Is Going Barefoot Really All That?

When we decided to buy the property and build literally from the dirt up, I decided to give my horses a break while we were building and let them sit. I couldn’t justify the cost of monthly shoeing on a horse that wasn’t doing anything, and I couldn’t justify the cost of running barrels when my horses didn’t even have a roof over their head. So I took a deep breath and pulled Fireman’s shoes.The other two were already barefoot and I had trimmed them for years, but Fireman was different – he had issues with thin soles and low heels. He was a classic case of what is ideal doesn’t always work, and what works isn’t always ideal. We tried everything from pour in pads and rim pads to rocker shoes. The shoes and pads that kept him sound didn’t stay on in turnout and often encouraged his heel to become under-slung, but what kept him upright didn’t keep him comfortable. So, pulling shoes and starting from scratch, especially since we were sitting anyhow seemed like a good option.

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When I first pulled Fireman’s shoes, even though he was long he was definitely sore. Fortunately, although our ground at the new place has a lot of rocks, the ground itself is soft. I studied different theories online and the first year I focused on trim and attempting to get the toe shorter and moving the heels back where they should be. I was always conservative with trimming, trimming less more frequently.At first, I listened to the (bad) advice that I needed to trim the heel in order to help the heel to come back. Needless to say, he didn’t improve. Only later after I read Pete Ramey’s theory about when you shorten the toe, the heel moves back on their own, did I realize taking heel wasn’t the answer in Fireman’s case.Not to be deterred, I started researching nutrition and learned that a deficiency of copper – usually caused by an overload of iron – kept them from growing much needed heel. So, I began tweaking Fireman’s nutrition and trying supplements. Again, another lesson in what’s ideal doesn’t always work, and what works isn’t always ideal. What works best for weight and for your budget doesn’t always work for feet, and vice versa!My budget was already maxed out between building the house and trying to figure all of this out when one of the horses I had re-homed due to the divorce returned to me after a severe case of laminitis. Now I had TWO horses with issues to figure out and work on!

With the extreme wet weather resulting in record rains and continuous mud, and trying to stay within a budget, and meet nutritional requirements to grow feet and avoid starch, it’s been a lot to figure out. I’m still tweaking the diet – learning what works and what doesn’t – and learning where my limits are with the trims. Even with the failures, there have been small stretches when Fireman was sound enough to ride, and I’ve been able to maintain the other horse Cool without shoes when he was too sore to eat without shoes, so I don’t feel like it’s a total loss.

“Is your horse really sound if he is tender without shoes?”

That question really resonated with me and makes sense, which is one reason why I have stayed the course this long. I know in the end if I can figure out what works for these two I’ll have a healthier horse.

Fireman was always a little tender right after trims, but other than that there weren’t any blatant signs that concerned the vets. I had one of the best farriers in the country that has worked on top horses and good vets to go with it. It wasn’t their fault. Looking back and knowing what I know now, I believe Fireman was borderline laminitic but we didn’t know that at the time.Fireman was on a low amount of the best low starch feed, good grass hay (from Kamps Farms) but it wasn’t enough. He was still getting too much starch and iron from the feed, and not enough copper and zinc. I’ve had to totally revamp the mineral portion of his diet, and although progress has been slow it’s still progress.

As I often say, you can’t out trim bad nutrition and you can’t out nutrition a bad trim – it takes a whole approach. It’s not as simple as feeding a good feed and adding a great hoof supplement. It takes a whole lot more than that. It takes figuring out the right balance for your horse, and all the while working with your supply, your budget, and your storage set up. At the same time, it takes the right trim and aiming for a heel first landing to get the circulation needed to heel the hoof and grow sole depth.Truthfully, in the end, it all comes down to what you’re willing and able to do, and what works for your horse.Since we’re still building, I’ve got time to still give this whole barefoot thing a try. By the way, if you run barrels barefoot with a horse that used to have issues with shoes, contact me — I’d love to hear from you! In the meantime, if you’re looking to do some research, Pete Ramey is a great resource, as is Dr. Kellon .

