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Notes that may help anyone going for their BHS Stage 1 exam or doing their NVQ level 1 or 2 in Horse Care and Riding
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Post by TracingEquines » 19 Nov 2011, 2:30 pm



Check that the vehicles are roadworthy; for example, road tax, brakes, oil, water, tyres, lights, connections etc.
Park the vehicle in a safe location for loading; for example, an enclosed area from which the horse cannot escape. Use a quiet area with as few distractions as possible. An inexperienced horse may distrust the loading process and attempt to break loose. Distractions may cause the horse to back out of the box or to refuse to go in at all

The ramp must rest firmly and not rock on uneven ground

Both ramp and internal flooring must be non-slip. Rubber matting is ideal. This can be lifted out and washed clean periodically. At the same time, check that the floor underneath is sound and not showing any signs of rotting. Alternatively, straw will provide a good surface, but must be cleaned out frequently

The inside of the box must be free of any protrusions that might cause an injury if leant against or knocked into

Partitions, breast bars and doors must be completely secure

Check that there is string on the tie up rings

Remove loose items, such as buckets, which might move or rattle and become entangled with or frighten the horse

If the horse is likely to be difficult, park the box alongside a wall or hedge. This will help guide the horse up the ramp. It is also helpful to park the box with its rear towards a slope or bank, if available. When the ramp is let down, it will rest on the slope, making it level or nearly so. With less of a slope, the horse will walk in with more confidence

Horses may feel claustrophobic and/or cautious about entering an enclosed box. To help, open any top front doors of a trailer, push partitions to one side and make the compartment as airy and light as possible. With a front-unload trailer, keep the front ramp closed or the horse may try to rush in and go straight out of the front opening


The horse, clothed for travelling, should be led out with a bridle over the top of its head collar and rope. A bridle gives you more control when leading. Once in the box, the bridle can be slipped off, leaving the head collar and lead rope to tie the horse up with

The leader must wear gloves, hard hat and strong footwear for protection. It may also be helpful to carry a stick. A quick tap may be all it takes to encourage a hesitant horse

The horse should be led at a purposeful walk straight towards the ramp

An assistant must be available to put up the ramp and also to help if the horse is reluctant to go in. Take care never to stand directly behind a ramp, as it may fall on you if the horse rushes backwards. Two assistants are needed for safe opening and closing of heavy ramps

Always keep looking straight ahead. Never look back towards the horse, even if it stops. You will only discourage forward activity

Once in, hold the horse while the breaching strap is fastened and the ramp or partition is locked in place. The horse is now secure and can be tied up with a quick-release knot

Take care not to give the horse too much rope when tied up. It should not be able to fight with the horse next door, get its head caught under the front of the partition or attempt to turn round

For horses which chew their ropes, have a length of chain tied to the tie up string and clip this to the head collar once the horse is loaded. The lead rope can then be removed


Untie the horse before the breaching is undone, the ramp let down or the partition opened

If the horse is likely to be difficult, slip on a bridle for greater control

With a box or trailer designed for the horse to walk out forwards, simply encourage it to walk slowly. Allow it to stop and take in its surroundings if it wants to. Keep it straight to prevent it from hitting its hips on the side of the box or slipping off the edge of the ramp

If you are using a rear-unload trailer, the horse's main problem is not been able to see what it is backing out on to. Assistants should stand on each side of the ramp and place a hand on the horse's hindquarters to guide it straight and reassure it

The horse may try to turn around which will make it particularly inclined to come out crooked. Once it can see where it is, allow it to look around and take everything in

The Journey

If the horse has a smooth and comfortable journey, it will gain confidence and becoming a willing traveller, walking confidently in and out of the box when required

Stopping and starting at crossings and driving round bends require adjustments in the horse's balance, therefore the driver must make sure there are very gradual changes in speed and direction to prevent injury to the horse or loss of confidence

Be aware that low branches scraping against the roof of the box, or any other unexplained noises will frighten the horse. Try to avoid this when possible

Young horses should gain confidence from travelling with a companion

It is important to asses the weather conditions along with the type of box before deciding what clothing to put on the horse. When travelling, the horse can generate a considerable amount of heat. If there are several horses in the box and the box is quite enclosed, each horse can become quite hot, especially if the rugs worn are too thick. This can cause the horse to become distressed

The Difficult Loader

If the horse refuses to enter the box, there are several ways to encourage it. Different tactics work with different horses. Remember to build up the horse's confidence and do not scare it. All handlers should wear protective clothing

An assistant can stand inside the box and offer a small bucket of feed. Allow the horse a mouthful of feed each time it progresses a few steps

Two assistants can hold a lunge line or soft rope around the horse's hindquarters, just above its hocks. Pressure is applied as the assistants walk forward on either side of the horse. This encourages the horse to walk forward. Take great care not to let the horse become entangled in the line

Some horses suddenly gain confidence if each of their feet is picked up in turn and placed a little further up the ramp. In effect, you are moving the horse's legs for it

More experienced but stubborn characters will often respond to a quick tap with a whip on the hindquarters or a quick prod with the brush end of a yard broom

Load a well-behaved and experienced horse into the box first. This may give confidence to the other horse and encourage it to go in

Whatever happens, it is vital that the leader should keep the horse straight. If the horse understands that it cannot escape around the side of the box, it will eventually go forward

Reward the horse with feed once it is inside and secure

Because of the enclosed space in which you are working, and the nature of a frightened horse, loading horses into boxes or trailers is potentially dangerous and every care and precaution should be taken


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