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Failure to Launch? Trailer-Loading Tips for Horse OwnersBy Kentucky Equine Research Staff · October 17, 2017

Have you ever trained for a competition only to be thwarted at the last minute by your horse’s refusal to load onto the trailer? According to a recent study*, this occurs more often than you think. Consequences associated with poor trailer etiquette include:

  • Injuries to horses or handlers;
  • Trailer accidents;
  • Disruption to time schedules;
  • Inability to attend competition;
  • Damage to the trailer;
  • Negative horse-handler relationships; and
  • Poor performance following transport.

“The loading phase appears to be the most stressful period for many horses, likely due to their innate fear of ‘new’ things and confined spaces,” explained Kathleen Crandell, Ph.D., an equine nutritionist for Kentucky Equine Research (KER).

The actual transport phase also induces stress, manifested by vocalizing, head-tossing, pawing, scrambling, kicking, biting, and decreased food and water intake. Upon arrival, unloading problems can occur, including “running off” the trailer.

Experts suggest appropriate training to minimize the development of transport-related problems.

The researchers wrote, “All handlers should be familiar with horse behavior and be trained in effective and humane handling; they should also have the knowledge to recognize and mitigate stress in transit. Horses showing transport-related problem behaviors should not be forced to load or travel and should be retrained using equine learning theory principles, restarting from in-hand control prior to introducing the transport vehicle.”

Several examples of learning strategies were described in detail in the article, each designed to humanely result in a positive behavioral change.

“Studies also support the use of omega-3 fatty acids to facilitate training and learning in horses,” noted Crandell. “KER offers EO•3, which is rich in the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids DHA and EPA.”

In addition, EO•3 has multiple other proven benefits, including supporting joint health; improving horses with heaves; and airway; inflammation; enhancing response to vaccination; and maximizing reproductive health in mares, stallions, and foals.

Get five more nutrition tips that help traveling horses.

*York, A., J. Matusiewicz, B. Padalino. 2017. How to minimise the incidence of transport-related problem behaviours in horses: a review. Journal of Equine Science. 28(3):67-75.