Jenny Pearce

Horse floating, trailoring or travelling problems

Getting horses to get on the float, truck or trailer has to be one of the most common problems that people experience with their horse.

Here’s an excerpt about floating or trailering problems from the first of the horse books that I wrote “Bobby’s Diaries – Straight from the Horse’s Mouth to You”.  The approach is quite different because one of the things that this then revolutionary book shows us is how to understand our fear – how to use our fear to keep ourselves and our horses safe – which is what it is designed for!

Some of the concepts  in the completely frre gift lessons The Six Keys to Happiness with Your Horse will add to your undertsanding of this article – you can get them by registering on that big yellow box over to the right here.

I love Bobby’s Diaries so much, that I wish I could reach out and put this book into your hands, it’s sooo… special.  Like other readers you will probably read it over and over again.  Like other readers, you may enjoy the simple, earthy style.

Read on to the chapter extract, there’s a link at the end where you can get the book…

“When you feel fear when you are traveling your horse, it’s probably because you’re both a wreck waiting to happen!  Listen to your fear, figure out what is unsafe about what you are doing and change it!

Traveling a horse who is on the outer edges of his Not Too Sure Zone or in his Oh Shit Zone in the float or truck is a recipe for a disaster that will happen some day.  I made a commitment to my horses a long time ago that I would do my best to make traveling a relaxed and even enjoyable experience.  When they are relaxed and comfortable I can be relaxed and comfortable too and we both get to where we are going, fit and able to enjoy that competition or that clinic or that lovely ride in the bush, whatever.

In order to do this, I will not shut the back of the float up unless the horse is in his Comfort Zone.  When a horse walks on the float, I do not go “gotcha”.

When I’m float training a horse, I need him to be able to walk forwards and backwards, softly, confidently and easily – without coming off the float the whole way – before I will close the back up and travel.

I like my horse to walk on as I point him towards the float and throw the rope over his back.  Then I do the back of the float up.  Then I walk around the front and tie him up if I’m going to. To load like that is to be able to do it by myself, easily.  That’s my big picture.

What’s your big picture?  Do you like to send him on from behind like I do, so that it’s quicker and easier to do the back of the float up? Or do you like to lead him on, leave him standing there loose (because you would never tie him up without him being locked in, would you?)  and walk around to the back to do the back up?

Either way, you want him standing there politely and happily while you do the back of the float up and then walk back around and tie him up if that’s what you like to do.

Almost all horses are claustrophobic to some degree.  Claustrophobia is a fear of small spaces.  It is quite logical for a horse to be terrified of going into a float.  Knowing what we now know about their emotions, we’re going to work their comfort zone so that it includes this cave on wheels, rather than risk them flipping out into the oh shit zone and damaging themselves and the float while they are traveling, if something goes wrong.

There is some preparation that you can do before you walk up to a float to load them for the first time using this model:

  1. Have you taught him to move forwards when you ask him to with the lead rope? I.e, slide one hand down the lead rope and take up a gentle contact with your horse’s halter. Add a gentle pressure in the forwards direction.  Does he step forwards easily and comfortably and reliably?  There’s not much point at going anywhere near a float until he does!
  2. Will he back up from the rope? Getting him on the float is good, but you also have to be able to get them off, easily and smoothly without panicking.
  3. You could teach him to back up from the tail – that’s a useful way of asking him to come off the float when you’re ready. Once you’ve taught back up from the rope, you stand at his tail, holding the rope in your hand.  Imagine him moving backwards when you pull his tail. Pull his tail gently in the backwards direction. Use the rope to get him to step backwards.  Stop and wait for the chew. And start again.  When he steps backwards from a gentle pull on the tail, “what a star!”
  4. Does he move his butt away with soft easy movement of his legs when you keep a short rope and walk to his hind end? Because you’re going to use this simple method of changing speed and direction to establish leadership at the float.
  5. Can he go into tight places that are not the float?  Between you and a fence.  Between you and a wall. Between you and a leafy bush that will brush against his body as he walks past.  The more claustrophobic things he has in his comfort zone, the less fearful he will be when you ask him to go into the float.

There are many different ways of encouraging a horse to move forwards into the float and the following suggestion is only one of them. Remember, connect to his mind so that you can hear what needs to change for him to be comfortable.  And if you feel frustration, that’s a message that you need to change something.

Stand at the back of the float and imagine him walking on the float.  I was float training someone else’s very difficult horse once and she walked in on “imagine it”.  I couldn’t wait to see if it was just coincidence, so I tried again and stuffed it up.  I should have spent a long time telling her what a star she was!

Slide one hand down the rope and take up a gentle contact with your horse’s head and point him in the direction of the float.  When he steps forwards, stop and wait for the chew.

If there comes a time when you ask him to step forwards and he won’t, then keep a shortish rope in your hand and walk to his back end, changing speed and direction and ask again.  You’re not going to add pressure to fear or confusion, so when you have gone through the steps of imagine it, give a clear physical request to step forwards with the rope, give him maybe three rhythmic gentle slaps on the butt to encourage him to move forwards, then you’re going to stop and wait for the chew before you ask him again – even if he didn’t move any closer to the float.

I know, I know, you’re going to be standing there for a while waiting for this chew with a scared horse, maybe even a long time, but it will be worth it in the long run and it will happen – probably faster than you think.  This method is much slower to load them than the dominance model.  But I think it’s often quicker to have them happy in the float and I think that they are more solid, faster.

