Worming and Trailer Loading Issues?

Once my mare is feeling better (ulcers, probably - other thread about her), I really want to start working through her issues of worming/oral medicating and loading in the trailer. She was bad with trailering/loading when I bought her - it was always a struggle to get her loaded and took up to 2 hours of fighting. Once, the previous owners (we rode along with them) took her to the veterinarian and she freaked out in the trailer, pulling back and panicking. The owners decided to untie her and open the trailer because she was endangering us and herself. On her way flying out of the trailer, she flipped over backwards. The vet checked her out and found only minor skin abrasions but she’s never been the same after that. I’ve worked with multiple trainers who run her into the ground or try the ‘respect’ method but she still panics anytime she’s loading (pulls back, rears, etc.) and once she’s on the trailer, she freaks whenever the door or divider is closed. We have a two horse slant load and I’ve been having to bribe her on and try to close the back before she freaks. I hate doing this because she seems genuinely terrified (maybe it’s because of the mats? She’s also terrified of going in the stocks because of being ‘trapped’ and the black mat).

With worming and giving oral medications, we’ve definitely had struggles. She was O.K. (not great/good) when we got her but it turns out she had ulcers before we bought her. We went through an entire round of Ulcer/GastroGard with daily struggles. She absolutely hated the taste of it (she can be very picky) and would back up into a corner and then rear. In the aisleway, she throws up her head and rears, almost falling over. I’ve heard that people use applesauce in empty/clean wormer tubes but she doesn’t like applesauce (what kind of pony is she?! She doesn’t like carrots either). I’ve worked with her for hours but with no improvement. The fighting is very hard on my shoulders and often causes them to dislocate (EDS) so I need a solution.

Can any of y’all provide suggestions on either of these issues? She’s a fantastic mare and I love her to bits but she definitely has her issues.

My horse was horrible when I first started ulcer treatment. I started the first few days with help. My coach held his halter while I put my thumb in his mouth and injected dose. After a couple days of not being able to get away with flinging head and getting out of meds, he got way better. We also did this in a rope halter so there was a little more pressure on his nose. I also worked on my own sticking my thumb in his mouth and getting him to open his mouth without flinging his head up. Now I can walk up to him in field and give him meds without using halter.

I dont recommend this but I tasted a minuscule amount of the meds and they are disgusting. I wanted to cut my tongue off. So I have sympathy for the horses. It does not taste good.

I can stick my finger in her mouth with absolutely no problem- just with meds. I’m sure it’s the taste but it’s miserable for her and for me. I’ve tried a rope halter as well but it only makes her freak out more - she feels trapped and pulls back (she occasionally pulls back when tied - we’re working on that as well). I’m always worried about her getting her because of the velocity at which she yanks back/rears.

Yeah, your shoulders definitely need a solution!!

What does she like?

Applesauce can be made more appealing with a flavor additive (e.g. molasses, or peppermint syrup, which is my go-to).
You could puree a different fruit or use baby food in a flavor she likes (e.g. some horses loooove banana and it’s got a good texture for making a tube-training mush).
Is there any flavor that she’s into, or is she one of the rare ones who just isn’t motivated by treats?

My horse was also terrible about tube meds when I got her. I had to work a long time on just getting her to stay with me and not fly back or up if I had a tube in my hand. I had to get her comfortable with me holding her halter with a tube in the other hand, then touching her neck and cheek with it, then moving it toward her mouth before I could even try the delicious treat thing. It was only after weeks of short daily tube-touching sessions that I was able to get one in her mouth without any protest. But the yummy substance in clean tube did eventually work with a lot of repetition and slow progress. The key for me was to back off and just expect her to be comfortable with the previous level of contact if at any time she became fearful. That, and lots of praise/small rewards along the way.

If I have to give meds for many consecutive days mine will still start to get bad again. I usually try to do a treat tube now and then during the course of a multi-day treatment so that she gets some ongoing reinforcement of the idea that it’s not always going to be poison.

I hope you find a way to make these things manageable. I know what it’s like to have a couple incredibly difficult issues with a horse who’s otherwise a real gem!

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Thick sugar water works well in syringes as a treat. Molasses, too, but some horses don’t care for straight molasses.

For the trailer issues, these are the horses that I really like to park the truck and trailer in a paddock, remove the dividers, secure the door, place some grain/tasty hay inside, and let them work out their fears on their own. If you can’t/don’t want to leave it in a paddock, you can accomplish a similar effect by parking it near where she lives and leading her to it at feeding time to get her food. Baby steps until she has enough positive experiences to override the deep-seated negative experience.

