What you see. The starting point for addressing any equine health related issue is your observation.


Scrambles In Trailer


Scrambling starts because of a horse's instability in a trailer. It is a reflex attempt to keep from falling. However, once scrambling begins, it can quickly become habitual even if the initial cause is removed. Once this behavior becomes ingrained it can be very difficult to reverse.

Erratic driving technique (rapid acceleration and deceleration and sharp turning) can teach a horse to scramble. Some horses that have been in trailer accidents will also scramble. Trailers that keep a horse off balance by their design can also cause a horse to start scrambling, as can slippery trailer footing.

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    • If you want to rule out any physical issue being a factor in the behavior.

your role


What To Do

Correction of this behavior starts with careful driving, use of a trailer that does not throw horses off balance, and good footing. A trailer video monitor can reveal a great deal about the cause.

One way I have found to resolve this behavior is to haul the horse loose in a stock trailer. This allows them to position themselves comfortably and maintain their balance. I will often take a very short ride in the trailer with a horse that scrambles. After several trips like this that gradually increase in length, a horse may stop this behavior.

Engage help from a trainer who knows how to stop this behavior. Your vet may or may not have an interest in helping your horse overcome this behavior. Prevention involves conscientious driving technique.

In rare cases, there can be physical reasons for a horse to scramble or lose balance in a trailer. This is why veterinary evaluation is still important. Vets are sometimes asked to sedate horses that scramble. This may work short-term, but it is not a good long-term solution.

For horse's that scramble badly, consider wrapping their limbs or using shipping boots to help prevent injury.

What Not To Do

Do not drive fast or erratically when pulling a trailer with horses in it.

Do not repeatedly rely on tranquilizers to trailer your horse. Tranquilization is a poor long-term solution for this problem.

your vet's role

In rare cases in which a scrambler must be hauled, your vet may provide sedation to control the problem and allow the trip to take place.
Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is the problem severe?
  • Does your horse have any physical problems that make it difficult to keep their balance in the trail
  • When did you first notice this?
  • Do you remember a particular incident that may have caused the horse to develop the behavior?
  • Is the trailer floor very slick?
  • Do you have a relationship with a qualified trainer who can help you?
  • Do you feel confident in managing the training aspects of this behavior?
  • What type of trailer are you using?
  • Have you tried anything to prevent this problem?
  • What are the results of the Whole Horse Exam (WHE)?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP