Midwest Horse Welfare Foundation, Inc. ----Discussion Forum

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I am sure this topic has come up in the past; do you prefer a step up trailer or a ramp load?
Pros and Cons to both.  (actually more accurate, what does your horse prefer?)

Our horses don't care either way and do both often (Best friend has a 2 horse with ramp which we use for nearby trips)  Our trailer is a step-up 3 horse we use for camping or when the 3 of us go together.

The only thing I have noticed, could be just coincidence, but a couple of our friends have finicky loaders.
When their horses load in their ramp trailers "sometimes," they him and haw, 2 feet up the ramp, then 2 feet back, then sometimes it becomes a longer ordeal.
It seams like they typically will just jump in our step-up, maybe because once a foot in they seem to go all-in so to speak.  I did see twice where 2 dif. horses slipped and fell on a ramp as they loaded or unloaded when it was rainy out.  I am not saying anything bad about a ramp load as our horses load in either without issue, just wondering what your preferences are (sometimes we take what we get and just make it work of course too)

Am waiting for the comments from a few wise crackers here that they prefer the trailers with: the 2 queen beds, AC, Fireplace, Fridge, Microwave, Jacuzzi, Big screen TV, etc. 

I don't prefer one over the other, but I can say that with having the opportunity to load and watch people load hundreds and hundreds of horses in all different kinds of trailers, the type of trailer that is the most likely to cause an issue for a horse, i.e., the horse being hesitant to get in or refuse to get in, is a 2 horse straight load with a ramp.  As a matter of fact, when I see someone show up with a 2 horse straight with a ramp now I cringe and hope for the best.  :)  LOL! 
Karen, that is interesting you say that, as our 2 friends with the finicky loaders have 2 horse straights with ramps.  Now I am not saying their horses never load, they do well 80% of the time.  It is just those times where they walk up the ramp, then back down, then back up, then back down and the next thing they seem not to even want to step on the ramp or vear to the side at this point and we know we are in for a long session (that is when we bring "stunt" horse Jett in, he loads 1st time, grabs a bit of hay in the manager then their horse will usually load right up, unload Jett, put him in our trailer and we are off)

Con of a step-up, is they have to "back-up" when unloading and feel that no-step with back legs kind of blind and seems to take a bit of practice also.  Sanch would feel that no-step and kind of come out like a stick of dynamite with his head high (had to Velcro a pool noodle on the ceiling at the entrance so he would not bump his head at first as he came out)  Jett the goof can turn in our 3 horse with NP when unloading and walk out front-ways but I make him back also at times, and of course he has to back out of a straight loads which has not been an issue (I say no issues laughing at myself, there were issues with Jett first few months when it came to trailers for sure)

Just kind of an interesting subject, which are easier esc. for horses that have not had a lot practice getting into the "tin-can cave."  I think we all would agree with a bit of practice either is not a problem but was kind of thinking of those that "occasionally trailer" what would be easiest.  Your vast exp. Karen kind of confirmed what I have casually noticed.

I hope no one that reads this that has a ramp load thinks they made a mistake, I see about 50 / 50. Again I stress, our horses could care less at this point what they load in and would be fine with either.  My personal preference is the step-up just due to a slippery ramp possibility when loading in the rain.

side note, I realize sometimes a rookie horse has to be lead into a trailer but that is not ideal for an exp. horse / handler, hopefully all are working on directing your horse into the trailer so you are not pinned in if something went bad, and we all know nothing can ever go bad with a horse in a tight spot right?  (sc)  Lead him to the trailer entrance, a lil cue or encouragement so he steps in, secure the butt bar or gate and all is good.  Walk to the front side door or window and secure his halter to the trailer lead.  I have seen a few pinned against the manger  / front of the trailer as they lead -pulled their horse in and it always makes me cringe how dangerous that could be.  One should not have to be in the trailer with their horse other then to close his gate after he is in or secure the butt bar / strap and you have easy exit.

