Loading training

Is loading difficult for you and your horse?   Does your horse ever:

  • refuse to step on the ramp
  • swing sideways around the ramp
  • rush on or off
  • leap on or off
  • get tense while travelling
  • scramble
  • stamp in the trailer
  • rear while loading
  • need 2 people for loading

What if your horse could be kindly and clearly trained to calmly self-load and self-unload, on a cue from you, reliably, every time?

In 4 - 8 sessions.  Forever.  What are you waiting for?  See a horse being retrained here


 What they say

"You are a star.  My newly learned techniques have worked on the other horse and I had him loading and unloading onto a strange angle-load trailer after only 30 minutes training.  I am thrilled."


"What a buzz it was to take P on her first trailer outing.  She loaded like a pro both times and the world is our oyster now thanks to you and Equitation Science"  G


"He is now perfect to load and unload."


"My horse was a horrible loader - she jumped the chest bar and out the jockey door, destroyed the inside of the float and escaped out under the chain at the back, destroyed the partition and tried to jump over the back ramp to name just a few incidents with her.

The first trainer gave up and I had to bring her home in a stock truck after two months of him trying to train her.  The second trainer managed to teach her to load, but only he could do it and she was still in full flight/fight mode and I couldn't load her when she was this dangerous still.

In desperation, I tried a third trainer, who was Julie Stapleton. We had three ground work sessions and two loading sessions in one day and I was safely and happily loading my horse at the end of the day. My horse was still a bit nervous, but not dangerous and since then we haven't looked back and she loads, travels and unloads like a dream.

I would fully recommend Julie and ES to anyone!

Gail Morley
Crawford Road, New Zealand."


"I have gone from dreading loading from the night before, not being able to sleep, worrying like mad and ending up crying when Diva has towed me back off the box or gone to rear and I have spent two hours loading and now I know I can load no problems, loose rein and she has been self loading as well!!!! Sooo nice. 

I had to take her to the vets the other day and no problems, so its good to be able to load when you NEED to not just for an event!!" D


"W just went on the truck.  What a super boy he was; he went in the dark at 6am.  Didn't hesitate.  All thanks to you." 


"I wanted to say how much I liked the articles on Equitation Science with Julie Stapleton.  Julie helped me retrain my then new horse who had a really annoying, very destructive and potentially health damaging habit of pawing and stomping in the trailer.  He was so bad he went through the thick rubber floor of his new, well known brand of UK trailer within 2 months.  Quite often I was in tears driving home from an event as he was so obviously distressed, concerning fellow motorists, and worst of all , possibly compromising his long term soundness and health.   All the usual advice from fellow equestrians and experts had not been able to help.  The stomping/fretting did not stop instantly, but with regular training, and continued use of the skills I learnt myself, I now have a horse who is a dream to load and travel.  We go out several times a week in the trailer to events, treks and club meets without a single stomp or paw there or back.  He loads quietly and calmly every time and I am the envy of many when it is time to load up and go home.  This has made a big positive difference to me and my horse's life and I cannot stress enough how grateful I am to Julie for her help." P


"Hey Julie, just an update, took P out of the paddock today and boom, straight into the float, travelled to her other paddock, then unloaded calmly and slowly. She just gets better every time.  And to think this time last year I had a damaged, unloadable horse. Love this method of training!"

"This method really does work! Went to help a mate this morning, her horse was being picked up by a horse transporter. He has been reluctant to float lately and has never been on a truck. I spent 10 minutes teaching him to park and go forward off a light whip tap.  Mate tried to load him on the truck and he wouldn't, so I took over, two taps, two steps forward, stop, two more taps, front feet on the ramp, stop. Lightest tap in the universe, boom, straight up, on, into park. Stood calmly while I clipped him up and the driver shut him in."

"You have certainly helped M and I more than I could have dreamed possible.  He just keeps improving!!  Looking forward to learning more next week." P


"I went to Julie for lessons to help relieve tension in my horse I had recently purchased.  On arrival, as I was unloading him, he turned to see where he was which twisted his body, dropping his hindquarters which then resulted in him slipping and he ended up under the bum bar stuck fast!

