Loading horses on to horse trailers
This section gives advice on how to make travelling as comfortable and stress-free experience as possible for your horses.
When loading horses it’s a case of safety first – sturdy footwear with good grip, gloves and a riding hat are all worth considering, especially if the horse you’re loading is unfamiliar or inexperienced. The horse should be kitted out in his protective travelling gear and wear a good quality (ideally leather) headcollar and leadrope – for greater control, it may be worth loading in a bridle.
Tips & advice for loading
Problems loading horses are common – asking an animal to walk up a ramp into a confined space goes against all its natural instincts. This section offers advice on how to train your horse to load confidently and calmly. However, situations arise where you need to get a reluctant horse on a trailer and time is against you, so you’ll also find tips on how to encourage nervous or stubborn horses to load safely. If you’ve got any advice you’d like to share, please email us.
Top tips for loading
- NEVER lose your temper – as frustrating as it may be, you’ll only make matters worse.
- Make sure you and any helpers are wearing riding hats, gloves and good, sturdy boots.
- Practice loading in a calm, quiet environment.
- Always load leading your horse from the shoulder, never stand facing him trying to pull him in.
- Have some feed, a couple of lunge lines and a schooling whip to hand.
- Load in a bridle or, if your horse is used to it, a natural horsemanship ‘control halter’.
- Make sure the trailer is the right size for your horse & the floor is in good condition – if your horse doesn’t feel comfortable and secure, he won’t want to travel.
- Make the trailer as light and inviting as possible; open front ramps and doors and spread some bedding on the loading ramp if horse is particularly hesitant.
- Try feeding your horse on the trailer regularly then unloading him – he’ll soon see it as a safe place and get used to loading and unloading.
- If you have a front unload ramp, practice walking your horse up the rear ramp and straight off the front so he knows there’s an ‘escape route’ and to help build confidence.
- To encourage a stubborn horse forward, the leader can hold a schooling whip and gently tap the horse’s quarters. A helper cracking a lunge whip can cause far more problems than it solves and be dangerous – definitely not encouraged!
- For horses that rear, a Chifney anti-rearing bit can offer extra control; however if used incorrectly and without ‘feel’ these are DANGEROUS; if in doubt, consult a professional.
- Once loaded, drive steadily and brake smoothly – the better the journey, the more likely your horse is to load easily next time.
Loading using the 'two lunge lines' method
If you’re having real trouble and need to make an essential journey, enlist the assistance of two ‘helpers’ and attach a lunge rein to each side of the ramp entrance. As you lead the horse forward, the helpers (steadily and out of kicking range) cross the lunge lines over behind the horse to exert a gentle pressure on his quarters and encourage him forward. Ensure your helpers are briefed to quickly secure the breech bar and put the ramp up once he’s loaded.