Unloading and loading a horse safely from a trailer
Published 07-23-2010 5:09 PM | Fernanda Camargo
· Get help. This is a two-person job.
· Keep the horse as relaxed and calm as possible. A nervous or frightened horse can hurt himself – or you.
· Practice loading a few times before you ever have to leave.
· Check the trailer for wasp nests or other objects that might frighten the horse.
· Make the trailer entrance as wide as possible.
· Offer treats or grain to entice the horse in. One other thing you can do to get your horse accustomed to the trailer is to feed him inside the trailer. You just need to keep your trailer hitched to the truck so it can handle the weight of the horse. My horse was very nervous about trailers in general for a while, but she loved her grain. So I hitched the trailer to the truck and left it in her paddock, and every day I would feed her grain inside the trailer. If she felt like eating, she had to go all the way inside the trailer to do it, on her own. I, of course, stayed close to monitor her and make sure she wouldn’t get herself in trouble. Two or 3 days later, this horse was begging to go inside the trailer. I would open the door and she would go in and refuse to leave until I fed her.
· Do not yell or become aggressive. Even if this works one time, it will backfire later.
· If absolutely necessary, tap the horse on the butt with a lunge whip to urge him forward.
· When unloading, have someone stand at the horse’s head holding the lead shank, and unfasten the trailer tie on the horse before putting the butt bar down and opening the door. This is because horses can get anxious when the door is open and they start to pull back. This can turn into a huge accident. I made the mistake once of opening the door and butt bar first, without asking my friend if the horse had already been untied. His lead rope was already fastened, so I assumed he had been untied already. The horse started to pull back, broke the snap, as my friend tried to hold him by his lead rope. Both of her hands were severely burned, with blisters that took up the entire palms of her hands. I learned that lesson very fast, unfortunately, at the expense of my friend.