Using the Different Types of Trailers
How you load the horse onto the trailer and tie her will depend on what kind of trailer you have. The three most common systems are an open stock trailer, a rear-load, two-horse straight stall trailer, and a slant load, three-horse trailer.
Walk up the ramp or step up onto the trailer with the horse to your right side and about a step or two behind you, or if you prefer right at your side. Lead her all the way up to the front of the trailer and tie her with a slipknot onto the side of the wall or clip her onto an existing trailer tie. The next horse that goes on should stand right beside her, facing in the same direction, leaving you an unobstructed exit route out the back. Some stock trailers are equipped with partitions to separate difficult horses that might be inclined to kick or misbehave. If your stock trailer is completely open in the interior, some good thought needs to go into which horse will be tied next to which.
Many later model trailers are made of aluminum rather than steel. Although they are more expensive, aluminum is rustproof and much lighter than steel, which will save you money in gas, as well as wear and tear on your vehicle.
Rear-Load, Straight Stall, Two-Horse Trailer
This is a little trickier. You will need a partner to load safely onto this trailer. The horse should be at a safe enough distance behind you (about four feet) as you lead him up the ramp. This is because you cannot remain at his side, but must be directly in front of him as he loads, and he might be inclined to jump onto the trailer. Lead him through his straight stall. Your partner should follow behind the horse, giving him encouragement and reassurance with a hand on his rump.
Once he is all the way on, your partner must close the tail bar, thus preventing the horse from backing out. Clip his halter to a trailer tie, which should be located on the outside post. A hay net or other hay dispensing device could be tied head high either to his out side, or between him and another horse that you might load to keep them occupied and from fighting with each other.
If you will be transporting a single horse, it is recommended that he be loaded on the left side. This puts the weight of the horse behind the driver, which will allow for a better sense of the uneven load when driving. All stalled trailers will have a side door, which should be opened from the outside before you load, so you can exit. Never try to squeeze between a horse and the stall bar to exit out the back.
Some trailer companies will allow you to design the inside of your trailer to suit your own needs. One design that will maximize space and give you more options is a rear-load, straight stall trailer, with occupancy for two horses, and a side entry ramp into a box stall in front, which should be at least six feet by six feet. This space can accommodate a mare and foal, a single horse that won't load into a straight stall, or two horses tied to the wall in the fashion of a stock trailer. One entry can be a step up, and the other a ramp for a choosey horse.
Slant Load, Three-Horse
Loading a slant load is much the same as loading a rear-load, straight stall, two-horse trailer. Horses are loaded diagonally, while a telescoping partition is moved into place and secured after each horse. This kind of three-horse trailer maximizes the space best and leaves room as well for a dressing room. This system can be a little more confusing than the others. Also, it can be inconvenient if you need to access a horse that is not situated in the last stall, because you would have to take off whichever horse or horses that are between you and him.
A horse can be unloaded from a stock trailer by backing him up and letting him step off the back and out. Or, he can be turned around inside the trailer and led out head first.
Unloading from a stalled trailer is necessarily a two-person job, although if you know your horse well, the rules could be bent. Standing by his head, unclip him from the trailer tie and clip on a lead rope. From outside the trailer, your partner should then drop the tail bar and stand to the outside, so the horse doesn't step off the side of the ramp. While you encourage him backward, your partner should keep a hand on the horse's rump or grab his tail. Your partner will encourage the horse to slowly back out of the trailer while you follow him out, holding him close without slack in the rope.