Coaxing my horse into a trailer was often a frustrating, embarrassing task, until I stepped up my horsemanship.

The horse trailer has been such a great learning tool for me.

I’m not just talking about taking turns wide and backing a dent-free Platinum into a tight space. Turn your steering wheel in the direction the trailer is curving in order to straighten it all out, right?

More than anything, the horse trailer has been a steadfast teacher of better horsemanship for me. I’m honestly amazed sometimes that a horse will just load right up in there and travel willingly, without (mostly) ever giving it any thought or hesitation.

It’s those times that our trusty steeds DO give it thought or hesitation that can be an issue, and I have both seen it and lived it time and time again. 

I feel fortunate enough now that I have had enough experience and help with horses that are tough to jump in a trailer that it doesn’t worry me if something carries a reputation of being “tough to load.” Sometimes it takes a little extra time, but it’s simply an opportunity to put them to work and reward at the right time to make progress.

cowboy loading horse on trailer

However, I can remember back when I didn’t get the concept. How many hours were wasted, and how much strife it caused me. It seemed to always happen when I was on a time crunch, or a deadline, often in front of a bunch of folks and making a scene. Gosh it was frustrating, feeling those four feet stop forward movement before reaching the trailer door. I would cluck. I would tug. I would have someone jump up and down behind my gelding to drive him. I would try to coax him in with a bucket and a hay cube and a $20 bill. Nothing worked.

Well, I take it back. Something must have worked because I’m not still in the parking lot with a furrowed brow. But my loading success wasn’t earned the right way, nor did it teach my horse much.

Somewhere along the line, someone set me in the right direction. I learned how to look for the little tries, where my horse eased off any pressure. I began to recognize when my horse even had a thought of stepping toward the trailer. I had to be more aware of what was going on with him and hone my skills on what to look for. I remember working on my gelding one afternoon in particular, asking and easing off, rewarding his little steps and driving him around when he would regress, with someone there to help me. My horse finally scrunched down and took a big leap—BOOM—right into the trailer! I was thrilled. Finally! My teacher let him sit there for a minute, and I reached to shut the door. He stopped me and went to lead my horse out. My eyes got wide, my heart dropped and I exclaimed, “What are you doing? We just finally got him in there!”

His response was, “Yes, but let’s try it again. What a great chance to try it another time or two and see if he’s learning the right stuff.”

Although I was skeptical, my horse did jump in and out several more times without much hesitation or drama. I learned the value of letting my horse work at something. It meant a lot to him to get that relief in the trailer, and he was pretty good to load from that day forth.

I’m still learning better ways to load horses efficiently and safely, and I really enjoy the process. It simplifies an entire concept of horsemanship and accomplishes a useful skill for us and our horses, too. I always wanted my horse to get in the trailer, and in doing so, I often forgot about the idea of “one step at a time.” And at the end of it all, it sure meant more to me when my horse and I both figured out a better way to do things.

But hey, it’s all about the process, right? Speaking of which, I might mention that the Platinum may not be completely dent-free anymore.

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3 Comments

  1. when breaking horses many years ago we backed the truck up to and open gate. put side panels up next to the walk up ramp then tthe hay went into the truck and a little bit on the ramp If the wanted to eat they had to walk up the ramp

  2. Floyd Williams Reply

    We always feed in the trailer easiest way to teach them to load

  3. Macdonald Nez Reply

    When load. in too trailer they don want go i usally run a rope. Around. Hind quarters. Usally worked

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