Chances are if you own horses you have experienced horses that refuse to make loading easy. Most of the time this is simply down to fear of the unknown. Horses are prey animals (as apposed to predator), and as such all their natural instincts persuade them that a small, dark and confined horse box is a natural ‘no go’ area.
You will need:
- Horse feed / treats
- A long lead rope
- A hay net at the top
Before even attempting to load a problematic horse, try and take away some of the things horses find most scary, like dark spaces and confinement. Open all side doors and ramps to open up the box so the horse they can see out all sides and to let light in.
Follow this up by hanging your hay net and getting your feed/treats. Food is the best form of positive reinforcement for horses, so when your horse walks in or even puts a foot on the ramp reward them with treats and lots of praise.
Your aim is to make the horse see there is nothing to be afraid of when going into the box we can do this by walking the horse over the ramp in different directions until they can calmly stand without force on the ramp , don’t forget to reward with lots of praise and treats!
Once you are happy the horse is comfortable on the ramp you can start walking into the box. The most important part of this step is to only ask the horse to go as far as he his comfortable with, so when he stops treat and praise then back him back up again and repeat.
One of my own horses sometimes took 3 hours to load! We found that putting the horse box in the field with his food in it was an amazingly successful way for him to realise the box was a nice and safe place!
There are of course many ways to do this by causing fear and pressure such as wips and pressure collars,but personally i have found them to solve the immediate issue but cause more longterm fear of the horse box
My Top Tips
- Never stop a horse from backing out if they go back. Horses natural instinct when met with force is to panic and they might rear.
- Always use slip nots when tying horse in the box.
- I advise the use of a protective riding hat and horse transport boots to promote both horse and rider safety.
- Never stand behind the back door of the back loading ramp as the horse might back out and injure you. Always stand to the side.
- When loading some horses can become uncomfortable with direct eye contact so turn your back and walk confidently into the box.
- Lastly remember that this process takes time and the morning of a show is not the time to start this! Aim to start at a time where you and the horse can relax and don’t have the pressure of little time.
Good luck and please comment any questions or success stories you have!