Even though it’s a dreaded task for most, there are times a horse really needs to load on a trailer — without drama, without fuss, and just because you asked. Here are six of those reasons.
Having a horse be able to load on a trailer is a fairly basic skill that most of us expect of our steeds. Sure, many of our horses have their moments when they are convinced that a trailer is a dark, relatively dank, horse-eating cave on wheels, but the truth is, it’s a skill that they really should — and sometimes have — to have.
This fact has been driven home to me even more thoroughly over the past year. In addition to my main position as a wrangler of small children (to be clear, I am speaking of the ones I birthed, not the spawn of others), my secondary position as the Managing Editor of Horse Nation, and managing a small boarding barn, I have started working with my equine vet a few days a week. This has made clear that there are some very basic skills that horses must have (the full list will come another day — for today, we focus on trailers). On of those is trailer loading.
So here are six reasons — some funny, and some not so funny — why you horse needs to load on a trailer:
1. Emergencies, Part 1
In all seriousness, there are times when a horse has to be trailered for their own good. I am fortunate to live in an area that has a fair number of quality ambulatory equine vets. And the vet I work with is excellent when it comes to horse care — it’s what she’s done for over 30 years. There’s a lot she can do in the field, and even more that she can do in the clinic. From x-rays to ultrasounds to sutures to scopes to tubes, her repertoire is strong. That said, she is still a mostly ambulatory general equine practitioner. That means when something truly major happens, the horse needs to be seen by a specialist. Whether it’s an orthopedic issue, an internal issue, an ophthalmic issue, or something else, there are times horses need to go to specialty clinics or vet hospitals. At these times, the horse needs to get on a freakin’ trailer. And generally speaking, these are not the times when you want to have to school your horse on loading. A horse in a cast heading to a university can’t be sedated for a trailer ride and can’t be swinging its butt and rearing up to avoid getting into the horse-eating cave on wheels. It’s just not an option.
This is even more true to people who don’t have the benefit of having so many equine veterinarians near them. Farm vets can handle a lot, but sometimes you just need someone who knows horses. During those times, your horse needs to get on a trailer.
2. It’s called being a horse.
That’s right. I’ll be the person to say it. So many horses need to learn how to horse. For some, that means learning that turn out is your friend, and for others that means mastering the kindergarten skills. You know, those skills like leading nicely, picking up their feet, tying, being groomed, being touched, and loading on a freaking trailer. All drama aside, these horses need to learn to horse, and this is one of the requirements.
3. It’s just embarrassing when they don’t load.
This one is a bit more lighthearted, but we’ve all been there. We’ve all had the horse at the end of a show who will. not. get. on. the. trailer. Or we’ve been the friend helping the person whose horse will not load. We all get it. That said, we still don’t want to be that person with that horse. The worst is when the people walking by stop and offer to help and you either, A) have to turn them down and insist Spirit will load eventually while he stands stubbornly with his feet planted firmly in front of the open trailer door, or B) have to endure the “help” of the well-meaning people around you who come up with all sorts of medieval devices to get your less-than-willing beast on the trailer.
4. Emergencies, Part 2
So, aside from bodily injury and acute illnesses, there are other times horses need to load for their own safety. Nothing has made this more apparent than the myriad of natural and unnatural disasters we have all witnessed in recent years. Wild fires, flooding, earthquakes, hurricanes, you name it — there are times when a horse’s usual living arrangements are no longer safe. If someone has the time to evacuate or relief arrives to assist in evacuation, the horses that are going to the best chance to be saved are the ones who can get their butts on a trailer.
5. They are easier to rehome
There’s a quote I read somewhere (I’ll track it down at some point) that said the best thing a person can ever do for a horse they care about is give it an education. Horses that are well-trained generally can find good homes. Even if you never ever in a million years intend to sell Flicka, life happens. Things change. Flicka might have to find a new home. And the truth is, no one wants the horse that you have to tip-toe around at all times to avoid being double-barreled. They also don’t want the horse who can’t complete basic tasks related to being a horse (like getting on a trailer). Your horse’s best chance of finding a quality home is knowing how to complete what is asked of it safely and consistently. That’s something that falls on the owner.
6. We all need to get off the ranch sometimes
Finally, if your horse won’t load, how else are you going to go on amazing adventures together and fulfill your long-held fantasy of running along the beach like Alec from The Black Stallion?