Trailering issues - does my horse just hate my trailer?

Has anyone found switching trailer styles solved some of their hauling/loading issues? TLDR at the end.

I’m at my wits end with this horse, but he still is terrified every time I haul him (sweaty and shaking). I have a 7’6” tall, 7’+ wide 2H straight load BP with a ramp, and have hauled with the divider out as well as swung over. It’s very light inside, and I’ve wrapped all the noisy metal I can reach in vetrap, floor is solid and matted, no wasps or bees (I always check). I drive as slowly and carefully as I can, almost obnoxiously so. I have a very nice WD hitch and just had fiance redo the wiring. I’ve ridden in the back and there’s nothing I can tell is out of place - but it is, after all, a metal box on wheels. Not exactly an air ride van.

We practice loading and unloading as often as I can, but he never really settles. He won’t eat hay, even when just standing there, and if there’s one variable he doesn’t like he won’t load. No amount of feeding on the trailer, boring reps, or making outside the trailer ‘hard work’ has overcome his lovely combination of fear and stubbornness.

I’m wondering if the straight load is making this an uphill battle, if maybe it’s hard for him to balance or something? He spends the entire ride when we do haul screaming and trying to turn around. When I have the divider out he basically sits on the passenger side wall, not even in the corner or on the butt bar. Almost like he wants something to sit on or is just trying to face the rear and that’s as close as he can get.

I’ve heard of plenty of horses hating slants, so I bought this trailer trying to do right by him. But I’m starting to think maybe he would rather stand on the slant and have the wall to sit on (easier to balance with dividers to lean on?) or maybe ride loose and backwards in a stock? I don’t know how to test these theories, since all the trailers at my barn are literally the same model as mine and the smaller straight load I had before (same issues).

TL;DR when you’ve tried literally everything to get your horse comfortable with hauling, how do you know if it’s worth trading a straight load in for a slant or even stock? Or should I just resign myself to never going anywhere?

Forgot to add - we currently only haul to get his feet done, to the same quiet place as always, and he’s very chill there. I’ve moved barns quite a lot with him due to jobs and school, so maybe that’s part of it, but he’s not getting hauled to lessons or shows and working hard or anything like that.

Does anyone have a stock trailer or a 2+1 that can be configured in a box stall, preferably with a camera? I’d want to see how he behaves if you haul him loose.

Even if you have to pay a professional hauler to load him and drive him in a big loop around town, this would be valuable info.

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Do you have a local FB group where you can ask if anyone would take your horse for a short haul in a slant or stock trailer? It seems extreme to trade in your trailer for a different model when you don’t know if that’s the source of the problem. I mean, if you are close to me by chance, I would gladly let you take your horse for a spin in my stock trailer.

The other thing you might be dealing with is physical pain (musculoskeletal or ulcer related) that is being aggravated by the trailer. If you haven’t tried this already, you could experiment with NSAIDs and/or Gastrogard before and after hauling to see if it makes a difference.

This sounds silly, but putting him in hoof boots like Soft Rides may also make a difference. When properly fitted, they can help with vibration and traction, if that is the problem.

Also, tossing more silly ideas around that you may or may not have tried: ear plugs, liquid titanium masks, those little caps that Japanese trainers love to use, etc. Ya never know, right? Although you hit a point where you are throwing good money after bad.

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Good idea asking on FB - I’m sure with enough money someone could find the time. Finding someone willing to wait around in case he decides not to load immediately is another thing (which happens. Often. I always get him on eventually but he does make it difficult).

I’ve tried Ace, always have ulcergard on board (and taper it off afterwards), earplugs are a Hell No but I do put my noise muffling ear bonnet on for good measure. I haven’t tried any calming drugs or masks though - and I could up the Ace but he’s a lightweight and I don’t want to knock him over.

How bad of an idea would it be to take the divider out but leave the chest bars in and leave him loose? I have a full length butt bar. I could block off the space under the chest bars with plywood (much like the shipping vans with half walls on the front of their full stalls). He’s small enough that the space between the chest bars and butt bar would be enough for his whole body, and he could turn around. I don’t want to take the chest bars and center post out to do that since the escape doors and front wall aren’t meant to have a horse sitting on them and I’m pretty sure he would try that.

