“Don’t buy a straight load trailer,” they said. “Horses hate straight load trailers.”
In my area, slant load trailers cost twice as much as a comparable straight load. A two horse slant load with a tack locker typically gets listed for $3,000, especially if it’s made out of aluminum. The funny part is that you can find a bigger three or four horse for the same amount—everyone just wants a two horse.
I knew that my tiny budget meant I was going to end up with a straight load. But both of my horses have never been anything but angels when it comes to getting into a horse trailer, so I was confident that having a straight load wasn’t going to be a anything more than temporary problem. I figured that it would take a little bit of work to help Rags acclimate to the small space, but that he’d adapt.
Our first try with the Murder Box wasn’t very encouraging, though. Raglan was dubious. I knew he’d been loaded into a straight load before, but I was pretty sure he’d never been loaded into a horse trailer with a ramp on it—or at least not one as steep as my stubby little ramp. He wasn’t a fan.
But after the Miley’s ramp rebuild, Raglan’s success over the bridge obstacle, and the removal of the Murder Box’s divider, I had a feeling that my next attempt at loading Raglan was going to be a success.
The way I see it, there are two ways to get a stubborn horse into a trailer: discipline or bribery. Both have their applications, but Raglan’s reaction to discipline (particularly in the outdoor arena, where everything is already over-stimulating) can be a little on the aggressive side. We did lunge one small circle when his feet got stuck completely, but otherwise I left my dressage whip sitting on the wheel well.
What really made the difference was the flake of alfalfa I threw in the trailer’s manger.
I gave Rags a handful of the alfalfa, then tossed some on the floor of the trailer. He climbed up the ramp to be able to reach it, then retreated. A couple of cycles of ramp-food-retreat later and he was 100% willing to wiggle his way into the Muder Box in order to be able to get to the lunch that was waiting for him. He jammed his face into the pile of food and stood like a good boy while I closed all of the doors.
Of course, then I made the mistake of unhooking the lunge line and shutting the last door, like I would if I was going to haul him somewhere. Thirty seconds passed and then the whole trailer started to shake. I was pretty sure he was freaking out inside of the trailer, but when I opened the door he was calm as could be—but facing the exact opposite direction, with his nose towards the ramp and his butt to the manger. I had to coax him to scrunch himself back up so that he could face the right away again. 😅
I was worried that unloading him might be a problem, but when we practiced the bridge we also practiced the idea of backing up down a hill, so he actually did a great job backing out of the trailer without clocking himself on the roof. All in all, the whole experience was a huge success!
We need to practice getting into the trailer a few more times before I’d consider him straight load trained. Ultimately, I want to be able to self load him and then lock him onto one side with the divider to prevent him from twisting himself around into an awkward position. Plus, using the divider will also open up the possibility of hauling two horses at once. 😉