The Stables

Dealing With Loading Problems

NO! Thank you! Your horse has always loaded easily into the lorry or trailer and suddenly he changes his mind. What has gone wrong?

Quote “ if your horse suddenly refuses to load into the trailer, or lorry, when he always has before…perhaps he is trying to tell you something”

If only they could talk! Wouldn’t our lives as horse owners and riders be so much easier… and of course wouldn’t life be easier for our horses? Unfortunately, they can’t and so the only way a horse has to communicate with us is by his behaviour. So, if your horse suddenly refuses to load into the trailer, or lorry, when he always has before…perhaps he is trying to tell you something, either about your driving, the safety of the trailer, his travelling companions… a myriad of problems. It is up to you to work out what is wrong and try to put it right.

Keen huntsman Bill Carey loved his sport and would travel miles, towing his horse in a trailer, in order to fox hunt. Unfortunately, Bill was also fond of the after hunt fun in the bar. One night, after travelling a long distance to a hunt, then riding all day, he loaded the horse into the trailer and vanished into the pub, for many hours, leaving the horse in the trailer, cold, stiff and undoubtedly hungry and tired. It was no wonder, then that the horse refused to load into the trailer again. I hope that this case is extreme, but the principles are the same. If the horse has had an unpleasant experience in the trailer, he is likely to give you problems loading the next time.

It only takes one bad journey to put a horse off travelling and loading in a trailer especially if the last time he was in the trailer he had a bad experience. Something as simple as driving over a rough, potholed road, or over a rough showground, or a harsh braking which throws him against the front partition can be enough to put him off loading into the trailer again. If you have to travel over rough areas, drive extremely slowly to minimize the way the horse is jolted around, or even consider unloading him if you are at a show and leading him to your designated parking place. Think about the noise level inside the trailer as this may upset the horse. Haynets banging on the outside or overhanging branches catching against the side can be frightening to nervous travellers.

Although many horses will travel well if there is another horse with them, especially if there is a confident horse who may reassure a nervous one. However, sometimes horses can become tense, or irritable in a confined space and may even attack others over the partition. A nasty experience of this type will definitely put a horse off loading into a trailer again. Apart from bullying from another horse, there are other factors which can make him unwilling to go into the trailer again.

He may feel claustrophobic in the tight space. Make sure that the trailer has plenty of head room and length for the size of your horse. Make sure that the lead rope you tie him with is neither too short so he can’t use his neck to balance himself, or too long that he can get his head under the partition. Equally, travel boots and bandages can become loose and cause panic, or he may just not like the feel of them. A panicking or kicking horse can quickly cause untold devastation and damage to a trailer and to themselves. Trailers, while appearing sturdy are very lightweight and a determined enough horse could kick through it fairly easily, certainly causing a nasty injury to themselves in the process. Dorothy Field’s young stallion became upset in a trailer and began to panic, eventually pushing his head through the roof and severing his jugular vein.

The horse may become difficult to load if he associates the trailer with unpleasant experiences after he has travelled. Spending long days at a show, working hard, or standing for hours tied up in the trailer, getting too hot, cold, hungry or thirsty will not encourage the horse to want to load the next time you want to travel. Horses are clever, folklore is filled with tales of horses who ‘learn’ to be lame as they soon realise that if they limp they will quickly head back to their stables and a rest. The same follows for loading into a trailer. A horse will soon realise that going into the trailer at home equals a long day out, whereas they will undoubtedly be eager to get into the trailer quickly to come home again! It is a good idea to use your trailer for short hacks, perhaps a nice gentle ride through the forest, or a splash in the sea so that he doesn’t associate the trailer merely with hard work.

Written By Jacqui Broderick from Lavender and White Publishing

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