Three common horse loading problems solved

There’s nothing more frustrating than a horse that won’t load. You’ve spent hours getting him ready for his journey, but he walks up to your trailer or horsebox and refuses to go in. In this situation it can be tricky to know what to do, but with a little bit of time and patience you can have your horse travelling happily. Specialist trainer, Michael Peace offers his tips and advice on how to overcome three common loading problems, so your horse loads first time, every time.

Time and patience are needed if your horse isn't keen to load

Time and patience are needed if your horse isn't keen to load

Problem: He won’t walk up the ramp

Solution: When your horse plants his feet, don’t walk to where he’s standing as this suggests to him that he’s moving you and not the other way round. Try standing where you want him to move to and wait without any pressure on the lead rope. If you try and get into a fight with him you’ll not win. By simply waiting you’re giving him time to assess the situation and realise it’s easier to stand with you.

Problem: My horse is scared of small spaces

Solution: Some horses will load quite happily, but he’s not so happy when you close the partition. This creates a smaller space for your horse, and as a flight animal, he may find this restricting. Stay calm and patient while he figures out what what you’re asking him to do is ok. Resist the temptation to pull on the rope, wait in the spot you want him to walk to and let him think for himself. Once he moves to you praise him.

Problem: He doesn’t understand where to stand in the box

Giving clear signals to your horse helps him understand what you want

Giving clear signals to your horse helps him understand what you want

Solution: Some horses can’t work out how to position themselves once they’re inside a horsebox. A good technique is to use his head like a rudder. Move his head to the opposite side you want his quarters to go, you’ll find if you do this he’ll swing his quarters round into the position you want. You need to give your horse clear signals and be precise in what you’re asking your horse to do. 

6 ways to Improve your bond with your horse

Sharing a strong bond with your horse is hugely important, without it you can’t achieve a winning partnership. Here, our expert international dressage rider and trainer Claire Lilley shares some simple ways to bond with your horse at home.

Sharing a strong bond with your horse is hugely important and will mean you work better together in every situation

Sharing a strong bond with your horse is hugely important and will mean you work better together in every situation

1. Give him a thorough groom

Horses bond by grooming each other, so it makes sense to do what another 'horse friend' would do.

A good grooming session should last at least an hour. You can go further by using massage techniques after your grooming session.

2. Walk him out in-hand

In-hand work in the school is a great way to bond with your horse, and if you stand by his shoulder you can see his facial expression.

Practice walk, halt, walk transitions in the school to start with and progress to leading him outside down a quiet lane.

Just taking him for a walk in-hand will help you bond. Sit on a wall and pick some nice long grass to hand feed him.

3. Teach him turn around the forehand

Stand by his shoulder and with a schooling whip held alongside his body, tap him on his inside hind leg, on the thigh or cannon bone (whichever works the best) to ask him to step away from you.

Alternatively press him with your fingers by the girth where you inside leg would be.

The movement resembles shoulder-in 'around a dinner plate' with the front legs stepping around 'the plate' without crossing.

The hind legs should cross over in big, sweeping steps. This is a great in-hand exercise that should get him thinking and means he’s working in close proximity with you, rather than only listening to you when you’re in the saddle.

4. Learn to long-rein

Long-reining is a great way to improve the bond between you and your horse and improve your schooling at the same time. Practice school movements in walk, such as circles of different sizes, serpentines, leg yield, shoulder-in and so on.

5. Master halting square

With your horse in-hand, try to achieve a square halt, if he leaves a leg out behind, touch the offending leg with a very long schooling whip, or use an old lunge whip with the lash chopped off (leave about 3 inches of lash attached).

Try not to fiddle around too much with the halt though. If he won’t stand square with a couple of taps, then walk on and try a new halt.

6. Just enjoy his company

Find the time to just be with your horse, whether he’s in his field or his stable. Wrap up warm and take a picnic full of goodies you can share like apples and carrots.

Sit in his stable and spend some time talking to him, stroking him and sitting with him.

Don’t miss the latest issue of Your Horse Magazine, jam-packed with training and veterinary advice, horse-care tips and the latest equestrian products available on shop shelves, on sale now.