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Horse Trailers: Loading The Nervous Horse - Part 2

By Jeffrey Rolo

In Part One of Horse Trailers: Loading A Stubborn Horse we learned just how different our approach should be when our horse resists loading into the horse trailer due to stubbornness rather than fear. We'll pick up where we left off: what to do if your mischievous horse doesn't respond to your initial requests.

If your horse is feeling particularly stubborn and doesn't seem to be responding to your smaller monotonous cues then try to take it to the next level by forcing him to exercise rigorously. Take him into a round pen, or if one isn't available, attach a lunge line to him and make him work. (For this reason it's a good idea to always travel with a lunge line.)

Your goal is to burn away his "oats" and make him feel less frisky. Often a thorough workout will convince a stubborn horse that it's much easier to just enter the trailer rather than defy your wishes. If you are forced to go this route just make sure you give your horse plenty of time to cool back down before loading him into the trailer, particularly if water or food is available inside.

You may find the use of a crop useful during your session tap lightly on his hind legs to ask him to move forward, tap lightly on his chest to ask him to stop or move back. It's important that you use the crop as a communication tool and not as a weapon. If your horse does not respond to your crop tap, do not continue hitting him with the crop until he moves. Instead revert back to some more boring groundwork to break down his will.

It is essential that you always force a stubborn horse to focus on you as you try and load him into the horse trailer. A naughty horse will almost always try and tune you out by staring off into space - out of sight, out of mind. You want to keep his eyes focused on yours, and you can keep his attention by sharply snapping the lead line (though not in a manner that will actually tug his head downwards), barking out verbal cues or forcing him to perform dull groundwork.

Trying to load a stubborn horse onto a horse trailer can be a prolonged and internally frustrating experience. Unfortunately there is no magical technique that will convince your horse to load. When you break all of the above down to the basics, what's happening is that you're showing your horse that you are far more stubborn and insistent than he is. Once he finally understands that resistance is futile he'll load properly.

Sometimes a horse will come to this realization nice and quick, other times it can take a half hour or more to convince your horse to load. Try not to rush the issue, and never, ever allow yourself to engage in a physical battle of strength. Don't allow him to see that you are angry, because if he detects he is getting under your skin that will only encourage him to misbehave even more.

Ultimately the stubborn horse must see that he cannot break your will. By not reacting to his little game in an emotional manner, and by forcing him to perform menial tasks that will sap his excitement until he finally decides to load the horse trailer, you'll prove you're the stronger of the two where it really counts: the mind.

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