Monday, January 18, 2010

Mouthy Mondays

I really haven't crawled under a rock. Cross my heart.
There are new structures going on at work and my free lance stuff has taken a new and interesting turn.
BUT I want to lay out my new theory on you so much....I keep picking at my post. So hang with me.
Anyway, here's a neat post on trailer drama.

And maybe just a touch self-congratulatory.
We all love trailer crap so much.....

Micayla writes:


I had just bought a trailer.

The only problem was that it was a two horse straight load.

Well, you see, when I bought Bronson four years ago, I had to pick him up in a two horse straight and it wasn't a piece of cake.

He took one look at the inside and decided, NO WAY. We tried luring him with grain, we tried a butt rope, we tried smacking him with a whip, but to no avail.

He got so panicky at one point that he jumped a barb wire fence. And if you know Bronson, he's no jumper.

Only desperation and a firm resolve not to get in that horse trailer forced him to that measure. We tried sedation, but although he was woozy, his resolve didn't slacken and he still firmly planted his hooves and refused to get in.

Finally we were able to squeeze him in with some pipe panels, but it was still against his will. Now that was four years ago, but he still had the same antipathy towards two horse straight load trailers as he did then. Two and three horse slant? Absolutely fine, he'd walk right in. Straight load? Not in a million years.
I, of course, had to win, so I used this new method that I read on a horse training blog ( What I did was attach a rope to Bronson's halter, ran it through the manger window, then back to where i was standing behind him with a whip.

When Bronson looked at the trailer and took a step towards it, he got a release. If he flew backwards, he got smacked on the legs with the whip and I kept pressure on the halter. When he took a step back towards the trailer, he gets the release.

The premise is this: you make the trailer the best place ever for the horse to be. Basically.

So that's what I did. I started with my red lunge line, but it had been sitting in the sun one day too long, and when it caught on the handle, it simply broke.

I was very frustrated, because I knew that Bronson had now "won." At this point, my dad fortuitously intervened with a rope he found in the back of the truck. Tying that securely on to his halter, I started again.

Pull forward, resistance, smack hocks, step forward, release. Pull forward, resistance, smack hocks, back up, keep smacking hocks, step forward, release. At first it was going pretty well, he was sniffing the floor of the trailer and at one point he tentatively put two hooves up into the trailer, but then quickly backed out again.

Then it all went down hill.

Pull forward on rope, rear up, spin around the side of the trailer, smack him until he faces the trailer again, release.

Over, and over, and over, and over.

I was angry, he was not doing what I needed him to do, but I still made sure that he did not get his release until he faced the trailer.

He reared up probably fifty times, and I knew that pulling on that rope would get that response because he hated that trailer that much. Even though patches of sweat were breaking out over his coat, he still had his mind set: no, he would not go in. Multiply this paragraph times an hour and fifteen minutes, and you get what I was dealing with.

Finally, my dad came down to see if i needed any help - to which i immediately responded with a resounding yes.

I asked him to get a pipe panel and put it up diagonally to the trailer on the side he was spinning around to so that that option of escape was blocked.

This took about ten minutes, but Bronson just stood there facing the trailer about two feet away from it with his sides heaving, content to have at least a little bit of rest. At this point, I looked down at my hands and realized that i had two large blisters that had formed and burst and were now bleeding in the places where i held the rope.

I stupidly did not wear gloves, and was paying for it.

After my dad got the panel set up, I had him stand behind the panel manning the rope while I stood behind Bronson with the whip. At this point he was bushed, and he was pretty much done fighting, especially since his only other option of escape besides getting in the trailer was blocked.

Within about fifteen minutes, and with a couple two-steps-in-two-steps-out, he got in the trailer and stood there tiredly, but contentedly eating the bits of hay that I had left for him. Even though it took me about 5 minutes before I finally got the door closed, he just stood there, not wanting to get out.

Exhausted, but glad that I had succeeded, I shut the doors and took him for a drive around the block. He rode quietly, he always has, it's always been the getting in that's been the problem. I unloaded him, put him back in the pasture, and was done for the day. It was hard work, but I had to continue saying to myself over and over, "the worst is over." I just hoped it was.

