Training Tips for Safely Unloading Your Horse Off the Trailer
Clinton Anderson from Downunder Horsemanship has developed a way to train horses, regardless of their past problems or traumas. It all begins with training the owners so they can gain their horse’s respect and understand how to properly control them. Join Clinton on his weekly endeavors of tackling some of the most challenging situations with problem horses, and problem owners. This week, we watch as Clinton gives us training tips for safely unloading your horse off the trailer.
Getting your horse on the trailer is one thing, but getting him off can be a whole different problem. To help you do this safely and effectively Clinton provides some essential steps. When you go to help your horse out of the trailer, if he starts backing up too early, meaning he starts backing up before you cue him to, you have two options. The first option is to ask him to step forward by applying pressure to the lead rope. Then back him up a step and bring him forward a step. Repeat these steps three or four times. This approach works well for horses who are just anticipating getting off the trailer.
However, if the horse is hell bent on wanting to get out of the trailer and shows signs of being upset, Clinton recommends a different approach. He explains that you should let your horse back all the way off the trailer on his own, then immediately put his feet to work. When you’ve hustled his feet outside the trailer for a few minutes and he’s tuned in to you, put him back in the trailer allow him to rest and relax. Essentially, this is a way to train your horse to show him that life is hard outside the trailer and easy inside, which can make the transport process much safer for everyone. The goal is to have your horse slowly back off the trailer in a controlled manner. The more you repeat putting his feet to work outside the trailer, the less of a hurry he’ll be in backing off it. If the horse ever offers to pause and stop while backing off the trailer, let him. Do everything you can to encourage him to take his time and use the thinking side of his brain.
Clinton says never accept a bad back off. You want the horse back off the trailer in a straight line and do so slowly. Clinton explains that a big mistake people make is backing their horse halfway off the trailer and then turning him and walking away from it. You don’t want to start turning your horse away from the trailer until his front feet are completely off the ramp. Doing so trains your horse to take a shortcut and start turning too early. Over time, your horse will likely try to get off the trailer earlier and earlier, until he’s eventually trying to turn around inside the trailer, which becomes a safety hazard for both the horse and the horseman. So, you want to make sure that he backs all the way off, and maybe even an additional 10 feet or so. Backing up is the key here, not turning around. Try to keep the horse backing up in a straight line.
To perfect this process, repeat it as often as possible. The best way to get your horse good at trailer loading and unloading is to make him get on and off the trailer 10,000 times. In the process, don’t ever discourage the horse from waiting and taking his time. If you feel your horse wanting to pause halfway off the trailer, let him. Don’t make them feel like he’s in trouble for stopping. Give him a minute to pause, give him a little love, then get back to it. This will help your horse stay relaxed and reduce the risk of reactive behavior.
Clinton Anderson has spent the past 20 years of his life devoting his time to creating the best training tools and videos available to horsemen all over the world. The Downunder Horsemanship app gives you access to your digital training kits and allows you to download videos and training content directly to your mobile device or view them on your computer. The Downunder Horsemanship app also offers over 100 hours of free in-depth training content. No Worries Club members will have full access to Clinton’s ever-growing training library and a massive number of members only features and information. And the best part is that you can view and interact with each lesson on your mobile device or computer, giving you ultimate access to the method anytime and anyplace.