distress, which deepens his negative
association with trailer loading.
Help your horse have a positive
experience and learn that trailer
loading is nothing to fear by breaking
the process down into smaller simpler
doable steps, ignoring his mistakes,
and generously celebrating his suc-cesses.
Target training has several advantages
when it comes to trailer loading. If it’s
something your horse isn’t familiar
with, he won’t have a negative association with it. That gives him a fresh
perspective and a better chance for
success. Your horse will find it appealing because it is reward-based.
Start by making a target; a length
of plastic garden stake with a piece
you turn and walk away or apply light pressure on the lead.
He should also walk alongside you on a loose lead and back up
straight in response to a gentle cue.
At first, your troubled loader may hit the brakes when you
approach the trailer. No problem. Slowly slide your hand down
the lead toward the clip and apply subtle yet clear pressure.
Wait patiently for your horse to release the pressure on his
own. He may do this by shifting his weight forward, releasing
tension/lowering his neck, or taking a step. Reward him for
any movement that shows he’s thinking about moving toward the trailer.
If several seconds elapse without any response, maintain steady contact and
gently pulse your fingers in the rhythm of a heartbeat to ask him to come forward.
This technique enables you to communicate clearly while minimizing stress.
Ask for one step at a time and reward each one generously. If your horse
refuses to come forward, increase the pressure. If he scoots backward, calmly
move with him while maintaining the pressure and the pulse.
Release the pressure only after he’s stopped and stepped forward. At times,
you may find yourself far from the trailer as your horse establishes a distance
where he feels more comfortable. This is a natural part of the process as your
horse rebuilds trust.
However, growing agitation or reactive behaviors are signs he is in emotional
Only lead your
horse into the
trailer if there is
an escape door
or room to easily
get out of the
Now that your horse is
ready to hit the road,
prepare your trailer for a
safe and successful trip.
Check tires for
cracking and wear.
Inspect floors at the
beginning of every season.
Test doors and latches
for proper function.
Grease the hitch.
Check your spare tire.
Bring tire chocks, a
drive-on jack stand,
and hazard triangles.
Pack emergency supplies:
buckets, extra halter and lead,
long line, knife, flashlight, and