Horse Scrambling in Trailer

Please help me figure this out!

TLDR: Horse that has not had issues before, is now scrambling in trailer even at slow (10-20mph) speeds on wide sweeping turns.

My coffin bone horse is struggling a lot in the trailer. We have had our Brenderup Baron for 3 years now (prior to that we had 3 different steel 2 horse straight loads, though a long LONG time ago she rode in a friends slant) and I have been the only person to drive her for the past 10 years. I never noticed any issues prior to the past year, but we have only had a camera in the trailer since we bought the B’up. When she was going to/ from the vet prior to the coffin bone surgery she was having issues as well (in the trailer), but I attributed it to being severely lame in that leg. She is now as close to sound, if not sound, as she will get (trots up well in her hoof boots and plays in the turnout just fine). However, she is all over the place in the trailer. The slightest deviation from a straight line and she is letting her whole body lean/ bump into the wall or divider and her “inside” front leg will occasionally buckle. It doesn’t appear to be slipping - the floor is rumber with aggressive tread and is coated in non slip spray, she has Cavallo boots with tread, and generous amounts of shavings to keep the trailer dry. The only things that have changed in the setup are: trailer floor (replaced the original with rumber) and the tow vehicle (replaced a small under powered SUV with a Suburban). While not insignificant, I don’t see how either could be contributing to this issue. My other horse does fine in the same set up. While I am happy to take the blame, I have been driving her, without incident, for over a decade now. She is leaning/ falling/ scrambling even at extremely slow speeds (10-20mph) and on wide turns. I took it as slow as was safely possible today and still had to call it quits as I was concerned for her safety.

My current ideas are:

  • get full length chest and butt bars so I can remove the divider and give her the full stall. I saw this video and thought it might help but am also worried it could be worse if she doesn’t have anything to lean on. ETA video link, divider less portion is at the end: https://fb.watch/d2cSqftJ2Y/
  • A different trailer. This isn’t ideal, of course, but I HAVE to have safe transportation for my animals. My thoughts are different styles - slant load (I dislike slants myself but if it helps her) or a box stall situation (but the above solution should tell us if that would help) or a trailer where she can ride backwards like an EquiTrek or Balanced Ride. But before I sell the B’up and invest in something new (that also may or may not work) I’d want to “test drive” one with her and outside of the slant load I’m not sure how I’d do that.
  • A vet work up. She seems 100% otherwise, but isn’t in any sort of work so I don’t have the benefit of being able to feel anything from her back (and with her not being in work since the surgery it will be hard to tell what’s new new and what is new since the surgery). My thought would be some sort of neuro issue.

Photo of the trailer after unloading (note the holes in the shavings where her hooves where) and of the tread on the floor.

Get a neurological work-up ASAP. Can be an early sign of EPM or similar.

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It could be age related. My QH needed to be able to spread his legs wide enough to balance and would lean on the wall or divider if he couldn’t. His vet said some older horses just get to the point of needing the extra space to be able to brace themselves however they needed to be secure. My horse started doing the scramble in the edge stalls of a three wide (but was fine in the middle) when he was 10-11 years old, so not really aged. We figured it out fairly quickly as my coach had an older mare who had needed extra space within the previous couple of years.

A friend had one that leaned on the divider and just about tried to climb the wall. We were over an hour from home when it got bad enough to be a danger for the horse in the second stall. Removing the divider allowed the horse to stand with feet far enough apart to be comfortable and the horse travelled that way ever after. Swinging the divider to one side wasn’t enough. The horse needed the full space. The horse was over 20 years old when the scramble started.

My current older horse isn’t leaning on the side wall but he is bracing himself against the back of the trailer. It appeared that his front feet were slipping in tiny amounts (my guess is from the vibration of a moving trailer). Some experiments showed that Cavallo Treks slipped more than bare feet, and anything on shavings slipped more than bare feet directly on the rubber mat.