Another option in Bobby’s method, is to back him up (changing speed and direction again) away from the float, until you find his comfort zone and work the comfort zone forwards and backwards (approach the float and retreat)  step by step getting the float into his comfort zone, waiting for him to chew, allowing him to think every step of the way.  (See the first of Bobby’s stories at the back of the book for how I discovered Bobby’s method of dealing with something that are really frightened of.)

Watch closely that in your desire to get him on the float, that you do truly read where he is in his comfort zone model and pay attention to that.  Once we start a task like a float loading, it is too easy to slip back into our old way of doing things!

When I used to float train horses as part of my living, I would ask the owner if they had bacon and eggs in the fridge.  They usually looked at me puzzled and then I said “well, if we’re still here in the morning I’ll have bacon and eggs for breakfast, thanks, but I won’t still be here the day after that!”   This attitude of having plenty of time to get the job done properly, no matter how long it takes to get a positive result, is absolutely essential to a float training and comes straight from my training with Pat Parelli.  Also note that a positive result does not have to be going all the way into the float and getting happy about that and going for a drive today.  If your time is restricted and the horse very afraid, you may be happy with him being in his comfort zone with the first steps on the ramp. Or maybe even just being able to look at the float without sweating up in distress.  Whatever.  There are no rules.

Once they are in the float, I like to be able to ask them to come out of the float and as they step backwards, say “just kidding, please go back inside”.  If they step forwards again, softly and easily without needing to come all the way off, then I think they are ready for me to shut the back up and go for a drive.

I like to take them out somewhere where there’s a nice pick of green grass, unload them, eat for ½ an hour or so.  Then load up again.  And go somewhere else where there’s a nice pick of grass and unload again.  Eat for as long as it takes them to find their comfort zone for a while, then load up again.  On this first drive out, I like to take them to about 6 – 8 places, unload, eat, load up, until when I point him at the float, he jumps on and says “what yummy places are we going to this time?”

If I’m float training someone else’s horse, I’ll do that for two or three days in a row to get them really solid and very comfortable about the float before the owners come and learn how to load themselves and take them home.  If you have access to a float and the time to do it like this, it works well.

If you don’t have a float or trailer of your own, then it’s even more important that you get your horse doing as many claustrophobic things as possible, in his comfort zone before you go and hire a float. To have all these things happening softly and easily is to make it quicker and easier the day that you hire the float.

And you are going to hire or borrow a float for at least one day just for float training BEFORE you actually travel anywhere to do anything.  And if your horse was really scared of the float you might have to do it for more than one day before you travel to a competition etc.  It will be hire money very well spent!

Here’s some float problems that I’ve found when I’ve been float training horses:

• I had someone leave my place with their horse on the back one day driving so fast around the corners of the driveway that the poor horse was having trouble staying on its feet.  No wonder it didn’t want to get in the float!
• Big wide windows can have some horses quite panicky about cars and trucks coming towards them on the other side of the road.  When we come across this one, we tape up the window and make it smaller.
• Slippery floors.  They have to do a lot of work in there, moving their feet and they need grip to be safe or they go into their Oh Shit Zone.
• Some partitions are so deep that they won’t allow the horse to spread his feet wide apart for balance.  That can put a lot of horse’s into their Oh Shit Zone when they go to spread their legs and can’t – and then they will scramble, or climb the walls.  It’s worth getting the partition cut down to avoid that one if your horse is not an excellent traveller.
• Float boots that restrict smooth and easy movement will often panic him if he has to move his legs when he’s on the float.  Yeah, I know, we put float boots on to protect them and now I’m telling you that they actually cause some travelling problems!  If you are concerned about his legs when travelling with another horse, then fetlock and shin boots and rubber bell boots such as used for jumping are a much better option than floating boots.  He’s either OK in the float and doesn’t need them or we should be float training him until he IS OK in the float and then he doesn’t need them.
• Floats that move and rattle or are even unsafe. Ride in it yourself, off road somewhere and check it out. Glue sponge into place to stop rattles.  Check your flooring.  I once went to float train a horse who wouldn’t get on because she was very smart.  Sooner or later she was going to go through that incredibly dangerous floor!
• Wheel balancing your trailer makes it a more comfortable ride.  The tyre people will often tell you that it’s not necessary on a trailer, but you’ve got the same reasons on your float as you have on your car – longer use out of the tyres and comfort in the ride for your horse.  If you can feel the difference, then so can your horse.
• Check your electric brakes are working smoothly and not jerking your horse around.  I had a horse come in to do a clinic once because the owner wanted to fix float loading problems.  When I saw the lady coming in with her electric brakes grabbing and slamming her horse towards the front window of the float, it was not rocket science to figure out what was wrong with him!
• Travelling them with a horse who is already a good traveller can be a bonus – until they themselves are the good traveller.  However, if you truly work his comfort zone, then that’s not necessary.
• Is the float big enough for the size of your horse? If they are big or a long horse, like our horse Celtic Peace, then we cannot expect them to travel happily bent like a banana!  Apart from the emotional problems, it damages their muscles and bones!
• What I am NEVER going to do is tie them up while the back door is open.  I’ve seen people do it and it makes my blood run cold.  I don’t care how good they are at tying up, the smallest thing going wrong can cause a disaster, so it’s not worth it!
• I float trained one horse who was sick from the exhaust fumes of the car pouring into the float through the vents.  They had to get an exhaust pipe extension to take the exhaust away from the float vent.

And remember, he is NEVER not going on because he is a “bad boy” – he is NEVER not going on, just to “stick it up you”.  We have to remember that our rage and frustration is OURS and he does NOT refuse in order to get at us – as hard as that may be to accept sometimes!

Train him properly to travel without fear and then you can both enjoy travelling forever.”

