Next Issue

April 2014

  • Horse-Vacation Planner
  • Cross-Country Hauling Guide
  • On-the-Go Gear

Books & DVDs

from HorseBooksEtc

Related Topics

from the Forums

Free Newsletters

Sign Up for our Free Newsletters

Trailer Load the Right Way

Safely load and unload your horse from the trailer with this seven-step technique from top trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight.

Before your next trailering excursion, learn the safety steps that will keep you and your horse safe as you load and unload from respected trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight.
Photo by Heidi Melocco

As an avid trail rider, you're accustomed to loading and unloading your horse most every weekend. You travel to find and frequent the most scenic trails and add some variety to your rides.

Before your next trailering excursion, learn the safety steps that will keep you and your horse safe as you load and unload. Respected trainer and clinician Julie Goodnight works with trail riders and "trailerers" at many of her clinics. She's seen horse owners skip important safety steps and trust that their horses will be safe.

But even the calmest horse can spook, step back, or slip, causing a harmful chain reaction if the loading, tying and untying process isn't done in order. If your horse is tied in the trailer, but knows the back door is open for escape, he might pull back and panic when he can't get free. The panic session compounds when he hears the trailer's loud echo and slips on a metal floor.

Follow Goodnight's seven-step technique to avoid setting your horse up for a loading or unloading accident.

7-Step Technique

Here's the proper trailer-loading and -unloading order for optimum safety and results.

Step 1. Prepare the trailer. Leave your horse in his pen. Hook up your trailer to your vehicle. (As you do, check all lights and blinkers, brake connections, and tire pressure.) Drive your trailer to a flat, open area where your horse won't step on debris. Securely close all trailer doors and windows; never drive with trailer windows open—your horse could hit his head on a roadside object, and flying debris could injure his eyes. Close manger windows and escape doors so your horse won't try to get out through these too-small openings and become injured.

Advertisement

Step 2. Open the stock door. While your horse is still in his pen, open the back of your trailer to the stock compartment, and prepare your horse's footing and feed.

Step 3. Load your horse. Outfit your horse in a comfortable halter, and lead him from his pen to the back of the trailer. If he's still learning ground manners, use a rope halter that places pressure on his poll. Load him into the trailer. (If you horse resists loading, see Goodnight's easy-loading technique in the April 2011 issue of The Trail Rider.)

Step 3. Shut the stock-compartment door. Shut the stock-compartment door immediately, before confining your horse by tying. If you have a slant-load trailer, it's safe to secure the compartment's partition before you shut the door. But when the compartment door is open, don't tie your horse. If he tries to back out (a likely scenario) and finds that he's tied, he may panic and injure himself (and you).

When the compartment door is closed and secured, tie your horse, then use the human escape door to exit the trailer. Or, tie your horse while you stand safely outside the trailer.
Photo By Heidi Melocco

Step 4. Secure your horse. When the compartment door is closed and secured, tie your horse, then use the human escape door to exit the trailer. Or, tie your horse while you stand safely outside the trailer.

Step 5. Park, and untie. After you arrive at your destination, park at a level area, then begin the unloading. To do so, you'll retrace your loading steps. First, untie your horse.

Step 6. Open the back door. Double check to make sure your horse is completely untied, then open the stock-compartment door.

Step 7. Unload your horse. Back your horse out of the trailer. Then tack up, and have a safe trail ride!

Bottom line: Never tie your horse in the trailer until the stock-compartment door is closed and secured locked; always untie your horse before you open the door for unloading.


Julie Goodnight (www.juliegoodnight.com) lives in central Colorado, home to miles of scenic trails. She trains horses and coaches horse owners to be ready for any event, on the trail or in the performance arena. She shares her easy-to-understand lessons on her weekly RFD-TV show, Horse Master, and through appearances at clinics and horse expos held throughout the United States. She's also the international spokesperson for the Certified Horsemanship Association (www.cha-ahse.org).


Heidi Melocco (www.wholepicture.org) is a lifelong horsewoman, equine journalist, and photographer based in Mead, Colorado.

Posted in Trailering, Training | | 1 Comment

One Response to “Trailer Load the Right Way”

  1. Saracen96 says:

    While I realize that circumstances vary greatly, when I am trailering only one horse (or two who get along well) in my 2-horse, straight-load trailer, I never tie. There are two reasons for this:
    1. Leaving them with their heads free allows them to put their heads down to clear their airways (especially critical with a horse with breathing difficulties, as one of mine has).
    2. My vet’s description of the severe neck injuries sustained by horses in a trailering accident she attended, among the horses that had been tied.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.

Get 12 issues of Spin to Win Rodeo for only $24!
First Name:
Last Name:
Address Line 1:
Address Line 2:
City:
State:
Zip:
Email:
Subscribe!
Untitled Document

Subscribe to
Spin to Win Rodeo

Subscribe to The Trail Rider

Subscribe today & Get 2
Free Issues + a Free Gift!

Subscribe 
Give a Gift
Customer Service
Digital Subscriptions