Loading a Disobdient Horse

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  • Lydia_3107 Original Poster
    Topics Started: 2Replies Posted: 1

    Help! My horse will not get on the trailer. We have tried everything- blindfolding, whips, petting and treats. EVERYTHING. We have been practicing a lot. She is not scared, just stubborn. Please help me!! Thank you.

    Joe-Joe Joe-Joe
    Topics Started: 17Replies Posted: 1205

    Have you tried putting a trailer (preferably hooked up to a tow vehicle) in her pasture, and putting her food in it? Begin by setting it at the end, and gradually move it up until she has to go all the way in to eat. This worked for a horse I had decades ago, who was also a bad loader. Blindfolds and whips only make any situation worse. She isn’t “just stubborn” – she has a reason. She thinks it is a good one.

    The method I used takes time (lots), and works best if you just put her feed in and leave her to figure out how to get at it.

    It is never the horse's fault

    Mapale Mapale
    Topics Started: 4Replies Posted: 421

    OP, How do you know it is stubbornness and not fear?

    Couldn’t it be stubbornness because of fear?

    It matters because it affects how one approaches the problem. Generally the reason most horses do not load is because of fear. Sometimes it’s heat in the trailer, or once my gelding wouldn’t load because there was a wasp in the trailer. After that bad experience, he needed some reconditioning to get him to load. (I rewarded him for poking his head in – then backed him off. Then I rewarded him for putting his foot on – then backed him off. Then I rewarded him for putting both front feet on – then backed him off. Then we loaded and got off immediately. I repeated loading and immediately getting off twice more. Then he was fine.)

    Has she had a bad experience in a trailer? Ever been left in the trailer in the heat or cold? Or is this a new problem -IOW just inexperience?

    Clinton Anderson has a video on how to teach a horse to load – I tend to use that same desensitizing approach – he also uses rest vs. work. The horse can rest on the trailer, but off it must work – feet move. It works on the same principle as a lunged horse can rest if it comes to you, used to teach the horse to come to you.

    The food approach Joe-Joe suggested may work, too. Whips and blindfolds only reinforce the idea that going on that trailer is a painful experience and is to be avoided.

    Another idea is to try to load her on a trailer with another horse (preferably one she knows and likes) already on board and take short trips to sensitize her.

    My mare doesn’t like straight loaders – is this mare used to a different type of trailer?

    I’d like to help, but I need more information.

    Alois Podhajsky: “When I hear somebody talk about a horse being stupid, I figure it’s a sure sign that animal has outfoxed them. ...

    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 21

    The ability to put your trailer in the pasture or a private paddock means you might need to have your own place or not have other horses who would step in and eat the food. I was told to use a rope halter, wear gloves to protect hands and had a very experienced, patient person help me who immediately released pressure on longer lead rope when my fearful horse made a step into trailer. I even realized the trailer I had was not big or inviting enough for our draft cross so bought a used, 2 horse slant designed for TBs or a taller horse with lots of light and windows. Do you know about your horse’s history or what kind of trailer they are familiar with (stock, straight, ramp or no ramp?) Would your friends help and allow you to try loading into their different trailers to see if that is the issue? I did have professional help and had to practice when not in a hurry or horse feels our anxiety. The short trips idea and traveling with a buddy are good. When horse will load and stand quietly, give verbal praise and rewards, but don’t tie until you are sure they won’t try to blast back out of trailer. I had a few days I just loaded mine in, fed him, backed him out and either rode or just put him back out with the herd. I have a slant gate I can quietly close and tie safely from outside. Rubber floor mats can help muffle sound and vibration as can a little bit of shavings. Whatever they are used to and comfortable with may help. There are also calming supplements, (not sedation, however!) you could try to feed for awhile prior to short, positive trips. There is also a great book you could check out from a library by Cherry Hill on Trailer Loading. A horse that has been well-trained to load easily is a blessing. A few that have not learned or were fearful have been one of my greatest horsemanship challenges. Celebrate your small successes and know it shouldn’t be rushed unless you have an emergency. I used to pay the vet to make farm calls so I did not have to deal with the stress of loading one of my horses 🙁 The help of a kind, professional is money well-spent as an investment in the safety of both you and your horse. I know this is a bunch of info, but if any of it can help someone else… Best wishes!