Concepts such as the Comfort Zone Model and Oh Shit Zone (the “Oh Shit I’m Dead” Zone) how to get the mind connection with your horse, the art of gentle leadership and an awesome new approach to a whole raft of horse problems, are explained in great detail in the book “Bobby’s Diaries – Straight from the Horse’s Mouth to You” AND also in The Six Keys to Happiness with Your Horse.

To buy the electronic book “Bobby’s Diaries – Straight from the Horse’s Mouth to You, How your horse can give you the results of the confident and gifted rider” click here.  Don’t miss out on this book.

Leave a question about your floating or trailering problems for Jenny by clicking on any “Comments” at the bottom of each article on the home page.


 

39 Comments

  1. Liza 05/23/2017, 11:19 am Reply

    Hi,

    My older horse took 3 hours to float the other day, she gets half way in and runs straight back, had reared and all and taken skin off her head.
    We were away from home so i obviously had to float her to get back home. she had gone in ok.

    I tried again yesterday afternoon with no avail just to try and get her used to it,

    Do you have anything that may help us.

    • jennyp 05/23/2017, 2:57 pm Reply

      Whether she was scared before this incident or not Liza, she’s going to be terrified now that she’s scalped herself, so you’ve got some choices, all of which involve re-training (and maybe think about what happened on that trip to cause her to not get on again and what happened when she was away from home. Could either of those things be what caused her to not want to get on the float that badly?
      It is 100% possible to have her release her fears and be perfectly happy in the float. I’ve done it with dozens of super terrified horses personally (as the paid trainer) and helped dozens of other people fix their own horses. It takes time, patience and skills – the start of which you’ll find in the free lessons the 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse – big yellow box to the top right hand side of just about every page on my website. The rewards that you get from solving this kind of thing are beyond wonderful, because you will dramatically increase the bond with your horse in ALL areas, not just float loading. When you add pressure to fear you just make more fear – so gentle and patient is the only way through this one. If you read through the comments and my replies here on this float loading question page, you’ll get heaps of ideas on how to take the pressure off and help her while you get through the 9 Keys and start thinking about how you apply those principles to float training. Someone had wonderful success with float loading a problem horse after doing the meditation series 21 Days to a Quiet Mind – because she dramatically increased their bond together during that program and then understood how to help her horse through her fears. Good luck!

  2. Belinda 04/23/2017, 6:27 am Reply

    Hi there
    I have had my boy around a month – he went down on the float twice in the way home. When floating him yesterday it took a little while to get home on which was expected, he travelled beautifully and at our location calmly.
    However when we came home and had stopped to unload him is when things got scary. I jumped in to untie him and as soon as he was untied he started lunging backward with force and smashing into tailgate. We travelled without the rear chain as we had the divider over so he had more room when we travelled.
    as soon as the tailgate was gown her rushed back and out of the float. Any tips to help preventing smashing into the tailgate before it has been lowered?
    Thanks 🙏

    • jennyp 04/23/2017, 2:52 pm Reply

      Yep – training. 🙂 Sorry that’s a one word answer, but for whatever reason he was absolutely terrified in the trailer. It sounds to me like he badly wanted to come home with you – enough to hang on and not explode on the way, bless him. Go to my blog and read the trailer loading article that I did last week, with a solution at the bottom of it. When your connection is THAT strong as the lady in the story was, it is so much easier to do this kind of training of a horse who has been scared. YOU are capable of training him with gentleness and empathy for his fear. The bond between you will grow phenomenally while you do this. Alternatively, you can wrestle him on the trailer next time and destroy his confidence in the trailer and you and make it every much harder to get him on next time.

  3. Jessica 12/14/2016, 9:03 am Reply

    Hello Jenny.
    I have a horse at home that usually travels beautifully on her own in our own box with no divider. She walks in happily and backs out perfectly. However the other day our horse box needed to go for repairs and we asked for a lend of my friends one. This one had a divider and it took us about an hour and a half to load her. Admittedly we should not have brought her in that horse box because she was so unhappy but we did. We reached our destination and opened the box to see that she had injured her back legs and the journey was pointless because I couldn’t ride her. We had traveled a long distance away from home and I was terrified to bring her back. She was sweating and looked anxious. We closed the box again intending to bring her home because we thought we had no better option. There was no stables near by or so we thought. We closed the box anyway and with me standing in the box with her we were not moving she started running up against the side of the horse box. I knew we could not bring her home like this. We found somewhere to leave her while we went and got our own box. Needless to say I was wondering if she was ever going to load again. She did thank god with a bit of persuasion she was much calmer traveling in the familiar box and we arrived home safely. What can I do to help her with the divider?

    • jennyp 12/14/2016, 9:58 am Reply

      There’s three most likely possibilities going on here:
      1. A divider too deep (i.e. too close to the floor) will cause many horses to panic like this, because they are unable to spread their legs and balance specially when things happen on the trip that require more balance than usual. like hard braking because someone does something dumb like pulls out in front of you or lots of cornering or even getting tired on a long trip. Any divider that stops a horse from putting their feet into the next bay of the float, in my opinion, is likely to cause this problem in a lot of horses. So really, it’s a wide rail only that I will have as a divider. I think this is your most likely cause.
      2. My arthritic old boy used to do exactly that if he was put in with a divider and yet with his legs spread wide enough he could balance for the travel without the panic and climbing the walls and he could travel fine (soft eyes) with my Bobby who is a very good traveller – just with no divider between them. I was lucky I had a breeching door that made that possible.
      3. Fear will cause this too. It’s possible that your girl could manage her anxiety in your box, thanks to the work that you had done together, but a strange box was scarey and the divider just added pressure to that.

