Trailer Advice

I have a new horse that is not happy about my trailer. With time and patience, I can usually load him by myself in 15-20 minutes, and quicker if I have someone behind him. The balky loading might get better eventually. A bigger issue is the temper tantrums he throws on the trailer. Labor Day, he scrambled and got both front legs over the chest bar. That’s not something I want to deal with again. I’m not sure he’s going to get over that before he does some major damage to himself and/or my trailer.

The trailer is a 2-horse reverse-straight-load. The horses load via a side ramp at the front of the trailer, into a small loading area with enough room to turn and walk into their stalls, facing straight backwards. They unload out the back door. There’s a lengthwise divider between the horses, chest bars a couple feet inside the back door, and butt bars between the horse’s butts and the front loading area. So it’s basically a 2-horse straight-load turned around, with extra room behind the horses at the front.

I’ve considered removing the divider and chest/butt bars. That would turn the whole trailer, including loading area, into 1 big 14x7 stall with nothing for him to try to climb over. I’ve hauled horses loose in a stock trailer before, and I think they’re happy having the freedom to move around and find their balance. But that was with a center divider that cut the trailer into 2 8x7 stalls. I never hauled a single horse with the divider open to give him the whole trailer. 14x7 seems like it might be a lot of room for a horse to rattle around in.

Any thoughts on this?

My boy did the same thing with a straight load when travelling with another horse.

In the straight load we moved the divider and travelled alone he is fine. This means no back bar. His standing in the float has to be solid. Then you put up the ramp. Make sure anyone helping with the ramp know to drop it if he puts a hoof on the ramp. You don’t want them injured.

He travels okay with another horse in an angle float.

I’d start by getting the horse used to willingly going into the trailer. When he will easily load, every time with no hesitation, then get him used to standing inside untied with the door open while you stand there. When he’s comfortable with that, get him used to standing in the trailer while you walk away and come back. Then start closing things up and opening them back up again. Then start taking little trips, then longer trips.

I recently had a trailer loading problem with one of my horses. After a trip to the vet, he decided he was never going to get on a trailer again. He planted his feet and would. not. move. I decided to go back to the very beginning with trailer training. I worked with him 15-20 minutes 4-5 days a week, and all I asked was just a little bit more than the day before–one more foot in, one more second before backing out. Balky behavior got him work; doing what I asked got big rewards. It took about 3 weeks, but the results were well worth the time spent. Last time I worked with him, I took off the lead rope, pointed to the trailer, and he walked on, turned around, and stood still while I walked off and came back, shut the door, opened it again, and finally told him to get off. Then he wanted to turn around and get back on because the trailer is such a relaxing place to be!

Your horse is new, so he’s still getting used to his new life. Don’t underestimate how stressful this can be for him. He may not be comfortable with the trailer, he may be worried about being taken away from his herd, or it may be something else entirely. Whatever it is, it’s your job to help him overcome his anxiety. Just take it in baby steps, and remember patience is the secret sauce.

I think your idea to remove the divider and chest/butt bars is a good one. He might travel very quietly that way–you’ll never know until you try. My trailer is a 12 x 6 stock trailer, and both of my horses are very quiet even though they have room to rattle around.


My concern with an open trailer is physics in case of a hard stop or accident: Things in motion tend to stay in motion. I have a 2 horse straightload and only have 1 horse. My BO asked why I attach the butt bar to the center divider vs. swinging center divider to the far side so horse can have most of the trailer to herself. First, no butt bar means only 1 line of defense - the back doors. Two, if I ever had to swerve or was hit while hauling, horse could slip/fall or get thrown to one side, possibly making a bad situation even worse. In a BAD crash, could a bent trailer frame allow the doors to open?? Maybe hauling horses loose in a larger heavy trailer has its benefits, but in a 2 horse, I wouldn’t be comfortable doing that.


In a BAD crash, could a bent trailer frame allow the doors to open??

just a guess on my part but I would think the trailer box would fall apart as it is only sheet metal.

We had our two horse steel slant load get hit by a person who ran a stop sign… hit the trailer broadside just below the first horse … all sorts of pieces of the car were everywhere… the horse who was not phased just looked down on to the pile of junk that once was a car… trailer was not damaged…car was badly damaged if not totaled.

I think this would depend on the specifics of the crash.

Our LQ aluminum trailer got hit from the side just ahead of the horse section hard enough to bend the frame and snap the hinges off the top of the stud divider. Initially, that partition would not open, as it was not quite the same shape as the bent trailer… thank goodness my mare didn’t mind my crawling in with her to beat it open with a sledgehammer (she couldn’t go out the escape door due to the remains of the SUV that hit us being in the way, but I was able to crawl in).