Every horse, donkey, and mule should be trained to load into a trailer quickly and willingly. One never knows when an emergency evacuation might be necessary, or roadside emergency requiring transfer to another vehicle. An animal that loads quickly and safely has a much better chance of being saved in an emergency.

If you can stand at your horse's side and drive it forward, you can load it into a trailer. If a horse has good forward movement, it will load into a trailer. If the horse has "sticky feet" or reluctance to lead, you will likely experience trailer loading problems.

Although most people consider trailer loading to be a separate and special skill, it is basically a matter of assuming enough leadership to effectively lead and drive your horse.

Practice driving down a fence line, and through less threatening "obstacles" as a good warm-up to trailer loading.

Students at a Jerry Tindell Ground School clinic practice driving down a fence line


Sure, horses are by nature claustrophobic, and they would not, out in nature, ever go into a small, dark, enclosed space. But neither would they carry a large predator on their back or do lots of other things that we fully expect them to do with us! Trailer loading does not have to be a Big Deal. You don't need to get "too psychological" about it.

Saanen & Kingsley practice trailer loading at a Jerry Tindell clinic

First, get your ground skills solid:

At some point you'll start noticing small changes - the horse is less afraid, more curious, willing to step closer. Stop and reward each change, then go again.

Don't be frustrated by back-ups. Backing up is usually a part of the process of teaching trailer loading for the first time. If the horse backs up, fine. Make it your idea for a minute - ask for more back ups. Then start circling back toward the trailer. Repeat as often as is necessary.

When he is able to reach his whole head into the trailer, reward, and then softly but firmly ask him to step forward. If he goes backward instead, just rebuild.

Eventually, he'll take a step into the trailer. And eventually he'll go all the way in. At each positive response, reward by pausing and petting him on the neck.

When he finally goes all the way in, DON'T JUST SLAM THE GATE AND DRIVE AWAY!

Let him go out again, and practice going in and out a few times, getting it smooth and relaxed, before shutting him in. Each time it will be a bit easier, a bit quicker.

Don't wait to load him until you are in a hurry to get somewhere. Prepare by training ahead of time!


Practice and practice at your leisure. Then when the time comes and you MUST load, it'll be no problem.

For your horse's safety, it is a good idea to train him to load into any type of trailer - not just the easy, wide, modern slant-loads. You never know when there could be an emergency (a wildfire, a flood, a tornado, a highway accident, etc.) that will require the horse to get into a different trailer than the one he is used to. You want your horse to know what to do, so that emergency personnel can load him quickly with no problems.

Horse Psychology 101
Pressure and Release

Just Spend Time
Bamboo Pole Method of Gentling
Desensitizing, Rope and Flag Work
Clicker Training & Related Operant Conditioning
       and Positive Reinforcement Training
Get Professional Help
Case Sudies
Video Examples
Adventures of a Volunteer Halter Trainer
Raising Orphan Foals
Basic Ground Work:
Leading and Standing Still
Respecting Your Space
Backing up
Forward Movement
Shoulder & Hindquarter Control
Trailer Loading
Working With Feet


  • Learn to lead without "holding on tight" and without tugging and pulling.
  • Learn to drive the horse forward while standing at its side.
  • Learn to drive the horse in circles around you (similar to lungeing).

Then drive in circles toward the trailer. If the horse looks into the trailer at any point, stop and reward him. Then go again.

Driving a horse through a gate or other narrow opening is a great way to prepare for trailer loading. Make a game of it and reward the hrose for doing well - this will make trailer loading seem natural and non-threatening to the horse.

Black Filly's (now Eve) first time into a trailer - also first time outside the gentling pen - hence the use of two lead ropes for back-up in case of a problem (there wasn't one).