The Good Traveler

Out of all the horses I’ve owned before Henry, I wouldn’t have called any of them excellent haulers. Most were fine, a few were turds (Sadie and Cruz, I’m looking at y’all), but most fell solidly in the average range. They would get on the trailer within a few minutes, with a little encouragement, and they might paw or kick a little, especially if the trailer wasn’t moving.


When I got Henry I was warned that he didn’t like backing off the trailer, but otherwise he was good. The day I picked him up we got stuck in traffic forever, and that horse rode back there without so much as a peep. For those first two years we didn’t really travel that much, but he got into every trailer I put him in without much complaint. I turned him around to let him unload if I could, although the few times he had to back out were definitely… not that majestic. After riding in Bobby’s Brenderup a few times, he started to get a lot more comfortable with backing out. It was like it just took him a while to get his brain to work in reverse.

Bobby’s Brenderup

When I got my trailer he had to get pro about it real quick, since a) we started hauling a lot, and b) it was a straight load. He always loaded great as long as I went in with him, so for a long time that’s just what we did. Then one day I whacked the hell out of my head in my rush to duck under the chest bar as he was loading, and I decided it was time he learned to get on that trailer by himself.

I’d like to pretend this was some grand horse training moment and I had to use some kind of skill to teach it, but here’s what really happened.


I tossed his lead rope over his neck, stood next to the ramp, and gave him a little tug forward. The first time he got about halfway before he realized he was alone, at which point he stopped and slowly backed out. We tried again, and this time when he got halfway I started clucking. He thought about it for a second and flicked his ear back at me, at which point I said “You get in that trailer!”. And he did. Because he’s Henry.

He’s been self-loading in my trailer ever since.

Yeah, I know. Wow at my fancy horse training.

The real test for his newfound skill was this past weekend when we took Trainer’s trailer to go foxhunting. It was as opposite of a configuration as possible – a step up slant load. There were also other horses in there, and Henry pretty much always hauls alone. There’s also a rear tack, so the loading space is a bit narrow. I led him up there and clucked, fully expecting him to flip me the bird, but after a second he stepped right on up. Huh, how about that. Isn’t it nice when horses make us feel like we’re some kind of competent horse trainer, even when we didn’t actually do a damn thing?

Presto has already spent more time on trailers than most 4 year olds

As far as traveling goes, he’s pretty good. A couple times a year he gets mad for whatever reason and tries to buck a couple times to express his displeasure (he mostly did this in Bobby’s trailer) but that’s pretty rare. He doesn’t paw, and he’s pretty chill. I’m exceptionally grateful for this, because we’re on the road a lot. Last week he was on a trailer 4 out of 7 days.

Having a horse that is this easy to travel with has been awesome, especially since I’m alone 99% of the time. It has definitely made me determined to get Presto to be this reliable and easy… hopefully he can train himself, too.

18 thoughts on “The Good Traveler

  1. 99% of the time we’re on a 4 horse, so we walk up onto the trailer, turn around, and then back into a spot. Usually Francis walks right on and does his thing with minimal instruction (though we do have to direct his butt the right way because he’s too dumb to figure it out). Eeeevery once in a while he’ll get halfway up the ramp and decide that’s a fun place to hang out. Not because he doesn’t want to load. Not because he’s being sassy. Just because walking is really hard work and he needs frequent breaks. World’s laziest jumper, I swear.


  2. I won’t have a bad loader. I have been so lucky but Remus takes the cake. that horse loads in anything. But he does self load in his own trailer (The 2 plus 1 he is not thrilled having to do shenighans to get backed into his slot but he does it. Because yeah its Remus. I also haul 99.9 percent by myself and know i can stop and get a coffee or take my time registering at an event or whatever, and Remus will be standing there munching hay when I get back like huhh did you go somewhere. He just does not care. I have friends whose horses are much less adaptable and well behaved. Nope not doing it.

    And Presto HA. This might be fun (if he gets a tude about it) 😉


  3. As someone with a TERRIBLE loader, I’m very happy with my step up stock and professional training. Batts now self loads. He does ride loose and rides facing backwards, but once he is in the trailer, he doesn’t actually move around. But considering the amount of stress hauling used to cause (2 hours to load to get to New Bolton when colicking, 3 hours when leaving 3 days leaving with help of 6 people including 2 employees), I’ll take it. He loads reliably now. And neither of us are stressed.


  4. I think loading skills are very important especially in an emergency situation. Taking an hour or more to load in an emergency could be the line between full recovery and serious complications or even death.

    Self loading was one of the first skills I knew I wanted to teach my guy. We took an approach similar to yours but stuck his BFF on the trailer first. Lead rope over the neck and a pat on the bum and up he went. He’s been good since, alone or with his buddy. He was very easy and I’m very lucky. We self unload too, a quick tug on the tail and he backs slowly down.

    Fingers crossed for a “magical” experience with Presto!