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 25

    My last bad loader was a PMU colt. His first ride was the trip from Alberta, Canada to Arizona, in a 40′ stock trailer, loaded with a BUNCH of other PMU – read that as non-domestic – horses, all un-haltered and untied, although some gates in the trailer separated them.

    To get this guy in a trailer again – still un-haltered – was a challenge, since he still was not domesticated. I put my trailer, anchored down with the door and windows opened for lots of light, in front of his corral, with the corral gate opened to the trailer. I put his hay at closer intervals to the trailer, then on the trailer opening, and finally halfway up the trailer floor. He was good up to the half-way point, then all progress stopped.

    About that time, I purchased a 3-horse slant – no centre post, lots more window and space. The process started again. This time I added a little manure from his pasture mate up at the front end of the trailer. He was getting a little grain, so I would put his grain measure up at the very front and hay half-way up. Still had little progress over a 2-week period.

    Finally, I added some SleepyTime (chamomile) tea to his grain and put the grain at the half-way point. From that point forward, I added the chamomile tea each day and moved the grain further and further forward. The tea took just enough of the edge off that within a week, he was at the front of the trailer and calm.

    Best of luck! Having a horse who won’t load is miserable. I had one I rode into every trailer for nearly 20 years! VERY bad practice.

    NinaJD NinaJD
    Topics Started: 8Replies Posted: 139

    patience and practice.
    work her around the trailer, have her stop at the back end of it.
    walk up to it as if nothing is going on, release the pressure for even a step closer.

    when i went to pick atreyu up, his previous owner(who is a total ahole), went to walk him into my trailer and he SAT Down, dug his heels in and tried to back up while sitting on his butt. I kid you not. i was waiting for my halter and rope to break, the guy was pulling so hard.
    my farrier then took the rope, 3 minutes is all it took to get him into the trailer, calmly.

    perhaps your horse doesn’t feel comfortable getting into the trailer with you or whoever else is with you. perhaps she just doesn’t like your trailer.
    my aunt had a trailer that even my seasoned show horse wouldn’t get into. and he gets into anything!

    just some ideas. i would just work with her, slowly.

    "Take the time it takes, so that it takes less time."
    "Expect a lot, accept a little, reward often."
    Pat Parelli

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 2

    What Dano said. My gelding was a horrible loader and can still have bouts. He is a nervous sort and anyone behind him trying to help totally escalates the issue so when we load, it is just he and I. I put gentle pressure on the lead rope and when he steps forward, even an inch, pressure released, praise, then asking for another step. He is pretty good now as we haul out twice a week. You can’t get mad or frustrated. If you make it a bad experience, it will only get worse.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 5

    Hi Lydia! I taught my sister’s app to load by feeding him on the trailer. Then we had to be careful at shows because he tried to load himself in every trailer looking for food! But this did NOT work for my tiny Quarterhorse mare. I finally figured out she hated tiny, cramped spaces. She would load on the big vans w/o issue. But the 2 horse trailers were not to her liking – maybe a touch of claustrophobia. I have since used the feed and lead-release method with my appendix mare and gelding. It also has helped to have an experienced/calm horse load first to set the example. But I agree with the other respondents – work when you are not rushed and can “call it a day” after making progress, even if it doesn’t result in your horse actually getting on the trailer. I also concur that using an experienced “type B personality” person to help is money well spent! I wish you luck.

    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by  felicityf.
    • This reply was modified 2 years, 11 months ago by  felicityf.
    AlmosFrosted61 AlmosFrosted61
    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 13

    My horse has problems going back in the pasture. What my trainer said was
    “Lead her to it, for every step she takes give her a cookie, if she back up immediately back her up so it was your idea. Don’t think about her not doing it. just go like you are going to do it.”
    Now Frosty is a smart horse and has already started improving. It will take a while and a lot of cookies. But it works.

