My Horse Won't Load Into the Trailer
par Pat Parelli sur Jun 28, 2023
By Pat Parelli
“My horse won't load in the trailer.” How many thousands of times have I heard this? There's nothing more exciting than the first time you take your horse in your trailer, go for a trail ride, or go to a competition. As a horse owner, you're thinking, "Yeah, my best friend and I are gonna go have some fun," but maybe you didn't consider that the trailer looks like a metal cave on wheels to a horse.
Horses are born skeptics, cowards, claustrophobics, and panic-aholics by nature. Humans can be very anthropomorphic, which means putting human thoughts and values into animals' actions. Humans are also easily addicted to linear thinking. In other words, we think only about getting the horse in the trailer.
There are lots of ways to trailer load, but I'm gonna tell you four ways not to do it.
Number one, don't wait until you're late for the show or the trail ride.
Number two, don't open the door and see if he won't load.
Number three, if he does try, don't start clucking and pushing and ask a trying horse to try harder.
Number four, when he finally puts his hind feet in, don't straighten your arms, stand up and yell, "Shut the gate."
I've seen this cartoon over and over again. We get the goal and the purpose in front of the principle. What I want to share with you now is somewhere between get to and got to where prior and proper preparation will prevent poor performance.
So when I was around 12 years old, I went on my first big trail ride with our 4-H group. We were ready to load up, and our 4-H leader, Ron, just threw his rope over his horse’s back, and his horse walked on in. Ron had been a cowboy and worked on a big ranch, and that was pretty standard.
About an hour and a half later, the other four of us got our horses in the trailer by hook and crook and people pushing, shoving, and pulling. I look back, and I realize that human beings are not only predators; we're pack animals. As soon as an animal doesn't do what we want him to do, our tendency as humans is to gang up on him. How many people show up when a horse won't load in a trailer?
In the mid-'80s, I started a hobby of loading horses in the trailer. At every clinic I put on, I made sure no one left until the horse could load for life.
I did this by teaching the horses how to go back and forth on a rope. We call it the Yo-Yo Game. Then, to go around me in a circle without me chasing them. We call it the Circle Game. Then, I taught them to go sideways, down a fence, both ways. Finally, I asked them to go over a tarp and a set of barrels. We call it the Squeeze Game. It was amazing and gratifying to see the looks on people's faces when their horse walked up and went, "Well, if I can walk over a tarp and jump over a barrel, I can certainly go over that floor and under that roof and between those walls, even if it shakes a bit."
I'd really like people to learn something I call long-body logic, and that's learning how to control our energy through time and space and to control our horse's energy through time and space. One of our challenges is we live as pedestrians, standing straight up. Horses live their lives on all four feet with long bodies. That's why I call it long-body logic.
I have so much more to share with you, but if you just start by not doing those four things, you will be on the path to helping your horse see the trailer as a safe place and ultimately a smorgasbord on wheels.