Reality Of The Horse Issues

I’m going to start off this post by strongly saying I love animals. Anyone that knows me personally knows for a fact that my animals eat before I do, and I have gone without so that they had what they needed. It’s not just a love of animals, but a sense of responsibility of doing the right thing, a work ethic of sorts, and being a good steward. Being a good steward is also having a sense of reality and the big picture.

Now that I got that out of the way, let me also say that what I have to say is going to be hard to read for many of you, but it needs to be said — on a frequent basis. Some I’m sure will be filled with hate, but taking the emotion out of it, they’ll realize there’s at least some truth to what I’m saying.

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Horse slaughter, horse racing, and BLM Mustang round ups have been the topic of hot – or rather over emotional – talk here lately. I say “Talk” because it’s either bashed or supported but NO ONE on either side is even remotely offering some kind of realistic, workable solution.

The only solution that’s ever mentioned is let them all live. We can’t feed and house the rescues that are out there now without donations from the general public.

A few years back, I wrote two articles on my old blog, Musings From The Leadrope, that offered at least a potential partial solution to the horse slaughter issue. One point was for the Horse Rescues to start a registry so that a market for rescued horses could be broadened a bit. The reality is in order for a horse to be marketable and have a chance, they need to be usable for more than just a trail horse.

The other post caused quite a stir as it suggested that maybe the Horse Rescues could run the slaughter process and profit from the sale of hoofs and hides from those horses that did indeed need to be humanely euthanized. Go actually read the post before you judge!

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Rescues running horse slaughter? But slaughter is CRUEL!

Before you jump on that band wagon, keep in mind that there’s a whole other world out there that thinks what YOU do is cruel and should be outlawed if you –

  • Keep your horse in a stall any part of the day
  • Ride with a bit
  • Ride at all
  • Clip your horse’s whiskers

Like I said in my post on why I Support Rodeo, there’s examples of (truly) poor horsemanship in every aspect of the horse world. By the way, the examples listed above are not abuse. The problem is that the people that are hollering the loudest don’t have a sound argument at all — only emotion and drama. If they keep hogging the platform, they will get their way and we won’t have a horse industry left, and you won’t be able to put your horse in a stall or clip his whiskers. On a side note, I do believe they have made attempts to ban clipping whiskers in some countries in Europe.

These over dramatic, emotional people that have the ear of the general public that generally don’t know any better, go around loudly bashing horse slaughter, BLM Round ups, Rodeo, and Horse Racing.

Not that being a back yard horse owner is a problem, but for the majority of these passionate loud people the back yard is really the end of their experience. Their view is limited and they don’t even know it and they’re the voice that’s making the loudest noise. The voice of more experience is busy wading in mud feeding horses or cattle, or cleaning 50 stalls at a time.

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The other problem is that these loud passionate folks NEVER offer realistic workable solutions. Take the recent case of dog racing. These emotional people got dog racing banned but they were never responsible enough to also take care of where these thousands of dogs would go, or find jobs for the families displaced because of the ban. If they really loved dogs and were compassionate, they would have taken care of that as well – but they didn’t. Which is why we need more experienced, sensible people voicing their opinion, or this could happen again to the rodeo industry, the race horse industry, the show horse industry, and yes even the trail riding industry.

No matter how much you love horses, you can’t change reality. There is no Hollywood ending where all horses have a home with some little girl in the back yard of their subdivision home. I’ll say it again — we can’t feed the rescues that are out there now that are not earning their keep.

The reality is that it comes down to a choice of the lessors of evils – until someone can offer solutions that change human behavior, the way people train – or rather don’t, and can find a way to house and feed a lot of horses.

Having horses race on the track is better than thousands of horses headed off to a slaughter house in Mexico to be cut up alive which is what would happen if racing were banned.

Having horses rounded up by BLM or stallions gelded is better than them starving to death. By the way, have you ever tried to personally round up 50 head of truly wild horses? It’s not easy to separate out tame ones, let alone a few wild ones.