  5. I’ve started trailering a lot on my own and Gav is super good about it. My experience with “teaching” self-loading sounds just like yours. Basically a gentle tug on the lead and a couple of clucks and he’s on board. My only issue is that when we’re traveling with another horse and that horse backs off the trailer first, Gav is sure he needs to back out at light speed. It’s a work in progress…


  6. Scarlet was terrible when I first got him. We had to use a lunge line through the window to tug him on and it took almost an hour one time before our first show. We then had a session with my trainer and we were able to get self-loading happening. He wouldn’t load if you stepped into the trailer with him but that was fine. I also gave him sweet feed when he got in and he is really food motivated. The worst thing I found about getting him back was that he cannot load anymore. I’m so upset by this because we loaded once a week for about six years and he was so good at it. The few times I’ve had to load him have been close to dangerous. I don’t have a trailer or easy access to one to work on it with him. Trailering is so so so important and needs to be safe. It’s one of the things that is high on my list of things to work on when I am able to get access to a trailer.


  7. Bucking in the bouncing brender-up! I would equate is bucking to more being mad that he couldn’t kill haul through the head wall then being displeased with actually hauling.


  8. I’ve never actually worked on self loading with Amber. I could….and I probably should….but she’s not a bad loader. Sometimes when she feels we’ve hauled too much (2 mornings in a row; it’s not THAT bad, mare lol) she’ll just stand at the base of the trailer until I tap her with the rope and she hops on in. I think she’d actually load better and be better about it if there were a ramp instead of the step up trailer we have, but as I said she’s not bad, so I just….don’t proactively work on it lol. I go by myself 99% of the time as well, but if she’s being really bad about loading (which is like…3 steps back veeeerrryyy slowly), I just implement a bit of groundwork and she hops on up. Doesn’t take more than 5 minutes max. But once in there she’s good. She won’t fuss or paw if I leave her in there. You just may see the trailer shake every once in a while, and that means she had to pee LOL.


  9. Roger LOVES the trailer and hauls equally well alone or with other horses. He also ground ties at the trailer too, once we’ve arrived at wherever we’re going. He’s grown up a lot in the past 18 months…he now understands that the trailer just means going to work in a different place, and nothing to get excited about. A few advantages of having an OTTB!


  10. My first horse was a saint and could get a blind monkey around the show ring, so I tolerated his poor loading skills. I often allotted 30 minutes for more in my schedule for loading. My friends, trainer, and barn manager knew it would require their help and selflessly stayed late at shows and lessons to make sure I could my beast onto his limo. He was nervous about trailering and was the one often pawing at stoplights. Once you arrived at the show,he was fine so these shenanigans were considered somewhat allowable. He has since retired, and I’ve purchased my second horse, a good loader was absolute must as I travel by myself often. I purchased a large appendix gelding who was western broke – now accepting his life as a show hunter. He is the polar opposite of his surrogate brother and loves to travel, self loads, and views the trailer as a mobile snack wagon with all the hay he could possibly stuff in his face during said voyage. This has made me extremely appreciative of whomever trained him to self load and his self confidence to be willing partner on whatever journey I dream up 🙂


  11. Charmer is a nice, easy and QUIET hauler. He usually loads without too much fuss (it always takes one look, then he gets in, but I always load him alone without issue). And he is super great once on the trailer. You wouldn’t even know he’s back there, he has never kicked or made a fuss. He hardly even makes noise when he shifts around. Makes me a spoiled hauler. Since I load alone most of the time now, I don’t think I would have a horse that is a difficult loader or hauler.

    Charmer’s one thing about loading, though, is that he likes to have bare legs. If I put wraps on him, he is less likely to just climb on in, if he is bare-legged, he jumps in without a second thought.


  12. I loved this. My Moo self loads, he has started to trot to the trailer from about 20 metres away. I did not train this. Isn’t it funny sometimes they are just unicorns !!!
    Mel x


  13. Chimi learned how to self load the same way as Henry 🙂 One day he sort of just did it. I do think it helped that he was on the trailer once a week for our lessons and the repetition taught him? Either way it’s been nice bc I haul by myself most of the time and there have been a few times where I’ve had to load 2 horses by myself and I could just flip the lead rope over Chimi’s neck and hold the other one and not worry. So very thankful for smart horses!!!!


  14. What a good boy! Those slant loads with rear tack can be so tricky for the last horse in particular. Q taught herself to self load the same way and Griffin is working on it, too. #lazytrainerskillz


  15. I think mine are solidly average. I haven’t successfully gotten any to self load, but for the sake of full disclosure, I haven’t tried either. Rio would unload for me if I undid everything and tapped his butt, but Jamp hasn’t figured that out. He just stands there waiting for me to escort him back wards. I guess it’s better than flying off though right?
    One year I had all three at a show but since I had a two horse trailer, a friend came to ship one of them home for me. She had a step up slant, and I was hoping to send Ducky with her. Little Turd WOULD not get on that thing. So next best option was Jampy. He was like Henry, looked at the question, considered it, and then walked right up albeit a bit awkwardly. Backing out was a little frightening when he nearly fell out… but at least he was calm about it.


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