Your relationship with your horse could be the reason he’s not willing to load. Horsemanship expert Patrick Gracey has advice to help.

There’s nothing more frustrating than training for months, scrubbing your horse until he’s gleaming, cleaning your tack, calming the nerves only to be confronted with a horse that’s definitely saying no to getting in the lorry on competition day. An hour of pushing and pulling later, you’re still at the yard and all hopes of securing that hard-worked for rosette are dashed.

If this describes your horse, what’s important is that you stay patient and understanding in order to tackle the problem. “You need to think abut what happened the first time your horse was loaded,” says Patrick. “It could have been when he was weaned from his mother, which he found traumatic.”

To overcome any fears he has, the best thing you can do is to build your horse’s confidence and one of the foundations of this will be his confidence with you.

“The best place to begin is with your handling and leading,” explains Patrick. “Get this right and you’ll then be able to work on his loading.”

Start in the stable

“The first time I meet a horse I like to establish a bond before doing anything else,” explains Patrick. “You can do this with your own horse too.”

How to bond with your horse

  1. Go into the stable, put a headcollar or halter on him and loosely hold a lunge line or lead rope.
  2. Keep the line loose and gently rub him on the forehead.
  3. Take a step back. Your horse may take a step towards you.
  4. Taking your time, repeat steps 2 and 3.
  5. Move around the stable, keeping the line loose, letting your horse follow you.
  6. Stroke him on the forehead again.
  7. Take a step back. Your Horse should step towards you.

This may not happen in one session. Keep practising.