Relationship Lesson within Trailer Loading Horses

by Matt Janzen on November 16, 2015

One of the most common issues we have to resolve with horses…is trailer loading.


The way I approach this issue is fairly simple. The scenario can seem quite complex though.


How do we determine the best approach when we are trying to ask our horses to do something that they commonly resist? It’s pretty simple…anything that becomes very risky for the human, horse or the relationship needs to be examined and approached from a different angle.

I’m going to share my most recent experience where I applied this thinking.

I was working with a mid-teen aged horse that does quite a few things. He is ridden in parades often, big group trail-rides, etc. The kind of horse that most would assume trailers quite easily to go do all these activities. He was very reactive when it came to trailer loading though. Why? I’m not sure… I don’t know his history well enough to know if there was a traumatic event that involved a trailer or not. What I do know, is that when I first started working with him on trailer loading, it was potentially very dangerous. I asked him to go in and he balked some, jumped in once and then jumped right back out. This was with a 14 foot standard stock trailer. With all the next attempts of approach it quickly escalated to full rearing (not pawing), trying to run over me, trying to run straight away from me…complete, even impressive, flight reaction effort.

He did NOT like the idea of going into a trailer!

I decided we needed to reduce all the safety risk factors. We moved to the roundpen, backing the trailer right up against the 6’x9′ walk through gate. Once we were setup, I re-approached getting him to realize that the trailer was the most comfortable place to be. He quit trying to rear, good change there, he quit trying to run through me, good change there, all he was left with was to run past and away. So, I let him, I let him run back and forth on the trailer half side of the roundpen. Anywhere else was lots of elevated energy. After a few attempts he finally stood facing the opening into the trailer. I let him absorb how much less stressful that was. Then I sequentially tightened the space he was allowed to move in. Within minutes of this awareness opportunity, that I allowed him to have. He was jumping into the trailer comfortably and jumping back out when I asked. Then, he was asked to do so again with the halter…then again with the trailer out in the open. He was over the distress associated to the trailer. This all took about an hour to achieve a major change. Pretty efficient time usage!




I didn’t get hurt, he didn’t get hurt and we resolved the resistance issue!

The moral of this trailer loading story is…stay safe and never compromise yourself, your horse or the relationship for a goal!!

The goal will be achieved much more thoroughly if you “play the game” with values.

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