As I said in the rodeo post, it’s better for a bucking horse to work for 8 seconds and have feed and vet care than to have them all headed for the slaughter pen, which is exactly where they would be headed because nobody needs a bucking horse on the trail.

Remember I said it comes down to the lessor of the two evils? These are the lessor of the evils until someone can offer an optional solution like maybe the rescues being in charge of slaughter and being self supporting through that.

Like it or not, if there is no horse industry, there is no need for horses and no reason to take on such a huge expense, or a way to support such a huge expense – most horses cost at least $100 a month minimum to feed. Multiply that against just the rescue horses out there, let alone all the others. That’s the reality of it.

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If any of these hot issues are going to progress and become better, the emotions need to be put aside and realistic solutions be put on the table. Honestly, there needs to be a new rule — don’t complain unless you offer an idea that’s realistic as a solution. As Chris Ledoux said, if you’re complaining without a solution, you’re whining.

We need to hear more of the voice of sensible, experienced people like Bedlam Farm. Horse industry professionals such as trainers, grooms, ranchers, cattlemen all need to weigh in with their experience and common sense that was earned from hard knocks, not just being an arm chair protester. Folks like this are the think tank to get these issues fixed, but they’ve been so beat down and berated by the crazed activist that they’ve walked away from the table.

With as many talented, smart, folks as we have in the industry, surely solutions could be found or at least improvements made if we all brainstormed.

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Why Do You Show?

Being honest – why do you show? What is your own personal reason for showing up at a horse show or competition?

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The horse industry has been weighing heavy on my mind after seeing, hearing, and experiencing a few separate incidents this last year to the point that I need a break and I’ve decided to stop judging as a result.  

 “For the most part, horse people are great one on one, but get them together and they’re like a bunch of piranhas. “

This comment was made to me by a husband that’s not into horses, but is extremely supportive of his horse wife. The sad part is that there’s a ton of truth to that observation, and I’ve seen it in action.   

Earlier this year, I watched an advanced vet student judge an open horse show. Even though he knew more about soundness than most horse owners and was very familiar with all the different disciplines, he spent several late nights studying rule books of breed associations to prepare. He did a fabulous job judging the entire night, placing emphasis on quality and consistency of movement, willingness of the horses, softness, and good equitation. He was a good judge.

At the end of the night, he was cornered by a local gaited trainer and his entourage. They were extremely disrespectful, even cussing him at one point and telling him he didn’t know what he was doing. Keep in mind, this was an open show – this wasn’t the national championships.

Another fellow judge I know who is extremely fair and has tons of experience in gaited and non-gaited had the same type of experience at a local saddle club this year. A few years back, I had the same type of experience at the same venue and that’s when I vowed not to go back.

This past summer, I didn’t place a gaited rider in a Go As You Please bareback class because his horse was off in the hind end. I wasn’t the only one that saw it – two others saw it as well. As a rider, I know you can’t always feel a hind end gait deficiency, especially when a horse is smooth. Trying to be helpful I told the rider his horse seemed sore in the hind end and wasn’t moving equally in both directions. This grown man got mad and told me that when it came to gaited horses I didn’t have a clue what I was doing.

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Over the years of judging, and years ago in putting on horse shows I’ve seen that sadly, this kind of behavior is not unusual.

I’ve seen congress champions haul to a small horse show and then complain about the ground for pleasure classes when they get there. I’ve seen barrel racers come to a small show with limited resources and equipment complain about the ground for barrels when it’s the exact type of ground that they started racing on in the first place. If these experienced riders are the ones the new riders are looking up to, what kind of example are they setting?

These riders forget we’re lucky to have open shows. If we didn’t have these small shows, the only place to get any experience would be the bigger shows which costs a minimum of a $100 to just step in the ring once by the time you pay an entry fee, office fee, etc.

