We all know at least one horse who’s difficult to load or travels badly. But if you think about it, it’s the most unnatural thing in the world for horses to do and is against all their instincts. It takes a huge amount of trust for your horse to step into a small, dark space and be shut in, so it’s no wonder this trust is easily dented by a bad experience.
Make it a familiar sight
To break down the association of the horsebox only coming out when you take your horse away from the yard, it can help to leave it parked in his paddock – when you’re around to supervise him – so he can get used to the sight and smell of it in a relaxed environment. Tying haynets to it that your horse can munch on can help him develop a more positive association with it, too.
Establish what your horse’s favourite rewards are before using them in your training, because the more he values the reward, the more quickly you’re likely to make progress. However, be mindful that you’re using your rewards as just that – rewards and not bribes. There’s a big difference and this can greatly affect your results.
Give him time
Many horses like to take a few moments to consider the idea of going in before actually following through with their actions. Often, when pressure is applied in these moments, your horse will start to go backwards rather than forwards. This, in turn, causes you to put even more pressure on him, and the situation quickly escalates into a battle that neither party wants and could probably have been avoided.
Patience is a virtue
Although it’s frustrating if your horse is difficult to load, it’s important to remember that there’ll be a very good reason for his behaviour and this is usually a previous bad experience. Using force to load him will only make the problem worse over time, and could create a dangerous situation for both you and your horse. So it’s important to build his confidence and take his training at a speed he’s comfortable with.
For more loading tips from Anna, pick up the July issue of Horse&Rider, on sale 31 May.