In anticipation of the upcoming show season, I decided I better start practicing trailer loading with Baron. He has not been in the midget trailer since November. (The midget trailer is the little two horse bumper-pull, in contrast to my friend’s three horse slant load.) He hates the midget trailer, although last year I had him loading pretty easily since we were trailering to lessons every week.
Here is my method for trailer loading that I don’t necessarily recommend for anyone else’s horse. It just happens to work for mine. I get a lunge line and tie it to a halter. If I clip it on, the clip snaps as soon as Baron pulls back on it. That little piece of metal is no match for 1200 lbs of paranoia. The lunge line is tied so tight that it’s never going to come off, so this halter can only be used for trailer loading. Next, I loop the lunge line through a metal thing in the trailer that’s designed to tie onto. I loop it through so that when he pulls back I have some extra leverage. I start off giving him a lot of space and as he approaches the trailer, I slowly pull out the slack on the lunge line. I’ve learned that if I rush him, he goes completely spastic and rears. If I let him approach slowly and give him a lot of give and take, approach and retreat, then he stays calm. Basically, I slowly get him closer and closer to the trailer and when he realizes he’s not able to back up or get away by pulling backward, he gives in and hops on.
Today I did the usual routine. I managed to get him on with no rearing by not applying too much pressure. I let him go at his own pace and slowly coaxed him on. It took an hour, but I have to start somewhere. Maybe tomorrow it will take 45 minutes, and then half an hour, and eventually he’ll load easily. I’ve learned the perfect amount of pressure to apply, meaning that I know when to urge him forward and when to back off a little. I can read him well enough now to know when he’s reaching his threshold and when he’s about to go bat shit crazy. The rearing is really dangerous and he could easily injure me or himself, so it’s wise to take it slow.
After he got on the trailer, I fed him lots of apple treats and let him back out when he was ready. As a reward, we went immediately back to the barn and he got his dinner. I was very proud of him (and myself) today!