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Get down the road safely!

First steps
If your horse trailer is new, often the strong new smell of the rubber floor matting can be off putting for him, so before introducing your horse give the trailer a good airing and maybe for a couple of days stand a barrow of your own horses droppings in the trailer. Sounds off putting but it is effective as this is familiar smell to your horse and it will detract the rubber odour. 

If you have just obtained a used trailer give the trailer a good power wash internally and then disinfect it using products such as ‘Virkon’ that is specifically designed for this to kill of bacterias and organisms specific to horses and other animals.

Do not use products such as Jeys fluid or bleaches or any other strong disinfectant because not only will it distress the horse in the lasting smell but it can also badly stain the rubber flooring or sides of your trailer. 

Introducing your horse
Park your trailer up attached to your tow vehicle in the yard or in the field and open up both the front and rear ramps and let the horse freely wander around the trailer and tow vehicle. Your horse will be naturally inquisitive so leave them to familiarise themselves with the trailer and tow vehicle, let them have a good sniff. 

The next step is to practice loading your horse. Park the trailer on a flat level service attached to the tow vehicle and open up both the front and rear ramps. Don’t rush the process let your horse take it slowly when walking up the ramp and if need be in the early stages tempt them maybe with a treat.

Then walk them through the length of the trailer very slowly, talking to them and then down the front ramp and out. Repeat this process pausing in the middle or travel position in the trailer longer each time you do this until finally you can stop and your horse will stand for as long as required. Obviously then secure the lead rope to the internal tie ring using bailer twine and ensure that the horse has sufficient movement to reach a hay net positioned at the front of the trailer which you should now introduce. 

Then introduce first the breast bar in place. Show this to the horse first and let them have a good sniff and let them see you putting it in place, then introduce the rear breaching bar. It is not usually the actual bar itself that panics the horse when doing this but any actual noise made in doing it. Some trailers are noisier than others in doing this process.  

The next step once your horse is happy standing in the trailer for reasonable periods is first close the grooms door and get your used to the noise of this taking place. Next introduce closing the rear ramp and do this slowly.

Close it slowly because if there are any stones on the ramp they will roll down into the trailer plus also the rear ramp, springs create a certain amount of noise and doing it slowly reduces the noise this. The next step is to close the front ramp again slowly.

Next step is closing of the front ramp top door and certainly we advise never closing both the rear ramp top doors. We also recommend not to travel your horse with the front ramp top door open as not only is there a danger of your horses head striking on a object outside the trailer but there is the danger that your horse could receive a serious eye injury from fly’s and other insects whilst travelling.  

Never attempt any of the loading processes we have described above whilst alone. The reason for this is that whilst introducing your horse to the trailer you do not know how your horse is going to react and if you are alone and the horse panics you could suffer an injury.

If you are alone and the injury is serious or you are knocked unconscious or trapped then no one would know this has occurred, at all times think safety.

Once your horse is used to loading and you become more experienced there is then no reason for undertaking the process alone. 

The first few times you have loaded your horse before you go anywhere start your tow vehicle engine and leave your engine running and let your horse get used to the noise of the engine. Then introduce revving the engine so the horse becomes used to it. 

Then move off slowly and drive around your yard or secure flat level area for around five minutes before stopping and checking your horse and giving them reassurance. Then gradually increase the time you drive for until you can then actually venture onto the road for the first time. 


The above is an article that we produced on behalf of Horse & Rider Magazine that appeared in their June 2007 issue. Our thanks go to them for allowing us to re-produce it.


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