Out of all the horses I’ve owned before Henry, I wouldn’t have called any of them excellent haulers. Most were fine, a few were turds (Sadie and Cruz, I’m looking at y’all), but most fell solidly in the average range. They would get on the trailer within a few minutes, with a little encouragement, and they might paw or kick a little, especially if the trailer wasn’t moving.
When I got Henry I was warned that he didn’t like backing off the trailer, but otherwise he was good. The day I picked him up we got stuck in traffic forever, and that horse rode back there without so much as a peep. For those first two years we didn’t really travel that much, but he got into every trailer I put him in without much complaint. I turned him around to let him unload if I could, although the few times he had to back out were definitely… not that majestic. After riding in Bobby’s Brenderup a few times, he started to get a lot more comfortable with backing out. It was like it just took him a while to get his brain to work in reverse.
When I got my trailer he had to get pro about it real quick, since a) we started hauling a lot, and b) it was a straight load. He always loaded great as long as I went in with him, so for a long time that’s just what we did. Then one day I whacked the hell out of my head in my rush to duck under the chest bar as he was loading, and I decided it was time he learned to get on that trailer by himself.
I’d like to pretend this was some grand horse training moment and I had to use some kind of skill to teach it, but here’s what really happened.
I tossed his lead rope over his neck, stood next to the ramp, and gave him a little tug forward. The first time he got about halfway before he realized he was alone, at which point he stopped and slowly backed out. We tried again, and this time when he got halfway I started clucking. He thought about it for a second and flicked his ear back at me, at which point I said “You get in that trailer!”. And he did. Because he’s Henry.
He’s been self-loading in my trailer ever since.
Yeah, I know. Wow at my fancy horse training.
The real test for his newfound skill was this past weekend when we took Trainer’s trailer to go foxhunting. It was as opposite of a configuration as possible – a step up slant load. There were also other horses in there, and Henry pretty much always hauls alone. There’s also a rear tack, so the loading space is a bit narrow. I led him up there and clucked, fully expecting him to flip me the bird, but after a second he stepped right on up. Huh, how about that. Isn’t it nice when horses make us feel like we’re some kind of competent horse trainer, even when we didn’t actually do a damn thing?
As far as traveling goes, he’s pretty good. A couple times a year he gets mad for whatever reason and tries to buck a couple times to express his displeasure (he mostly did this in Bobby’s trailer) but that’s pretty rare. He doesn’t paw, and he’s pretty chill. I’m exceptionally grateful for this, because we’re on the road a lot. Last week he was on a trailer 4 out of 7 days.
Having a horse that is this easy to travel with has been awesome, especially since I’m alone 99% of the time. It has definitely made me determined to get Presto to be this reliable and easy… hopefully he can train himself, too.