By Patty Wilber
Trailer training is an interesting topic. There are multiple websites and instructions and clinicians and whisperers that can aid one with getting a horse in a trailer. But if you have a “naive” subject (ok, I just had to throw some random science-speak in there) that is used to humans and access to a stock trailer, it usually turns out to be pretty easy to get a horse to load.
(Training them to go in every time might be a little trickier.)
But, heck, out at Red Cliff Ranch, we put a trailer in a pasture. Then, on horseback, herded a bull to the back of the trailer, and in two or three minutes, with no drama at all, and never dismounting, he loaded up. One of the coolest things I ever saw. I swear I have a picture of this, but I just wasted 25 minutes looking and…no clue.
I got Indy in Dec. 2014, and she was not halter broke, and of course not trailer trained. Well, can’t walk her home if she is not halter broke (too far, anyway) so she had to get in the trailer.
Showed up with two horses loaded (The Bait), backed up to her pen (where she was alone and lonely, having recently been separated from her mother), used a panel and the trailer door to make a loading aisle, and opened the gate to her pen. She took The Bait! She went into the aisle, sniffed the trailer and got in.
Now Indy leads well, follows me all over, and is naturally bright-eyed, brave and curious (and usually completely coated in mud…). Loading on cue is a Learning Outcome on her syllabus. We can give her a standardized test later. But for now, I will teach to the test.
For me, it is best to have a week of 15-30 minutes per day to trailer train (or in this case, a few weeks because I keep getting side-tracked by my biology teaching and then the horses that are going to be shown or who are paying the bills).
When there is time, there is no rush and so much less pressure.
I led her to the trailer, got in, and she followed (with no Bait).
Turns out, she is NOT a fan of backing out (off the cliff) even though her sister (LT) was an instant backing out champ (not that I would compare them, ever.)
I asked her with some assertiveness to give backing out a try. She got right to the edge and froze up. At this point you can use a motivator (like a stick) and make it happen, and the job will be accomplished, hopefully without anyone smashing their head on the trailer ceiling or gouging their face.
I have a stock trailer with turn around space. She turned around and jumped out.
Put her in and took her out four or five more times with no progress on the backing out. She got pretty good at going in!
Backing out, however, is a must. What if she was to need to ride in a two horse straight-load trailer? Backing would be her only option.
So, now we are working outside of the trailer to back off the bridge, back onto the rubber mats, back over railroad ties, and when she can do that with a sparkle in her eye, maybe I will try to place the trailer so that the distance between the floor and the ground is reduced. The idea being to set the horse up for success rather than a “You WILL Do as I Say!” fight.
Besides, the build up of confidence is more fun for everyone, and in most cases produces a better result.
And if that fails? Well, there is always the motivator! (Which for this filly, will be, I am sure, unnecessary.)
Good job, Indy! (Excellent snark on training to the test.)
Thanks Doranna! Glad you liked the snark! I was kind of happy with it myself!