Like most animals, horses do not naturally enjoy walking into an enclosed space, such as a van or trailer. Use as long of a lead rope as possible; you must be able to keep a hold of the horse even if the unexpected happens. A second person or helper will make loading and unloading easier and safer. Most horses that have traveled before with no issues will usually go into a van or trailer with no problems.
Before you begin any type of loading, you should make sure your horse is properly equipped with necessary protective gear. When preparing a horse for shipping, remember that sudden movements may cause the horse to lose balance. For this reason, the leg should be padded up to, and including, the knee and hock. The horse’s poll should also be protected by a head bumper to absorb any type of bumps along the way. A tail guard protects the tail from being rubbed and a summer sheet protects against bumps and knocks without making the horse too hot.
First, approach the trailer from a distance, so the horse has built some momentum when it steps onto the ramp. Walk in a straight line up the ramp. If at all possible, have someone behind the horse; the helper should be behind and to one side of the horse, just within its field of vision. If a single horse is going to be traveling in a two-horse trailer, put it on the side nearest to the middle of the road for a smoother ride. Ask the helper to fasten the bar or chain behind the horse and close the ramp once you are inside the trailer. Next, tie up the horse and make sure that the rope is short enough to not reach a leg through, but long enough to allow the horse to keep its balance. A feeder or hay net can help prevent boredom during the trip.
If the trailer gives you the option to unload at the front, always use this exit. First, remove any equipment that may be stowed in front of your horse. Unfasten the rope that is keeping the head in place and remove the breast bar. In vehicles containing more than one horse, unload the horse nearest to the ramp first. Lead the horse out calmly and try not to let the horse pull you out. You may need to use a lead chain, if necessary. If there is another horse in the trailer, secure the first one, untie the second, move the partition over to widen the exit, and lead the horse out of the trailer.
Unloading from the rear can be difficult since horses do not always move backward easily. Untie the head when you are on the same side of the breast bar as the horse. Have the helper undo the rear bar or chain, and be ready in case the horse pulls backward. Help guide the horse out since it will have a hard time keeping itself straight as it backs up.