People that put on open shows and other small events don’t make any money. They’re fortunate to just break even, and sometimes don’t by the time they pay $300-$700 for an arena, pay $3-$7 for every ribbon, and then pay for a judge, secretary, announcer, and insurance. Putting on a horse show is a labor of love but yet it’s not uncommon for riders to gripe and complain about the limited resources.

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Photo by Laila Klinsmann on Pexels.com

It’s the same thing with judging. When a judge steps into the ring, especially at a small or open level, they want to help and share what they see and what they’ve learned. They’re there to help a rider become a better horseman and become a competitor in their event. While the pay might vary per show, judges spend hours on their feet, a lot of times in hot temperatures and high humidity in long sleeves, giving every bit of their attention for hours on end. By the end of the show, they’re exhausted mentally and physically.

I was taught to always have good horsemanship and never disrespect a judge. I also didn’t show for the judge – I showed to get the experience for me and my horse. It wasn’t about the judge – it was about me becoming a better horseman regardless of the placement. If I had a better ride than I thought I was going to, or my horse improved in some small way, I was good! After all, in the big scheme of life, it was just a horse show. It wasn’t life or death, or work for that matter.

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If the ground wasn’t good, I didn’t fuzz up and throw a fit or pack up and go home. I rode anyway and safety-ed up and went a lot easier. As the old saying goes, bad ground makes for great riders. It makes you learn how to keep your horse up and pay close attention to how you’re riding and your horse is responding.

After the house is finished, I fully plan on running barrels and doing some ranch events. I might even pull on a pair of breeches and attempt some schooling event stuff with my barrel horses – I just love trying a little bit of everything and seeing what they can do and having fun with it – that’s my reason for showing and competing.

I always told the nervous competitors I was judging, “Smile. They can’t kill you and eat you. It’s just a horse show.” Even if it is the nationals, it’s just a horse show – it’s not life or death. Life is short, and we need to be thankful to just have a horse, let alone throw a leg over one – there’s a ton of kids and adults out there willing to give anything to be in our shoes, and yet as blessed folks they gripe and complain about a judge call, the ground isn’t good enough, or that our horse or tack isn’t good enough.

We need an attitude adjustment in the horse industry so that the new folks coming into the industry see it. We lead by example. We need to be thankful, and appreciative and helpful. We need to have the right reasons to show and we need to have the right attitude before we step into the ring. While we’re at it – we need to hug the show management’s neck because without them we wouldn’t be able to do what we do.

Why do you show? Who do know that is under-appreciated in the show world? Have you told them “Thank you”?

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Hot Weather Considerations

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We’re at the start of summer and the temperatures have already hit record highs in some places. The high temperatures can impact your horse’s health, especially if they have any issues or if you compete. The key to making it through the hot weather is knowing your horse’s health, good planning, and diligent maintenance.

While fans are the choice of many owners to keep their horse’s cool, there are a few things to consider when using fans in your barn on a regular basis throughout the summer.

One is that fans are one of the top contributors to barn fires. If you use fans in your barn, make sure you check the wiring and clean them on a regular basis.

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Another thing to consider when using fans is conditioning of your horse, especially if you’re showing or trail riding. When you’re showing in the arena, out on a course or trail, your horse isn’t under a fan Additionally, depending on the venue, you may not have access to a fan or shade while you’re at your trailer waiting on your class.  If your horse is used to being under a fan all day they may struggle in the heat without a fan because they’re conditioned to being cooler.

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Last, consider the ventilation in your barn. Good air flow is important during hot weather. If your barn does not have good ventilation, you’ll want to consider using a fan to keep the air flowing through your barn, especially if you have a metal barn roof without insulation as they tend to heat up even more.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Adding electrolytes to the water or feed and keeping salt available are the two top tips for hot weather. While both do help a horse stay hydrated, there are a couple of things to consider.

If your horse is not drinking enough water, you’ll want to be careful about adding salt to their feed. If a horse isn’t drinking, there’s usually a reason behind it such as their gut being irritated. Horses with issues may still not drink even with the additional salt and can wind up dehydrated from the additional salt.

