How to get your horse into a horsebox
Whether you’re taking your horse to a show to a new home or for a ride in pastures new chances are you’re going to have to transport your maned friend at some point using means other than the four legs he was born with. A purpose-built horsebox is of course the best way of doing so but if your horse is as stubborn as a mule then it can be hard going.
Fortunately there are a number of gentle but effective methods that you can use to get your reluctant horse into the horsebox, all of them kind to the animal. You might use one of these in isolation, or perhaps combine several to create the perfect loading method for you and your horse.
When trying any of these methods, it’s important to remain calm and not let your frustration show in your tone of voice or your body language, as doing so can make the horse even more reluctant.
The food bribe
Horses are animals, and like any animal, the pursuit of food is one of their main goals in life. It’s surprising how quickly their fear or stubbornness can evaporate once you put a tasty treat in front of them. You could even quite literally entice your horse into the horsebox using a carrot and a stick.
Have another horse set an example
Horses are social creatures, and if you have another horse or you have a friend with one, you may be able to use them to show your reluctant animal that there really is nothing to fear. Particularly for those horses which have seldom been loaded, seeing another member of their species enter a horsebox without concern can help ‘normalise’ the situation for them.
Be confident and encouraging
Have you ever felt like your horse could sense your mood while you were riding? Horses are often well-attuned to the moods of their owners, and if you appear nervous, frustrated or angry they may pick up on this and be less inclined to enter the horsebox. Instead let your confidence shine through and act as if loading into the horsebox is the most natural thing in the world to be doing. Encourage them as you would if you were riding, and reward them for doing well.
Sometimes the problem can be that the horse has too much stimulation. Blinkers are a simple but effective way to reduce that stimulation and will allow them to focus on the task of walking up the ramp into the horsebox.
Give your horse time to adjust
Rather than trying to load a reluctant horse into a horsebox or trailer on first sight, it may be worth giving the horse a little time to become accustomed to the vehicle from the outside. Let them walk around it and perhaps sniff it on a few occasions before you attempting the load.
Use a specialist control halter
By using a training halter which applies gentle pressure to the animal, you can gradually coax your horse onto the vehicle. Most importantly, you can use the halter to change its behaviour in a humane way, rather than relying on more forceful methods that rely on coercion.
Do you have any little secrets that you use to get your horse aboard a horsebox or trailer?
Marc Loud is a partner at Park Insurance, for over 30 years of experience who cover a range of specialist sectors including horse insurance.