Horse won't load!

Spiritedly

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1 December 2011
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I'm off to a show on Sunday....or supposed to be!....I don't have my own transport but have managed to borrow a trailer from a friend so I could see how my new boy loads only he doesn't!! On Monday I managed to get him in after 2 hours, gave him a treat off loaded him and took him round to try again and he refused to go in again, 45 minutes later he was almost in then shot backwards and then refused to even go more than half in. Tuesday and yesterday he would put his front feet in and then shot backwards.

I have tried food, lunge line, letting him take slow steps, following another horse, opening up the partition and none of it has a made a difference.

Does anyone have an tips or pointers for something that could work? The idea of me getting him was so I could take him out to shows and do things with him that I can no longer do with my mare because of her health and I'm pretty gutted that at the moment :(
 

abbijay

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Equip yourself with as much time as possible and one or 2 helpers - no more though, you don't need a huge audience. Wear a hat, gloves and good boots.
Are you leading in a normal headcollar? If you are I would suggest swapping this for a dually or rope pressure halter or possibly a bridle so you have more control and influence. I use a pressure halter and long lead rope for mine who is quite good at planting, reversing and exiting "stage left" he also throws a fabulous rear in which for an 18hh cart horse is both impressive and scary.
I have watched a number of youtube videos to help me and read a lot of articles, we also ended up in a loading demo at a show last year after spending nearly an hour trying to load to get there. Key points include use of pressure and release and NEVER turn the horse away from the ramp, you can back it up but keep it straight and consider making a 'funnel' to get them on. If you watch any of the natural horsemanship demos they tend to use heras fence panels (or similar) to channel the horse to where they want them to go, some people buy beach wind breaks to take with them when they're out and about.
My horse has been a slow process and there has been trial and error to get to a situation where I am happy to take him out regularly and on my own. I now travel him without the partition and no boots or bandages or tail wrap. He is always turned out during the day/night prior to going out. At home I always load in the same location where there is less chance to head to the right. I lead him in his pressure halter and stop and start a couple of times prior to approaching the trailer, I check I have control and he is reminded he's in his pressure halter. My final stop is before I turn to the trailer but so he can see in. He has a massive brightly coloured bucket in there that is very visible. Once he is on he gets a good feed but he's not one to back out.
I always allow plenty of time to load; even now I allow 30 minutes so I am not stressed, if I'm hurrying he just knows and we have problems.
Over the years we have tried many things with varying success levels but we have most success with calm and consistent training. Good luck, it will not be fixed quickly and ultimately I think once a horse has demonstrated they are a bad loader presume every time they will be a bad loader but you have a few days to start getting him prepped to go out on Sunday although it could end up being a very long day.
 

Amye

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abbijay has some good advice.

I don't want to put a downer on your outing but, I wouldn't get your hopes up too much on Sunday.. just in case. Maybe set your goal as getting him into the trailer and then if he does, head on to the show and, if he doesn't, you won't be too disappointed. If you do get him to the show be prepared for him to not want to load on the way back too.

The first time I tried to load my boy he was exactly the same as yours, and I didn't make it to the show. I'd taken it for granted he was so laidback in day to day life that he would be fine loading! It took us 2 hours to get him on! He's lots better now but still not 100%. We spent alot of time walking in and out horseboxes (and still do!). I don't have my own transport either so it's difficult to properly practice and I think that's slowed us down a bit as I can't just up and go when I want to and I can't afford to hire anything atm :(

When i realised he was a bad loader, I started off just getting him to get close to the ramp calmly, I gave him his bucket and let him eat on the ramp. Once he was calm going onto the ramp and putting his hooves on it I started getting him in the box. I'd march him right up to it and keep going confidently - if i hesitated, he did too. Once he'd got his feet on it I let him sniff the ramp if he wanted to but was always aware not to let his head turn, so as soon as he raised his head I put pressure on his lead rope to ask him to step forward, as soon as he did i released and told him good boy, just asking for a bit at a time. He now walks on and off without hesitation but he doesn't like being shut in.... So that's the next step! I have managed to get him out a couple of times but it's been a slow process due to relying on other people.

I always try and leave on a positive note, so last time we tried to get him out and he wouldn't load, it came to a point I knew he wasn't going to get on, so we just made sure he took another positive step forward on the ramp and didn't try and rush back. The goal became, get his feet on the ramp instead of get him in the box. Though I was massively disappointed we didn't get him the box and it was a step back, I made sure he took one more step before 'giving up' (I normally don't give up but I was travelling with others and they were going to be late!)

I think a dually headcollar will help and i'm looking at getting one myself now. Or load in a bridle for now. Give yourself plenty of time whenever you go anywhere and practice practice practice!
 

Spiritedly

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Thanks for the advice so far :)

I use a rope pressure halter with a long line and work on pressure and release. He is quite happy to put two feet on the trailer but then just stops and then the trouble starts :(

I'm not counting on getting to the show with him but the transport won't be wasted as we are taking our pony anyway :)
 

peanut

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Make loading the easier option. If he won't go in, lunge him on a 10m circle and then try again. If he doesn't go in, repeat the process until he gets fed up and goes in as it's the easier option. It works for a friend's awkward mare every time!

ETA: Best to put the trailer next to a decent surface/grass to lunge him.
 
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MrsElle

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My mare is a nightmare to load. Many a professional has tried and failed. Pressure and release do not work with her. The only thing that does work is Mr Blue Pipe, or a sweeping brush niggling her from behind. She gets cross and kicks at it but soon realises that the only way to get the annoyance to stop is to load. She actually settles really well when loaded, and has travelled long distances calmly and happily.

We had two transporters give up after three hours and five hours respectively until we found a wonderful lady who realised that pressure and release wasn't working. The first time it took her 45 minutes to load madam, the second time less than 10 minutes.
 

iknowmyvalue

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I had one that ran back when she didn't want to load/stay in the trailer, and with her I found a chifney really helped, because if you put pressure on to stop her going back she'd go up, which the chifney stopped. So I had her in that and a dually, short line on chifney and long line on dually. As others have suggested, make life not on the ramp very difficult. Release and praise every single step forward, however small, and give him a break and let him stand. If he starts backing up and you can't hold him, get yourself in control of the backing up, make him go back at your pace and as far as you want him to go (further than he wants to go!). I wouldn't get your hopes up for sunday, but I'm sure you can get it sorted at some point :)
 

Spiritedly

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Make loading the easier option. If he won't go in, lunge him on a 10m circle and then try again. If he doesn't go in, repeat the process until he gets fed up and goes in as it's the easier option. It works for a friend's awkward mare every time!

ETA: Best to put the trailer next to a decent surface/grass to lunge him.
Unfortunately this didn't work with him :(
 

Spiritedly

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Thank you everyone who commented and offered advice. I borrowed a friends 'Be nice' halter in the end and after a major paddy he loaded whilst wearing it so we practiced a few more times until he was loading calmly.
Then yesterday despite it being a different trailer than the one we had been practicing with he loaded after 10 minutes and we got to go to our show! He even loaded relatively well to come home...took less than 10 minutes...We're still using the be nice but hopefully with time we can start phasing it out :)
 
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