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Best Way To Unload A Horse

16 August 2011 No Comment

Best Way To Unload A Horse
We asked horse training expert Rhett Russell.
More on Rhett.

Question:
We recently purchased a four-horse slant load trailer. My question is, what is the best way to unload a horse? Some folks say to back them out in case they are ever in a smaller trailer, they will know how to do it. Some folks say to let them go out forward, because it is better for them chiropractically. Some folks say to take turns with both ways, so they are always waiting for their owner’s decision. Everyone agrees however, that they must be trained to be ladies and gentlemen, and wait for their cue! Also, what about a ramp? Our trailer does not have one, but my husband could put one on it.

Thank you, BJ Henderson

Answer:
Hi BJ: There are a lot of good ways to unload a horse from a trailer. Safety for you and the horse are the biggest concerns. Letting a horse turn around in the trailer may be easier for the horse, but it is extremely dangerous for you. Depending on your horse’s ground manners and your skills, the horse may step on you or over you to get out. Obviously, you can’t turn a horse around in a straight load trailer like you could in a slant load .

I believe that a horse should back out of the trailer softly. Just as if it were backing softly on the ground. You are absolutely correct that the horse must wait for you to release and give him the go ahead to get out. A lot of people let their horses train them to when it’s time to get out of the trailer by pawing, kicking or nervous behavior. If you were to rush in and release when the horse is acting poorly, the horse learns that this type of behavior is rewarded by getting let out of the trailer – which is exactly the opposite of what you want.

There are always situations where you may have to turn a horse around to come out headfirst. Whatever you decide to do, your horse should be trained to load and unload in different ways with an emphasis on backing out of the trailer softly.

The chiropractic angle is something that I have heard, but if your horse can’t bend and be supple then you have more to work on than trailer loading and unloading.

As far as ramps versus step up type trailers, this is more of a personal preference than an obstacle for the horse. I prefer step up trailers, but there is nothing wrong with ramp load trailers. We live in rainy Washington State where the ramps get wet and slippery, so my preference is to avoid a potential accident if possible.

Sincerely, Rhett

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