My horse won’t load — what should I do?

  • Jason Webb of Your Horsemanship is a renowned UK-based horse trainer with a passion for starting young horses, solving equine problems and teaching riders of all abilities and ambitions develop and strengthen the partnership they have with their horses. Here Jason helps one H&H forum user who is having difficulty loading her horse onto both a trailer and lorry

    Q: “After having to move my horse several times in quick succession, he won’t load. He is not a bad traveller and not frightened, he just will not walk onto either a lorry or a trailer. I thought I was over it after spending a week practising where he was loading with oats as a bribe but we’re now back to square one. He has had a bit of re-training with a rope halter, and will walk backwards, but to be honest he is very bloody minded, and is not willing to accept the groundwork involved. What advice can you give me?”

    A: Loading horses can be a very frustrating and time consuming activity and it is something I get called out a lot for! Problems can be exacerbated by the excitement of a show environment and often people can be left close to tears of frustration, following a long day competing and they want to do is ‘get home’, while their horse may have other ideas!

    Of course, practising loading at home will help. However, it is your groundwork that you have to develop first so that you have the ability to calmly step your horse forwards, backwards and sideways. Most importantly for loading, I teach the horse to move forwards by giving him light taps with a schooling whip on the shoulder while maintaining a light pull on the halter. When they step forward, I stop tapping and release the pressure on the halter so they understand they have done the right thing. By repeating this process, a tap on the shoulder becomes the cue to walk forwards.

    Continued below…

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    This is then the technique to use when presenting your horse to the ramp of your horsebox or trailer. If your horse is reluctant to move forward to light pressure on the halter, tap them on the shoulder with the schooling whip until they step forwards. Again, as soon as they take one step forwards, reward that movement by releasing pressure on the halter and stop tapping. It really is a case of ‘one step at a time’ and patience is the order of the day!

    At a show, their attention invariably wanders, which may cause additional problems loading. Regain their focus by lunging in small circles near the bottom of the ramp before representing him to the horsebox. Make them really work hard by regularly changing direction and keeping the head turned slightly towards you, especially if they have a tendency to keep looking around and not in your direction. This will also have the added benefit of making the horse think that the lorry or trailer is the ‘nice, easy’ place where they get a rest, and outside is where they have to work!

    I have a loading video that can be downloaded from www.yourhorsemanship.com that explains these techniques further.

    Visit Equo Events to find out more and to attend and take part in Jason’s Your Horsemanship clinics

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