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No More Panic: How to Safely Off Load a Nervous Horse from Your Horse Trailer

For some horse owners, that moment right before and after you swing the back trailer door can be very tense.

We have one customer who described loading their horse as a “quick-shut-the-door-screaming” type of moment.

Another customer told us that, during off-loading, her horse always “bails out at a 1,000 mph.”

Anytime that a horse is panicking, it can create a very unsafe situation for both you and your animal.  That is why we have taken special care to design our trailers to fix this problem.

Why Do Horses Want to “Bail” Out of the Trailer?

horse trailer safetyBoth customers mentioned above were talking about their past experiences with older horse trailers.  Since they’ve switched to Double D Trailers, they’ve both experienced dramatic differences in the behavior of their horses during loading and unloading.

First though, let’s look at why horses act this way.

Horses are “fight or flight” animals so they tend to see a horse trailer as a big scary metal box.  It’s confining, often very dark, and makes a lot of strange noises. 

Remember that horses are completely blind to objects that are directly behind them.  When they feel the pressure from a butt-bar or strap lessen behind them, they know that they are soon going to be asked to back off the trailer.

For many horses, this is very nerve wracking and they tend to panic and rush through the process.

Unloading a Nervous Horse Can Be Very Unsafe for the Handler

Other trailer designs can be very unsafe for the horse handler and the horse.  Often, a butt bar or padded chain is the only thing preventing your horse from backing off the trailer after the main door is open.

A handler is required to walk up behind (the nervous) horse and unlatch the butt bar.  For some horses, this is like the trigger on a gun…and the horse is the bullet exploding out of the trailer!

If you are trying to unload your horse without a second helper, then you have another problem to deal with.  How do you untie the horses halter, release the butt bar, and then get back to their head in time to help them back off?

Double D Trailers has come up with two solutions to this off-loading nightmare.

Solution #1:  Our Final Divider Allows Safer Access to Your Horse During Unloading

A typical slant load horse trailer has a stationary rear tack compartment in the back corner of the horse trailer.  The narrow entry door is often blocked by a padded chain or butt bar to hold in the rear most horse.

horse trailer safetyOn a SafeTack Double D Trailer, things are a little different.  Our SafeTack storage compartment is fully enclosed and swings out like a second door.  Even with both back doors fully open, the final horse is still securely held in the trailer by a final full sized partition.

The handler is able to easily walk up to the horse’s head to untie their halter and secure a lead line.  Then, they can release the final divider before helping their horse exit from the trailer.

The advantage with this configuration is that the handler never needs to mess around with latches and chains while standing in the “kick zone.”

Brad Heath, owner and principle designer for Double D Trailers, explained, “Every slant load trailer in the US should be built with a partition for the horse closest to the back doors. The purpose of a stall divider is to keep a horse securely in the stall, until such time the handler is ready to unload.”

He continued, “The majority of slant loads are built with a partition to separate horses from each other, but offer no support for the horse in the most rearward stall.  That horse is sort of left to ‘figure it out’ on his own….so with a panicky horse, he ends up trying to dart out often when the back doors are open….in which case a strap or bar can be a safety hazard.”

Nancy Eaton, from Utah, really likes the extra divider on her 2 horse slant trailer.  She shared, “When I open the back door, my second horse is still secure while I prepare to unload him.  I have a lot more control unloading.  I can easily reach in to untie before releasing the divider.”

She continued, “I feel safe loading too.  One of the options I ordered was extra wide and extra tall since two of my guys are large and have a tendency to raise their heads while loading.  The dividers are a dream to open and close compared to my friends’ trailers and, of course, the ramp makes it much easier.”

Jill from Washington State likes the sturdy and tight fit of the dividers.  They are designed to stay quiet during travel and snap securely into place.  She shared, “I love all of that now -  never a worry heading down the freeway with my guys in this trailer for their safety!”

Solution #2: Walk Your Horse Straight Off the Back of the Trailer

The unique configuration on our SafeTack trailers provides a second advantage to horse owners.  The wide open layout makes it possible for handlers to completely turn their horse so they can walk forwards off the rear of the trailer.  This means no more backing!

Ellen shared, “I find it easy to maneuver the dividers, and it’s easy to turn my horse around so he can step out front first.  This was important when he was recovering from rear suspensory injuries.”

Our trailers also allow for a complete “walk on and walk straight off” experience.

This is because the Double D Trailers SafeTack design comes in both forward and reverse facing configurations.  Often, customers will request to put a side access door and ramp on their trailers.  This way, they can load their horses through one door and then walk straight through to off load through the other door.

For instance, handlers can load from a side ramp and place their horses in a rear facing stall for travel.  When it’s time to off load, they can simply release the dividers and walk their horses straight off the rear of the trailer.

Becky from Washington State was really hoping to find a trailer that allowed her large breed horses plenty of room to maneuver.  She shared, “That’s another reason I went with the reverse.  In theory, my horse was never have to back out. And that just seemed safer to me.  I do have two horses who have loading issue where they would bail out the back at a thousand miles an hour. So I didn't want to have to take them out backwards.  Everybody gets to go forward and I like that.”

Loading and unloading your horse shouldn’t cause you and your horse anxiety.  Instead, it should just be another simple step that allows you to enjoy traveling with your horse trailer.

If you have any questions about the features described in this article, go ahead and contact Brad.  He can help you find the best type of custom horse trailer that will work for your needs.

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