Aug 4, 2010

Now This Could Be a Problem

After it cools down in the evening, the dogs and I make the nightly pilgrimage to my new trailer. It's still like an unwrapped present under the Christmas tree. I can see it and touch it and feel it, but I can't quite play with yet! The night before, I checked the lights. They all work. Last night I programmed the radio to my favorite stations. Sitting in the living quarters, taking it all in, I am still surprised at how much space I have and how nice the space is. I may have downsized, but I certainly upgraded. So once the truck is fixed (as best as can be expected) and pulls the trailer to a mechanic to look at a concern we have with a wheel, we will be ready to camp. Considering it is still miserably hot and humid, I don't anticipate this to be any time soon.

But there is another hitch in the program. Seems we have a slight problem with the horses. They won't load. Okay, not totally true. Butter will load. I'll give credit where credit is due. But I don't want to spend the rest of my life riding just Butter. And the others? We'll, we got them in but it wasn't pretty.

You might recall I mentioned that Windy had a bit of a problem with the ramp load when I tried her the other day. Okay "a bit of a problem" might be a bit of an understatement. She hates it. This ramp has rocked her world. It's rocked MY world. The poor mare – she is trying so hard. She'll get her front hooves on the ramp and stand there. And if she doesn't move them quickly, they will slowly slide to the bottom of the ramp like pasta thrown to the wall. Or she will try to place them on the hinge of the ramp in what I can only describe as an effort to hold on, the rest of her body spread over the ramp. Finally, if she goes all the way in – a big if - it is only momentarily and she'll back out quickly. And even that isn't graceful as she has fallen to her knees several times. It has turned my elegant mare into a klutz! It's embarrassing to watch!

Ginger just flat out refused to even try the ramp. She planted those front feet at the end of the ramp and there she stood. No amount of lunging, pulling, releasing hindquarters or popping her on the butt was going to change her stance. John eventually came over to help and what I can only describe as how not to load a horse, she was in. And once there, she stood shaking like we were hauling her to slaughter.

I truly thought Blue would be the worst of them all. When I bought my first two-horse trailer a few years ago, he absolutely refused to even attempt to get in and had ended up throwing himself on the ground in a fit, all thirteen hundred pounds of him. With the help of a trainer, he eventually loaded and has ever since. So when I fetched him and showed him the ramp, I expected a repeat performance of refusal in grand fashion. Oh, he walked through me a few times, but bless his heart, finally took a few steps on the ramp and in he went; much easier than the mares. But I am not going to bank on it happening every time. It was just too rough.

So, if you are keeping score, I have this nice trailer; my dream trailer. But the truck needs some major repairs before it can haul it. We've noticed what could be a problem with one of the wheels on the trailer so we need to have a mechanic check that out before we haul any distance. And our herd of horses, except for Butter, will not load into it.

My first thought was, fix the problem and the problem as I see it is that danged ramp! I called Sundowner to see just what it would take to remove the ramp and put on "normal" doors. Gulp! $1,250 per door! Alrighty then…. Plan B. I emailed the trailer loader extraordinaire whom I mentioned earlier, horse trainer Colleen Hamer of Hamer Horsemanship, and asked if she was ready for another round of Trailer Loading 101. Having watched her success loading Blue a few years ago, I know she can work to calmly get the horses to go up that dang ramp and load in this new trailer. We have an appointment in a few weeks.

It is all coming together v e r y s l o w l y . . . .


  1. Anonymous8:46 AM

    Many horses who are used to step up trailers have a hard time transitioning to ramps - it's just completely different, as far as they're concerned, and I think the sounds their feet make on the ramp are particularly worrisome. Take it slow and easy and they'll get over their concerns and fears, but it make take some time and a number of sessions.

  2. The last comment was spot on. Dont force them, try and be as unconcerned as anything. let them decide, good luck.

  3. I love, LOVE ramp trailers! lol And my old trailer that I killed off last month, had a nice little short, not very steep ramp, that any horse would load up it. Does your trailer have a rear tack? Can it be swung out of the way, making a very large, inviting entrance to the trailer?