The next day, i went out prepared.

I haltered Bronson up in the halter attached to the fifty foot rope, I set up the pipe panel even before I started the trailering session. I got gloves for me and for my assistant who was plying the rope. I was ready.

I brought Bronson up to the trailer, we asked him forward, he stepped in, then stepped out again. Stepped in, stepped out. Then stepped in and craned his neck out to try to grab some hay in the manger.

I flicked his back hooves with my whip and he walked the rest of the way in. All in all, it took about ten minutes. I closed the trailer up, drove around the block, then returned him to his pasture. I was immensely relieved, to say the least. He had learned his lesson well, he had learned that the trailer was a good place and that life was hell otherwise.

The difference between this method and the method we used on the first day to load him was obvious. This way, he chose the trailer because he knew it was the best place he could be. When we squeezed him in with the panels, he was forced to go in even though he did not want to do it.

It took that first very hard session, but by the 4th time, all I had to do was tie the rope around his neck and send him in, thus eliminating the need for me to get into the trailer with him. To this day, he happily tromps right in and stands there waiting for me to close the door, all resistance gone.


  1. Awesome!

    Can I add one thing to trailering? I know I have said this before, but it is etched in my brain,and I just have to say it at every opportunity. We had some nasty fires in our area last year. I got called to evacuate some horses. Make sure that anyone can load your horse into any type of trailer. Have a trailer loading party at your barn, invite friends to bring their horses and trailers and just take turns loading each others horses into every trailer that comes. You will sleep better knowing that they will load for anyone into anything. Just my Public Service Annoucement for the day!

  2. Ummm...sounds like my adventures with Starlette and the trailer! Check it out at (one of the original posts).

    So do you think they were in cahoots? :)

    My only problem now is that she's started to scramble on left turns...don't know why, but we will work on it this year. Thus the trailer is scarey...but it also means fun trail rides, too!


  3. In the last almost 5 years I have been seriously involed in horses there has been only 2 horses we havn't been able to get in our 2 horse straight load. Many times my mom and me have been told they load and trailer great. Well until you meet the dreaded straight load. Together mom and my have the loading thing down and as long as people stay out of the way we get the job done in a safe and quick matter. We have the steps we take and give them a certin amount of time on each step. Like someone already said people need to teach there horses to load into a straight load. Any straight load taught horse will get into a slant load/stock trailer. Even if you don't have access to one, build one out of wood. In an emergancy it will be a life savor for most horses.

  4. HorsesAndTurbos said... she's started to scramble on left turns...

    I have a scrambler - so bad that she cut the crap out of her legs and feet - even through shipping boots. It would sound like she was falling down and the trailer would be rocking and rolling. This is what I found that works for her. She needs to have enough room to place her hind feet really far apart. I had a full length divider in my trailer and she couldn't get her legs far enough apart to balance herself comfortably. As soon as I took out the divider or put her where she could get a wider stance all the scrambling stopped.

  5. Horses and turbos - get the suspension on your trailer checked - especially if it has leaf springs.

  6. really good story! Glad to hear it was resolved by the next day and that he retained what he had learned!

  7. I had a similar experience with my gelding. No WAY was he going in the two horse. When the truck broke down pulling the 4 horse slant, our choice was to fix the truck or go home & get the suburban and the 2 horse trailer, I figured I would be riding the horse home because no way would he get in the two horse. Luckily, after some prayer, the truck started & I dodged the bullet.

    Not long after, I went out with rope, stick, and with the words of John Lyons and Clinton Anderson dancing in my head, I thought I can get it done. Ah, no. After the rearing that you mentioned, he then just threw himself on the ground and laid there. Now what was I suppose to do with that??

    I ended up asking a trainer friend to come out and help & using a mixture of methods you describe, John, Clinton, etc., the boy loaded. And loaded again and again. He finally got it.

    Trailer loading, or lack of it, is VERY frustrating, but I don't think there is anything that feels SO GOOD as when they finally get it! High fives!