Julie helped me not only to get myself together and pull him forwards which he responded to but after we tended his injuries she got to work teaching him to load back on the same float that had just totally destroyed his confidence and left him a shaking mess. 

I got that horse home that night thanks to Julie when I thought he'd never go on a float again!  I now have the tools to load an unload him calmly and safely and always go back to Julie's training when things need repairing.   LS, NZ"


"M loads and unloads ..... I get him to wait at different points getting on while I get under the bar etc.  ..... we have worked it out now that he waits for me to move the partition over so I can walk to just behind his shoulder before I ask him to come back ..... you can see him physically relax with relief - it is amazing!  It's like, ok she is in control now thank goodness!  He then lets me guide him back a step at a time, in fact he quite often likes to pause half way down the ramp and just chill ..... which he never used to do before.

My last trip out he didn't stomp once there or back -  I am very proud of his improvement while loading and unloading."


"Thank you for today Julie.  So amazing to have P in my float and driving around my paddock.  Can't wait to jump on for a quick ride in the morning to feel the difference under saddle."


The Retraining Process: It's not just about getting the horse in the trailer/lorry.  It's about thoroughly retraining the horse to load easily and more safely, any time, any place.  

 For serious loading issues I recommend approximately a series of sessions and this includes that the horse is retrained to load calmly and that the handler is taught how to elicit such behaviour from the horse so they can load and unload more safely on their own in future. 

It is a central part of the training that the handler is ultimately taught to self-load the horse confidently and safely, on their own.

All difficult loading behaviour can be retrained, including horses that won't go on the trailer, or won't stand calmly when loaded. Also, horses that will load calmly but bolt off backwards once loaded, also horses that lean on the back bar, trying to escape from the trailer before the back bar is lowered, and horses that paw, strike out, scramble, or get extremely distressed during travelling.

In all of my work I teach the handler/owner to be able to maintain the new responses in my absence.


Reliable retraining is about building new habits in the horse and this literally requires the forging of new neural pathways in the brain which takes energy and time (repetitions).  Also, training the handler takes a few sessions too and leads to a permanently retrained result for both horse and handler.  

The permanent success of sessions is utterly dependent on the handler using the new techniques every time they handle the horse, not just when loading.  For me, this way of handling horses has become a habit that I love as it's so effective and finding this method was like finding water in the desert of horse training!  I handle and train horses this way without it being a conscious effort, in fact, it's easy, as it leads to a brilliantly behaved horse that is a pleasure and safer to handle and ride.

Training a horse to load has the benefit that lots of other little issues will resolve seemingly without effort, and also no matter how safe the horse is now, he will be safer when he is retrained in the Basic Responses. Stop and Turn being the most crucial ones!  eg, horses become much easier to handle from the ground in all situations and lighter and more obedient to ride.  Handlers will learn fundamental concepts and skills of horse training that they will apply to all of their handling and riding, resulting in a much better time with their horse, all the time.  Even aspects such as separation anxiety from paddock mates will usually reduce too as a result of training that is clear to your horse.   

For more information, see my feature articles in the September and October 2013 issues of Horse and Rider magazine.  For an article on loading, see the November 2013 issue.

I do all the initial retraining myself and the handler will have important, but safe tasks - all require you to master timing well. When the horse is safe and calm to load repeatedly, handlers will feel more confident and I will gradually teach them to load the horse themselves.  This will be in simple stages, literally one step at a time, so at no time do they feel frightened or overwhelmed. 

The final stage is self-loading and self-unloading, on cue.

Remember that anything that horses learn in fear is always subject to 'spontaneous recovery', no matter who retrains them or how well they are retrained.  Fearful experiences are indelible, which is why we should always seek to avoid expressions of the flight response.  Fearful things that do not result in a flight response do not remain as bogey-men; on the contrary, horses habituate to them.

I aim for clients to understand what we will be doing and why and for them to feel complete confidence in the process, the results and, very importantly, - to feel that it was money extremely well spent.