Taking Your Horse Away from Home - Loading & Travelling
Travelling and taking your horse out to an event for the first time can be quite a daunting experience. The key to getting it right and having a wonderful time is PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE!!!
In the first part of this series I covered 5 ways to prepare your horse for going away from home. Now I’m going to look in more detail at the first one of the five...
Loading and Travelling 🚛
There’s nothing worse than having your horse all ready to go stood at the bottom of the ramp with no intention of going anywhere 😩
Loading and travelling need practise just like jumping and dressage. Now I know that practising circles or popping a few grids is much more fun than practising loading but having a horse that takes 2 hours of sweat and pleading 🙏 to get up the ramp is no fun at all! Being left behind by your mates because they’re going to miss their class if they wait any longer is even worse!
If you have a tricky loader, to get your horse going onto and staying in the box successfully first time every time you need to know why he doesn’t want to. A horse that is scared will need a very different approach to a horse that is confident and just doesn’t fancy it.
With a scared horse, building confidence is key and this takes time. The more you can practise when you're not going anywhere the better it will be. With a more stubborn character motivation is the thing. This horse is constantly asking 'why should I?' and we need to have a good answer for that.
In both cases horses can feed off our 'we need to get there' impatient (or desperate!!) emotions and become worse so practising beforehand will make sure you don’t stumble at the first hurdle.
Remember that being able to load doesn’t always mean your horse is ready to travel so make sure that you can load your horse up and that he will stand calmly while you close him in. Just as important is that your horse will stand calmly and wait while you open everything up to take him off.
Practise this a few times before you go anywhere.
Leaving horses on the box
I have seen and had to deal with a number of incidents where horses have literally tried to climb out of the box. A lot of this can be avoided by taking the time to get them to stand calmly on the box as I’ve mentioned above.
That said, unless you are really sure of your horse and that they are happy to stand on the box with the ramp down, leave the ramp closed until you are ready to unload. The same applies to the jockey door I have seen horses attempt to climb out of the jockey door as well so keep everything shut until you’re ready to get your horse out.
Of course there will be the exceptions that do better when the ramp is open but I would suggest that you wait to try this once you’ve been out a few times and you’re sure of your horse’s behaviour.
Once you’ve got your horse happily loading and standing on board ready to go you can start taking them out for a few journeys. I usually suggest that the first couple of trips are going out for a drive and coming home so they don’t instantly start to associate the journey with going somewhere strange, from there progress to something like a hack, clinic or lesson that’s going to be relatively easy for your horse before starting to go to competitions, by then you should be all set with a horse that’s happy to travel with you 😁🐴
If you would like more detail on loading training have a look at my blog mini series Successful Loading and Travelling.