I prefer a step up.  Horses just seem to load easier in a step up.  I've seen people have all kinds of problems loading horses into trailers with ramps.
Anna WI
and as odd as it is, I have a 2 horse straight load with a ramp. I have never had issues with this and have hauled a lot of horses in it. I hauled 1 horse who the owner said took them 3 hours to load the last time, and flipped herself over in the process so she hadn't been hauled since. Tony and I went over early to haul the horse, and I let the mare check out the trailer and the ramp first and she literally walked right in. I noticed when I asked her to back out she was really worried about the step off, until she realized there was no step off.

I also hauled Sheba in this trailer and right away her old owner made a comment about the ramp, but Sheba wasn't one bit worried about the ramp, she was more worried about just getting into a small area.
I have had both step up's and ramp loads.  I have had con's and pro's.

One thing I noticed with the ramp load that helped with horses who were hesitant to go in, was that they didn't like the springiness of the ramp.  It helped if we put something on the ramp heavy enough to keep the ramp down.

I once had a horse that was very difficult to load in a step up, but she wasn't bad with the ramp once I figured out the trick to getting her in.  She didn't like any small box, but she was taught to park out.  With the ramp I was able to get her to park out all the way up into the trailer without issues.  I would not have been able to do that with a step up.

I also had a 4 place head-to-head trailer.  The same horse above gave me a huge scare one day.  I loaded her up and backed her into her spot with the chest bar across.  I drove to my mom's to pickup my sister and her horse.  We went to put her horse in the trailer and for some odd reason, my horse decided to try to jump out of her stall.  She was stuck over the bar with her hind legs still in the stall and her front end out.  I was terrified for her safety.  Because she had all her weight on the bar, we couldn't pop the pin out to pull the bar out.  Luckily my dad was home and had a punch to put in there.  It took what seemed like forever to get her out, but it was probably only 5 or 10 min.  She came out with some abrasions, but other than that she was fine. From that point forward I either converted the stalls into box stalls or lead them in head first and tied them in that way.  Hard lesson learned!

Side-ways note:

We are tacking-up our horses last year when I hear; "help! and clumping from a trailer" from another trailer near by, You know this will not be good...

Her horse is panicking because of a hoof caught in a hay net in the trailer as they went to unload.  We have a panic moment here and it is getting bad.  I pull out my $3 lil trail knife and cut the net away fast and no issue.  It was like jumping into a pop can that had a lit fire-cracker in it.  Moral of the story, never go on trail without your knife. 
Better yet.   Get those hay bags up higher.  

RE  Ramp vs Walk-in trailers--there are many other details to be concerned about such as safety concerning complete rig on the road.  Just saw an antique licensed motor home towing a stock trailer with 3 horses.  Very much overloaded.   With 5 vehicles following just waiting to pass on a open stretch flat area of state highway, the speed of this rig at the time was 40 MPH.  Safe rigs in traffic was not apparent here.  Seeing rigs pulling into destinations with the trailer front high in the air and the rear of the trailer almost hitting the road isn't comfortable for animals nor is it safe to drive.   Trailers are built to be hauled leveled out.    Could go on and on about non-safe rigs seen at various events.
Wendy W - WI
I've only had step ups so I can't compare.... other than saying both my large horses and mini's have no problem with it.  As far as feeding hay.....how many people do that?  I never do.  I would if we were going across country, but for an hour or two?  I don't feed.  
Wendy, we usually have hay in nets if 2 hours or so in trailer, hung high.  Not saying they need it but just our preference.  Amazing how much they have munched on the trip.  Am sure they would not panic if they did not have it though.