      I don’t need to tell you, because I see you already know, but I’ll put this here for the benefit of other readers – any horse that takes an hour and a half to load – if it’s not float TRAINING that ends up with a HAPPY horse inside the float – will have an increase in fear next time, an increase on difficulty loading and risks injury to both horse and float.

      Did you pick up the (and click here if you haven’t) 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horsewhile you were here? The connection work in those free lessons will give you a technique to help solve that trauma she experienced. Let me know how you go!

  4. Paula 11/26/2016, 7:56 pm Reply

    Hi Jenny
    Wondering if you have any helpful advice. My 15 yr old mare was a dream to float until a few weeks ago. I was loading her and the wind blew the back bar round and it made a big horrible noise and freaked her out. After that it took about 30 mins to load her with the help of my riding instructor. I have been trying to load her since then with little luck. Can get her on 3/4 of the way but can’t get her past that. Do I persist? And how long would you do a training session for? I have left the float in her paddock tonight and tied her hay net to it in the hope she will become less fearful of it. Is this a ridiculous idea? I have also been grooming her when she gets up on the ramp which she seems to enjoy and it relaxs her. But I have not seen this chewing you speak of.
    Thanks

    • jennyp 11/28/2016, 10:52 am Reply

      Sorry I took a bit longer than usual to answer Paula, I am in the middle of our very big and beautiful Living in Happiness program for Horse Lovers. 🙂 I see that you got the 9 Keys to Happiness with your Horse. Excellent. Lessons 1,2,3,4 and 7 contain your biggest keys to fixing this problem. You’ll get an understanding in the Second key to Happiness, about fear being cumulative – each fear that they can’t run away from adding to the next and intensifying it – so a fright like you describe, on top of a milder anxiety can cause a major melt down.

      Also I wrote an article recently that talked about all the elements of a horse’s training that need to be happening for a horse to travel happily. It was a story about two of my own horses training to travel and at the bottom of that blog is another two links – one to a huge question and answer section and the other to a chapter out of Bobby’s Diaries where I describe how to go about float training.

      A thing that pops into my mind as I’m writing is “Have you addressed the possibility of the wind catching it and the same problem happening again?” Because if you haven’t, then YOUR nerves around that possibility will be effecting HERS too. Does that make sense?

      I find that very short baby steps training sessions when I have time, are the best way to address this kind of thing. SHe needs to release the fear of what happened to get truly confident in the trailer (Seventh key to Happiness! 🙂 )

      And yes I agree that, after releasing the fright, feeding in the float can help – IF IT CAN BE DONE SAFELY and without adding to her fright. I usually take the divider out altogether if I do this, so there is no possibility of it causing a problem.

      If you start working with that early warning signal that something is Not Quite Right and taking action on that to know when to back off and take the pressure off her and then wait (Seventh Key to Happiness again), then you will start seeing a lick and chew and you will be on your way to solving the problem. 🙂

  5. Hayley Jennings 07/30/2016, 9:52 am Reply

    Hi Jenny, I have a lovely 11 year old 15.3 warmblood cross who I recently purchased for my 13 year old daughter in good faith. However since buying her I have found her almost impossible to float. I took her to ponyclub twice and she took a little bit of getting on the float but travelled just fine however both times she bolted backward off the float. she would however wait until we were ready though. The third time I went to float her, she again went on after about 5 mins but just as i was securing her bum bar she bolted off and threw her head up at the same time hitting her head. After this she would not go on more than half way and would repeat the behaviour again throwing her head up and hitting it. She has not injured herself luckily. I contacted her previous owner who was a bit sketchy about any issues as she had been leased out a few times but she did indicate that she fine with an angle load float where she could walk off front ways. Well I have not found this to be the case because I have purchased an angle load and cant get her to go on and stay on long enough to secure her to walk off frontward. the only float she will go on is one I borrowed that has an open top, otherwise she seems very fearful of backing out from under things. Have done some training with a hanging tarp and she will back into the shed under it but still very reactive backing out of the shed under it. would love any advice you can give. Hayley

    • jennyp 08/02/2016, 7:27 am Reply

      She’s just scared Hayley and has never been trained properly, bless her. The fact that she will go into an open top float means that she’s got some claustrophobia happening there too, which is not surprising as just about all horses have it to some extent. Do you have my free lessons The 9 Keys to Happiness with Your Horse? All the lessons will be useful, but specially the seventh key, will explain how you can help her to release the fright from banging her head on the roof – not specifically, because it’s talking generally. 🙂 If you take smaller baby steps, use your early warning signal that something is Not Quite Right to know when to back off BEFORE she does and wait for The Chew, then you can actually help her to get rid of whatever is going on behind this. (all of that will make more sense when you’ve had the 9 Keys 🙂 )
      I would suggest doing the above first and only then, parking the float where she can get at it – with the car on is the only safe way to do this! – and feed her on the tail gate and allow her to find a real comfort zone around that and then a bit further in. Only do this though if you can make sure that she can’t get her head under anything or caught on anything. I wouldn’t put a feed right up the front of the float, because there’s too many things that can go wrong, like getting their head under the chest bar and banging it coming up suddenly. I am thinking that just getting her backing on and off the float from half way and getting that really, REALLY comfortable will help break this cycle for you.
      Do the RELEASE work of the 7th Key first though, otherwise – you want that particular trauma gone first.
      Keys to success:
      * Listening to her fear and backing off and waiting for her to lick and chew
      * Baby steps
      * Never pushing her past what she can do in a thinking way

