BREAKING AND TRAINING HORSE #7
TEACHING TO LOAD INTO A TRAILER
Before I get to teaching you the simple way to teach a horse
to trailer load, I want to relate to you TWO horse incidents in
my life. One is an unbelievable event that if it had not happened
to me I would think is a long tall story of imagination, with no
reality possible. The other is an unbelievable SAD story of the
terrible knowledge that some horse people so-called, DO NOT HAVE!
First: The bucking horse saddle and rider escape.
I was 19 years old, was working part time at a Horse
Breaking, Training, Riding School, in Saskatchewan, Western
Canada. The owner did just about everything with horse, except
jumping. He bought this horse, well pony actually, about 13.3
hands. It had been in the semi-pro rodeo work. He thought he
could rehabilitate it to be a trail riding saddle horse. Its name
was "Cody" - we were never able to use it as a trail riding
horse. Cody would go well for a few weeks, behaved himself
nicely, then out of the blue, for no apparent reason, on the
trail, he would just think he was back in the rodeo and start
bucking. We never of course let anyone but us hired hands ride
him. We finally gave up trying to make him a good trail riding
pony. But not before an unbelievable incident took place.
I arrived at the stable one morning and the owner told me he
had just ridden Cody and he was bucked off, saddle and cinch and
all right over his shoulders and head. The saddle was still in
once piece, cinch still done up. I thought he was telling me the
biggest long tall story I had ever heard. He said, "Well, you
don't believe me, you go, saddle him up and see if he'll do it
again with you."
I just had to see if this was a true story, or just a way to
get me to ride this little unpredictable bucking pony. Off I went
to the Stable, saddled up little Cody, came out of the door and
got up in the saddle. Within about two seconds Cody was into his
bucking. I grabbed the back saddle strings with my right hand.
Off we went bucking down the side rail towards the cross fence
rail ahead of us. I stayed on, holding the back saddle leathers
made it possible, I was not a rodeo bronc rider. Here we were
heading for the oncoming fence rails. As we got within 4 or 5
feet I was wondering which direction Cody would move to as he
continued to buck. He did not, he went straight for the wooden
rail fence. When his nose was about one foot away, he did
whatever .... sucking himself back or whatever it was .... off
came the saddle over his head and front legs, me still in it ...
swift as the blink of an eye. I had the saddle under me, cinch
still done up, and I had my arms over the top rail of the fence,
and Cody was off behind me running away.
If this had not literally happened to me, I would never have
believed such a thing could happen without a horse getting his
legs or feet tangled up in the cinch and just one huge disaster.
I was young and naive back then, not realizing the danger it
could have been. It should have been captured on camera, but we
had no cell-phone cameras back then. It would have made the top
ten in "The Strangest Events in the Horse world" category.
It really did happen! I was a participating witness to the
very fact, that such an amazing event could take place, with the
skill and savvy that such a pony as Cody, the bucking magician,
could figure out and execute with precision skill that he nor I
were hurt in any way.
Second: A Sad story of unbelievable ignorance of "Horse people."
I had worked in England on a the Thoroughbred Stud Farm for
a year - 1973. I been a one man "groom" for another year with a
Thoroughbred Farm that raised and sold them. I then decided to
return to Canada in December of 1974. I wrote to the largest
Thoroughbred Stud Farm in Canada, E.P.Tayor, in Oshawa, Ontario.
I asked if they had a job for me. They replied they did.
I had worked about two months, so we were into late January
of early February. It was -30 weather, cold, cold, and even
colder that temperature is. I was working with a fellow who had
worked for the Stud Farm for a number of years. We were "mucking
out" stalls. He said to me, "Keith, have you heard about the
horse that arrived from California the other day?" I replied,
"No, not heard a thing." "Well" he continued, "it came from
California with no blanket on it, no natural winter hair, for as
you know, horses do not grow winter hair if they do not have to.
It got sick the first day here, and died the third day. Would you
believe the Stud Farm managers did not even put a blanket on that
horse, when it got here."
I was stunned to hear this. My working friend went on to
say, "They were shocked when the horse died. So they've sent it
to for autopsy to know why it died."
We then both looked at each other, and practically at the
same time said, "Well, it is not too hard to figure. It probably
died of pneumonia."
