Loading Your Horse


Loading your horse onto a trailer can be the most frightening thing you and your horse do. For both of you. Horse is terrified, you’re terrified, horse knows you’re terrified, equals very bad experience.

I was married to a cowboy. The Cowboy once worked as a wrangler for a company that moved polo horses all over the country. The Cowboy can load anything. I’m not kidding. There is no horse that he can’t load into a trailer.

There are certain basics to understand even before you buy a trailer. Unless you live in North Dakota where it’s freezing all the time, you don’t need a closed trailer. Not even for long hauls. If you want one for convenience, showing, storage, and any other reason, get one. However, for most people moving their animals around for small shows or to go for trail rides, a stock trailer is your best bet. Every horse will load better into an open stock trailer than a closed trailer. They see the open spaces between the boards and to them, it appears much like any stall. The tight space inside an enclosed trailer can look really scary to a horse strange to loading.

Another consideration, and this is a big one, ramp load or step up, which should you choose? Step up ever day of the week. I know, you’re thinking but the horse would rather walk up a nice ramp. No, no they wouldn’t. Have you ever tried to walk or ride your horse over a wooden bridge? The hollow sound of their hooves on the wood freaks out the majority of horses. The footing sounds strange and feels strange. Ditto the loading ramp. It’s not that much different from that wooden bridge. Getting your horse to step into a trailer, jump up a foot, is much easier than getting them to walk up that terrifying ramp. Trust me on this one. Step up is so much better.

If you try to train your horse to load by placing the trailer in a field and feeding them inside, is a perfectly great way to train your horse trailers are not evil. Even after feeding your horse inside the trailer, that horse may not load when you want them to. It takes hard work, consistency, and a firm hand to teach a horse to lead into the trailer. The Cowboy’s horses all jumped right in without even being led. They had lots of time going in and out of the trailer and understood they would load, or the Cowboy would encourage them, something none of his horses wanted. The Cowboy had his ways of making every horse understand he was the one in charge. And that’s what you must do. Get your horse’s trust, and establish a firm understanding of who is in charge.

If the horse you wish to load is strange to loading, take a barn friend (preferably another horse) who loads easily and put them into the trailer first. The horse that finds loading a frightening experience, will follow his friend into the trailer.

If that fails or you don’t have an easy-loader to use as a helper, try food. Use a bucket of feed to lure your horse into the trailer.

If this doesn’t work, you need someone to help you. You lead your horse, while someone else pushes. If your horse is a kicker, tie a rope to one side of the trailer, wrap the rope around your horse’s rump, and lift your horse into the trailer.

Last resort methods are only for one-way trips. It makes no sense to force a horse onto a trailer if you have to repeat the process in a strange place to get home. The Cowboy has used a cattle loading chute as a last resort. I’ve seen horse’s blindfolded to get them loaded though I don’t recommend it. I’ve also seen horses, big horses, come out the emergency exit which is also nothing I’d ever wish to repeat.

The Cowboy was a farrier with the best handling skills I have ever seen. Horses knew he meant business, and he was never mean to a horse. He moved slowly around horses always, spoke gently to every horse, and created an instant connection with every horse he ever worked with. They felt his strength and determination. You need to project that when dealing with horses. If you don’t, believe me they will know.

This is a picture of my cowboy with PeaEye his Florida Cracker cowpony. PeaEay just walked into the trailer every time by himself. All of the Cowboy’s horses did that.

Should I buy a Stallion? Uh, No!

 Should I Buy A Stallion? Uh . . . No!


When I was a kid I devoured Walter Farley’s Black Stallion series. It was awesome. Then I grew up and had a series of reality checks. One of the biggest, stallions are not pets, not cute, don’t belong in your back yard and they are very dangerous.

Scariest job on the planet is holding a thoroughbred mare while the stallion mounts her. Usually the mare is restrained and sometimes muzzled so she can’t damage her lover. The handler stands at her head. The stallion, teeth bared in a terrible smile, lunges up and covers her. He looks like he is coming for you, all 1400 pounds. It’s enough to make you wet yourself.

There are far too many stallions in the US. The only animals that should be left entire are those with terrific pedigrees, beautiful dispositions, and great conformation. A mutt in the horse world is not smarter or stronger. They are more likely to be a mish-mash of awful conformation and bad temperament. The paint world is one of the worst offenders followed closely by the appaloosa world. They breed for color…nuff said. That leads to crop outs, lots and lots of crop outs. A crop out is a horse bred for color, born with none. I had one here to train recently. He was free because no one wanted him, a black horse with three white socks, ewe-necked; cow hocked with gaits that jarred your teeth.

Stallions are banned from most shows for a reason. They are dangerous. You can’t have them around mares. Stallions that don’t ever get bred are usually better behaved, but if you breed them, they become hard to manage. I used to be married to a cowboy. The cowboy believed in castrating, and because he knew how to do it, other cowboy-type individuals, farmers, and poorer horse owners knew he did it, they hired him to cut their stud colts. I’ve been to five horse castrations. They are violent, bloody and frightening. The cowboy way means no drugs, just lots of rope. A horse colt can’t be castrated until its testicles have descended fully, which means you have a pretty big two-year old colt on your hands, a stud colt. The only way to do it is throw the colt down, tie all four of its legs to something strong like a truck bumper or a tree or a tractor, and have two or three strong men sit on it while the lucky guy with the knife, always my husband, made two slits, one in each sack, reached in and snatched out the testicle. The organs are then thrown on the roof for good luck. Swear to God.

Romance writers, and I have been one, think all their heroines and heroes should ride fiery stallions. Do your research. Humans have been castrating horses since the Scythians in 600 BC discovered a gelding made a better war horse because it could keep its mind on its business. It takes a strong trainer and a strong rider to manage a stallion, I don’t care how “gentle” they are supposed to be. People don’t want them around their mares or their geldings because they are usually aggressive and will attack other horses.

A significant fence is required to hold a stallion and to keep it out of the neighbor’s yard. Your insurance company won’t speak to you if you buy a stallion. Your neighbors probably won’t either. Stallions are really noisy.

There are few places where stallions are appropriate. One is on the race track where they still cause trouble, but their breeding potential enhances their value. Another is where they are trained for a specific purpose like the Royal Austrian Lipizzaner. The other place is on a breeding farm. I’ve traveled to breeding barns where the stallions were handled all the time and used to having their feet worked on. The cowboy husband was a farrier. In that kind of controlled environment, stallions have a place.

So all you romance writers, please put your heroines and heroes on horses they can manage. If your hero is a cowboy riding a stud he plans to use for breeding, go for it. Otherwise choose a gelding. My cowboy wouldn’t even buy a mare. He said even they cause too much trouble.