It might have been a while since you loaded up and headed off the yard for a competition, hack with friends or arena hire – and your horse will likely be as rusty as you are after the break. So, to get you back up to speed on best practice, we’ve put together a handy guide to safely loading your horse.
Always wear a helmet, gloves and sturdy boots when loading your horse and, if you need a little extra control, put your horse’s bridle on over his headcollar – remember to remove it before you start your journey
DID YOU KNOW?
There are now a variety of travel-safe, quick-release synthetic headcollars on the market that are designed to break under pressure, much like a leather headcollar.
Keeping on top of maintenance for your lorry or trailer will ensure every journey is a safe one, allowing you to spot problems as soon as they occur and avoid any expensive faults.
Here are our tips to keep your transport in good condition and ensure your pride and joy stays safe when you hit the road…
- grease the jockey wheel bar and ball hitch to prevent deterioration
- make sure your towing hitch is the right height for your trailer to avoid uneventyre wear
- take care to check the breakaway cable on your trailer for damage – it’s an essential part of safe travelling
- keep the inside clean and pull up any rubber mats regularly to wash out underneath them
- start your horsebox and let it run for five minutes before driving to let it warm up
- check the oil and water levels in your horsebox before every journey so you know how much you’re using and can quickly identify any leaks
- don’t ignore the warning lights that appear on your dashboard, even if they don’t seem to affect your driving. They might be nothing, but it’s always worth getting them checked out
- check tyre pressures frequently, ensure they match the recommended rates and look for any signs of wear
- power wash the outside and underside to avoid rust and assess for damage as you do so
- check the lights before every journey, including brakes, indicators, hazards, side and main lights
- if you have a wooden floor in your transport check it thoroughly and on a regular basis for any signs of rotting
- test the brakes before every trip, particularly if the horsebox or trailer hasn’t been used for a while
- keep a close eye on the ramp for any signs of damage
The key to a smooth getaway is plenty of practice and a thorough pre-travel routine. It’s no good making your horse’s first steps back on the trailer the morning of your premier outing since lockdown – you’ll only set yourself up for disappointment when loading doesn’t go smoothly. Instead, take a little time to get back into the swing of things before booking arena hire or a lesson away from home. By squeezing in some practice beforehand, you’ll feel more confident that everything will go to plan when it comes to actually leaving the yard.
Set the scene
Ensuring your environment is safe and secure is paramount to creating the perfect set-up for easy and stress-free loading – with these tips in mind, you can start developing your loading routine. Here’s a reminder of how to give yourself the best possible chance of success…
- ensure you’re loading in a secure area by closing any gates to the road or fields
- if possible, load at less busy times on the yard to avoid distractions
- get your trailer or horsebox organised before you start trying to load
- open any front windows or ramps to give your horse a clear line of sight through the trailer to encourage him
- have an extra pair of hands ready to help if you need it
- make sure any haynets are tied up ready to encourage your horse in
- if you’re likely to need some additional tools for persuasion, such as a lunge line or treats, have them within easy reach
- tie back any partitions to give yourself more space and to ensure they don’t swing back while you’re trying to load
- if you can, use the layout of the yard to help load your horse. For example, this might mean having the ramp of your lorry or trailer in a gateway to help funnel him in
- have an experienced horse on hand to load onto the lorry or trailer ahead of your horse to give him confidence
- make sure your kit is packed up before you start loading so you can hit the road as quickly as possible, avoiding your horse having to stand and potentially become stressed
If you’re struggling to load your horse, make sure you get his back, teeth and saddle checked to ensure he’s comfortable and not reacting to pain. If you’re still having trouble, contact a behaviourist for help.
From stubborness to genuine fear, there are all sorts of reasons your horse might not load. Finding the right solution to your particular loading problem can be tricky – and so can doing it safely – so here are a few tips to help you on your way to successful travelling…
- planting Is there anything more frustrating than a horse who refuses to move? Make sure you produce that positive walk before approaching the lorry – it may be helpful to carry a schooling whip. Have a friend encourage him fowards from behind, too, but don’t be tempted to drag him as he’ll only resist more
- dodging the ramp Park with the ramp to your lorry or trailer in a gateway or opening between barns to help encourage your horse straight up the ramp. Lunge lines can also be useful, but make sure you have experienced helpers who can avoid letting the ropes become slack. A punchy walk and sticking next to your horse’s shoulder will help, as it’ll be harder for him to drift if you’re supporting him
- rearing Putting continued pressure on a horse who’s telling you no may result in rearing. It can be tricky to solve once this behaviour becomes habitual, so it’s best to get help from a behaviourist to get to the bottom of it
- barging You might find your horse barges past you to avoid walking up the ramp. In this case instilling some manners will work wonders. Spend some time working in hand on the yard or in the school, walking him forwards, halting and turning. Use a wall or fence to help you stop to begin with and use your body to help turn him when you ask. If he’s slow to respond to your forward aids, then carry a schooling whip and encourage him with your voice. Once he’s listening to you on the ground, you can reintroduce the ramp.
On the road
Once you’ve left the yard it’s essential that you pay close attention to what your horse is getting up to in the trailer or back of your lorry. If he’s crashing about or sounds distressed, pull over somewhere safe and make sure he hasn’t got himself into any mischief. While it can feel like the best thing to do is leave him to it and get to your destination as quickly as possible, a quick check on him will give you peace of mind, as well as ensuring he’s not injured or done any damage to your transport.