Anxious horse - trailer loading

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
We collected My friends daughters new horse on Friday. We know her history from 4 months old and are friends with previous owner.

From the age of 4 months to 3.5years she had never been in a stable and lived out 24/7, in company during the day and solo at night. Then my friend bought her and gradually got her used to being in a stable...then this winter she has been stabled at night but is never 100% settled inside, but a million times better.

This mare also has trailer issues, rears when loading, when in does a stressed panic dance with front feet (literally one foot to other continuously frantically). It took 20 mins to load her to bring her (no forcing, just persistence and blocking the right hand side so she couldn't run out, on previous attempts by owners it's taken hours)

She does this anxious 'dance' every time there's a change, so instantly if put in a stable, if a horse passes the stable, if she's left alone in the field (but this has already lessened)

I know it's obv early days as we have only had her since fri, and we know that she can be left out solo as she has in the past and we know she has been left in the stable over the last 2 years...

Thing is we would like to help her, we would like to find a way to progress to loading her - we have all the time in the world, as the new owner isn't keen to be out competing but would like to go to some funrides and we purchased her knowing she had a trailer loading issue - but didn't realise the extent of her stress/anxieties....

Feel the trailer issue is obv fear, and possible claustrophobic? Since she does the dancing when shut in a stable also? When she does it in a field it is usually because her companion has escaped or the nearby horses have moved too far away.

Anyone with some advice would be wonderful, we want to help settle this mare and are prepared to take as long as it takes :)

Also when she does it in the stable, sometimes if you go close she stops, think its related to being left alone also, but prev owner said it progresses into an attention thing...we want to know what method to take - ignore, comfort, take her out...
 

sjp1

Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2009
7,015
462
83
I would say just practice, and I would feed her both in the trailer and in the stable. But loose. Open the trailer up, put the feed in a bucket at the end of the ramp and daily progress upwards. Pop a small feed in the stable, let her eat it and then immediately bring her out afterwards, building her time in there up.

Just make it the norm for her I would say.
 

popularfurball

Learning all the time
Jul 18, 2005
12,709
666
113
North west
Treat ball for stable?

Also perhaps valerian tincture half hour before an anxious situation?

And feeding in the trailer, having a haynet in there etc etc
 

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
It's awkward as she isn't excessively food orientated, but will def try with various treat rewards to see if anything takes her fancy!
 

Vicki100

Well-Known Member
Jun 12, 2009
4,226
45
48
West Mids
It's awkward as she isn't excessively food orientated, but will def try with various treat rewards to see if anything takes her fancy!

Finnley will only load onto a trailer if he is bribed with carrots. Nothing else just carrots! :giggle:

Let us know how you get on :smile:
 

popularfurball

Learning all the time
Jul 18, 2005
12,709
666
113
North west
I would be inclined to use it as a "feeding place" rather than treating - put bucket in it and give her time - maybe fence off some field. If she can choose when, and how she wants to get in - then there is no pressure and she is in control and able to get out and have no worries of being trapped.
 

Thyme & Me

New Member
Nov 23, 2011
1,430
0
0
... but didn't realise the extent of her stress/anxieties....

.... prev owner said it progresses into an attention thing...we want to know what method to take - ignore, comfort, take her out...

It appears she is scared of being trapped and of being alone - which makes sense as she is a prey animal. But to live contentedly as a domesticated horse she'll need to get over it! She will feel better and will therefore behave more calmly when she has learned that the stable and being alone are not dangerous for her. And for that to happen you need to make sure you gradually extend her comfort zone, while never overwhelming her.

So don't offer 'comfort' for stressy behaviour as that reinforces it. CERTAINLY don't let her avoid or escape the feared situation because of stressy behaviour as this will hugely reinforce it. And that is the tricky bit. You need to set up 'challenges' that she can succeed with. And as she begins to calm down, then you offer praise, comfort or escape (classic pressure/release principles but over an extended time period). I'd focus on one thing at a time. Start with separation anxiety. Take a horse away. Let her pace, neigh/whatever while ignoring her. When she stops, return the companion horse. If that's too much and she goes loopy, then you'll know you need to start with a smaller challenge - eg have the companion in a field next door.
Gradually extend the challenges. Good luck :)
 

