Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Two-Minute Trailer Training

I've tried a lot of techniques on making going into and getting out of the horse trailer a habit for my 4-year-old filly Gabbrielle, but each technique only works for so far or for so long and then I find myself back a square one with a horse that refuses to go into or get out of the trailer. Today, however, I found a technique that got her self-loading and unloading in just two-minutes. What was the secret?

Horse treats!

If she planted her feet and refused to move forward, I shook the jug at her. She hates that noise and would run from side to side until inside the trailer was the only place for her to go.

As soon as she took a step toward the trailer, I stopped shaking the jug and gave her a treat.

Each time I asked for a little more from her before giving her a treat.

Soon all I had to do was say, "Okay," and she'd climb right into the trailer on her own. I did have a long line attached to her halter and strung through the front of the trailer window in order to keep her facing forward, but I didn't pull her into the trailer with it.

If she wanted to turn around to get out forward, I loosened the long line and let her. Some clinicians have said to always make your horses back out of a trailer, because it is safer. However, other clinicians feel it is perfectly okay to let a horse learn to unload headfirst in the beginning so that the horse can gain confidence learning just how far of a drop it is. You can teach them to back out later. You just have to be careful to stand clear so that the horse doesn't jump on you.

I encouraged her to stay in the trailer for longer periods of time by feeding her treats through the window.

Eventually, she was leaping in...

...and leaping out, then turning to face me for her treat. It was all a game to her. I let her show off her confidence by going in and out quickly, but eventually I'll need to teach her the slower is better.

I let her graze and rest between sessions. The real trick is to see if I can walk her up to the trailer next weekend and just say, "Okay", and get the same result.


Sydney said...

I always let my horses walk out of the trailer if possible unless there is a ramp to back down. I had a horrible experience with a mare that had to back out and slid her back legs under the trailer and scared the bejeebus out of herself. Re-training her to unload was a job let me tell ya she would not back out of a trailer for anything.
If they can they will always turn around to walk off.

Callie said...

Congrats! Awesome job! I still let mine unload head first. A friend once insisted on unloading my Misty mare via backing out and her legs were shaking so much, she was so scared, but she hops in out of a trailer without issue all the time. Just won't back and that's fine with me.

fernvalley01 said...

Looks good! she seems willing

Kate said...

Amazing and wonderful! Your mare seems like a quick study, and what a simple and effective way to get the job done!

Good idea to leave the backing out part to later - I teach it to my horses because several of my horses are just too big to turn around to come out (and getting crushed by a big horse trying to turn around isn't any fun), sometimes you have to load in a trailer where they only way out is to back - straight load or last slot in a slant, and because someday someone else may have to load or unload my horses and I don't want them to have a problem then.

Lulu said...

Some horses are just more easily motivated by food!

I teach my youngsters in a similar fashion... I put a small bucket of oats in the front, and when they get in, they get to chow down. Eventually they just get in.

I always let my horses turn around and walk out until they are pretty confident. Once getting in and walking out are coming very easily, I will then start to work on backing out.

I think you are doing a fantastick with Gabrielle!

monstersmama said...

oh thats great! She is so pretty btw!

Paint Girl said...

Sounds like Gabbrielle picked up real quick that being in the trailer is a good thing! I liked how she was jumping in and out so quick, she liked it! Good job!
The last horse in my trailer gets backed out, then the other 2 I turn around. I know you are supposed to back them out, but there's enough room to turn them around, and they don't rush through it.

Katharine Swan said...

Great job, NM! And hooray for Gabbrielle, too! I wish Panama were that easy.

jmk said...

My guys are totally food motivated! Whatever works to get it done with the least amount of stress. Great job!
Scout turned around to come off the trailer until he just got to dang big, then I taught him to back off. I personally don't care which way he does it if he has room to run around.

Breathe said...

Good job - and I think you've really gotten it to the reward, not bribe approach!

Very exciting!

Reddunappy said...

All my horses load very well, and the two older mares back out slow and quiet, and step down. Emma on the other hand refuses to back out, she scared herself once and now has to turn around to come out, which can be iffy because she is so big and turns around fast. Se stepps out quiet to and will stop and look out before getting out, it not like she panics or anything, You cant shove a 1200lb horse out of a trailer LOL They all load up and haul quiet, so I am happy with that.

JAN'S PLACE said...

by golly.. I believe that little filly is ready to go for some rides!

AareneX said...

yup, all good ideas. I'm a firm believer in allowing horses to turn around (gracefully, without squashing me) inside the trailer so they can walk out face first. Why not? The "not squashing me" is the biggest issue, and they ALL learn VERY quickly to make not squashing a priority because I get really cranky about that!

Good on ya.

photogchic said...

Great tactic...she will be going in and out calmly in no time.

Leah Fry said...

A little brag on my Boyz: when I brought them back from Heather's, I opened the trailer and each, in turn, backed themselves out of the trailer. A far cry from when I first got them and we'd struggle to get them in and stand back when they came crashing out!

HorseOfCourse said...

Good work, and good girl Gabbrielle!
Seems like you had a nice ride the other day too!

KD said...

Way to go !!

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Wheee! Yay Gabbrielle! She's one awesome and smart girl!
And good for you having patience and doing what works best for your mare.

Baby Doll has to back up out of the trailer because we only have a two horse bumper pull with a ramp. She goes in and out slow and easy, though. She does appreciate treats to go in, though. I don't mind. Why make things unpleasant for the horse when they are doing as you ask?


Shirley said...

The best training method is the one that works for you and keeps you and your horse safe. Good job! And nice pictures too!

allhorsestuff said...

Good for you to find something that works!
I learned differently from my sister to load and unload.
fisrtly she taught me to look where you want the horse to go or be...being in front of them and looking at them from inside the trailer ..has told them that they are where they need to be!
I was taught to walk at the shoulder always..and if she stops I stop and ask her to go along with me...and if she does not I circle and with the training stick gently flip the lash behind me..she sees it and knows to move forward...I rarely have to touch her with the training stick. she would not get into the trailer as we were to leave camping last Sunday...I tried twice with her backing out(head is up and can get hit)I took her to the tack room with me and got the stick..that is all it took.
And getting out...I always walk out as well with her-slowly- heading out...she will not accidently slip under the back end ever or hit her head wondering where the ground is! I do have her wear a bumper too though!
There are those two ways..and then the parreli send them...I need an arena to practice that!