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


Cannot Load in Trailer, Hard to Load


A horse’s refusal to load is a highly undesirable behavior that needs to be resolved. Horses are taught to refuse to load in the same way that they are taught to engage in many other unwanted behaviors. They perceive the undesirable behavior to be easier and more rewarding than alternative (desirable) behaviors.

Owners may attribute a horse's unwillingness to load to a past accident or bad experience. This may have been the original cause, but fear of a past experience can be overcome with consistent and correct handling. Occasionally a horse cannot physically load because of injury, but this is rare.

If your horse is hard to load into a trailer, please review and practice the related skill "Teach Horse to Trailer Load" before an emergency arises. Contact your vet, who can recommend trainers in the area that may be able to help you solve specific problems.

If however, you are faced with an emergency and you cannot catch your horse, call your vet who may be able to make a farm call to help you load the horse. If the horse requires transport to a hospital, ideally your vet is an experienced horse person and they can help load the horse. In rare cases, they may choose to use sedation to facilitate the experience but this is not any sort of long-term solution.
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    Contact Your Vet to Obtain Useful Advice & Resources
    • Some vets have valuable advice regarding behavioral and training issues.

your role


What To Do

What Not To Do

Do not resort to trickery, treats, ropes and gadgets. Although you may feel determined to win, do not try and try and try....

If you can't do it in 5 minutes, it is best to stop and seek help. If someone offers to help you, they should be held to the same standard.

Do not wait to teach your horse to load when there is an emergency at hand. It is best to teach them beforehand.

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

your vet's role

Questions Your Vet Might Ask:
  • Is the horse young or inexperienced?
  • Did the horse just acquire this behavior?
  • Did the horse load well before?
  • Is the trailer safe, large enough, and accessible?
  • Was there an incident that seemed to cause this behavior?
  • Does your horse walk and move freely, or have you noticed any lameness?
  • Do you think the horse's attitude and appetite are normal?
  • Do you feel confident in managing the training aspects of this behavior?

further reading & resources

Author: Doug Thal DVM Dipl. ABVP