  8. Anon...we just redid the suspension. What should I be looking for? Too tight springs? She started it seems after we refurbed the trailer...

    Kel..I'll pull the center out and see what happens. It's a two horse straight load.


  9. Oh we have had so much fun with trailer issues - our horse BOLTS out. Now we load her in the back so she can't build up a head of steam. It's nuts.

    Luckily we solved all the loading problems with far less drama, but it was weeks in the making.

    I'm impressed with how you didn't give in even after all the rearing! I think I'd have sold my trailer at that point...

  10. On the scrambling - agree with removing the center divider. I have a 3-horse slant and if I put my appy in the front hole, she acts like she's going to fall through the floor or something. Put her in the center hole and you never know she's back there.

    You might try riding back there while someone "hauls" you like they would a horse. It might give you some insight into what's happening on the left turns.

    A trailering part is a great idea!

  11. EXCellent story. Congrats to you and Bronson for figuring this out. Hurrah!

    May I offer a suggestion on the bolting out backwards? One of our boys has that habit. Start outside on flat ground. Stand at horse's shoulder, facing the shoulder, right hand on the withers, left hand holding the lead just long enough to rest your hand on her chest. Poke/press lightly in the chest and ask her to back. When she backs, press lightly or tap on her withers asking her to whoa. Repeat and shorten the amount of backing until she will back one step and immediately stop when you ask her to. Then load up and practice backing one step at a time all the out and onto the ground.

    Also, letting them know when the trailer floor ends helps your horse's confidence. Choose a word like down or step and say it when the next step back will be downward. Our boys have learned these verbal cues and backing a step at a time, and it makes life OH, so much easier.

    Hope this helps!

  12. Just so you know...I only take the turns at 5mph or less. If I feel her start to scramble, I actually will stop for a second for her to get her balance.

    I did read about inner-ear issues...and she has a lot of ear wax! I dig it out for her with my fingers a lot!

    I am also going to put her on a different side. I hesitate removing the center divider because then when she backs out, she rubs against the center bar that latches the doors (it's an older trailer).

    Come On Spring! I need to work with her!

  13. Horses and Turbos,

    I'm with Anon... My friend's trailer has always had impeccable maintenance, but a couple years ago, her gelding started scrambling, to the point he was shredding the rubber mats on the wall. Loading him on the other side ended the scrambling, even though he is the only horse in the trailer, and riding on the right isn't ideal.
    Curiously, her one wheel position (sorry I don't have better details)has flattened/blown at least three tires in the last year. The mechanics can't find the issue.

    Lacking a body/limb soreness that makes your mare prone to scrambling in certain positions, I would say it IS your trailer. Can you give her a ride in a friend's to see if it is trailer specific?

    In an aside, my horse would put him self over the chest bar in short order on most trailer rides... One time, less than 1 minute into the ride. We found using a hanging "wall" hay bag instead of the "manger" hay bag in front of him fixed the problem. He was apparently trying to fluff the hay (even though it was already fluffed!) with his front feet. With a wall bag with just a hole, he knows he can't fluff it. So is he smart, or stupid?

  14. Great information. I gave up completely on a single horse straight load and upgraded.

  15. Good going! I wish more people would "tough it out" through the rough spots and get their horse loading reliably.

    Thank God for OTTB's! If they'll load in a starting gate, they'll load in a two-horse straight like a dream! You might have to teach them to back out though... :)

    That makes me wonder - how do track trainers get those hot young TB's to go into a starting gate reliably? Talk about a scary place for a horse! They must have some really good, tried-and-true techniques. (although, I know I see 3 or 4 people (stewards?) loading horses into the gate on race day by linking arms - so maybe they just use manpower).

    I have a nice, oversized 2HStrt that I love (big tack/dressing room too), but now that I'm up to two horses and two driving ponies, I'm starting to figure out that I need a bigger trailer. I'm NOT looking forward to trying to find another trailer that I like - I wish mine was just expandable! All four of mine load and unload great - for the first time in my life I have no trailer loading drama! YEAH!


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