Lemme

Well-Known Member
May 22, 2008
4,540
427
83
East Yorkshire
we had serious trailer issues with Charlie - not with the loading but the travellinfg itself - jumping breastbar - rearing etc we took him right back to basics - we had time as he was young so took him right back to basics - 18 months on and he did his first proper show journey - albeit he is cross tied, no partition and oxyshot - by the end of his first show season if he sees a trailer or horsebox in the yard hes on his toes and looking to go in it... this years challenge is no oxyshot and a partition so Acorn can go to the same shows.
We spent a lot of time just walking him through - then standing him in for a short time, then introduced breat bar, then bum bar - then closing front ramp and then back ramp - inbetween all yhis came the tieing up - grooming him in there and generally making him feel confident and safe - we had little set backs but just kept tasking him back a step - that first safe journey - only 20 minutes was just brilliant .

Tess used to travel fine , when we first tried her in the new trailer she really freaked out - took out partition and shes much better - shes retired no no regular travelling but need her to be able to - you never jnow when she might need to,

Patience and repetition, firm but fair worked for us - but the need to travel was not urgent - we missed a show season but being able to travel safely for all was the most important thing to us - we could have forced the issue but we could have ended up with a disaster on our hands. He was the same in the stable for a while - but once he settled and realised there was no danger and it meant food he was fine - in both cases it was the confinement thing -and as others have said they can't flee which if feeling threatened in the field they would.

It is a worry but just hang on in there........
 

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
thank you so much guys :)

sooo....she still seems very unsettled in the field...i know its only been under a week but i dont think it is generally helping, and its making the new owner have doubts....

so tonight we moved her into my top paddock (between my herd and the stable block) as she had been in the paddock to the RHS of my bottom paddock - where she was the furthest over so if all horses moved to opposite end of paddock then she would seriously stress. I watched her for a while in my top paddock and she wandered inquisitively and also when mine moved along the fenceline she either followed or watched them move. But certainly no where near as bad. So we are hoping if she settles more in the field and is generally less stressed then we can work on building her confidence in the stable :) and then when that is better then we can work towards the trailer (but after establishing groundwork before even considering the trailer)
 
Last edited:

Flipo's Mum

Heavy owner of a Heavy
Aug 17, 2009
9,616
1,493
113
Perthshire, Scotland
Heh Julie, I'm reading this with interest as I have a hard to load horse and I need to work mostly on my leadership as others can load him. I know thats not strictly the same problem but I think things I'm doing towards that end might be similar to what the owner could be doing. At the moment we're working on enclosed spaces - walking through narrow places (tires piled on both sides) and getting him comfortable with a tarpaulin chucked over his back - working up to having it held a few feet above his head so that he can walk under it. Then I need to find some means of a ramp and get him focused on going through that, trusting me. Of course I don't have a trailer to practice with very often so this is a means to an end but sounds like you have the right plan with groundwork and improving her ability to cope alone in the field. Good luck.
 

sjp1

Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2009
7,015
462
83
If she is alone and she is used to company I guess she would stress. Tobes would stress huge amounts. Can she not go in with other horses?
 

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
If she is alone and she is used to company I guess she would stress. Tobes would stress huge amounts. Can she not go in with other horses?

We know her history and for the first 4 years she was used to being in with one horse and then being left out solo at night whilst the other horse was stabled. For the last 2 months she was stabled at night and out during the day in a herd...I think that's the problem - we were thinking oh she's been out on her own and is fine...without realising she must have enjoyed having the company the last few months.

We did get her a companion but it kept escaping which made her more stressed....plus the owner of that pony would bring it in every eve for a feed so she would freak out being left...

She is now in a paddock which is now in between two paddocks - my 3 are always out in the one and there is a pony out 24/7 in the other paddock.

If that doesn't work then I will have her in with mine - I wasn't very keen as I have a daily routine which would make things complicated having another horse who isn't in that routine...but of course we would adjust if needed :)
 

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
Ok so this morning she was absolutely 100% settled in my paddock :) she greeted me and ambled down to my bottom paddock where i tied up the haynets on the dividing fenceposts.

