What can we do about a horse who rushes out of a straight-load horse trailer? We have gotten our 10-year-old horse to get into the trailer. But when we try to back him out slowly, he pulls out of our hands and rushes backward.
— Susan and Ronald Marcotte Sr.
For the answer, we sought help from AQHA Professional Horsewoman and Certified Horsemanship Association Master Instructor Julie Goodnight.
Your horse is rushing backward out of the trailer out of fear. When horses are unsure of themselves, the flight response kicks in, and they get in a hurry. There is no time in nature when a horse would have to back down a step, which is one reason why many people prefer a trailer with a ramp.
If possible, you should load your horse in a trailer that he can turn around in at first so he can see the step he has to take. Maybe you can take out a divider so he can turn around. If he can see and understand the step first, he might be a little calmer about backing out.
You might try walking him in part way, then gently asking him to back out one step at a time, gradually increasing how far in and out he goes until he is more used to the step down. Make sure you control his movements entirely so he doesn't learn to back out while you are loading him.
You also need to do more ground work with your horse so you have better control over his feet and can control each step he takes. Practice this outside the trailer by asking your horse to back one step at a time, pausing between each step and waiting for your signal for the next step. There are lots of exercises you can do from the ground to gain better control.
— Julie Goodnight
AQHA Professional Horsewoman and CHA Master Instructor
*AQHA and the provider of this information are not liable for the inherent risks of equine activities. We always recommend consulting a qualified veterinarian and/or an AQHA Professional Horseman.