One thing to consider when adding electrolytes is whether you’re feeding a complete feed. Some feeds already have salt and electrolytes in them. Feeding additional electrolytes can cause an imbalance which results in “Thumps”. When an imbalance occurs, dehydrated can quickly escalate.

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Three year old mare at her first ranch clinic fall of 2013.

Wetting your horse’s feed down or adding soaked alfalfa cubes or beet pulp is a great way to help keep your horse hydrated, especially if they’re not drinking as much as they should be. Not only will it help your horse stay hydrated, but it’s a good colic preventative as well.

If you’re committed to competing throughout the summer, be sure to keep your horse conditioned and acclimated to the heat. If they’re in good condition and used to the warm temperatures, they’ll have an easier time adjusting on show days. Talk with your vet about your horse’s health and develop a game plan for your region to keep your horse ready to compete.

What are your plans for riding this summer? How are you going to help your horse stay healthy through the heat?

 

#MentalHealth Day Thoughts…

#MentalHealth is trending today on Twitter and I thought it would be a good time to follow up on a post from a couple of years ago and share my thoughts and remind those that are struggling that they matter.

In the Finding Myself post, I went public with the fact that I had been dealing with some severe depression and was going through a divorce. It was a hard post to write, but at the same it was cleansing and I saw it as an opportunity to reach out and help someone else who might be struggling in silence as I had.

Since that time, there have been a lot of changes in my personal life and as time goes on each day brings a clearer perspective. Things start to make sense that didn’t before, and you gain more confidence in the choices you’ve made.

Was it worth it? I’m sure there are folks that would question why I would give up a long term marriage, the farm of my dreams and a whole herd of nice horses.

Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes?

My response to that is isn’t life more than material things? Doesn’t trust, honesty and truthfulness, integrity, support and empathy mean more? To me it does, so yes it WAS worth it because in the end I gained those things that mean more, along with self-acceptance and love.

The whole time I was going through all that, the people that meant the most to me told me that I was making a mistake. In the low place I was at the time, it was absolutely devastating. Now, I see it for what it is.

People either pull you up or pull you down. Tony Robbins and any other well-known motivational expert will tell you we are the result of the three to five people we spend the most time with. For someone struggling to get healthy mentally and physically, relationships have a huge impact on whether we succeed or not.

Every day I wake up, I’m thankful I made the decision to change my life and I know I made the right choice. With everything that comes with starting over and just life in general, there are still days that aren’t easy but I make it through. The trust and honesty that I have surrounded myself with helps to make that possible, along with the actions I take to stay healthy. I live more intentionally than I did before.

If you’re struggling, you ARE important and you matter. Remember that – tell it to yourself every day if you have to! You’re important enough to make whatever changes you need to make to get healthy – whether it’s physically, mentally or both. Do what you have to do to get healthy because you and your life are worth it!

Not everyone will understand your actions or decisions. Pay attention to their reactions – it reveals a lot. Just because you’re struggling it doesn’t mean you don’t know what you’re doing, that you’re crazy or narcissistic, or whatever other tag people that truly don’t wish you well will put on you. Don’t let it stop you or make you question what you know you need to do. Remember they don’t have to live your life – you do!

Hang on to the fact that you matter. Hang on to the fact that you deserve to be healthy in every way. Hang on to the truth that nobody can live your life but you so make the most of it — and know what you CAN make it through to a healthier life.

We don’t go through the darkness to stay there. We go through the darkness so that others can see the light.

Wrapping Up The Year

The last part of 2017 has been incredibly busy and good! My latest children’s book, Pedro’s Problemo came out on black Friday. It promptly hit Amazon’s Best Seller’s list. The book is ilustrated by the very talented and fun ten year old Brady Ballard. I’ve been working on edits for the movie script for Lost Betrayal. As of today, I’m about halfway through the edits and hope to get some more done this afternoon. They do say that what you do on New Years is what you’ll do the rest of the year, so I’m not taking any chances!