When she was brought in for her evening feed we had to leave her in the stable whilst we filled up nets...the girl was really worried she would jump out....so we walked around the corner and as soon as we were out of sight the 'dancing' stopped...the moment back in sight she 'danced'.....soooo although it is def a vice that appears more when she is stressed or in stressful situations, it also appears to be attention related.....

so with regards to her doing it in the stable we have decided to do the following - if she is dancing then totally ignore....then when she stops approach stable...if she starts then turn around and walk away....when she stops approach again. if in close range then only fuss when she is not dancing, and praise her lots for standing still. Tested it a bit tonight and she is one clever horsey!! so all next week the daughter will try and tackle this everyday :) (plus tell everyone else not to fuss at all if dancing...that will be the test!)
 

sjp1

Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2009
7,015
462
83
Am pleased she is starting to settle. I always feel sorry for horses when they go to different owners, I felt sorry for Tobes when he came to me. Not only do they have a whole new set of rules from their new human, they also have to sort out things with new horses and a new environment.

I was worried when I moved Tobes in October, but somehow, the fact that I was still a constant seemed to help him because although he was then out with the geldings and his friend (who moved with us) was out with the mares he seemed fine pretty much from the get go.

So I am sure once she understands what her new routine is, she will settle down quickly.
 

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
well....trailer has been parked in her field for 4 days....the owner (girl aged 14) under my supervision has been 'making friends with the trailer'. We have realised that ANY pressure on the halter makes her rear if heading in direction of trailer, any driving from behind sends her off the ramp to the side and gets her really stressy. Best method so far seems to be back her up and reward...then ask forward with voice 'clicking' (no pressure on halter) and reward. Then back up before she wants to and reward. If she goes backwards then continue the backwards and then spend a bit of time moving her around then return to the ramp.

day 1: (Partitions in but all open)
Horse only felt comfortable going on the back ramp and poking her head into the trailer to sniff around and hoover the hay off the floor near the ramp. No pressure from us at all, just seeing what she felt comfortable doing. Fed her bucket feed on the back ramp.

day 2 (Partitions in but all open):
Horse felt comfortable to get two front hooves in the trailer but wouldn't stay longer than a second or two then would shoot out backwards. Fed her bucket on the back ramp further up near the trailer though.

day 3 (Partitions in but all open):
Horse felt comfortable putting all four hooves in the trailer (so reaching over halfway with her head) and sniffing around hoovering, would back out but relatively slowly compared to previous days. Fed bucket feed in the trailer at about halfway.

day 4 (Partitions in but all open):
Horse went straight in as far as head in line with the front ramp to eat her bucket feed (i didn't have much time tonight so admit to just using the trailer to feed her in). She wouldn't stay put for longer than about 6 seconds and backed out slowly to eat each mouthful on the back ramp. I was able to use the slightest pressure on the halter tonight to ask for forward motion towards the trailer - no rears :)

will update this as we go as want to log her progress :)

Obviously we do not want to be using bribes but currently its getting her confident with the enclosed space and the trailer...
 

sjp1

Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2009
7,015
462
83
Sounds like you are doing really well. I think my next step would be to have the partitions in and the ramps down and put the feed up where she would be standing to travel.

Leave it up to her - if she chooses to eat it, great, if she chooses to scatter it all over by leaping out, also up to her.

I would expect the next night, she would go up and eat it and then leave.
 

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
the partitions are in but open and tied back to the opposite half if you know what i mean! - i cant take the middle bar out so they are there. she still feels a way off being 100% settled, i would like her to stand a bit longer before i change anything, but def will try to progress her for def by making small changes when she is ready :)

she hasn't yet realised she can go out the front ramp, she has always been backed out of a trailer....although we are happy to back her out anyway, i would like to progress to going through the trailer ideally :)

also do you think its safe to leave the trailer all open and a haynet in there with her loose in the field (with no rug or headcollar on obviously) whilst i am up at the stables keeping an eye out? i wouldn't do it whilst the other horse is in the field obviously!

oh also found out the source of her 'claustrophobia' - first owner left her in a field for 3 years and then brought into a stable which was all barred up and left her in for a few days....(being fed etc)...but no wonder the poor horse is terrified of being trapped.

little videos of her today :)



photo of the experience when picking her up to move her to our yard.....
loadingpicrearing.jpg
 
Last edited:

sjp1

Well-Known Member
Sep 14, 2009
7,015
462
83
I would have thought it would be safe, am sure you have the trailer secured to something so it doesn't jump about.

