Although most horses can be either forced or pushed enough to eventually load into a trailer, if they’re anxious and uncomfortable about being in there, they will most likely paw the floor, kick the walls, and rush backwards out of there as soon as they get the chance.

The goal is the make the trailer a ‘sweet spot’ – somewhere they WANT to be as opposed to somewhere they are FORCED to be. That makes all the difference.

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You basically want the horse to be barn sour TO the trailer and love the idea of getting and being in there.

Before you even try to load a stubborn horse, you need PREPARE the horse to be loaded.

There’s one simple exercise you can do that will break the elements of trailer loading/unloading down into small steps so that when it is time to load him, he’ll be more prepared.

Set up a pallet with a piece of plywood on it and make sure you can send him over it.

If he tries to duck off, redirect him until he will step on the pallet.

If he goes on over it, send him again.

The goal is to have him step up on the pallet, stop, and then step off the pallet calmly, slowly, and with confidence.

See if you can have him take one step forward, one step back.

One step up on the pallet, one step back off the pallet.

Working on this will make all the difference when the horse gets to the trailer.

Next…

Put a halter and lead line on your horse. Hold the lead line in one hand and hold a lunge whip with a flag in the other hand.

What you’re going to do is basically play a game of hot and cold with the horse.

When first starting, give him time to inspect the trailer.

Make sure any front windows are open to make the trailer a little less claustrophobic.

Stand at the back of the trailer and begin by putting pressure on the lead line and encouraging him to take a step towards the inside of the trailer.

If his feet are locked or he is backing up, use the lunge whip and flag and tap him on the butt.

Repeat this until your horse takes just one step towards the trailer, and then immediately stop everything.

You may have to get firm and tap your horse pretty hard before he gets the idea (depending on how stubborn the horse is).

But the key to having success is NOT giving up when he’s NOT doing what you want.

Hang in there and be persistent until he takes that one step.

Now do the same thing and try to get him to take another step.

In the meantime, if your horse does anything to inspect the trailer (sniffs it, looks inside, etc) you should consider that a positive change and immediately stop everything

What we’re doing here is breaking everything down into very small steps.

(Note: I’ve made a step-by-step flowchart that will show you how to do this whole process in a simplified, easy way to understand. Click here to get it for free.)

It’s not about getting in the trailer.

It’s about learning that the trailer is ok to get in.

Now you can ask for one foot in trailer and then back him out.

Keep working on one step forward, one step back. One step forward, one step back.

After he’s good with that, ask for two front feet in — then back him out.

Remember, at some point he’ll need to know how to UNLOAD, so you might as well get him good at that, too.

If you get a foot in and he comes back out — GREAT!

Just make sure that AFTER he is out of the trailer, he runs into some pressure.

This gives you another opportunity to reassure him that getting in the trailer is a good deal.

He’s building his confidence which is exactly what you want.

The mistake people make is they see the horse put a foot or two in the trailer and then they rush up and try to get him loaded in there all of the sudden.

That makes the horse associate the trailer in a negative way instead of a positive way.

Now…

As your horse figures it out more, you’ll ask for a little more with each step, and get a little more particular.

Once he’s comfortable with his front feet in the trailer, you’ll put some pressure to get the back feet in.

If he goes in and comes back out, LET HIM DO THAT.

Let him stand and think a minute.

This is where the pallet practice really comes in handy.

Any step forward will be rewarded by a total release of all pressure.

Next you’ll ask for the other back foot. But give him TIME to think, figure it out, and become comfortable and confident with loading and BEING in the trailer.

The key is the timing of your pressure and release.

Make sure that any move forward towards the trailer brings a total release of pressure.

The only place he runs into pressure is OUTSIDE the trailer.

The horse will come to think of the trailer as a place of rest, relaxation, and somewhere he WANTS to be.

A few sessions of this and the horse should easily load in the trailer and be comfortable while he’s in there.

Just to give you an idea of how hard to push them or not to push them, the longest it has taken for me using this technique so far is about 40 minutes – average is 25 – 30 minutes.

(Note: I’ve made a step-by-step flowchart that will show you how to do this whole process in a simplified, easy way to understand. Click here to get it for free.)


Carson James
Carson James

Carson James' background is in Vaquero Horsemanship. For the majority of his career, he worked on cattle ranches where he rode horses all day, every day. He was often in situations where he either had to figure out how to help the horse understand, or it could easily turn into a life or death situation. Carson now travels the country putting on training clinics teaching people the fundamentals of Horsemanship. He has a unique way of breaking things down where they're easy to understand, both for the horse and the human.