Preventing Stress In Horse Trailers

My 14 year old thoroughbred will not calm down in the trailer. Whenever we try to load him it takes a long time and we have to use a butt rope. Inside the trailer he paws with both legs at the same time with a lot of force and doesn't settle down. Even for short 5 to 10 minute rides in the trailer he is completely soaked.

Its sounds like your horse is definitely scared of being in and near your trailer – not an uncommon attribute. The important thing here is going to be patience and understanding. This means that when you practice with your horse you must be relaxed, calm and authoritative. There is absolutely no point in trying to train him to be relaxed near or in the trailer if you are becoming tired or frustrated. This enforces your role as your horse’s leader. With horses that are just nervous around trailers it is fairly easy to tempt them to accept it by using comforting words and distractions. However in this case it sounds like your horse is going to take quite some persuading.

Do not expect overnight success by any method. The first thing to do is to position your trailer in your horse’s field for at least some of the time. This will allow your horse to become comfortable in its presence. At this stage do not force your horse to go to the trailer, and instead wait until he can go past it or next to it without barely noticing it. The next step is to try and feed your horse next to the trailer and then on the ramp and eventually inside it. At all times your horse must be allowed to leave the trailer area whenever her wishes. The important lesson here is to allow your horse into the trailer for something enjoyable and let him leave whenever he chooses – this will instill confidence.

Once your horse is prepared to spend time in the trailer in a relaxed fashion, attempt to shut the trailer behind him. If he becomes stressed then open it again. Continue trying this until he can spend time in the trailer when it is shut (but not moving). Once your horse is comfortable with this step, you can begin to slowly move the trailer while your horse is in it. During all steps, treat the horse calmly but firmly and try not to become nervous even if your horse becomes flighty, since your horse will sense this and will suspect danger. When approaching the trailer always remain at your horse’s side, giving encouragement. It will take some time, but eventually your horse should be able to relax while traveling normally in the trailer.