This is different in that he is not scrambling, rather the opposite in that he’s not moving his feet at all. He’s bracing against the back wall and trying to keep his front feet from moving back. When they get too far under his body he might do a heave/lurch to get one or both further in front again but otherwise he’s trying to stay very still.

I think scrambling may the wrong word. She does typically end up standing wide behind but not noticeably so up front. She almost appears to not even be trying to support herself for turns (no adjusting her stance or anything like that) and instead just heaves onto the wall/ divider for support. I’m looking for a full length butt and chest bar now but am thinking of borrowing a stock type trailer and seeing if I can get a camera in there to see how she handles the extra space first (since those bars will be a couple $$$).

@joiedevie99 I was thinking along those lines too, but haven’t notice any issues outside of the trailer. Also I think neuro usually shows up in hind end weakness/ discoordination/ imbalance and this seems more in the front end? I think I will run through some neuro tests with her tonight (tail pull and the like) when I have extra hands to help me.

I had a horse suddenly start doing what your horse is when I bought my first 2H BP. It had a divider that went all the way to the floor ( different than the trailers he was previously in).

We modified the divider so it was at only body height. From that first ride he was able to get his feet wider apart and never had another issue.

I would try that or like you said get new chest and butt bar and remove the divider. Maybe due to her recent lameness and treatment she just needs a wider stance in the trailer to be comfortable hauling.

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I also had one who scrambled with a full-length divider (to the floor). We got a half-size divider so she could spread her feet apart and it resolved the problem.

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I also had one that scrambled with a full-length divider. Since she normally went places alone, we just tied the divider over to the side in the back. She would spread her hind legs apart and was rock solid on the road after that.

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OP - I had a Brenderup for years and loved it. Got a new horse, and after a couple rides she started to scramble. My divider was like yours, solid with the flappy part at the bottom. The first time I blamed myself and the only damage was a small scrape on the side of her hock that was on the outside wall of the trailer. Then she got worse and ended up both bending the divider and knocking its front support pole loose!! That was enough to convince me that it was not safe for hauling her.
I stopped using that trailer, had her go for a ride in a friend’s slant load and she was fine. So…I said goodbye to my beloved B-up and got a new trailer.
Edited to add: this mare was completely sound at that time.

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I have found that my barefoot horse slips on my rumber flooring. I ended up adding rubber mats over the top to prevent that. I don’t have a camera so can’t tell you if she was leaning like you describe beforehand but she was definitely slipping. It appeared to be mostly behind.

I also use Cavallo boots on the front and add shavings. I chalked it up to the motion (starting/stopping) and the grooves on the floor going in the same direction as her feet would go.

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I have a St. Georges Imara which is very similar in design to B’ups, however my divider doesn’t go to the ground. Based on others’ comments, can you remove that lower flexible portion to see if your horse feels able to widen her stance? Or can you roll it up to the off-side and secure it out of the way? It seems like that would be a cheap way to test if her issue is thinking she’s not able to stand wider, feeling the vinyl divider against her right legs.

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Maybe have someone double check the trailer brakes are adjusted properly? I had this issue with a horse and it disappeared after the brakes were adjusted. I know brenderups have different brakes but still might be worth looking into.

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Thanks for all of the ideas!

The divider only goes part way down with a flexible plastic portion at the bottom. The plastic portion is always pulled all the way away towards the opposite side of the trailer and does stand wide behind.

I don’t believe the brakes are at play as the issue is from side to side while turning instead of front to back while starting stoping.

To give a better idea of what she is doing here is a video. It starts when we were going about 25mph and the end is about 45mph. The road was curved but not twisted or sharply curved. https://youtube.com/shorts/HPv3LEhIL7M?feature=share

My horse started doing what yours is doing in that video with the fun addition of climbing up the wall. Started when he was 19 and with a trailer switch to a full divider (previously he’d always trailered with a partial divider.) I tried to deal with it for a year but it got worse each time to the point that he was falling, so I gave up and bought him a brand new trailer that is a foot wider than the previous trailer and with a partial center divider. He still leaned and scrambled in that though not nearly as badly as before. During this time he was always on the right side while his heavier friend was on the left. First time alone, so riding on the left, he didn’t scramble/lean. For some reason he’s fine if he rides on the left side but leans and scrambles right, so he’s only on the left now. Have you tried putting her on the other side to see if it helps? My horse is now 23 and we trailer out weekly, he’s been on that left side for 2 years without issue.