  6. Rainbow 02/04/2016, 4:19 pm Reply

    I have a wonderful girl who was 12 when we got her and she had not much experience with floating. She would not go anywhere near the float and had been abused by her previous owner, so she did not respond to a whip at all. We tried some very experienced horse trainers and only one could get her in (with a lot of difficulty), but as soon as he left she would not go near the float again.
    After exhausting all our options (ropes, harnesses, even ‘horse whisperers’) I resorted to bribery. Being a big welsh pony, she loves her food. So with a bucket of pellets she gradually walked up the ramp, but would back out time and time again. For 3 months I fed her daily on the float. Each time she would go further in and after a few weeks she was all the way in and happy to stay in. However, swinging the bar across caused her to run out overtime. So I tried tapping on the metal and getting her used to all sorts of sounds and bringing her up to the bar and showing her how it swung back and forth and that there was nothing to be afraid of. With the help of a little molasses, I started rubbing the bar across her bottom as she would walk in and eventually it didn’t worry her anymore. Finally, 3 months later I can shut her in the float happily. Now any chance she gets she runs towards the float and waits there until I open it for her, or if its open she just runs straight on by herself. Tomorrow we are off for our first short trip up the road and hopefully she will be ok!

    So all I’m saying is that if you were like me and you tried everything, find something your horse really loves to eat and only feed it that in the float. It may take a few weeks/months, but its well worth it in the end! Especially if you have a happy horse!

    • jennya 02/05/2016, 7:08 am Reply

      You’ve clearly done a great job Maddie – well done! You’ve used communication and helped her to develop a comfort zone in a gentle way that is lovely to read about. It’s certainly worth going to any lengths to have a happy horse in the float!

  7. kelly 08/28/2015, 11:25 am Reply

    Hi my new horse loads fine with a rope around his rump with gentle pressure he goes on easily. He shakes ands sweats in the float but travels well apart from that. I put the rope around his rump to back him off gently but he flys back . Any suggestions for making him comfortable to travel without shaking and sweating and to stop him flying off. Ive only had him a week. All my other horses self load and float fine so i believe my driving is good .

    • jennya 08/31/2015, 10:13 am Reply

      The rope around his butt to load him with, IS the actual problem Kelly. He’s already scared from the beginning and a generous boy to go on the float for you at all – so give him a big pat and thank you for being so generous when he is so scared – it sounds like you have a lovely boy.
      Get those free lessons The Nine Keys to Happiness – they will help you understand more about how fear works with a horse and they also give you a couple of practice lessons in working differently with fear.
      When you’ve had those lessons and done the practice, come back here and read some of my replies to other people AND that float loading lesson from Bobby’s Diaries that I refer to – then all of that will make more sense.
      After you’ve done that, feel free to come back to me if you have any problems. Just remember that boy of yours is pretty special to go on that easily when he is THAT scared!

  8. Natasha Vaughan 07/16/2015, 12:18 pm Reply

    Hi Jenny

    I have been reading your blog with much interest. 3 months ago we purchased a new pony for our 10 year old daughter. She had apparently always travelled in an angle loader and was fine for the previous owners. We only have a double straight loader which she loads onto beautifully and backs off calmly also. The problem is that she scrambles while travelling. Yesterday we went to go somewhere and she actually fell over. Now my driving is so slow and careful because I have heard her in the float previously so I wasn’t going fast and was only approaching a stop sign which I had already started preparing to stop for. When I turn corners I stop first and go round so slowly so she can keep her balance but it doesn’t seem to help. I have to pick her up this afternoon and I’m terrified of driving home incase it happens again and this time I damage her. I have moved the back chains across on the second side so she has more room and the divider is only a half one so she can spread out. Usually we travel with another hack but now Im worried that if she falls again it will be a disaster with 2 of them in the float. Are you able to offer any advice please? Many thanks. Natasha

    • jennya 07/16/2015, 5:10 pm Reply

      Natasha I suspect that you may have told me the answer when you talk about “the divider is only a half one”. A divider that goes half way down to the ground sounds like it is too deep to allow the pony to spread her legs for balance and that can cause what you describe. If this is the case, then giving her that extra room should help. Another possibility is that she is seriously disconcerted by traveling straight after being used to an angle load. Maybe you could try driving for just a few feet and stopping and waiting for her to chew – no matter how long that takes – then driving a bit further, stop and wait again and repeat until you see her sigh and go soft about it. I am thinking on the hop here as to how you can help her develop a comfort zone with the different way of traveling. And I agree with you, you want this fixed before she travels with another horse. When my big black horse Carlos got older a bit arthritic, he couldn’t travel without a whole heap more room than he had needed before and I had to stop traveling him with another horse and used to tie back the divider to give him more room. Of course to be truly safe doing that, you would lean over the back of the float and do AFTER they were loaded and the back was up (i.e. so that you still have the safety of the britching chains to keep them in, as the ramp goes up and down.)

  9. Kerry 06/16/2015, 11:24 am Reply

    Hi Jenny,

    Seeking your help regarding a 3yo t/b gelding in full race work (has just had his 1st and 2nd race starts). I bred and broke this guy in myself, lovely athletic type great under saddle and generally a delight to handle however he has developed an issue when arriving home in the float from his daily workouts either at the track or our nearby beach…initially started out with a few kicks at the tail gate as approaching my property (his mum did exactly the same when I trained her).

    Over the past 5-6 weeks he has started savaging the door frame with his teeth, dropping his nearside hip against the petition as I was driving up my driveway, not every day but it was happening on a regular basis. He always travels with a quiet pony and my float is light and roomy. Since the savaging started I have placed ear muffs on the boy and this seemed to pacify him reasonably well.

