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Article Index

Approach & Retreat
Buying a Horse

Common Sense on the Trail
Curb Strap Tying Info.

Focus & Time
Ground Driving
Ground Manners
Ground Tying
In the Saddle
Introducing a New Horse

Lateral Movement
Mecate Reins
One Rein Stop

The Process
Progress Strings
Punishment & Correction



Round/Square Pen

Rope Skills
Slobber Straps
Training Home
Training Stick
Trailer Loading
Trailer Unloading
Tying from Above
Tying a rope halter



Training ~ Trailer Loading And Unloading ("Printer Friendly" version of this page)

Most of the accidents which occur with the horse and rider are related to trailer loading.  You can avoid being a statistic if you do your ground work and get things working before you move to the trailer.  Before you can even begin to approach trailer loading you must be able to longe correctly and ground drive your horse.  This also implies that you also can yield, stop, and ask your horse to stand quietly.

What you are after is a horse that will walk into a trailer without you having to get in with them.  You want a "self-loader", this is not a lot to ask.  This if for your safety.   You're probably thinking, yeah well you've never met my horse.  But, this doesn't just happen overnight.  It may have taken  4-5 years for your horse to learn to be a  "bad loader".  You, or the previous owner didn't mean for this to be the case but this is what you have to work with now.  Or maybe you have a young colt, the training is all the same - proper groundwork equals reliable loading.

We have all seen some real interesting trailer loading scenes - the person who "bribes" their horse into a trailer with food, or the two person loading ordeal where one person pulls on the lead rope and the other pushes on the rear of the horse, and my personal favorite - "the threesome" where two people use a rope on the rear of the horse as a sling with the person inside the trailer using a come-along or winch to pull them in. You are never going to pull your horse into a trailer with a lead rope.

Let's do some simple math and physics.  Lets say that our sample human weighs 165 pounds and his horse weighs 1200 pounds.  Do you think that you could pull a Volkswagen Rabbit automobile into your garage with a 12 foot rope?  What if the car was in park, or even worse - reverse gear!  What were you thinking? Buck Brannaman does a demonstration at his clinics where he teaches a horseto trailer load while he is sitting in the cab of his pickup truck.  This is no gimmick, a properly trained horse will do what you ask if it knows what you are asking and they know how to respond.

Trailer loading is not about eating.  Don't bribe your horse with food to get into the trailer.  You may be able to get them in this way, but the horse probably doesn't want to be there for any reason other than the food.  This is where you can get into some bad behaviors such as the horse rushing out of the trailer, stepping on or over you, etc.  Besides, what are you going to do if you don't have any grain or hay to get them in after the trail ride or horse show?

Don't hit your horse in the rear with a stick or crop- make this a good experience.  It is OK to let a horse know that he is in your space.   This is probably the most common thing we see people do, pester their horses to the point where they get some attitude and now they really don't want to get into the trailer.  On the other hand, if you have to use the lead rope to direct energy at the horse to keep them out of your space - DO IT.   Be safe.  Approach trailer loading in steps, again you have to be able to longe and ground drive to effectively teach this technique.  There is no magic time limit to any of these steps.  Some horses can learn in five minutes while some may take two weeks.  Be patient and make time work for you.  Most of all remember to reward your horse for appropriate behavior.

Step 1:  Show your horse the trailer.  Open the doors.  Make sure that everything is safe.  Let the horse look around.  REWARD your horse.  Is your horse calm?  If yes proceed to step 2, otherwise work on this and reward your horse for standing calmly.

longeing at back of trailer picture
Step 2:  Longe your horse at a walk at the door of the trailer.  Have the horse back-up, change direction, and stop.  REWARD your horse.  This is a new environment, make sure that this is a good experience.  Is your horse calm? If yes proceed to step 3, otherwise work on this and reward your horse for standing calmly.

driving into trailer step 3
Step 3: Drive your horse on the ground at the door of the trailer.  Ask for a halt.  Drive them by the door and around in a circle, stop.  REWARD your horse. Is your horse calm? If yes proceed to step 4, otherwise work on this and reward your horse for standing calmly.

driving into trailer step 4Step 4: Drive your horse into the trailer.  Don't worry if they stop.  Ask your horse to stand.  REWARD the horse for appropriate behavior.  Don't allow your horse to move into your space.  Use the lead rope as a tool to ask for direction and keep the horse out of your space.  Ask your horse to back out of the trailer.  Don't let the horse turn around to go out head first, this is dangerous.  Is your horse calm? If yes proceed to step 5, otherwise work on this and reward your horse for standing calmly.

driving into trailer step 5
Step 5: Ask your horse to stand in the trailer.  Start with 5 seconds. REWARD the horse.  Work your way up to 30 seconds in 5 second increments. Remember to REWARD your horse.  Ask your horse to back out of the trailer.Is your horse calm? If yes proceed to step 6, otherwise work on this and reward your horse for standing calmly.

Step 6: Drive your horse into the trailer.  Tie your horse in the trailer. Let them stand for 10 seconds.  Do this several times, and work your way upto 5-10 minutes.  REWARD the horse. I s your horse calm? If yes you have ahorse that will load quietly, otherwise work on this and reward your horse for standing calmly.

Reinforce this every time you load your horse.

Next Concept: Trailer Sense & Unloading


There is some risk involved in horse training for both you and the horse. Horses can cause serious injury. Be sensible and don’t attempt anything that is outside your comfort level. This information is intended to illustrate how we apply our training techniques, you are responsible for using this information wisely. If you don’t feel comfortable with your abilities or an exercise, don’t do it! Seek advice or assistance from a professional horse trainer. Stay on the "high side of trouble".

Natural Horse Supply Training Information, (c) 1999 Natural Horse Supply. All rights reserved. Duplication of any material  prohibited without express written permission. This prohibition is not intended to extend to personal non-commercial use, including sharing with others for safety and learning purposes, provided this copyright notice is attached and you have written permission. E-mail to submit comments or request reproduction permission.


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Updated Sept. 2012