside a trailer, make sure the chest bar and rear bar or chain are secure, especially if an escape door is left open. Do not tie a horse to the outside of a trailer when it is unhitched from the towing vehicle. Horses are stronger than we think and a panicked horse can and will drag an unhitched trailer behind it. Traveling with your horse is a fun and rewarding experience. As long as common sense is used and the safety guidelines above are followed trailer accidents are less likely to occur.
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