If you own a horse, there's a good chance you'll have to transport it off of your property at some point. Many horses travel well and have no problems entering and exiting their horse trailer, but if you have a nervous horse, it can make the whole process trickier. Here are some tips to help make trailering and transporting a nervous horse easier and safer for both you and your horse.
Start by training your horse
A trained horse that responds to verbal commands is much easier to handle than one that has to be physically led everywhere. Before you ever have to transport your horse, work on teaching it to move forward, stop and remain in one position at your verbal command. This allows you to control your horse's movement from any spot, not right up inside the trailer or alongside your horse, where you could be trampled if it panics. Always have at least one other person on hand to help you in case your horse doesn't follow your commands.
Don't force the horse into the trailer
Trying to force a horse into a trailer can be dangerous, because it may panic and kick you or run away into traffic. If your horse is very reluctant to enter the trailer, try practicing the loading process before you ever need to transport the horse. Allow your nervous horse to pull away if it is afraid, and try to be reassuring. Nervous horses fear the trailer, but they aren't being purposefully defiant.
Make the trailer an attractive option
You can make the trailer more appealing and less frightening by making it as light and airy as possible. Attach a feeding net filled with hay and provide water so your horse can distract itself with food while travelling. If your horse hates travelling alone, but you aren't planning to transport a second horse, consider hanging a safety mirror in the back of the trailer. Your horse will feel less lonely with this "second" horse in the trailer and may settle down more quickly.
Make sure you remove any loose items like buckets or other tack items that could rattle around and distress or injure your horse. Try to make the trailer as relaxing and calm of an environment as possible, because your horse probably already sees it as a risky place to be. Be sure to check the trailer carefully for any bees or wasps. The dark corners of a horse trailer are attractive nesting spots for these stinging insects, and you don't want them stinging your horse while you're travelling.
Keep your escape route clear
Most likely, you'll have to lead your horse inside the trailer by walking in front of it. Once your horse is inside, have your helper close the gate of the trailer quickly to avoid letting your horse back out, then exit the trailer through the escape door at the front of the trailer as quickly as you can. Your nervous horse may rear and stomp for a few minutes until it figures out that there is nothing to be afraid of, and you don't want to be underneath it when that happens.
Ask your vet about sedatives
For very nervous horses, a mild sedative can help keep them calm during their journey. Sedatives should only be used under veterinarian supervision to be sure that the right dosage is given. The amount used will depend on how big your horse is and how long you plan on keeping it in the trailer.
Plan rest breaks
For your horse's benefit, plan on stopping at least every three to four hours to allow your horse to rest its legs. While riding in the moving horse trailer, it will have to strain to retain its balance, and stopping can help it relax for a few minutes. If you feel you need to invest in a larger trailer to better accommodate your horse, contact a professional supplier like Colorado Trailers Inc.
Confidence, patience and persistence are all necessary when transporting a nervous horse. Plan ahead and don't try to rush yourself or your horse, and you'll have a better experience for both of you.