Nightmare to load? How guide poles can help

Patrick Gracey, the self-titled horse shrink, reveals his top-secret method for teaching your horse to love loading in the latest issue of Your Horse magazine. In this sneak preview, he says regular practice going up and down the ramp, plus travelling often, is key, but you should also do the following:


In the September issue of Your Horse magazine, we learn how to get your horse into the box by making yourself the leader and your horse the follower. You can read the first part of the feature below: 

Setting it up:

Patrick uses plastic wings and poles next to the ramp to act as a guide for your horse.

It’s important these poles are light and made of plastic, so that if your horse walks into them, then he doesn’t panic or hurt himself. 

At the bottom of the ramp, set up blocks with a pole in between to create a barrier will funnell your horse to the ramp. Place a feed bowl with some of your horse’s favourite treats inside the box for when he’s got to the top. 

You’ll need a riding hat and gloves to protect yourself and a long line about 30ft to clip onto your horse’s headcollar. Then, if your horse backs off, you can let the line out and you won’t be dragged backwards with him.

Getting into the box

Now you’re ready to load your horse by doing the following:

1. Stand in the correct leading position, with your horse’s muzzle in line with your shoulder.

2. Walk with your horse between the guide poles, towards the ramp.

3. Walk up the ramp, keeping your horse’s muzzle at your shoulder. Do not pull on the rein.

4. If your horse takes a step back, release the line and let him go back.

5. Re-establish your leading position and continue to walk up the ramp.

6. Once in the box, give your horse a mouthful of feed from the bucket you’ve already put in there and then regain his attention. If you have enough room, circle him around the box.

7. Stand at the top of the box, ready to exit.

8. Ask your horse to walk down the ramp. Once all four feet are on the ramp, halt. Release any tension in the line, so that you’re not holding your horse in place.

9. Stand for a couple of seconds and then continue walking down the ramp, ensuring your horse doesn’t go past your shoulder.

Repeat this several times until your horse is happy to go up and down the ramp and stand in the box.

Don’t do too much too soon, and try to end on a good note so your horse finishes with a positive memory of loading. This will help him feel more confident next time you try. The more you do it, the better he’ll get – you just need to stay patient and not give up. 

Read the full feature in the latest issue of Your Horse magazine. Our September issue is jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now. Find out what’s in the latest issue here.