    And as basic as it sounds, I would always have some small treat waiting for the horses when they got in. A handful of grain, a carrot. Of course, the method of tossing feed around on the ramp and letting them nibble it off at will might let them get to know the ramp on their terms, not yours.

    Looking at a new trailer that does not have a ramp, and it will cost about $1200 to add one. To bad it is not a Sundowner, we could trade. hehe

  4. Okee Dokee, looked at pix of trailer again. Did you swing the divider way over to one side. or try removing it to let them load in and out some. Hank would be charging in to that trailer, looking for food. lol

  5. Thank you all for the encouragement.

    Yes, I had their grain can in there. Those that got even their head in, got a treat. I like Jonni's idea of sprinkling grain on the ramp and getting them better acquainted with it in a good way. I will try that next session.

    Yes, it does open up. Windy went in when I opened it up. But she moved back out quicker than I could get the butt bar back into place. I oculd take out the stalls and open it wide up & will if needed. If I do that, I have no butt bar & will be at the mercy of quickly lifting that ramp. It's not heavy, just cumbersome. The doors are not full doors - what they call dutch doors, so the ramp has to go up first.

    I am hopeful though. My prior trailer was a step up slant and I still have my straight load bumper pull and they all loaded easily in both of those trailers. I think once they are comfortable with the ramp, the rest will be a lot easier. It is so much more roomier than my bumper pull or slant, for that matter. I also need to pick up the feedbags from the seller. She forgot to give me those & I think that will help having them in place.

    I'll keep you posted. And Jonni - I hope you find a Sundowner w/out a ramp & yes, we'll switch out doors! LOL!

  6. I have yet to go look at the photo's (but will) but- the slickness of that ramp is worrisome to me Tammy. Could you put some rubberized, thin, matting on it..or...boards that run across it for sure footing? My riding partner's hubby just got some for free...he is in construction.

    My mare, she would fall flat on her face!
    Time in trying will eventually help Windy and the calm and assuring...but make it not slick- that will make it safe too!
    Love ya' happy for the new fun times await!

  7. Remember, you don't want to HAVE to slam them shut in there in a hurry. Don't make them feel caught, or trapped. When they stand on their own, munching on some goodies, and not wanting to fly backwards, is when you know they have become comfortable with it. Also, toss a little poop in there form the field, so it smells like them, not all sparkling clean. lol It's new in more ways than the ramp to them. Looking forward to hearing about your first camping trip!

  8. lol! Crazy stuff. Frustrating too.
    It's always something with horses, isn't it?
    I was having issues using fly spray on Apache this morning. I thought I'd get it done while she was eating her breakfast and she wouldn't mind at all, but she thought I was spraying horse killing acid on her.

    The only thing that worked was standing beside her and stroking her gently while telling her what a good girl she was. She still shook and quivered ever time I sprayed her. lol! Horses.

    I have a two horse bumper pull with a ramp and Apache also balked at the ramp the first few times. It took about a week of daily work....often with me going into the trailer and walking up and down the ramp...oh and lots of treats and grain, before she decided it was no big deal.

    Good luck. It'll all work out. You know that's just another hurdle to jump over...and you and all your horses will do so with flying colors :)


  9. Oh yeah! Good idea about the poop. lol! I think that was one of the things that helped Apache decide that the trailer and ramp must be ok...because it seemed that she had already been in there already when she smelled her own poop. lol!

    Oh! And that's strange that the ramp is so slippery. I like what Kacy said about adding something to make it more sticky. My ramp isn't very steep and it has rubber 'ridges' so it's not slippery at all. Apache can stand on it and even rest without slipping. I would be worried if the ramp was steep and slippery, especially when the horse backs out.


  10. Excuse me for leaving another post, but a light bulb when off in my head about your trailer. I can't remember if the inside of your old horse trailer was white or silver?
    Many of the newer horse trailers are bright silver inside because it looks so pretty and of course, silver is shiny and reflective and some horses get alarmed about the movement they see in those reflections as they are loading.

    I noticed in your new trailer that even the divider is reflective silver metal. Maybe when a horse is looking inside the back of the trailer it likes one of those crazy fun house mirrored rooms.


