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4 weeks till we travel and she still won't go in the trailer.


I appreciate your time on this one ... we are moving from SC to Maine in 4 weeks and still can't get our mare in the box. If you have any suggestions I would be very grateful.

Quick history ... she is 15 yr old paint, not broken until she was at least 6, and is pretty green. Most of the time she has lived a quiet life with another pony (who loads great!) She was my stepdaughter's horse who didn't do much with her, (I have been with my husband a couple of years and rode myself in England). I haven't done too much with her I admit, some lunging and schooling.

I knew she was a problem to box, she has only traveled 3 times in her life and each time she has been roped in I believe.

We bought a ramp load 2 horse side-by-side box back in March and I have been working with her slowly since then. She wouldn't even approach it at first. We have been feeding them in there, it was a long process to get her to go in.

She will go in to feed now (self load), also on her own and with the other pony, but will always back out straight away. I go in and pet her and brush her, she will stand for a couple of seconds and then back out.

We have been trying to let her know she can get out any time, but this seems to be working against us now, and the one time we put the butt bar up and tried to close the door she exploded backwards and escaped.

She refuses to self-load without food (this is probably a bad thing now ...) if I put her on a line and ask her to go forward she will stand on the ramp but no further.

I have been working on the ground with her ... she will send on into a dark shed through an ordinary door with no problem (and no food) also garage and other scary places.

Today I lunged and worked her for 4 hours, each time working to the box, but each time we get to feet on the ramp and head poking in and that is it. We face out like that until I have had it, she will stand there forever (she is of a stubborn nature!)

I so want to be able to load her calmly ... we are stopping 4 times on our trip north (we are moving house.) and it is going to be a nightmare at the moment.

I thought of building a crush to train her in on the ground, leaving it open at first, teaching her to stand in it and then gradually putting a front and back poles on.

She also had a bad accident with wire about 8 years ago, and am not sure if they had her holed up while they stitched her up and that is why she hates confinement.

Help! I have a couple of hours a day to work on her, but at the moment it feels like I could be at this point forever!


Hi Hazel,

Thank you for your question. Patience and consistency are what is called for. Sounds like she has a lot of fear. There are a few good gentle ways to train and re-train a horse to load. To detail them all in an email would take a book length email. A few things I would suggest is try putting the trailer in a relatively small paddock with the back ramp facing into the paddock and having no holes on either side of the trailer for the horse to think she can escape through. Practice moving the horse back and forth (right to left and back) while you stand next to a fence line. The horse should move back and forth easily and softly without making a big deal of it. Next you stand on the ramp and move the horse back and forth until she relaxes being there. Reward her with no movement when she begins to comply. At some point (when you "feel" she is ready) ask her to take a step onto the ramp. If she does let her stand a few moments and praise her. Then another step, and so on. If she backs up, keep her backing all the way around the small paddock. If she loads and bolts back, keep her backing all the way around the paddock. Whatever direction the horse wants to go, you continue to ask (strongly) that she keep moving in that direction. After a bit of vigorous movement like that, ask her to step forward. You may see a change her compliance about moving forward. Never try to restrain her. I have had a lot of success bringing a horse forward and keeping her forward by "pushing" her back if she bolts back. When asking for forward movement from a horse that "locks up" I look forward (where I want to go) and just lean a bit on the lead rope. I do not try to pull the horse forward. After leaning forward on the rope for a bit the horse will usually look for a release from the pressure of the halter on it's poll and lean or step forward. At that precise moment I release all pressure on the rope. The horse is rewarded for stepping forward. Then I ask for another step forward by doing the same thing. It works. The horse will generally unlock and move forward easily. Once your horse really gets this particular lesson, keeping the horse in a certain place becomes easier.

To keep your horse in the trailer, you must load her a lot, give lots of encouragement to stay in once she is loaded, try leaving the trailer hooked to the vehicle and in the paddock and only allow her to eat from the trailer (she will have to stay in to feed). If she will load easily eventually and just keeps backing out, keep loading her over and overdo the backing a lot as she comes out. She will eventually get that standing in the trailer is a lot easier than backing around the paddock every time she bolts out of the trailer.

Anyway, these are few suggestions. Time does not permit me to write much longer. I do offer telephone coaching and can perhaps talk you through other options to try. Let me know if you are interested. Cost is about what a riding lesson would be and very convenient. Thanks again for your question and good luck. Keep me posted.

Sincerely, Franklin

P.S. She is not stubborn. She is afraid. She is a fearful child. We need to find a way to support these fearful animals throught their fear and not make them wrong. They are afraid and that is it. When we say they are stubborn, willful, mean or whatever, it is a great injustice to the horse.

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