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Also thanks for the offer @Texarkana but I’m in NC and I’m pretty sure that’s a bit far from you!

I took care of One roadhorse who when hauled anywhere if you drove slower than 35mph would kick the backwall … she just loved to go Fast

For us we had a straight load but none of our horses like it so switched to a step-up slant, all you needed to do was to tell them to load, in they go and stand waiting.

Some horses just like slants better than others

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Have your tried anything for pain, though? Might be worth experimenting with some bute or Equioxx, it’s easy enough. The vibrations and swaying may trigger discomfort that isn’t present any other time.

As for leaving him loose, it’s hard to say how good or bad of an idea that may be without seeing your trailer. Overall I think it’s a great idea to try him loose, but not if the trailer design prohibits you from doing it safely. It sounds like you have a good idea about how you could try.

Ah yes about pain - this horse is my problem child.

We just diagnosed a thickened suspensory in front, his feet were WRECKED and we have finally found a godsend farrier that is making improvements, he’s got stifles that flex off (partly fitness partly assumed arthritis), and kissing spine from withers to croup if the X-rays from one angle are to be believed.

Previcox didn’t seem to make a huge difference, he is on Legend and doing Adequan soon, but I didn’t think to have him on a painkiller just for trailering.

Boots had also crossed my mind but he’s in shoes with pads and sole pack. And wedges. Not sure boots would work over all that.

Im sure someone will put me on blast but…

Sometimes it’s a matter of leaving them in there for a LONG ASS TIME, too. I’m talking hours and hours. Load him up, and go run a days worth of errands, just leaving him in there. Do that for a month, several times a week. He sounds a little spoiled and buddy sour with the screaming and turning around bit.

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Not blasting, because sometimes horses do need to learn to get over it.

But having owned horses that came to me with deep-seated behavioral problems that were more than lack of exposure, I’m willing to give the OP the benefit of the doubt that’s not what’s going on.

I will agree that leaving the horse in a parked trailer on a cool day with lots of tasty alfalfa to keep them occupied can help them get over the idea that the trailer is a bad place.

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I’d considered the leaving him to chill thing. It’s been 100+ here though and he’s anxious enough that I feel sometimes I have to move the trailer to get him to focus on balancing. If I stop for gas after a while (haven’t done a longer trip than an hour in a bit) he’s typically okay, maybe a few whinnies. I think at that point he’s just shut down, still sweaty and shaking.

Edited: spelling. Lordy.

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I had a TB who would only settle in the trailer if he could face backwards. If he couldn’t, he was sweaty and anxious in a very short period of time. If you could have someone with a stock trailer take him for a ride, as someone mentioned above, it would be interesting to see if he would turn himself around to face backwards and if so, if he would be more content.

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See I think with these horses the shorter trips are the problem. In his mind “I screamed and acted like a fool, then she took me out so see it worked”.

Just leave him, obviously not on a 100 degree day but when you can. 4 hours minimum. Food and water available. See if it helps.

I would think about just loading him, leaving the whole trailer open and hanging out in there until he chills. For a while, the “chill” might just be 2 seconds of standing straight and thinking about taking a treat or bite of hay. But eventually, it would be good if he’d load and hang out munching on hay and looking around. Then you can start closing things up.

My young horse would load right up but never really processed what was happening, so we spent some time just hanging out in the trailer with the doors open so he could see activity outside the trailer, look around, sniff all bits of the trailer and listen to things rattle when he shifted. If he wanted to leave, I’d try to catch him before stepping back and ask him to move back first but never tried to hold him in the trailer if he was backing up.

If he’s really herd bound, you might want to load and hang out with a buddy outside the escape door for company or with him in the trailer. With my herd bound horse, we did learn to load, close things up, and get rolling right away before he started thinking about being all alone. Once we were moving he was quiet.

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My horses stopped having loading/hauling panic attacks the day I traded my two horse for my first open stock horse trailer in the late 70’s. I have not owned anything but an open stock bumper pull since that time.

When the kids were little, many of the 4-H parents with 2-Horse trailers gave me gas money to haul their horses to the 4-H park because the horses went from fighting to load on their 2-horse trailers to walking right on my open stock.