Years ago, that is how I got a 4 year old p2p'er loading with no problem at all. Just fed him daily on the trailer and he had no fear of it at all then when it came to travelling.
 

juliecwuk

Well-Known Member
Mar 2, 2006
7,982
764
113
38
Wolverhampton
the trailer has back stabilising feet which are down permanently whilst its parked in the field :)

day 5: (partitions open)
Initially - no halter and no pressure from me (i was throwing the ball for the dogs about 10m away) - she went in/back out numerous times (all the way in too, to eat her feed near where haynet goes). Then she went in whilst i was standing next to the back ramp so i decided to put her halter/rope on and 'ask' her into the trailer from the right hand side of the rear ramp - and she went ALL the way in to eat and backed out slowly....did this about 6 times - and 2 of these i was able to stroke her bum whilst she ate without her backing out :) top count is 12 seconds of her staying in before reversing out :)

only 1 slight disagreement when she decided she would rather try to go the opposite way, passive persistence from me and she went back to the ramp and straight in :)
 
Similar threads
Thread starter Title Forum Replies Date
maverick.the.paint Trailering my anxious horse Transport and Travelling 3
Rubic Anxious horse Training of the Horse and Rider 39
Aimee-x Supplements for nervous/anxious horse Metabolic 8
YASMiN___X0 How to deal with a horse that gets VERY anxious when seperated? Training of the Horse and Rider 7
S Magnesium for nervouse/anxious horse Money Saving Ideas, Tips and Remedies 11
R Stessed/anxious horse Training of the Horse and Rider 9
Lucy_Angel Anxious Horse.. Advice pls! *LONG* General 3
L Moving day tomorrow. Anxious! Cafe 14
sjp1 Tobes is having Shoes Off tomorrow - am now anxious!! Cafe 14
squidsin Move has made me anxious! Confidence Club 9
KarinUS Super Anxious -Minnie leaving (again) today Cafe 15
KarinUS Anxious about sending her offsite Training of the Horse and Rider 4
KP nut Feeling stressed and anxious.... Cafe 8
annareeves0 Anxious dogs Cats, Dogs and other Animals 2
dilaika anxious about the canter.. Training of the Horse and Rider 6
BlueWicked anxious/clingy horses - strategies General 6
Snow_Pony anxious at halt - help please! (long sorry) Training of the Horse and Rider 6
Imp Anxious Mum (stupid) Older Riders 7
L Anxious Competing 3
Retty Anxious mum! Horse Care 8
Doodle92 Another run in with the grumpy man deliberately spooking horse Cafe 7
G Buying a horse (where or how) First Timers 13
Doodle92 Probably a hard question to answer. Horse height/weight Cafe 19
bel71 New horse blues Confidence Club 8
Jessey (Baby horse proof) Rug hanging Cafe 19
AJ Yammie Horse with no brakes Training of the Horse and Rider 6
Jane&Ziggy The unfriendly horse who just wants to be left alone Cafe 7
M How to get newly backed horse move forward. Cafe 12
Frances144 Rug Help Please - for older horse who got trapped. Cafe 30
J Having troubles with my lesson horse Training of the Horse and Rider 8
AJ Yammie Cantering downhill on a downhill horse Training of the Horse and Rider 11
Ale It's not just a horse. Cafe 26
Doodle92 Happy horse Cafe 0
A Bringing horse back into work after tendon sheath surgery Training of the Horse and Rider 3
A Bringing horse back into work after tendon sheath surgery Veterinary,Injuries and Therapies 3
M horse boots availability in UK Tack & Saddlery 6
R I'm wanting to rehome/rescue a foal or young horse. Cafe 8
SandraQ Your Horse Live - trailer sales Cafe 3
Kite_Rider Odd behaviour? Horse friends Cafe 11
L Racehorse to Riding horse Competing 18
I First time horse owner Cafe 18
J My horse won't trot Cafe 5
S Horse is striking out when asked to trot Older Riders 5
C Horse flies Cafe 4
T Characteristics of the Friesian horse Horse Care 0
M Anyone fancy a bit of horse shopping? Cafe 3
Jane&Ziggy Starting a horse in a morning Cafe 1
Jessey Best spray for horse flies specifically? Horse Care 6
Jessey Things a young horse should see/do Training of the Horse and Rider 27
Doodle92 Conflicted horse 😂 Cafe 2

Similar threads

newrider.com