When the results of the autopsy came back after a week, yes,
as we both suspected, the horse died from pneumonia!!
The manager, the vice-manager and his right hand man, who
were supposed to be "horse people" running a Thoroughbred Stud
Farm, an expensive hobby for owners, did NOT HAVE ENOUGH
KNOWLEDGE TO PUT A BLANKET ON A HORSE COMING FROM CALIFORNIA BY
HORSE TRAILER. NAY THE PEOPLE SENDING THE HORSE, THE DRIVERS OF
HORSE TRAILERS, AND ALL AND EVERYONE CONNECTED WITH SENDING THAT
HORSE INTO -30 WEATHER, TO CANADA FOR BREEDING, WERE INEPT IN
KNOWING THAT YOU DO NOT SEND A HORSE FROM SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
WITH NO WINTER HAIR INTO -30 WEATHER (NOT INCLUDING THE WIND
FACTOR) OF WINTER.
IT JUST BLEW ME AWAY, THIS LESS THAN AMATEUR KNOWLEDGE OF
HORSES!! ANYONE IN THE HORSE INDUSTRY SHOULD HAVE STUDIED AND
READ A NUMBER OF BOOKS ON HORSES, FROM THE BASICS TO THE
ADVANCED, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE A MANAGER OF SOMETHING LIKE A
THOROUGHBRED STUD FARM!!
The ineptitude of all concerned with the shipment of that
horse from south California to -30 in Ontario, Canada, is pretty
SICK to put it in nice words, and to put it in other words that
the word "ineptitude" means: incompetent, unskilled, untrained,
unqualified, bungling, foolish, asinine, nonsensical, empty,
inane, and certainly unfitting to be called "horse people."
Within a month after this incident I was out of that
Thoroughbred Stud Farm and into another career work.
If you are into "horses" then make sure you have at least
the basic knowledge of horses, and you should have 4 or 5 of the
foundational books on horses that have been and still are
obtainable from "books stores" and "horse feed and tack stores."
Then after that you should have the books on your "specific" area
of what skill with horses you desire to work in.
It still amazes me that I meet "horse people" who have very
little knowledge of horses, they either cannot read or they are
too lazy to read and study about a hobby or work they are
supposed to love.
MAKE SURE YOU ARE NOT ONE OF THOSE UNKNOWLEDGABLE PERSONS,
IF YOU ARE IN THE HORSE BUSINESS PART TIME OR FULL TIME. And you
should be re-reading those horse books on a regular basis, for it
is shocking how much the mind can forget or slack off on or get
careless with. Horses are live animals, much stronger than us,
larger than us most of the time, and we need to keep our mind
constantly fresh as we handle them. Reading the horse books over
and over again, is a super way to keep your mind alert and bright
and fresh, as you work with these wonderful creatures that God
Always be willing to learn from others, either personal or
in books they have written. The wealth of experience they have
lived is worth a million bucks as they say. Never, NEVER get
complacent around horses. If you do, sooner or later you are
going to get seriously injured, or worse of all .... killed!
Horses and ponies are very individual, and they can have good
days and bad days just like we can. Some can be very even natured
and can form a strong bond with you, so they would never
intentionally hurt you. But you need to remember their size and
strength at all times, and never be laxidazical when working
TRAILERING YOUR HORSE
Once more I am amazed how many times I've seen people
trailering a horse, somehow by chance or luck, they got the horse
to where they wanted to go to ride him, but on leaving they had a
terrible time getting their horse back into the trailer.
The time to teach a horse to trailer is AT HOME! Doing it
MANY TIMES when they are new to being put into a trailer.
One lady managed to get her horse to the Ranch in Calgary,
where I keep my horse, a few years ago, but trying to get that
horse back into that trailer to go home, that was another matter.
That horse just did not want to get back into that trailer, come
hell or high water. It put its front legs on the ground,
stiffened up and would not move. We tried ever trick in the book
and it took about half an hour to get that horse into that
trailer. I thought to myself, lady you should have done your
teaching of getting your horse in that trailer at HOME, many many
times, so loading into a trailer was just a no issue matter for
Never allow yourself and your horse to be in that position,
it is painful (can literally be so) and EMBARRASSING for
I'm sure you've seen the articles in horse magazines on
teaching your horse to load into a trailer. You have this method,
and you have that method. Oh, sure all those methods have worked
for some horses, at some time. Now you have to stop and think,
you have to think as a horse.
