Archives MAIN PAGE

Franklin Levinson's

Horse Help Center

Professional support for you and your horse!

Trailering a Herdbound Horse

My mare is fine when being trailered with other horses, but for the whole five years I've owned her, she's been a terror whenever I've had to haul her alone in the trailer. Is there any technique for getting her comfortable riding solo in the trailer?

Becky Ann Paige
Columbus, Ohio

Dear Becky,

Before any training or problem solving with an Equine can be effective, there has to be a high level of connection and trust. The same can be said for any great relationship.

Please take a few minutes and reflect on these two vital issues for you and your horse first. If you feel these areas need to be developed more, perhaps we can discuss this in a future column.

Many herdbound challenges for mature horses are similar to weaning issues for foals. There are several approaches to this type of situation in common use today. Some are quick, abrupt and create quite an emotional trauma for the horse. Others involve patience, compassion and kindness, and do not create trauma, but rather develop trust. Whenever we remove a horse from his ‘buddies’, or change something in their environment, a stressful (fearful) situation is created for the horse. Horses thrive on what is consistent and familiar in their lives. That gives them confidence that they are safe. Horses bond to their herdmates very strongly and don’t want to be alone. It is part of your job as the ‘Great Mom’ (great leader) for your horse, to always offer kindness, compassion and guidance, just as you would for your own child. So, we shall take the patient, compassionate approach.

First, I would put some hay in the manger of your trailer (or use a hay net), load your horse and don’t go anywhere. Hang out with your horse while she is in the trailer. Be with her, talk to her and comfort her. Take this time to build your relationship with your horse while she is in the trailer. If your trailer is big enough, you could go in there with her for a while, always remembering not to crowd her. Then unload her and call it a day. After doing this few times, put hay in the front, load her and drive to another area on your ranch. Let her be able to see her ‘friends’. Be with her, hang out, talk, comfort her and enhance your bond. Do this a few times.

When you feel she is completely relaxed with this step. load up the hay and the horse and drive a very short distance (another spot on your ranch would be ideal) where she cannot see her friends. Comfort her, tell her she is safe and encourage her to relax and eat. A few minutes after she relaxes, take her back to the loading spot and end the session. If she has trouble relaxing, repeat the previous step and keep doing it until the mare shows you she is ready for the next step by relaxing and munching. Do this until she is able to spend an easy 10-15 minutes out of sight of her pals, eating and relaxing. Your job all through this is patience, kindness, and great support.

Then, after you determine she is able to relax for a good while out of sight of her herd mates, take her off the property a short distance away, park for a while and help her to relax and eat. Once she has relaxed for a little while go home and end the day. Keep repeating this last step gradually increasing the distance and time away from your ranch. Remember to always remain very sensitive to your horse’s responses to determine her comfort level. If she is uncomfortable and remains nervous, go back to the previous step until she settles down and munches calmly. Be patient, your thoughtfulness will be rewarded.

Thank you for your question. I hope I have been able to help. Aloha, Franklin Levinson

Look for: