By Steve Bauhr
There was a time when I offered such a deal. I would show up at your property, with my trailer, a two horse straight load, and for $200, I would have your horse leading, lunging, and loading before I left. Sometimes it took an hour, other times we were finishing with flashlights. If I couldn’t get all three things done, there was no charge.
I made a similar offer for untouched horses. For $200 I would get them caught, haltered, and leading. Several times I double dipped and did both projects in the same day. Taking an untouched horse in the morning, and having it haltered, leading, and loading by noon. As time went on and I got wiped out a few times, my skills improved and my success rate was rising.
On one occasion, I had to pick up a horse that was scheduled to come into training. They were not successful in loading him, so they asked if I could pick him up. I arrived at the boarding facility where he was being kept late in the afternoon on a Monday. It seemed odd to me so many people hanging around. I had never been there before and just assumed it was an active stable. By now I had replaced the old straight load trailer with a new 2 horse slant. It was a no frills model, I think we paid extra for rubber mats! But the new trailer was more inviting for horses to load in due to its size and configuration. It had one large door, which in times I loved, and other times I hated. In cases like this, I was ok with just getting the horse in and leaving them loose. There was no reason for me to spend all night there teaching this horse to accept the divider and be tied in. We had 90 days ahead to work on that.
I parked my rig and followed the owner to a stall where the horse was. He haltered fine, and even led nicely. As we returned to my truck and trailer I noticed about 20 lawn chairs set close by. I also noticed a large group of guys hanging around an ice chest, and enjoying a cold beer in preparation to watch something. I looked at the owner of the horse and before I could ask, she said, “Everyone here has tried to load Gabe with no success. So there all here to watch you… fail.” I had already decided that if he jumped in the door was closing behind him and we were leaving. So there was a nice flake of alfalfa spread out on the floor of the trailer.
As we walked closer to the trailer, I could feel his feet getting heavy, so I simply turned around and asked his owner keep walking and open the trailer door. I took a couple steps in the opposite direction, then turned about face and we headed back. This time, closer than before, his feet got heavy again, so we took a left turn, and then another left, and then another left only to end up at the trailer. I stopped and scratched him on the neck as he peered in. I simply leaned against the left edge of the opening, and lifted lightly on the lead rope, as if to say, “Take a closer look.” He not only took a look, but jumped in with all four hooves! I let the lead rope go and shut the door. He was so busy eating he never looked up. The owner handed the first months training cost in cash and couldn’t say a word. Since the horse was coming into training, I didn’t charge her for my time to come get him, (I do now). The good ol’ boys looked disappointed, as did the on lookers who had just settled into their lawn chairs. I back up and pulled out, with a silly grin on my face I’m sure!
Years have gone by since those days, and I still do a ranch call from time to time to help get a horse loaded. I don’t mind, and it gets me off the ranch. If you’re hoping this article might have in it the one “Golden Tip” in which you could load any horse, it doesn’t. In fact, there’s not going to be any method discussed in this article.
Over the years, I’ve seen so many techniques and tried so many I would need every page in this magazine to list them! If you ask folks why they load and haul horses the way they do, it’s usually based around a disaster they either had or had witnessed. There is a set of guidelines I use every time with every horse. They work- every time.
For some horses, it takes less effort, and for some it takes far more. The difference between success and failure though is time.
Why did Gabe load that day? One- I got lucky. Two- I didn’t care how long it was going to take. The horse is a creature who, like us, is bound by time. They age just as we do, they know when feeding time is, just like we do. My horses even know what time I make coffee, 5:15. AM. I see them looking toward the house knowing I’ll be heading toward the barn not long after. But the one aspect of time the horse does not understand is our need to rush. I can’t explain this phenomenon, but it’s real. I meet people all the time sitting on a horse that can’t stand still while they express their frustration about it to me, yet they themselves are rushing through life and this ride. They themselves can’t get quiet long enough to simply be still and feel their horse breathe or let some air out. This type of energy is a bad mix with horses, especially with ambitious or nervous horses.
When it comes to trailers, in my opinion, we’re lucky any horse would get in there and go down the road. Not many things we do with a horse could be further from their true nature, but they do it. Gabe loaded that day because there was no pressing need on my part for him to load. Every horse I’ve ever loaded was offered the same deal: I’m here for as long as you need me to be here.” When I’ve changed that and start to rush, like being late to a clinic for example, even my best horses who have loaded maybe a hundred times will show apprehension. Here’s the tip this article wasn’t going to give you: when hanging around your horses, leave your phone and watch in the house. You’ll be amazed at how much is available- on their time.
See ya out there!
Steve Bauhr owns and operates Bauhr Ranch- a full horse training facility in Chinese Camp, Ca. For more info, go to bauhrranch.com, and check out and subscribe to our new YouTube channel, and find us Facebook!