They sell a thing that goes in the horse’s mouth like a bit and allows you to get the wormer in there with a tube:


I’ve never used one, but if she’s that bad, it might be worth a try. I have a 24 year old who has gotten a lot worse at taking tube wormers over the last few years. I’ve had her since she was 2, so I’m not sure what changed, but she is very difficult, and it helps to have two people. She doesn’t rear, though. I’ve begun to think it might be worth trying the above device, but so far, we’re just using two people and some muscles.

I don’t see this situation as a worming or a trailering problem.

I see it as a rearing and general horse handling problem. If the horse doesn’t want to cooperate she panics and goes up.

Some more fundamental ground work program would be a good idea. If this is the horse’s go-to for reacting to pressure it absolutely will manifest in other situations including possibly under saddle.


Maybe it’s a general handling problem. But sometimes good-as-gold horses have one or two fear-related hangups that override otherwise good handling in specific situations and never lead to problematic “reactions to pressure” in unrelated contexts. No amount of general groundwork will solve those if you don’t eventually also deal with the panic-inducing stimulus.

I know that certain training philosophies/dogmas would reject this idea, but I personally believe that sometimes horses understand/trust their handlers and want to cooperate but end up misbehaving anyway for a number of reasons (e.g. fear, pain, low-grade anxiety and related stereotypies).

I hope OP reflects on whether general training/handling might be a contributing factor, but trailer- and tube-oriented advice is potentially useful regardless of whether the problem is specific or general.

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I like Texarkana’s suggestion. I think that is a great place to start. After that, I would suggest John Lyon’s DVD on trailer training. It works great and is not about force, but teaching a horse to go where it is pointed.

She is absolutely impeccable on the ground. That’s why it’s so puzzling! These are the only issues I’ve ever had with her behavior. She’s very respectful and is a gem but seems genuinely terrified of the wormers and trailers. All the trainers have just done the respect route which hasn’t helped - only made her more scared. That’s why I do believe it’s fear related, not respect.

Then you need to work on fear, training for courage as one of our regional horsemanship trainers calls it. Develop a protocol for how you approach scary situations.

I have to say, once a horse has had a bad experience in a trailer it’s much harder than starting from scratch.

You might want to engage a good trailer trainer who does not force things and has a straight load or box stall arrangement. Multiple sessions. Start small.

Another point re: the worming-- make sure it’s not physical/pain related. I cared for a horse who reacted violently to things in his mouth. Easy as pie horse until you tried to bit or worm him. I think I’m above average at working through these types of things, and I could not get him to a reliable place, either. He had his teeth floated under heavy sedation and had no dental issues. He ate fine and maintained his weight. He was a perfect gentleman under saddle in a bosal. It was baffling. It was a body worker who suggested that his owners investigate his TMJ, which turned out to be the culprit.

It would be helpful if you can figure out what makes her afraid and/or defensive. It appears that she gets very defensive when confined, especially confined at the head. Mine used to be like that for clipping and fly spraying and a variety of other things. When confined like that, his answer would be to go up and strike. With the trailer, he might just try to get leverage and pull away. They are defensive usually because they are also afraid. But sometimes (like mine with the trailer…probably not yours), he isn’t afraid of the trailer, but he gets defensive because there are a million other things he’d rather be doing instead.

It is too bad yours doesn’t like the taste of Gastrogard. That makes things difficult for daily doses in pre-packaged tubes. You also don’t want to combine with a treat that would make it easier to spit out the paste. When I had to give a daily oral med FOR MONTHS that my horse didn’t like, I combined it with peppermint syrup and he also got a peppermint candy after. He would fuss and stick his head in the corner, but he would still allow me to catch him, dose him, and he’d wait dutifully for his candy before making all the gagging faces and acting like he might die.

For all the other things, the trick has been moving very slowly and being consistent. In addition, we work on head lowering exercises and other ways to interrupt their sympathetic nervous system state of fight/flight. We work on all of that over the course of everyday life, apart from the times where he actually gets upset. When teaching him to be clipped, I spent a lot of time with tiny battery clippers and him loose. Confinement/tying would have gotten me hurt.

Your mare does also need to learn to tie, though. In average situations. Something like a blocker ring can help because it allows enough slip of the rope where it short circuits the panic response.

For trailering, you also need to work on being able to get into control of her feet without her feeling like you are making her do stuff.