    However 3 days ago the boy actually went down in the float just as I reached the stables!! As we entered my driveway he began the savaging, and as I have done on occasions previously I stopped went to the side door opened it, he pops his head out and stands there perfectly, soothing words Keep your head on boy for 2 more min’s, continue slowly up the 50m straight driveway then he again does the savaging dropping the nearside hip and down he goes! Thankfully he didn’t thrash around however it took over 30 min’s to actually get him back up on his feet.

    Part of me feels this behaviour is just him, partly inherited from his dear mother. He travels beautifully both of his race starts have been 2 1/2 hour one way trips without any dramas and of course arriving home from these outings after racing the savaging hasn’t happened obviously because he’s used up all his energy during the races.

    I had been thinking of trying him with a muzzle on to prevent him savaging the door frame but I was concerned that may frustrate him further and cause other inappropriate behaviours.??! Blocking out the front window?? So open to any suggestions you may have to help my challenged one keep his head on in the float when arriving home..

    With thanks, Kerry

    • jennya 06/16/2015, 12:09 pm Reply

      Crikey Kerry this is a big one. It sounds to me like he is telling you something in the only way that he knows how and maybe that way WAS learned from his mum, but that doesn’t necessarily make it the same cause – does that make sense? You are describing extreme reactions and what sounds and feels like extreme desperation.

      Your instincts are excellent – I too think that muzzling him would produce even more frustrated behaviors. So… the key is to figure out WHAT it is that he is so upset about.

      Is it something at home that he is not looking forward to? (Understatement of the year given his behavior.) Is it something in the float itself? Can he spread his legs for balance easily? Is he upset about something that happened at the track? (Not so likely given the timing, but still possible.) It could be anything from a weird shadow falling over the big front window that is freaking him out (kind of like the straw that broke the camels back), a pain in his body that is developing that pinches on certain flexions of his body caused by certain turns in the road – who knows – there’s a million possible causes.

      OK I have a plan. Get The Six Keys for Happiness with Your Horse – at the moment they are still freebie lessons. The next time you are traveling, make sure that you are not the driver, so that you can focus on doing this and don’t have an accident. The First Key, the connection lesson is the one that I want you to do while you are traveling home with him. Have a pen and piece of paper and as you are in the car, while you are traveling, I want you to connect to him and then write down EVERY random thing that comes into your mind – EVERY thing, no matter how ridiculous it seems, even if it’s noticing a sign on the road and thinking something about it.

      We’ll look at the patterns of what comes up later, your job is just to record EVERYTHING.

      And then come back to me and if the answer isn’t immediately obvious to you, then we’ll work it out together.

  10. Deb Harley 05/26/2015, 10:43 am Reply

    HI again thank you for your response. What is the ideal divider then as I am having the bottom part cut off mine so she can spread her legs wider apart and a round pipe welded around the lower ply mid section so it does less harm this time.

    • jennya 05/26/2015, 11:19 am Reply

      Send me a photo of the divider by email so I can see what you are talking about and I can feed back the best size for that divider. You are absolutely right to not want a deep divider that stops them from spreading their legs. They are dangerous like that and I have never met a horse that was OK in them, not even my Bobby who is a brilliant loader and brilliant traveler.

  11. Deb Harley 05/24/2015, 2:30 pm Reply

    HI -We just bought a pony -shes big and strong -we have floated her three times- she loads easy-first two times she leaned on the walls and bashed against them a bit -second time was worse than first -but she loaded easy as?
    I noticed her feet spread under the mid section which is angled ply deeper at the front so they can stand on each other. She had cut herself -so I figured she was trying to get her legs apart further -We had a great third float -easy to load-then on leaving a great morning at pony club we loaded her but didn’t move off as I was trying to help someone load their pony! 🙂 I was cross with my self in hindsight for not moving off faster -I left her standing on the float-she was really quiet-no stomping around -then ..all hell broke loose in there and she mustve decided she wanted off -she ended up sitting then lying down- she buggered and bent the mid section of the float -shit and bugger -I moved off hoping she would stand up and I drove home with her quietly lying down -she was in a lather on arrival home -5 mins and it was awful. Was it a mistake to not move off quicker?? 3 minutes standing on there -no hay??? Advice appreciated.

    • jennya 05/24/2015, 9:13 pm Reply

      What you are describing, I am pretty confident, is a horse who was never comfortable in the float from the beginning and who is a wonderful generous soul who got on because you asked her to and she has been well trained to do what she is asked. The solution will be to float train her properly and because she has now had a traumatic experience it will need to be well done, both to release the old trauma and then re-learn to travel without fear. Email me a photo of the float divider so that I have a mental picture of what you are talking about – the dividers can cause a lot of trouble if they are not right and it is remotely possible that they may be all that went wrong. jenny@jennypearce.com.au Do not despair, you can reverse trauma’s with just a bit of patience and a commitment to her well being. The Seventh Key to Happiness, in conjunction with the earlier keys, will give you the philosophy to do that trauma release work. I am in the middle of developing what we are calling Pocket Lessons, one of which wwill be a short series float training with this trauma release work in it. Sign up for the rss feed cos that is where I will announce it and get those free lessons The Six Keys to Happiness with Your Horse. They will help you HEAPS I think – at least get you started…

  12. Rebecca 05/19/2014, 3:41 pm Reply

    I have just obtained my thoroughbred mare she is 10 she loads up great all the time and is always in her comfort zone she has been out to various places for pick or for riding and never had an issue, either by herself or with a float buddy. Always the same float and the same driver. The float has a solid floor with plenty of grip. But now she has taken up the habit of scrambling. This habit has started when was flated with another horse who travels really well and quiet. Its was with same float and driver please could you please help me.