    Dressage is a dance, where horse and rider speak with silence, Where force is not necessary, and where the horse trusts his rider completely, even in the middle of the battlefield.
    -Amber Blyledge, 2016

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 10

    First you need to change your own mind set your horse will get on a trailer why because you are much more stubborn. Two you need a calm horse savvy helper. If they are not calm and patient and willing to do it your way then you have the wrong person. Three the person needs to be holding the lead and there job is to keep the horse looking straight. Every time the horse looks left or right they pull the horses head straight they are NOT to pull the horse forward at all!!! There should be NO forward pull what so ever. Why because your horse is going to walk on himself not be pulled on period. You need a lunge or dressage whip the horse should not fear the whip feel him or her over with it before you approach the trailer to make sure they are not bolting afraid. Walk up to a point where the horse stops then have the lead person 5-6 ft in front of the horse remember there job is to keep the horses head facing toward the back of the trailer only. Using the whip on the horses rear end tap ever so lightly and make a kissing forward noise little taps increasing in strength little harder….little harder….little harder keep going until the horse takes one step forward. The MOMENT the ONE step forward is taken stop with whip and kissing noise and praise and pet good girl wait at least 30 seconds then again. Using the whip on the horses rear end tap ever so lightly and make a kissing forward noise little taps increasing in strength little harder….little harder….little harder keep going until the horse takes one step forward. The MOMENT the ONE step forward is taken stop with whip and kissing noise and praise and pet good girl wait at least 30 seconds then again. Keep doing this over and over till horse is right at the back of the trailer or at the ramp. If the horse starts running back then instead of waiting the 30 seconds go right into the asking for the step forward. She only gets the 30 second reward if she is still. A couple of very important things. If the horse wants to smell the ramp or trailer allow it and praise. MOST IMPORTANT thing the lead holding person is responsible for if the horse places a foot on the trailer or two count to 5 OR if you feel the horse is about to step back, lead holding person backs her out off the trailer 3 steps. Every time the horse gets on and starts to back push them back off halt then start again with whip and kissing. Never ask for more than one step forward but if you get more then great! By backing the horse off the trailer yourself before they decide to back you are doing multiple things. You are establishing control of the situation as any good leader does and the horse is now thinking ok she is not only intent on getting me on she is intent on control of everything on and off. Gets the horses brain away from thinking all she want to do is force me onto this trailer. If you have a open stock trailer or if you can convert the trailer to be as open as possible. When you get to the point of ¾ on turn the horse around and walk off immediately. It’s your job to say I want you to get on but it’s not scary you can get off. This could take HOURS but after the horse gets on and stands still shut the trailer have the lead person go tie the horse and exit the trailer. Then go for a ride even if it’s around the block. Come back the barn praise the heck out of her back slowly as possible off and end for the day! You will need to do this all again and again every day till horse walks on with very little issue. Good luck if you have any more questions PM me on FB.

    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 5

    I have a 16+ hand horse, who is also very stubborn. Loading him was always a problem. What finally worked was annoying him until he just got in.
    1. Start away from trailer and teach him to step forward by tapping the shaft of a short whip high on the dock of his tail. Keep tapping until he steps forward. Important to not hurt or punish him, just annoy. His reward is instantly stopping the tapping when he takes a step no matter how small. Repeat daily until his response is immediate and he will take several steps.
    2. Move on to the trailer and start over again with small steps.
    3. Once he loads, praise him and back out, and reload.
    This method takes time and patience. Note: Whipping a stubborn horse will only make him fight. It may take 15 minutes before he will take a step. But once he learns to stop the tapping by stepping forward, you got it.

    Topics Started: 1Replies Posted: 2

    I have had a problem like this before first thing NO WHIPS because it will teach him that loading is a bad experience. Good steps that I took that worked are:
    1)Have hay/hay bag at the end to give your horse reward.
    2)Even 1 step gets praise.
    3)If they back up, back them up further.
    4)Even if loaded once do it a few more times so she gets it.
    Have a horse who’s confident going in trailers go in first and have the bad one watch. Then lead her in and let them stand there and have good trailer experiences.

    TBeventer TBeventer
    Topics Started: 3Replies Posted: 22

    My mare used to be stubborn about loading. It was really annoying because she wasn’t scared, she just liked to be a pain about it. We would give her a few tries before we would hold a rope out horizontally to her hind end that would help guide her in so she wouldn’t go backwards. That solved the problem every time.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Have you tried the LIFEWAVE Patches. Please look for a LIFEWAVE specialist in your area. It is worth a try. The patches are put in the blinder area of the horse’s head. It would take too long for me to explain.

    Topics Started: 0Replies Posted: 1

    Try putting a lead rope behind her and have grain with someone who walks into the trailer. When she backs away just make it impossible for her to do anything but go forward with the lead rope blocking any escape plan.

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