If I had a horse who didn't trailer well or one that was super nervous and anxious, I probably would not feed them because I would worry about the risk of choke.  But yes, we put hay in our trailer for our horses when we take them somewhere.  They seem to enjoy it.  I like a snack when I'm going on a boring road trip sometimes too.  :)   Our trailer also has the hanging feeders right in each stall in each corner up high (something the trailer came with, not added and not a net). 
I'm with Karen, I like snacks on my road trips...LOL!  And my horses get hay to munch on no matter what the length of trip.  I have a permanent tie, and use nibble nets; have never had any trouble with them in the trailer.
Heard a older fellow in a western state this summer say that his equine go easily in the trailer the first time traveling in the summer, then the next times they do not want to get caught or load.  He says they know what is in store for them in the trailer ride and the work they have to do when they reach the destination trail ride.   To me, that's a pessimistic attitude.    My equine love to load and head out the driveway.  Why?  Could it be because they love to have a hay snack waiting for them in the trailer nearly every trip.  Or, because they are going to do something they enjoy.
Anna WI
I always give my horses hay no matter how long the trip is.
Our horses usually come running to the gate and load very well, seem to be excited to be going somewhere.

1. We typically have hay in the nets in the trailer
2. 3 horse slant so they poke their heads out and almost always get a treat
3. When we ride, our horses get plenty of plush graze breaks (we are not on a mission of distance but rather time with our horses and if we come across an apple tree or some nice graze we have no problem stopping and letting them enjoy)  Endurance riders we are not.
4. We camp often and spoil the heck out of them (grooming, showers, treats, hay all the time, grazing in the park, etc.)

Jett is like a lil kid, all excited we are going somewhere.  I have to be careful not to leave the trailer door open at times as he will just hop in without me even knowing.  You should see the Scoobs when he knows we are packing up for a ride or camping, sits right by the truck door (you are not leaving without me)

I swear it is like taking the kids on a camp trip; where we going, are we there yet, do they have graze there, did you remember the treats, you did bring bug spray right, did you pack the grain for B-Fast at the picnic table, are there apples on the trail, will our friends be there...
Well it was an interesting Sunday; a friend asked if we could trailer her (well not her's yet as she is fostering) green OTTB to a trainer.  We used our friends 2 horse straight load with ramp.  As predicted this young TB was not too happy to load but with some consistent pressure - success after about 30 minutes.  She is quite nervous and I know she is going to unload like a firecracker, sure enough she comes out fast and hard and slips on the ramp.  Same thing when we brought her back.

My question is; have any of you used a type of mat or shingles or anything that provided better traction for trailer ramps?  The current ramp has rubber mat with horizontal ridges and does not seem to be overly worn-down (typical 2 horse Feather-Lite)
If at all possible, when trailering this green horse, I would use a different trailer without a ramp until someone can work with her and get her used to the ramp and trailering and avoid the ramp issues all together.  (simplest solution I could come up with)
I agree Karen, only problem, our roomy 3 horse slant load was kind of frozen in [frown] so we only had the 2-horse ramp option.

I would really like to find some material I could put on the ramp so the horses don't slip.  I even thought about roof shingles or something.  I need to engage my engineering side of my brain...  As mentioned above, when you have easy load horses it really is not a problem, it is the stubborn ones that all this gets magnified.

On a side note;  I have mentioned this before, while far from any sort of expert, it makes such a difference when people spend time on ground work - horse stepping past them and over something on command.  If they won't do that, good luck getting them in the "tin can cave"  This was a classic case of that.
Kelly S
We got a new trailer last year and this is the first time we have a ramp.    In fact, the only reason we got the ramp was because the trailer had to go back to the manufacturer because of some cosmetic flaws and they threw it in for the inconvenience.

So far I love it.  Of the four we have right now, one is a 1 in 10 time problem loader.  (And she is the one I put in the ditch a few weeks back if you remember my story, so NOT looking forward to the next load!!)  All of the horses do really well with the ramp loading, but what I really love is how calm all of them unload now.  None of them ever shot out like a rocket, but they would do the "stutter step" until they reached the step down.  Now they calmly and confidently back out.  We have loaded in pouring rain and our ramp isn't the least bit slippery, but it is a very textured material.