A horse, a good number of them any way, do have trouble
walking up into a trailer. To be sure, some have no issue with
it, and learn to do it real easy, and without much effort on your
part. great if you have that kind of a horse. But also to be
sure, your horse may not be that kind, to just walk up into a
trailer as if they'd been doing it all their life.
My horse was like the latter. She was not happy about
wanting to go into a trailer, and it was a double wide one. I
thought to myself, well knowing the nature of horses, as a flight
animal, always watching and on guard for those creatures that
might attack and eat him, I guess it is only natural that many
just do not want to get into a confined metal cage.
Now, what I'm going to tell you seems to be just about a "no
no" in the horse world. I ain't figured out the exact why, but it
seems it is.
I brought the trailer into the barn, being long and wide and
open. I let my horse just stay there for a half hour, so she
could simply see it, walk up to it, realize this strange metal
box thing, was not going to attack her or harm her. I purposely
had not let her eat for a few hours (horses are grazing animals -
munching away for about 18 of the 24 hours a day, out on the
range). Like most horse she loves oats. I first put a handful of
oats on the floor entrance of the trailer. She came up and ate
the oats, realizing this steal box was no threat. I walked her
around for a few minutes. Then I put another handful of oats
about 3 feet inside the trailer. She walked up, stretched out her
neck and peacefully ate the oats. I walked her around for a few
minutes. Then I put another handful of oats far enough inside the
trailer where should would have to put a leg or two into the
trailer to reach the oats. She did exactly that, and peacefully
ate the oats.
Now your getting it, now you know what I'm going to say
next. I walked her around for a while. Put some oats inside on
the floor about half way down the trailer. Now she had to get
most of her body into the trailer to reach the oats. This she
did, and ate the oats knowing the trailer was not going to attack
or bite her.
You've guest it, you know what was next. I walked her around
a few minutes along the side of the trailer, up and down the
barn. I put a handful of oats at the far end of the trailer. Up
she went inside the trailer to get her feast of oats. By this
time she knew the trailer was not an enemy.
Yes I did this for the next 3 or 4 days. By the 4th or 5th
day I just walked her into the trailer, without oats, and she
walked in as if she'd done it all her life.
Some may say, well the horse will expect to get oats every
time it climbs into a trailer if you teach them to trailer this
way. All I can tell you is it worked as slick as an ice pond
prepared for skating. And she does not mind that she does not get
oats any more. I give her lots of love and she gets her special
mix of oats and other yummy stuff form me every time I go out to
visit and work with her. She does not act like some spoilt brat
who says, "Well I ain't going in there because you no longer give
me oats when I do."
What you have done is to teach her through a nice easy kind
way, that there is nothing to be feared in getting into a steel
It may not be the way the horse magazines teach you to teach
a horse to trailer load, but IT DOES WORK real good!
I hope this has all been useful to you, if you are a horse
person. Now from here on out, as I've said before, you have a
large wealth of some fine books out there to teach you what you
desire to do with your horse. Just remember all horses have
smaller or larger abilities to do what you would like to do with
them. Sometimes you may have to admit to yourself that this horse
just does not have what it takes for the skill of horse work
you'd like to do with it. You can enjoy the horse for what it
does have, and move on to other horses, until you find the horse
that will have the ability to do the skill you want to do with
it, in the horse world. When I was a young guy in Saskatchewan it
took me a while, and a number of horses, before I found the
"trick riding" horse that had the ability and nature to do any
kind of trick riding you wanted on her. She was just a solid
absolute dependable trick riding horse. And would you believe she
was already named "Trixie" - just by chance, for no one had ever
tried her out for trick riding, until I did. She was one of those
mares that was no different in nature any day of the month, a
wonderful bay mare, a super horse for trick riding.
Well may you have pleasure and fun and great friendship with
whatever horse or horses are in your life. Make sure you take
good care of them, feed then the best feed you can, love them,
talk to them, groom them, be firm with them when you need to be
in the right manner, then once corrected if they really need it,
you should give them lots of love again.
HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU!!
KowboyKeith Hunt (December 2008)