    • jennya 05/19/2014, 10:31 pm Reply

      It’s a bit hard without more information, but here are some of the possibilities that just popped into my mind as I was typing:
      1. She could have developed a bit of arthritis – that can cause them to scramble. Arthritis is fixable…
      2. She could have experienced some claustrophobia with the other horse in the float at the same time – more so than when traveling by herself. You can address the claustrophobia in many ways – it’s too big an issue to describe the fixing of it here.
      3. You say “same float and same driver” and you’ve just obtained her? Are you absolutely sure that something didn’t happen to cause the panic of the first scramble? For example – check the electric brakes aren’t going on too hard, that can be a maintenance issue that could cause a horse to react like that and I have seen it before. Get under the float and check out the floor – things like that can change – with what was sound not being sound any more.
      4. She could have tossed her head up and banged it, while avoiding being nipped by this other quiet horse, causing her to look at being in the float differently from before.
      5. What happened WHILE she was out for that trip that first time of scrambling, could have caused the distress that is upsetting her now about travel.
      My suggestion: Get the free lessons The Six Keys to Happiness with Your Horse off my website here. Listen to and watch the first four lessons, and then sit with her, doing that first connection exercise. Plan on being there for at least an hour if you need to. Sit quietly, lean up against a tree, really relax in that connection exercise, be prepared to do whatever it takes to understand this for her. The good news is that everything I can think of that could be causing this is fixable…
      Come back and let me know what you get in that connection exercise and I will help you with the next step.

  13. Anne 02/05/2014, 5:07 pm Reply

    My granddaughter today floated her horse and had a dreadful experience. He has been floated without incident many times. Today he went on beautifully, travelled well, but just minutes from their destination started kicking and going “off” in the float. They had to stop and quickly get him off as he was damaging himself. They had to get the vet to sedate him for the trip home. He again went on beautifully, travelled fine, but again just minutes from their home, he kicked, somehow managed to turn himself completely around and was trying to exit the closed rear of the float! She managed to calm him down sufficiently to lower the ramp, but half way open he jumped out. Vet called again as now he needed stitches to his leg (3). Any ideas what the problem could be? It was a hired float and they only had to travel about 5km each way.

    • Jenny 02/06/2014, 12:55 pm Reply

      Good heavens Anne – how distressing for everyone! I have a floating article here that has a big list of things that can go wrong when they are travelling and cause upset – from cornering too fast, to horses developing muscular problems and getting a muscle spasm, not able to spread their legs wide enough for balancing with some floats having dividers too long that stop them spreading their legs for balance.
      I would start out by having him checked out by a good body worker. That may have been the cause of the upset in the first place and after such an accident it would be surprising if he DIDN’T have muscle issues to fix up. Do you have someone who does Bowen Muscle therapy for horses in your area?
      You say he loaded well and travelled well up until the upset – are you sure about that? That might sound like a dumb question, but plenty of horses behave so generously and so well, but are not really OK on the inside. The Second Key to Happiness with Your Horse – that free lesson series in the big yellow box at the top right hand side of the page here – That Second key talks about the Not Too Sure Zone, where it can be fairly easy to flip out from under some circumstances. He could well have been in his Not Too Sure Zone and be one of those generous souls who still does what he is told in it.
      Grab those six keys – get your granddaughter to grab them too. How old is she?
      If she gets the Six Keys and starts to think about them in relation to her and her horse, I would be happy to give her a short one on one session to help out with this.

      • Anne 02/06/2014, 1:33 pm Reply

        Thank you Jenny for your quick response and helpful advice. My granddaughter is 18 years old. Archie is a 5 year old Thoroughbred. He recently had fence issues also, twice found tangled in previously good fencing, requiring vet care due to wounds sustained. Could it be “separation issues” as the fencing injury occurred after her other horse had been taken away on lease, and yesterday’s dilemma happened after her other horse (now returned as a companion) had been floated to the vet for a standard check up and then returned. She was floating Archie to a beach area to ride him, away from his “mate”. I will tell Brooke about your site and your Six Keys. Thanks again, Regards, Anne.

        • Jenny 02/06/2014, 2:35 pm Reply

          Ahhh… when you watch and listen to The Six Keys you will read that fear when your horse is unable to act on it is cumulative – each small fear added to the big ones and so on until an explosion happens about something not necessarily dangerous or even particularly scarey in our eyes. Helping Archie to release the (probable) terror from his fence accidents and help him solve his separation anxiety will help reduce his reactions to other scarey things.
          Once she has looked at The Six Keys – here is another free lesson that I put out, about helping a horse to release anxiety from old rope and fence injuries.

          • Anne 02/06/2014, 3:04 pm

            Thanks again Jenny. Apparently Archie has issues with being tied up also. I am sure Brooke will benefit from any ideas you can pass on to her. Her email address is brooke_werner@y7mail.com. if you would contact her personally with any other helpful ideas. Thank you. We unfortunately do not seem to have a Bowen Therapist that treats horses in our area (Geelong).

          • Jenny 02/06/2014, 3:23 pm

            Yes you are right Anne – the tying up issue will want releasing stress and tension from too. I know there are horse Bowen people in the Geelong area – we just have to find one for you! I’ll be in touch with Brooke when she comes through and gets The Six Keys. No point before that, because there is so much information in them that I wouldn’t want to be repeating.