There are some horsemanship approaches that will work and aren’t just about “respect.” Look up Warwick Schiller, Mark Rashid, the TRT Method, for some examples. You might want to use Mark Rashid and the Masterston method bodywork to work on her possible poll and jaw issues as part of this.

It takes a lot of time. It sucks when you have situations that arise where you’ve just got to shove the horse on the trailer. It will continue to undo the progress, but is sometimes necessary. Same with pasting her.

For the ulcers, you might also want to read the Nexium thread on here. Might be easier to hide pills than deal with a paste at the moment.

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My TB used to load like that. The absolute worst thing I could have done for him was to tie him in the trailer. too quick. I remember taking 2 hours to load. I now lead him in and if he is nervous , he will back out. Then we do it again. He usually loads on first try now but back in the day, walk in, he would back out. Then do the same thing. after a few times of that, he was less anxious and would do fine but the absolute worst thing for him would have been to not let him back up. Then he really would have panicked. It seems counterintuitive but he really needed to know he could back out, then he felt comfortable walking in and staying. He is one I don’t tie in the trailer either.

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Agreed 100%. The issue appears to be that the horse has found an “easy out” of situations she doesn’t like. A good trainer should be able to instill better ground manners in pretty short order.

Edited to add: I see now that the horse also doesn’t tie. Even more evidence that the problem is that she doesn’t lead/give to pressure well, and that is the root of all the issues. A horse can be afraid and still respectful enough to obey their handler(s).

John Lyons has a great way of trailer loading. I am sure you can find it by searching the internet.

Find a cowboy. A good one. Go watch him work. Real horse training is about as exciting as watching paint dry. Start by asking at the local feed store, NOT tractor supply. IF this was my horse, she’d be in a round pen with a drag line until she learned to give to pressure. It might take a bit, and there might be fireworks until she learns to think instead of panic . Ignore it. Feed and water twice a day, and let her work through her head mess on her own.
Worm her with a chain over her nose. Yes, they taste like nail polish remover, but medical procedures aren’t optional. She throws her little temper tantrum afterwards, fine. You need to stop reacting to it and don’t give little miss drama queen the satisfaction of any reaction on your part. then go back to normal.
Throw her in a stock trailer and haul her around the block loose a couple times. See how she does. If you don’t have mad “get the pony on the trailer” skills get help from the above mentioned cowboy. A skilled horse loader can get just about anything into a stock trailer, but if that’s not you, you are just reinforcing that she doesn’t have to do as she’s told.

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It’s a training issue not a worming ,trailer loading issue. Fix all the holes in training, rest will fall into place.

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We have one who has a big fear of confinement-when we met he didn’t tie and didn’t trailer (also girthy to the point of flipping and impossible to trim feet). Flipping over is an option in hand and under saddle. He, also, oddly enough is STILL afraid of stall mats, and will not come in unless they are covered in bedding.

But he was such a GOOD boy, such a SWEET horse. I didn’t really have a lot of horse training experience, but I trained parrots and they couldn’t be much harder. So we tried some unorthodox things.

The first key for him was to accept that he had no control over what happened during his freak outs. He was so afraid, that he checked out- blind panic. There is not a mean bone in his body, but he was a danger to himself and everyone around him. There was no one there-I can’t explain it but if you’ve seen it, you know.

I set out to short circuit the fear—>panic response in him. I patterned into him, when you feel unsure, you lower your head and step towards me. It took repeating over and over, with clicker training principles, with treats, with mock situations set up to trigger him…Over and over probably 2 hours 3-4 days a week. The same sort of thing to patterning a default in a bird of “step up” or in a dog of “sit”.

And, it worked. First it took longer or stronger worries to put him in panic mode. Then one day, he got his halter hung up on the latch to the stall door and set back against it. He pulled and scrambled (bent the priefert pipe stall panel 4".), then I saw it click- he moved forward and I was able to unhook him. He got better fast after that.

The other thing that helped him was that my mare, who he adores was always there to model correct behavior. I even used her body to pin him to a wall when he had a meltdown on a trailer. he can tie on a blocker ring now, because she stood tied beside him while we reeled him back in again and again.

We respect his limitations- He trailers now, but not alone. The other horse has to get on first and off last. I can live with that. He is good to tack and great to ride. He will tie if not tied hard. His owner is careful about who rides him, because up and over will always be an option. But given another like him I would definitely try teaching that “default” I don’t like this/I don’t know what to do behavior again.

Exactly. You have to teach them to think through it. That can be especially hard with ones that are unflappable in a lot of situations, because you can’t practice it in more controlled or less scary on the scale from zero to total freak out.