That said, I still have my 6’ high 4-horse open stock. A 17H Dutch Warm Blood has recently been retired to my farm. Because the van he came to town on, was waaaaay too big to get up my road, I had to go pick the Big Guy up at another nearby farm.

He walked right on my trailer, even though he wasn’t used to a step-up but we had to remove the front divider because he was too long to fit up front and secure the butt bar behind him.

Removing the divider allowed him to angle himself.

We still shut the door that divides the front horses from the back horses, although that could have been risky business with a panic kicker. I was taking the word of his previous owner that he would stand quiet, which he thankfully did:)

If you end up buying a stock trailer (provided you have a vehicle big enough to pull it:). Be sure the height and length measurements of the front compartment will accommodate your 17H horse.

FWIW, my 16.1H TWH will fit up front, when I hauled him alone, but he was more comfortable in the back and would always angle himself if he was by himself back there:)

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Are there any livestock sale barns in your area? You might be able to find someone there with a stock trailer willing to take your horse for a ride (for a price, of course). The office at our local sale barn keeps a list of farmers willing to haul; sale barns in your area may do this as well.

If you do decide to get a stock trailer, keep in mind that you can get one custom built. I added height to mine to keep the horses from bumping their heads.

It sounds like you’ve tried just about everything to settle your horse, so I don’t have much to add other than maybe have a trainer work with him on that specific issue. Your horse’s trailer aversion is pretty entrenched by now, so it may be hard to cure even with a new trailer.

I have a 12 ft. stock trailer, and my horses are trained to self load, turn around, back up, and stand still. One horse is similar to yours in that he’s very claustrophobic and hates to trailer. I don’t have to trailer him often, but if I do have to take him somewhere, I always have to spend time afterward reinforcing his trailer training so that he’ll be good for the next time. Horses that are hard to load and nervous travelers are no fun. I hope you can find a solution for your horse.

I would ask around for someone who might have a regular stock trailer. The sale barn trailer sounds like pig city to me. And horses don’t love pig city.

Post on some local fb groups and find a roper who wants to make 100 bucks to haul your horse around for 30 minutes to an hour :wink:

I had a stock trailer but let’s talk stock trailers cuz mine wasn’t built for horses and there must be a difference. Bought an Arab 20 yrs ago who loaded fine on purchase but in time HATED my stock trailer. My QH didn’t mind it a bit. Had a friend drive and I road in the back and it was a holy hell sheer terror of banging metal.

Bought a straight load Trail-Et and in no time he self loaded and ran in the trailer happy to go anywhere.

Right? So maybe there are quieter ones? Do we see a difference in different makes and models and how loud the noise is? I rode once in my Trail-Et and was still surprised how loud it was.

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@PaddockWood When I refer to a stock trailer, I guess I’m picturing a stock combo/custom stock. 7’ to 7’6” inside and all the comforts of my straight load, but designed for hauling horses loose. I’ve definitely seen them, a friend had one that was ancient but quiet and well maintained. I’d just pick up a 2+1 but I haul with an F150 and that’s way above its capacity (not to mention installing a gooseneck hitch on a 150. Yikes.).

Did a trial load again tonight, got him on fine and the butt bar and ramp up. He was relaxed with his head out the escape door watching the neighbors, but as soon as I close his door he starts the dancing. I left it closed until he stood still and then I opened it up and gave him a peppermint.

As SOON as I dropped the ramp he started the Unload Panic, bouncing off the butt and chest bars. It was rather sketchy for a bit but I waited until he stood still to walk around and unhook him, walk back around and drop the butt bar, and asked him to stand until I walked around to grab his lead and back him out. I don’t have a good cue for backing from behind (like pulling his tail) so until I install that I’d rather him wait for me to come ASK him to back out and not shoot out the second he thinks the bar is down.

This all just makes me wonder if the anxiety is partially related to not being able to see where he is and wanting to Get Out Of This Box Now so he can see and feel safe. Regardless, I’m going to practice staying on the trailer calmly while I open and shut everything before hauling him again. Not sure any other type of trailer would solve this part of his problem, besides being able to turn around and walk off head first in a big enough slant or stock.

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