In an article from The Horse.com, writer Sue McDonell discusses positive and negative reinforcement methods and a couple of others (?) for getting horses onto trailers.
Some days it seems our staff spends more hours in the parking lot than in the clinic. We also end up having to tranquilize quite a few patients just for loading, which we really would prefer to avoid. Our clients have a wide range of horse handling styles and skills, and even among our own group we have different ways of doing things and opinions about the various “carrot and stick” approaches.
In my time with horses, there has never been an activity that has provided more entertainment than watching people load their horses onto trailers. I say this in all honesty: It’s not always pleasant. Like a horror movie or a train wreck, sometimes you can’t help watching. It’s easy to sit there and tell someone what they’re doing wrong, too. But it’s not always so easy to jump off the picnic table and help them out. My first trainer used to offer to help, and would sometimes end up with a training client due to her success. She saved countless people from getting home way past dark with bruises on their shins and dents in the trailer. Horses were stressed, though, and not just because their owners had been trying unsuccessfully to load them for a time. Look at these guys. Look at the horse. We’ve all seen it.
I will never forget my first trailer loading lesson. Bu Millie the Percheron hasn’t been in the trailer (extra-wide, extra-tall) in many months. She really wanted to be left alone in her stall with a flake of hay. She made that perfectly clear. It took over an hour. Once she backed out so powerfully that she put her large, peach-shaped Percheron bottom right through a door in the barn adjacent to the trailer. Smash, crash, curse words from the trainer. I have since learned all sorts of wonderful ways to load a horse into a trailer that don’t involve broken doors.
• My question is, how do you do it?
• Is there anything you used to do that you would never do now?
• Do you offer assistance when someone is clearly over their head?
• What’s the worst trailer loading experience you’ve ever had?
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