Horse N Ranch Magazine published my article, Training Tips- If You Can’t Afford A Trainer, in December. A few weeks ago, I was asked to be a guest on the Whoa Podcast. I thoroughly enjoyed chatting with John Harrar and his wife Ranae about writing, and staying fit for riding as we get older. I still think Kettlebells are the best bang for the buck! On the personal front, we’re back out at the new farm. These last few months, we were able to get water, electric, and septic hooked up as well as a house and camper pad graded out with gravel. We also got a run in shed built for the horses.

After losing my old dog Dillon, my OTTB Dynamic Host, and our young dog Chubby, we needed some good breaks. When you lose animals that make you ache with loss in the pit of your stomach every single day, you desperately need something good to happen to just keep you going.

We ended the year right with great friends and fabulous food at Smokin F BBQ. Yes, I enjoyed every bit of the foods I normally steer clear of! By the way, they absolutely do have THE best BBQ in the world, no lie!

Now that 2017 is over, I’m focusing on 2018 with a new lighter attitude and new goals.

In 2018, I want to let go more and worry less. At some point, if we really are what we say we are in regards to faith, we have to let go. It’s those times when the rubber meets the road as far as faith and believing.

I also want to let go more in regards to regrets and life and quit taking things so seriously. I’m not a surprise to God – He knows me inside and out and He still loves me. Even when I fail, He’s already got it planned out. He’s the one that’s in control.

Aside from a lot of self reflection, getting the tiny house finished is the main goal for the year. At 648 square feet, it fits right in line with a lighter attitude. Another goal is to have healthier feet on my horses. I figure it’s a great time to work on this as they’re not being hauled right now. For years we’ve struggled with Fireman’s feet and soreness. Early last year, I pulled his shoes and we’re working on a natural trim approach. It’s been a slow process and there’s been some trials and errors, but I think I’m finally starting to see some better heel.

Another goal is to do more book signings this year. I love connecting with readers and so often I’m reminded why I started writing in the first place. Although I enjoy the process of writing and creating stories, I love making an impact even more. It’s not my job to write a story I love to read, it’s my job to write a story others need to read.

My writing goal for the blog is to write more articles on horse training and plus size resources for riders. I want the blog to make an impact and be a catalyst for change in how women see themselves with their horses.

There’s always a writing project in the works. Of course, the main one at the moment is to finish the Lost Betrayal script. I’ve also got plans for another picture book, Beauford The Patriotic Donkey that my boyfriend Tab Bouk came up with, and trying my hand at self publishing some short stories. We’ll see where all that leads!

In the end, I’m very hopeful for 2018. As I’ve said before, if you want to change your life change your thinking. That’s exactly what I’ll be working on all year.

What are your goals for 2018? How are they different from last year’s goals?

Trailer Loading Basics 

Working with a horse at a clinic

Several years back, I had posted an article about Trailer Basics For Loading on my old blog. 

While there’s a ton of great information out there about getting horses to load on trailers, it’s still an issue that owners often deal with, and it’s a question that is frequently posted on forums and Facebook pages. 

Most often, the root cause traces back to not having a foundation on a horse – being able to control their feet lightly – before ever trying to get them on the trailer, or they’re asking the horse for the next step too soon. 

Working on loading with Dynamic Host

Here’s some simple big picture points to keep in mind any time you’re working with your horse. The same principal applies no matter what you’re doing. 

  • Horses have the mental capacity of a three year old child – always keep that in mind. 
  • Horses learn by repetition. 
  • Quit asking for anything when they give you the slightest try. 
  • Make the right thing easy (rest) and the wrong thing hard (work) 
  • Always end on a good note even if you have to set them up to get it. 
  • Encourage curiosity and you build confidence. 

 

So applying this to trailer loading and unloading…. 

  • Before you ever approach the trailer, make sure your horse knows how to move forward on their own. 