  11. not "likes"....LOOKS. sorry! lol!


  12. I was working with a training horse last month. One of the areas that the owner wanted me to work on was trailer loading. So I got out my trailer, 2 doors open, and in goes the horse. No problem. I worked on loading him for a few days. When the owner came, he refused her trailer. I noticed that the floor was very shiny. And a big black hole. So I put down a very thin layer of shavings, as she was concerned with dust with her open windows. The horse hesitated, and went in.

  13. I love all this brainstorming! And thanks! All these ideas will be put to use. Actually, I got kind of a renewed energy & left work early & went back out and tried again!

    The goal is to get them in, of course :), and to get them in quietly. Correct about the butt - bar - I want them quiet before I close it so not to panic them. The logistics of the ramp and closing it will be tough & the horse may grow anxious not knowing what the heck I'm doing back there, but so far, I've only been able to close it with Butter & Blue. We aren't there with the other two yet.

    The ramp is covered in rubber and it is verigated (sp) for lack of a better word. Ridges on it to keep them from slipping. Butter, Windy & Ginger are shod right now from our WY trip where they normally don't wear shoes, so I imagine that ads a little bit of the slipperyness (is that a word?) especially with their hesitation.

    So this past hour, I opened it up wide - with the divider leaning on the right wall. I put grain in front of the trailer and sprinkled it on the ramp as Jonni suggested.

    I fetched Windy and we approached like we normally would. I went to her side & said "load up" and pointed to the trailer to send her in as I do in the bumper pull & my old gooseneck. She locked up on me. So I stopped & she relaxed & noticed the grain on the ramp & started nibbling. I went and sat down in the trailer, still hanging on to the rope. If she would try to move away to nibble grass, I would bring her back to face me, but that was it, no pressure. So she would continue to eat the grain. Every now and then I would stand up and apply a little pressure with "load up". Now she is kind of kicking the edge of the ramp, but not putting her feet on it.

    After she cleaned up the grain, I lunged her a bit & brought her back to it. No progression. She then saw some purple clover & dove for it. I got it first & stepped in the trailer & offered it to her. She finally put her front hooves on the ramp to eat the clover from my hand. I rubbed her head while she stood there. She backed out & I called it good. End on a good note. I took her over to the hose and misted her off. She seemed to like that.

    Because I needed a confidence booster, I went and got Butter. Wanted to make sure it was no acccident that she loaded. I set the trailer back up in a slant and sent her in. She's good with it. We did this several times. She is fine.

    I didn't read the old poop comment until I got back in. I'll try that next time.

    Yes, this is an aluminum trailer and the walls are shiney where my other two trailers were white. I thought about the reflection, too, but they loaded in my friend's aluminum before without problems. My bumper pull is a straight load and very narrow stalls compared to this one, but it does have padded sides just like this one. The window configuration is almost the same.

    I think I need to keep getting her feet on the ramp so she gets used to the feel of it. Maybe I'll even pull her shoes this weekend and take away that element. We aren't going anywhere she needs them.

    I love this feedback & will keep you posted as I move forward with this.

    I am riding tonight. I have my bumper pull hooked up and ready to go. I hope she hasn't forgotten how to get in that one! :)

  14. This is probably a stupid thought since I've never had a ramp but is the slipperyness the main issue and maybe the rattle factor? Could a rubber mat be placed for them to walk on?

  15. Oh, should have looked at photos first. It looks like it's already rubberized.

  16. Love the new trailer!! I have the same problem in reverse. TBs who have never seen a step up and think it's insane that they have to LIFT a hoof up. Sigh.

    I think you are on the right track with the no pressure but I would take it one step further so that you stay in control of the horse. Get her close, let her look, give her a treat and back her away before she can do it. Then bring her back, reward her and let her stay until she starts to tense up. Back her up and do it again. Bring her a step further, such as putting a foot on the ramp, reward her, back up, etc.

    This keeps you in control and doesn't allow the horse to panic. Once they get panicy, they remember it. You need to replace that feeling with a positive one then move on to the next step.

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