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That’s similar to what my QH did, except after being unbalanced and shifting to lean on the other side he would lift his front feet and scrape them down the wall or divider post in an attempt to widen his stance. He was always leaning on one side or the other, though he preferred to lean on the solid wall rather than the divider.

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Can you round up a friend or two with different trailers to go for a short ride?

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I am racking my brain to see if I can come up with anyone nearby - the problem is most of my horse friends have moved away (some a few hours, some all the way to the coast). I’m going to see if I could even rent a stock trailer, just to see if no divider helps (or even riding backwards as an EquiTrek would).

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I tried an experiment last week and used Treks with Cavallo ice studs on my horse’s front feet for the trailer ride. The studs are quite small and I hoped would provide a little grip on the bare trailer mat. They worked very well and my horse wasn’t braced against the back of the trailer when we arrived.

At the end of the first ride he had a bit of a standing on a box stance with his front legs angled back under his body (which is how he usually ended up before) but in the middle of the stall instead of at the back. We trailered out three times in the last two weeks and he progressed to standing comfortably upright at the front of the stall, without leaning on the chest bar, on the third occasion.

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Second the suggestion of switching sides if you haven’t tried that already! My retiree started doing weird weight-shifting stuff in the trailer when he was 18. I actually started a thread about it that might have some other useful suggestions for you…here: Horse suddenly unstable in trailer. He was definitely not slipping. In his case it was only on right turns and it happened even if I turned painfully, painfully slowly. I ended up trying him on the right side of the trailer instead of the left and that resolved it completely. Now that he’s retired he only ships out maybe once every year or two, but 7 years later he is still fine in the trailer as long as he’s on the right side.

Interestingly, he also has coffin joint issues. His RF looks like Swiss cheese on x-rays and the LF needed annual-ish injections in his last few years of work even though it x-rays better. Last year at age 25 he also started struggling to stand for the farrier. She could trim his hind feet no problem but when she worked on his fronts he would lean, pull his foot away, try to sit down, etc. This is a very kind horse who had never been difficult for shoeing before. We started having to do him in the corner of the stall so he could lean on the wall, and even that was a struggle. I worried about EPM, Lyme, cervical arthritis, etc, but my farrier said she’d had a similar horse who improved dramatically after being nerved. One day the vet happened to be out so I had her do front PD blocks and sure enough, he stood perfectly in the aisle for shoeing. I wonder if the weird trailer issue was an early precursor to the farrier issue, and if he could stand well on the left side of the trailer with PD blocks too.

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I also second switching sides. My mare used to trailer on the “correct” side, she slipped once and after that started scrambling. We tried a number of things, including giving her the full stall (which I wanted to avoid if possible because it would be a real nuisance to never be able to take two horses!). What worked immediately was putting her on the other side. No idea why, but she’s happy there and hasn’t scrambled since…which I think is about 8 years! She’s slightly neuro these days but is still ok in the trailer. My centre divider does not go all the way to the floor so she can always spread out a bit if she needs to.

Unless you are sharing this video from somewhere that driving occurs on the left side of the road, your horse is on the wrong side of the trailer. A single horse in a straight stall should be on the driver’s side - nearest the crown of the road.

2nd add a net of the most delicious hay you can find.

3rd - this might sound odd, but when you first load and are ready to go - back up a ways before stopping and pulling forward. Do it a few times. Make the first motion in the trailer backwards for a few trips if the first time helped. Had one that would go so apeshit as to go over the breast bar. Backing up right after loading him cured him. If you are good at backing a straight line, have plenty of room, and circumstances are safe, go a little faster in reverse than you normally would - try to gently “shock” the horse into finding a new way to balance herself.