If you plan to take your horse anywhere off of the property you keep him at, besides needing the right horse tack, you will also have to learn how to properly prepare your horse for the ride, load and unload him and know what to do if a problem does occur.
Preparing the Trailer
Before you load your horse onto the trailer and drive away, you should check it out to make sure that everything in and on the trailer is working properly and safely. You want the trailer to be a safe and working place for your precious cargo. Here a few things you should check before loading your horse:
- Check the floor of the trailer. It should be solid with no holes. Do not load your horse if the floorboards look unsturdy.
- Make sure you have the floor mats down so your horse does not slip.
- If it is hot or warm out, make sure you have some type of air or ventilation for your horse so he doesn’t sweat and is uncomfortable in the trailer.
- Make sure your horse fits in the trailer. Your horse would not like to be squished in a small space for any amount of time like a sardine.
- Check to make sure the brakes, lights and turn signals are working properly.
- Add some bedding to the floor of the trailer. It will help absorb any wet spot and keep it from soaking into the floor of the trailer.
- Hang up a hay net so your horse has something to munch on during the ride.
- Before you load your horse onto the trailer, open the side doors so the trailer looks more open and inviting.
Preparing your Horse
You never know how a trailer ride will go; it can be a bumpy or smooth ride. This is why you must be prepared with the right horse supplies and protective gear for the ride. Here are a few examples of things that you will need to keep him safe and comfy during the ride:
- Shipping Boots – these types of boots fasten easily with Velcro straps. Shipping boots cover the horse’s hooves, ankles and all the way up to their hocks or knees. These boots are very easy to take on and off.
- Standing Bandages – these are much like polo wraps, but are made out a stretchy lightweight fabric. You must put some type of padding underneath of the wrap, such as a no-bow wrap, in order for these to offer protection to the legs. These types of wraps require a little more time to put on and off.
- Head Bumper and/or Shipping Halter –if your horse likes to throw his head around in the trailer, he should wear a head bumper and a padded shipping halter. A head bumper is like a little padded hat with holes cut out for his ears that attaches to the halter. A shipping halter is just like a regular halter with fluffy covers all over.
- Tail Bandages – if your horse is all braided up for a show, it may be wise to cover his tail with either a tail bag or some riders use vet wrap, so your horse won’t rub his tail and mess it up.
Loading Your Horse
Not all horses are so willing to load on the trailer all by themselves. Some horses need a little encouragement and help. Here is how to load a horse onto a trailer:
- Lead your horse to the trailer as you normally would lead him anywhere else. Walk a step or two in front of him when you get to the trailer. Walk up the ramp or step into the trailer and your horse should follow you.
- Hook the trailer tie to his halter. Make sure the tie is short enough so that he cannot get his head to the other side of the divider or reach another horse. If you don’t have trailer ties, the trailer should have some type of clip you can tie your lead rope to.
- Make sure once you get him on the trailer, that someone is behind you ready to shut the divider and the trailer door so your horse cannot back out off of the trailer.
- Once your horse is tied in securely, you can exit through the side door. Check to make sure he is tied properly.
- Once your horse is in the trailer, you can close all the doors and ramps. Make sure they are all closed and locked properly so they won’t swing open during the ride.
Unloading Your Horse
- When you arrive at your destination, open the side door and untie your horse. Have someone there to help you open the back doors and lower down the ramp before you back your horse out.
- Gently nudge his chest to make him back up. You want him to back out straight and slowly and not turn around and leap out of the trailer. Follow in holding the lead rope. Once he is out of the trailer, pat him and let him know he was a good boy.
If your horse has a previous ride on a trailer that was really scary for him, he might not want to get on a trailer again. This is why it is important for the driver to drive slowly and cautiously. Keep an eye out for stop lights and corners and turns. Make sure to start slowing down in advance instead of slamming on the brakes at the last second. Stopping with a horse and trailer is a lot harder than normally stopping a truck.
If you think your horse might give you a hard time when loading, practice loading him a day or two before the show. Don’t. Once he is on the trailer, give him some treats or feed so he can associate the trailer as a good place.
If your horse still won’t load, you might need some help from someone. Never lose your temper while loading a horse. A horse can sense that you are not calm and may react more to that. If you start screaming and waving a lunge whip around you may frighten your horse more and he may never get on the trailer. Calmly walk your horse away from the trailer and try again. Use encouraging words or food to try and get him on.
Another article about hauling horses that you should read: When it comes to hauling horses, bassackward is right