  14. Julie 02/02/2014, 6:53 pm Reply

    Really enjoyed reading this post. Very helpful. I understand the comfort zone concept however today when having a float loading practise session with my gelding we got to the stage where he was almost asleep in the float with me very relaxed, he had let out a big “sigh” and had “chewed” also. When it came time to put up the ramp at the back he ran straight through the “Oh Shit zone” screaming and out the other side. flew out backwards falling over and scaring himself some more. he is good to get into the float and we went back in after a quick check to see if any cuts or ‘ouchies’ and he does eventually relax but as soon as you try to close the ramp he panics. After he stood and relaxed I backed him out and didn’t attempt the ramp again. Wanted to end on a nice point. I don’t have a float and hired this one for the day to practise, What are some exercises we can do to simulate a ramp closing so he can get used to this and be comfortable. He is a gorgeous guy except he flips out with being closed in the float. Generally not too much annoys him and he is like a dog when walking or leading around the paddock. A lot of the time no leads required. He and I switch onto each other and away we go.

    • Jenny 02/03/2014, 6:36 am Reply

      It makes it hard when you have to hire a float to do big float training jobs because when there is this much fear, it usually takes quite some time. Is there any chance of borrowing a friends float?

      And I have to tell you, it sounds like you are doing a great job here!

      I’m thinking that he hasn’t yet released his old history about the float (like we talked about in the Seventh Key to Happiness Julie ) – that there is more layers of it.

      There are a few things to check first though. Check that the float itself is in good travelling condition, as per that list in the floating and travelling article. I know you hadn’t got that far, but he may need the reassurance if he has been in a crappy scarey banging fragile feeling float before.

      I have had to spend some time with some horses, creating baby steps to release the ramp crap that a horse had. i.e me bouncing on the ramp using my early warning signal that something is Not Quite Right to know when to stop and wait for The Chew (it’s important not to do any creeping around), same process with picking the ramp up and squeaking it up and down a couple of inches without trying to close it. How many baby steps can you get in there? Quite a lot!

      I have a funny vision of me doing a float training once with the ramp going up down, up down a couple of inches at first and then higher and higher and me chanting “I must, I must increase my bust”. You will get even more exercise because a lot of hire floats don’t have great ramp springs! 🙂

      So you have some distinct steps there to solve this.
      1. Make sure there’s no reason for him to be afraid, checking brakes and wheel bearings and such. (Hmmm I must do a video on how to do that one day! I have just put that on my blog list.)
      2. Release old trauma about the ramp in small baby steps. I talk about how to release old trauma in The Seventh Key to Happiness with Your Horse.
      3. Gradually expand his comfort zone.
      4. Keep an eye out for other opportunities to release old fears and anxieties and tension for him, because fear is cumulative – each fear adding on to the other. So for example, the oh shit zone flip out in the float could be worse because of an old bad experience with his saddle that needs resolving. Does that make sense?

      Keep in touch with how you go…

  15. Deborah Burgess 11/10/2013, 12:00 pm Reply

    Thanks Jenny – this post is probably one of the best I’ve seen on float loading problems. A surprising amount of people don’t see it from the horses point of view.

    • Jenny 11/10/2013, 12:20 pm Reply

      I guess that’s where we get stuck eh? – when we DON’T see it from their point of view…

  16. Karina Pablo 11/06/2013, 10:40 pm Reply

    Hi Jenny, my horse loads well stands in float well while you are driving but as soon as you slow down or stop he starts rocking backwards and forwards and also piaffes he works himself into a sweat which his legs are hot and lathered with sweat. When you untie him and out the back down on the float he doesn’t rush out and I have to
    Pull his tail for him to come out which he comes off nice and calmly. What are you thoughts?

    • Jenny 11/09/2013, 7:39 am Reply

      Well THAT is an interesting one Karina! For some reason I am being drawn to something like feed as the cause rather than a float training problem. This feels like there is elements of over excitement rather than anxiety. Although we can help our horses change their habits, it’s best to get a handle on this before it becomes a habit.

      How big is he? What type of grazing does he have? And what do you feed him?

      And have you got those free lessons The Six Keys to Happiness with Your Horse off my website yet? The connection with your horse that you will get from those lessons will help get some of this understanding for yourself too. I look forward to hearing back from you!

  17. Ellie 03/17/2013, 9:25 pm Reply

    Hi Jenny what exactly do you mean by the partitions being too deep? I have a straight load float and 2 of my horses have started to scramble. I have’t had my float that long and am just getting into floating again. Enjoyed this post very much. Your imformation is really spot on.

    • Jenny 03/17/2013, 10:32 pm Reply

      By partition I mean the centre divider, Ellie. Some floats have a narrow centre divider that allows the horse to spread their legs nicely out into the next bay of the float so they can balance well and some of them come vertically too far down between the two horse’s bodies and stop them from being able to spread their legs into the next horses space to balance – and not being able to spread their legs will cause a lot of horses to scramble.
      My daughter Mel bought a new huge camping float that has dividers that are part of the beds when they are brought down. And the divider is just too darned close to the ground. If it was my float I would say bugger the beds and cut the divider up so that it was only a simple bar.
      My Bobby who is an absolutely BRILLIANT floater doesn’t like to get on this float unles I tie the centre divider across and give him more room to balance if he needs it.
      Since I can’t cut up a float that is not mine, I guess I am going to have to buy myself another horse float some day! 🙂

  18. Anna-Karin Hägglund 01/18/2012, 7:00 am Reply

    Thank you for a very helpful blog post! I have taken the long way with my horse, waiting for him to get ready. This summer he surprised me when he walked straight on the float.

Leave a Comment