March 2014 – Mid Month Update
How to have a healthy happy horse
In This Issue:
Horse Temperament: Trailer Loading Tips
Horse Temperament: Trailer Loading Tips
I have been loading horses for years and noticed there does not seem to be any loading method that works best for every horse. It is important to establish good ground manners to set your horse up for success when asked to load into a trailer. Horse temperament plays a big role in deciding which method you use when loading.
Fire Horse – The Fire horse temperament does not like confinement. Make sure your trailer is big and light colored inside. A stock trailer with a wide door in the back is ideal. Fire horses are not food driven but it does not hurt to have a cookie handy for reward. A little rescue remedy or a couple of Focus Biscuits can help the Fire horse stay relaxed when learning something new.
I like to step up in the trailer and invite the Fire horse in with me. I reward every thought the horse has about coming in. Fire horses want to please so if you have taught good leading then he should get right in. Once in the trailer it is important not to tie the Fire horse. Let him feel the floor and get used to the small space. Invite him in and out several times until he is relaxed. Have a hay bag with something yummy, like alfalfa, for him to eat. If your Fire horse becomes anxious just unload him and let him stand outside the trailer. If possible, load him several times before you try to go anywhere. When you are ready to make your first trip you can tie with a quick release knot but make sure your Fire horse can reach all sides of the trailer with his butt before the rope comes tight.
Earth Horse – The Earth horse temperament is very food motivated and will likely follow you right into the trailer if he sees some food inside. Feed him several times in the trailer and loading should not be much of an issue. If your Earth horse is uncertain you can gently tap him on the rump with a dressage whip. I like to stroke down the back twice and then tap. This gives the horse time to choose or think or move forward before being tapped. I reward every effort he makes to load. I will gradually increase the intensity of the tap until the horse prefers to be in the trailer. I may even give a little treat for a really good effort before the Earth horse actually loads to help keep him motivated.
Metal Horse – The Metal horse temperament may take a little longer to load the first time but if his ground manners are good he will likely load right up as soon as he understands what you are asking. One challenge can be with step up trailers. If your Metal horse is tight in his shoulders then he will not be good at stepping up. If he moves his back feet closer to the trailer, but his front feet seem stuck to the ground, then back him away and work on moving his shoulders with a few ground exercises. Ground exercises can also help get the Metal horse to have more respect for you. Once the shoulders move easily then he will be able to step up into the trailer. Tight shoulders can be a problem with any type horse but are especially common in the Metal horse temperament.
Water Horse – The Water horse temperament needs plenty of handling to build his self-esteem and trust before asking him to load in a trailer. Focus Biscuits are great to give your Water horse before any training exercise to keep him relaxed and in a learning state of mind. Water horses are very athletic so focus your ground exercises on working in close spaces. Going forwards and backwards between logs is one good exercise. Stepping up and down off a platform is another good trailer loading preparation exercise for the Water horse. I would not suggest getting in the trailer with a Water horse. It is better to use ground work exercises to drive him between you and a wall or fence so you can load him without entering the trailer. Like the Fire horse, tight spaces can be an issue for the Water horse so get as big and open a trailer as you can.
Wood Horse – The Wood horse temperament is not likely to be afraid of a trailer or especially worried about tight spaces. If the Wood horse has good ground manners he will likely load well and be relaxed once in the trailer. Once the Wood horse has learned to load this does not mean he will always be in the mood to do it. Be prepared to make life inconvenient if your Wood horse chooses not to load. If he balks, take him away from the trailer and make him do his least favorite ground exercise. For my Wood mule, this was backing. Once I backed him a few times he would start hunting the trailer door and hurry to jump in.
Trailer loading is a skill that every horse should be good at. You never know when you will have to load quickly in an emergency. Once your horse has some basic loading skills make sure he can load into any type trailer. He also needs to load without you going into the trailer and back out or step out forward with equal ease. He needs to load in step up or ramp trailers. These trailer loading tips should help a first loading experience be positive or overcome a bad past history with loading.
Horse Temperament Type Resources
You can find resources that can help you determine your horse’s temperament type and support it at:
Tallgrass Online Course – Understanding Horse Types and Temperaments
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