Helping our horses be confident is our job as horse owners, meaning we need to show up and do the work on a regular basis. When we do this, the paycheck is worth way more than mere $$$$ They pay us back in heart and desire, partnership and real communication, and in a multitude of other priceless ways!
Un-loading in many ways is more important than loading in the horse trailer. But just like loading, un-loading needs to be taught to be executed confidently by our horses.
Sometimes, in their exuberance to be with their friends or herd-mates, horses will load right up in the trailer only to find when you reach your destination, they won’t un-load. This is not only inconvenient, it can be dangerous.
The key to making sure this is not a problem in any/all trailers, is by loading one foot at a time and then unloading that foot. It is easier to get one, then two or even three feet in and out than it sometimes is to get all four feet out. That first step can be a doozie!
In the video is the lovely confident mare ‘Spring’ and her person Eileen. Spring does not have her own trailer but she loves to go out and does so often and has loaded right up in every trailer ever presented to her, and she loaded right up in my trailer as well.
I have a three horse slant load step-up. Likely one of the hardest trailers to un-load from especially for the last horse on. It also has a collapsable tack room in the back (thank goodness) making the loading and unloading door 1/2 the width of the trailer.
The last horse really does need to make a bit of an angle and then an immediate step down. Spring touched her first hind foot on the ground and jumped back in and that was that. We had to empty and collapse the tack room so she could turn around and come out forward.
In the past, the step up trailers she had been in were open stock trailers and horses are encouraged to turn around to un-load.
So, we created a trailer loading/un-loading simulator for her out of two pallets covered with thick plywood that we screwed on to prevent any movement. When she could load and un-load nicely, we added a second layer of pallets to the bottom and when she mastered that, added the third layer of pallets to the stack.
The goal is that she load and un-load from the back of the trailer. In the video above, she just backed off of the 3 high simulator for the first time. Later that day she loaded and unloaded from the trailer.
Eileen will continue to use the simulator until Spring can confidently load from the back and wait until she is asked to back off by using steady soft pressure on her tail to follow backward.
That will take clear communication from Eileen with well timed releases and a thinking and “figuring out state of mind” from Spring as opposed to just rushing and pawing.