Louisiana 3 1/2 year old Paso Fino with problem in trailer

Question: My horse gets very nervous in a trailer. He will load nicely but
stands there shaking. When trailering for a short ride, he sweats alot.
Dripping wet with stress. He does not act badly but leaves his work in the
trailer just from the stress.

From Panelist Jonathan

Sometimes in the more heavy spanish blooded animals this nervousness is a  fact of life . I have one that after almost three years of living here, just now will come to me . She is a two finger dream when leading , it just wasn't in her nature to be all that trusting untill now . I would guess your's is suffering a little from the same .

Try trailoring him with a companion , whether it be another horse or a pasture buddy dog . Have patience , be kind , and hope for the best . I have not met the perfect horse yet and if this is all that is wrong with him , your way ahead of the game and most owners !


From Panelist Steve

He is claustrophobic. You are fortunate (he isn't) that he loads at all. You are fortunate he doesn't explode. Someday he may. I almost lost a finger tip trying to get a mare's hoof back through my old trailer's windows....yes...the little windows at the top !

Buy a stock trailer and your problems will go away like magic.

Steve Chasko

From Panelist Nancy

Here is what I would do if I had a horse with this problem.  I would put the trailer in the pasture or pen where the horse is, leave the door and windows open, and put his feed in there.  You might have to start with putting the feed on the floor of the trailer (in a bucket or container) right near the doorway.  Let him eat his meals there.  Gradually, over a number of days, depending on the horse, move the bucket of feed back until you can put it up in the feed compartment of the trailer.  When he goes in to eat, don't bother him, leave the door open so that he can come out whenever he wants to, and before long he will probably have taught himself that the trailer really isn't so scary.  Don't lock him in until he's completely comfortable and at home standing in the trailer.  Also, when I trailer him, I would always put some grain up in the feed bin so that he will associate riding in the trailer 
with something pleasant.

Nancy Cade

From Panelist Liz


I would recommend if possible trailering this horse with another experienced horse. This may give him comfort. I have seen this many times for various reasons such as lack of trailering experience, a bad experience, I also have known a few horses that are very
claustrophobic. I also had a horse that did this if there was a partition in the trailer, but was just fine when removed. I would keep the trips all short and see how it progresses with experience . Also make the trip as good as possible , nice slow long stops, wide slow
turns , no fast acceleration. Riding in the back of a trailer can be a very ruff ride for anyone.


From Panelist Alan

I have had this problem before with race horses that get nervous on the way to race. One thing that we did was put the horse in the trailer for twenty minutes at a time and don't go anywhere. It might make him less likely to stress over the trailer. Also if you have another horse to stand beside him while you are doing this. ( not when you are going but while you are trying to get him over his nervousness )


From Panelist Bob

This is a training problem. At some time your horse has had a bad experience in a trailer. You will have to retrain your hose to accept the trailer. I would start this training by loading him into a parked trailer and feed him in it. Do this until the anxiety subsides. When he is relaxed in the parked trailer take him for short rides in the trailer. Maybe just a 1/2 mile the first time, gradually increase the distance. Once he learns that he will not be hurt he will progress rapidly.

Bob Blackwell

From Panelist Carol

Hi I hope that I can help your horse with his trailer fear.  What may be going on is a general fear of closed in spaces, or claustrophobia.  Try to determine which border is the hardest for him to be confined by:  the roof, the sides, or being above the ground.  Introduce each one of these things seperately until you figure out which one bothers him the most.  If they all bother him, just work on one at a time, anyway.  Be creative; ask him to walk under a drape, up on a platform, all kinds of things.  

Introduce tight quarters in ways that are not as confining as a trailer, for instance, asking him to walk between two trees.  Work into the trailering situation after he is comfortable walking thru a narrow space, stepping up on something, and lowering his head to go forward. 

At first when you approach the trailer, just load him and allow him to back right back out if he wants to.  Just keep loading until he decides to stay there, maybe just a second at first, but later he will decide that it's easier to stay in than to have to go in all over again.  Do this process when you're not going any where, make a project out of just the trailer problem.  When he will stay in the trailer of his own accord, gently shut the door and then open it immediately.  Do not confine him if he is uncomfortable with it.

Everything may be all fine up to the point when you move the trailer.  If this is the case, go for a very short  trailer ride every day that you can for seven days.  Gradually increase the time that he spends trailering until he is ok.  Bad trailering habits can have a terrible impact on performance, and you have a responsibility to your horse to get him over this fear.  I think it's great that you are wanting to address and solve this problem.  Good Luck!

Carol Camp Tosh

From Panelist Stella

Sometimes its not a matter of a really overt traumatic experience in the past, but subtle things that are easy to overlook that can make even a good hauler become a nervous one. Make sure that he is not tied too short or too high, which can make it difficult for them to balance easily - they do need to use their heads and necks as well as legs to shift weight. I find that on particular trailers, some of the smaller pasos need long, adjustable trailer 
ties to put allow them comfort and enough mobility, being some trailer designs are made with larger horses in mind.

Another thing is how you drive; starting and stopping slowly and gradually, and making slow gradual turns. A showhorse I sold once that was a great hauler and loader became a loading problem, the reason being apparent when I hauled behind their rig - I almost swallowed my teeth, too! You want to watch your speed, too; some simply dont do well at high speeds - one of my mares would start banging her body against the trailer if I went over 55...precisely at 56; in her case, the problem was also a full partition, and going to a half or double stall, or backwards in a head-to-head, I was able to haul her a bit faster(60!). Its inate that what horses fear most is losing their balance.

If he's already anticipating fearfully before you even start, you may try having regular sessions of just loading, then grooming,etc. to be with him and relax him, then remove,without going anywhere, to try to associate the environment of being inside the trailer with other, more positive experiences, so that it ceases to become an instant "trigger" for his reaction.


Back to main page
Ask a Trainer