You need to be able to point or tap at the hip and they move forward without hesitation. The reason they need this is so they load on to the trailer by themselves. 

 

  • You need to be able to move all four feet forward, backward, and sideways by a simple easy tug of the lead rope. 

Think of a showmanship horse. They can get a horse to square up or do a pivot by moving the lead just an inch or two. When you’re loading your horse and asking them to put a foot on or take a foot off, you need that same lightness. 

 

  • Make the trailer a place of rest and away from or off the trailer a place of work. 

If your horse wants to go away from the trailer, let him but put his feet to work. Then come back to the trailer – or as close as you can – to let him rest. 

  • Don’t immediately make your horse get close to the trailer if they’re afraid of it. 

If you horse starts acting up six feet from the trailer, don’t automatically try to get them right next to the trailer. Instead, ask them to work their feet at seven feet away and gradually move in closer. Don’t ask them to move closer until they’re relaxed at the distance they are already at. 

 

  • Ask them to put one foot on and off a million times until they’re bored and falling asleep. 

You need to ask for it so many times that the horse is completely relaxed and keeping their foot on the trailer on their own. If they want to take the foot off, let them but ask for it to go right back on and leave them alone. Too many times people ask them for that next step too soon and the horse regresses in their training. 

 

  • Ask them two feet on and off a million times, then three feet a million times, then four feet a million times. 

The same principal applies to the rest of the feet. Ask them to put that same foot so many times that they’re comfortable with it and keeping those feet in place on their own. If you get three feet on and they want to back out, let them back out and then ask them to come right back and try again. Don’t ask for that fourth foot until they’re keeping those three feet on by themselves. 

  • Because they’ve already loaded and unloaded all four feet a million times, they already know how to unload as a side effect. 

 

Horses want to come off the trailer for two reasons. 

  • One is they are truly not comfortable being on the trailer – they need more work on being taught to load until they are. 
  • Two is that they’re anticipating coming off – remember horses learn by repetition?

Think about your hauling and unloading routine. Do you have the same process every time you haul somewhere or when you come home? Change it up and keep your horse guessing when they’re coming out of the trailer. Instead of unloading as soon as you stop, try opening one door and waiting a while. Then open another door and wait again. When you go to unload, unload them and put them right back on and then unload for the day. Anything to mix up the routine will help. 

 

A few thoughts on safety…

 

  • My number one safety rule is to make sure they are untied any time the divider is open or the butt bar is down.
  • I don’t tie until they’re locked in, and I always untie before I open the divider or unsnap the butt bar. 

 

  • If a horse isn’t comfortable staying on the trailer on their own, don’t shut them in. 

Wait until they’re standing on the trailer and not coming off before you shut and latch the divider or trailer door. If a horse is scared of being in a trailer, locking them in is not going to magically cure the fear. It’s only going to make them feel trapped. 

 

  • Pay attention to how you drive. 
    • Horses will start having trailer trouble if your driving is causing them to become unbalanced. 
    • Be slow and gradual with your stops. 
    • Take turns slowly and easily – be sure to gradually slow down when coming into a turn. 
    • Wait to accelerate coming out of a turn until your trailer is completely through the turn. 
    • Gradually accelerate. 

 

A few more tips… 

  • Incorporate your trailer training into your daily turnout routine

Every time you turn your horse in and out, you can spend a couple of minutes on trailer work. You don’t have to fully load your horse. Just ask for a step or two on and off the trailer and then quit. Be sure to quit on a good note. 

 

  • Haul your horse to town for simple errands. When a horse is getting used to hauling, frequent short trips are a good way to get some seasoning. 

 

  • Don’t get in a hurry – no matter what. Horses are a mirror of our emotions and frame of mind, and our body language. If you feel yourself getting impatient or worried because you have somewhere to be, take a big breath that your horse can hear. Horses look to us to be leaders. If we’re calm and confident, they will be too. 

How well does your horse load? What steps can you take to help your horse load better? 

Dynamic Host on the trailer — it took a lot of work to get to this!