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Trailer Loading, but What About Unloading

When I was younger, we traveled four hours to pick up my first training horse. She was a beautiful grulla mare, three years old and other than being halter broke did not have much training done. The owner was a nice lady who lacked some confidence. Her family on the other hand were team penners and cowboy to the core!


When we arrived to pick up the mare, she would not load into the trailer. Not surprising. We took a break from the trailer loading. The next thing I knew the guys said she was in the trailer. I am not 100 percent sure how they got her in the trailer and I probably don't want to know. I'm sure they got impatient and while we stepped away, they took care of the problem. Or did they....


We drove four hours home in the wee hours of the night. We arrived home and I was going to unload her quickly, put her in the round pen and get some sleep. I opened the trailer door and she would not come out! At this point, it was about 4 am. By 6 am, I was still standing outside watching the sun come up. Finally she got enough courage, and came out of the trailer. I reloaded her and unloaded her a few times and then put her away and got some sleep.


This was about 20 years ago and I do things differently now, but I found myself in the same situation recently. The horse above was in an open stock and I had turned her around so she could see out the back. Right now, I own a two horse trailer. My mare has been trailered in an open stock and did just fine unloading by turning around and stepping out. This fall I put her in my two horse and off we went. When I went to unload her, she was stuck. My trailer doesn't have a ramp, so she had quite the step down.


Every time she tried to step down, she couldn't feel anything so she'd put her foot back in the trailer. I like having ramps for this reason. The other reason I prefer ramps is because of the strain it puts on the stifle when they step up and down. For right now, this is what I have.


Back to the point of this blog, I let her stand and than I would ask for a step back. Again she would feel and go back in. No issue. I had all the time in the world. After about 30 minutes, she finally stepped down far enough to feel the ground. She stood and looked around completely calm. I didn't force her, but let her decide when she could take that big step.


When thinking about trailer loading, think about unloading also. What are some things you could do to help your horse learn to back out of a trailer?


-Back over poles

-We have a teeter totter, backing off the teeter totter is a good step to start backing out of a trailer

-Ask them to step up on a pedestal and then step off with their front feet

-"Load" them into a stall, and back them out of it

-Back down a mild incline, it will give them the same concept of searching for the next step


When you do load your horse into the trailer, practice backing out with the front feet first. Once they are in, ask them to back out. I never ask a horse to back out immediately upon loading. I like them to settle to being in the trailer first. Have hay available and make it a comfy place for them to be. Once you are ready to ask them to come out, give them plenty of time. How many times have you seen horses fly out of trailers?


They fly out of trailers because they are scared. They want to get it over with. Give them time. Allow them to feel for the ground. The reason Shine came out of the trailer and just stood there was because of the time I gave her. The horse I mentioned above, flew out of the trailer. I loaded and unloaded her over and over. She jumped in and out but never quietly went in. Back then, I was fine with this, but not now.


I want my horses to enjoy what they are doing even if it's just stepping out of a trailer! Stepping out can be as big of a deal as stepping in.

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