April 30, 2017

Oh Joy! Trailer Loading Dramas

It has been a LONG winter here in Montana. When I say long, I'm not talking about snow in February or March, I'm talking about how we had snow on the ground every day this past week at the END of April. The reality is this is a "normal" Montana spring, but it's been a while since we've had one so I am a bit out of practice. Regardless, it just seems that mother nature is not on my side this year.

Thursday morning, much like Tuesday and Wednesday

We got 2" of precipitation last week between snow melt and rain. That equated to my grass arena becoming completely unusable. Yes, I can trail ride on our gravel road, but that doesn't help much when it comes to getting ready for our schooling show in May. So, I have been hauling into my old barn that I first kept Rose at when we moved back to town. It is also where we hold our local dressage shows, and it's only about 20 minutes from my house.

Hauling in there has been heaven! I miss boarding there so much. As nice as it is to have your horse at home and have 100% control over their care, I really miss the barn. I miss the social aspect of things. I miss being able to just show up, have pony time, and then go home.

The only thing that hasn't been great has been Gentry's sudden decision to not load onto the trailer. All of a sudden one day this past winter, he started balking at getting on the trailer, but he would still do it. Suddenly this week he said a big ole "Heck NO!" and would not get on.

Now, maybe it was because I was trying to load Gentry during a distant thunderstorm, or because the previous haul was to the vet for a float and sheath cleaning, or maybe its just because he's got a bee in his bonnet. I don't know, but it is really aggravating, and I have no tolerance for horses that don't load. After getting him on the trailer and managing a ride, I started planning our weekend.

It was time for loading boot camp.
Trailer floor with mats removed

On Saturday, I prepared to do nothing but get him back on the trailer, willingly. First though, I decided to pull all my rubber mats out and inspect the trailer floorboards. For 18 year old boards they are in okay shape. Regardless I have decided to replace them. There is quite a bit of rot around the screws at the door. Nothing super dangerous, and nothing that is contributing to him balking at loading, but they will need to be replaced sometime in the not to distant future, so I'm doing it now before it becomes dangerous. Having eliminated the floor as an issue, it was time to get his rump back on the trailer.
Minimal floorboard rot, but rot non-the-less

Now, I don't know about you, but pulling a horse on a trailer rarely works for me. Instead, the following is the method that I more or less mastered when I was training Rose to load all those years ago. I enlisted Hub's help as my rump man, to provide some gentle but annoyingly repetitive and persistent encouragement from the back. I put a bucket of feed in the front of the trailer, for a big reward. Then I asked him to load. He could stand there all day so long as he didn't back up, and got big pets and kudos for moving forward. The moment he took a step back I longed him in tiny circles at the back of the trailer. We repeated this a few times until he finally gave in and got on the trailer. Once he was all the way on he got some grain as a reward. Then I backed him off and repeated the whole thing several more times until he was more or less self loading with enthusiasm.

2.5-year old Rose learning to load

That was Saturday though. Would Sunday be a repeat affair?

I was hopeful but realistic about loading him the next day. Best to prepare for the worst and be pleased by whatever you get. To my delight, Gentry had a brief pause but then got right on the trailer, and off we went to the indoor for a ride. After our ride, he hopped right on the trailer to come home, no pause at all. I am sure that we will still have to do boot camp a few more times, but I am please that Gentry is so easy to work with when it comes to these things.

In retrospect, the only other physical factor, other than rotten floorboards, that I can think of that would cause him to not want to load is my driving. Our truck has a manual transmission, and perhaps I'm not shifting smoothly enough, or I am accelerating and slowing down too abruptly? When I hauled him on Sunday I paid a lot of attention to my driving and made and effort to be as smooth and gentle as possible. Given how happy he was to hop on and come home, maybe the whole issue simply boiled down to...my driving skills?


  1. Ugh -- trailering issues are the worst. Glad you've got a good method to work through it -- thanks for sharing!

  2. My last horse got naughty about loading due to one trip down a windy road. We took the backroads instead of the freeway to go to a local schooling show and he was a major jerk about loading for a long time after...for what it's worth my husband was driving ;) LOL



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