Floating, or transporting, a horse can be a stressful experience for both the horse and you! I don't think we have ever met someone who is extremely comfortable and content with their horse in a float or truck, then driving along busy streets and highways to get to your destination. That’s normal and a common anxiety experienced by many equestrians - all because we love our four legged friends so dearly!
However, with careful preparation and a calm approach, you can ensure a safe and positive experience for you both.
Here are our top tips to floating success and traveling a horse in a safe and calm way ⬇️
Preparation and Familiarisation
Ensure that the float is clean, well-maintained, and properly hitched to the vehicle. Complete a safety check of lights, brakes and any other technical equipment before loading your horse.
If your horse is confident, reassure them and ask them to load onto the float. If your horse is nervous about traveling, try and familiarise your horse with the float by allowing them to explore it in a relaxed environment prior to needing to leave the property. Allow the horse to approach, sniff, and even enter the float voluntarily without any pressure or force.
Introduce your horse to the sights, sounds, and sensations associated with traveling. Gradually expose them to the sound of the loading ramp, the sensation of stepping onto different surfaces, and the confined space of the trailer. Use positive reinforcement techniques, such as treats or praise, to associate the trailer with positive experiences.
Groundwork and Leading:
Establish clear and confident leadership with your horse on the ground prior to working in the space of the float. Practice basic leading and groundwork exercises to ensure your horse respects your cues and follows your direction as their leader.
Teach your horse to move forward, backward, and sideways in response to your cues. This will come in handy when loading and unloading.
Begin by positioning the float in a quiet, safe, well-lit area away from distractions or other animals.
Use a lead rope attached to a properly fitted halter and calmly invite your horse to approach the float.
Walk confidently and calmly towards the trailer, giving clear verbal cues.
Allow the horse to investigate the float without rushing them. Patience is key.
If the horse resists or refuses to load, take a step back and repeat previous desensitisation exercises before trying again.
Horses may have previous trauma from negative floating and traveling experiences, if this is the case, sometimes it is a better investment to work with a professional trainer to help you and your horse get onto the right track in feeling comfortable in the float, traveling and all things associated with that.
Secure and Comfortable Travel
Protect your horse by using a tail boot, travel boots and a light rug if required.
Once your horse is safely inside the float, secure the doors or partitions and ensure they are locked correctly.
Ensure that the horse has enough space to balance and move comfortably.
Provide adequate bedding to absorb shocks and prevent slipping from urine or manure.
During travel, drive smoothly, avoiding sudden stops, turns or acceleration, as these can cause the horse to lose balance and become anxious.
This image shows an Equipad Tail Boot that protects your horse's tail while traveling from rubbing, manure and getting dirty. Available online now.
Upon arrival at the destination, give the horse a few moments to regain balance and composure before opening the float door.
Position yourself at the front of the horse, give a clear verbal cue, and gently ask the horse to back out of the trailer. Be patient and allow the horse to step out at their own pace.
Reward your horse with praise or treats for successfully unloading and remaining calm throughout the process.
If you find your horse is wanting to rush, or is stressed when unloading, the best thing to do is practice this in a controlled environment prior to going to a competition or venue away from the property.
Remember, every horse is unique, and the time required for them to become comfortable with floating may vary, in fact it may never be perfect but practice and training will help and teach you different ways to manage your horse in these situations.
Approach the process with a positive mindset, patience, consistency, and a calm demeanor.
If you encounter significant difficulties or safety concerns, we recommend consulting a professional trainer or experienced horse person for guidance and support.
Putting in the training in a calm and safe environment, will allow both you and your horse the opportunity to experience positive loading, traveling and unloading with minimal anxiety and stress! Which is good for everyone!
Safe travels and wishing you many happy adventures together!