Monty Roberts Horse Trailer Loading
Monty Roberts - Just as with virtually every problem I meet, I recommend Join-Up® for the non-loading horse. I feel that perhaps the non-loading horse benefits significantly from this process, and is far more likely to cooperate with trailer loading if he has consciously chosen to be with you rather than away from you. Join-Up acts to make it easier to get the horse to accept the Dually halter. After Join-Up, virtually every horse is more likely to accomplish the loading process with a lower pulse rate.
Loading your horse is integrally connected to the use of the Dually Halter. You should read and clearly understand the practice of using the halter as a training tool before attempting to execute the procedures described below. First, it is important to concentrate on developing cooperation with your horse by using the Dually. Do not underestimate the power of schooling the horse to willingly back-up. It may not seem important to a handler wanting to load a horse, but backing-up will ultimately prove to be extremely important in this exercise. Often there is the need to back the horse to unload and that is a factor one must also consider. More important, however, the horse that willingly backs-up and comes forward is more likely to load willingly than the horse that is reluctant to back-up.
I recommend that you use gentle horses who handle easily to hone your skills in the use of the Dually. You should not belittle the importance of learning how to safely use the Dually before dealing with horses that are apt to be difficult. A complete understanding of the use of the Dually coupled with a trained set of muscle responses can only be acquired through practice.
The method by which the horse transitions from the ground to the floor of the vehicle is critically important to the safety of the horse during loading and unloading. If a trailer is used and a typical ramp gate attached, then the ramp angle should be as shallow as possible, and there should be great attention paid to the traction provided by the surface of the ramp. If it is a step-up trailer, you should attempt to provide the lowest possible distance from the ground to the floor of the trailer. If the trailer is inappropriately high, then seek out a sloping area where the trailer can be parked to reduce the distance the horse is required to negotiate entering and exiting the trailer.
Once an acceptable vehicle of transportation has been selected, place the vehicle in an area where the footing is appropriate for loading. This means that it should be a friable soil surface such as sand with a minimum of two inches of cushion. Shavings or other show ring type surfaces are okay if they provide sufficient cushion (crumbly soil) and traction. I suggest that the trailer or truck be parked in such a fashion so as to create wings alongside the loading ramp. You can use a wall or fence for one side of the vehicle and portable panels or a disconnected gate used as a wing on the other side. I also suggest that the use of an appropriate wall or fence behind the horse will help greatly in the loading process. This is easily provided by backing into the corner while inside a building or field. If you have panels for each side of the ramp and behind the horse, essentially this is the best of all possible worlds. This is the method I most often use in loading demonstrations. One can use the corner of an enclosure with appropriate fencing if that is desirable.
After you achieve complete cooperation schooling with the Dually, you can progress to the next step, which is to approach the truck or trailer. Once in the enclosure, just behind the ramp, begin to work the horse in a forward-and-back routine, that is, two steps forward, two steps back. This is called a “rocking horse” motion by students of mine. During this procedure, you should make no attempt to load the horse until the forward-and-back motion of the animal can be evoked readily by body communication alone. You should face the horse, standing in front of the animal and looking down toward the area of the horse’s chest. You should be able to step forward toward the horse’s shoulder, and the horse should back-up readily with no tension on the lead. You should then be able to reverse yourself, and the horse should readily move forward with no tension on the lead, following your body motion.
Once this back-and-forth communication can be comfortably achieved with no exertion of pressure on the lead, turn and walk into the vehicle and expect the horse to follow. In extreme cases, should the animal refuse to come forward, you can place tension on the Dually halter, and wait for the slightest motion forward by the horse. If forward motion is observed, be quick to reward it with a rub between the eyes. If the horse flies backward, release the pressure, allowing the horse to reach the obstacle placed to the rear of the horse. Once the reversing has ceased, you should begin the pressure again on the Dually halter and wait to observe forward motion.
When the animal negotiates the ramp and enters the trailer, you should consider his work just beginning. The horse should be taken off the trailer and reloaded 10 to 15 times before making any changes. Once the horse is negotiating the loading process with adrenaline down and in complete comfort, you can begin to remove the influence of the wings and walls. You can also move the vehicle to lessen the effect of the assistance provided by these objects. You should continue the process until the horse loads with ease in a vehicle that is freestanding and without wings of any sort.
I believe that these loading procedures should take place on a day when there is no need for travel. Waiting until you must travel usually allows insufficient time to execute these procedures without anxiety. Each procedure described in this chapter should be conducted in a calm, cool and tranquil fashion. It should be your goal to achieve willing loading with the adrenaline level of the horse as low as possible. The horse should walk quietly with his head low, and exhibit licking and chewing, which denotes relaxation.
If you follow these procedures to the letter, the results are usually incredibly good. You can create a loader that you can send into the trail er on his own with very little effort. I often accept a horse for a demonstration that has been extremely difficult to load for years, and he generally negotiates the loading process within a minute or two of the time that I actually ask him to load. Take the time, keep the adrenal- ine level low and always regard safety as the number-one priority. And remember, never tie your horse in a trailer while the back gate or ramp is open.
Monty Robert Ground Training