The only thing I don't like about the ramp, is there are a few things I keep stored in the rear tack.  Now I have an extra step to get to those things, but it is easy to do even with one person.
The only reason I suggested using a different trailer without a ramp for this green horse is because the horse is green, it is a 2-horse straight load with a ramp, the horse obviously had an issue with the ramp, and the issue sounds like it could have caused injury (or still could if they have the issue again if the horse can't be worked with on trailering with this particular trailer before they trailer again).  We load and unload a lot of different horses in a year's time, and with horses who are not already well trained to load and unload, we are almost always guaranteed to have a loading and/or unloading issue with a 2-horse straight load with a ramp (to the point we cringe when we see one pull in the driveway, because even horses who have loaded and aren't green will sometimes even have issue with a 2-horse straight load with a ramp, and we don't have one around to practice with for any of them....LOL)
Jenni O.
So that's a great idea for a trail challenge obstacle! The straight load trailer of doom. I can see a ramp being nice for horses once they get used to it, but I can see them not readily loading with one if it's a new thing. It's like a bridge, but it moves more, and it's at an angle, and it opens into a metal box. What horse doesn't love all of those things?!?

I don't feed hay in the trailer. If we go on longer trips we stop to offer hay and water. And I usually bring a bag to tie to the trailer for before and after the ride.

My horses do the stutter step a little when they back out, but they've learned that I say "back" when they have room, and "step" means to look for the end. I know Gus has issues if he is put in the last slant. He's used to having to back up a little, and he can't grasp that the back end is right there. He gets the hinds on the ground, gets confused and comes back in. Geldings!
I appreciate everyone's experiences on such matters but I will return the subject back to; does any one know of a good material for traction on a ramp???  Do those bathtub strips work, roof tiles, etc.?

Loading is a subject that is well versed here and we all have dealt with, and a worthy one at that, I was just wondering if anyone had ideas on ramp footing.

This is not an issue for my horses but it seems every year we are asked to trailer a horse from here to there, and yes we are suckers and it always seems we deal with a green horse on such events.  As we all know, loading is part of training, traction is another issue in and out.

No issues with our step-up, 3 - slant, but winter is not an option as it is part of a snow bank for about 2-3 months.  Well in any case, if any have traction ideas for the ramp, please share.


John, in your original question you said, "My question is; have any of you used a type of mat or shingles or anything that provided better traction for trailer ramps?  The current ramp has rubber mat with horizontal ridges and does not seem to be overly worn-down (typical 2 horse Feather-Lite)"

The reason I answered the way I did, suggesting either working with the horse before trailering or borrowing a different type of trailer for a green horse, was because it sounds like the ramp that is on the trailer is probably sufficient from your description (and assuming you haven't had issues with horses who load from the sounds of it), but the problem was caused because of the horse being "green" and not worked with on this type of trailer and using a ramp.  

But, there are things you can do to make more traction on a trailer ramp that I've seen  For a DIY, over the rubber matting you can put cleats made of wood.  Short pieces of wood, about 1"x2" most of the width of the ramp.  You can also buy material to put over the ramp, like coco mats, you can look at that here at this link:  http://www.coirmats.com/horse-trailer-coco-mats.html  
or here:  http://www.thematking.com/business_industry/industrial/animalmats/equine/horse_van_ramp_cocoa_mats.htm
To give you an idea of how to make something like that yourself. 
Or you could even be sure you have a little sand with next time and throw some sand on the ramp before you load and unload.  

Awesome Karen, just what I was looking for [idea]  These look perfect
Terri Moore
When I picked up Star and Spirit, I had to first go to Mondovi and get my trailer. I am a huge fan of Stock trailers, and bought a stock combo from Loomis Lazy L trailer sales. In my experience, a step-up stock trailer is the easiest to load. A little more open, a bit brighter, and no ramp. Of course, minis can just be "stuffed in" (right, Scott? LOL). Trailer trips to nowhere are in the kids future.
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