Saddle Up With Beth Eva: Halter breaking continued

Beth Eva | Contributed
Owner of Heartland Ranch

Hello Everyone!

Beth Eva here to not only further explain halter breaking from where I left off in my prior article, but to introduce my process of trailer loading. Maintaining consistency in training is critical in the training process. As such, I will lead the horse around the entire property, including potentially “scary” items such as tarps, logs, or puddles of water if present. If they walk over these items without fear or objection, we continue on. If not, I will desensitize according to the level of objection.

In addition, I will lead them to the wash rack – utilizing the same process noted above. Thus, my process will insure that the horse will lead quietly around the property without being worried or scared about various objects. Upon a horse demonstrating comfortable and proper leading, I will  continue with more advanced lunging. Unlike my prior article of introducing lunging, at this point the horse should walk, trot, lope, change direction, and stop when asked through proper body movement and placement, instead of a ‘bump’ from a long lead line.

When I ask a horse to stop, I want them to learn that doing so is a point of rest and relaxation. After stopping, I observe to see if they “lick and chew” as a sign of message sent and understood. When approaching, I make sure they have both of their eyes on me. If not, I will move to the right or left, or back up to draw their eyes to me. Only when they keep both eyes on me while approaching will I reward them by rubbing their forehead. This step is very important to effectively communicate with the horse.

Before leading them out of the round pen, I will place my hand on their “pole” with light pressure to teach them to drop their head. Should there be any resistance, I will adjust my technique accordingly. My ultimate goal is to teach the horse to drop their head soft and willingly with the least amount of pressure, which leads to standing quiet while tied at the hitching post. Standing quiet while tied teaches patience, regardless of the period of time they are tied before being lead away, which is great completed step when introducing trailer loading.

Loading a horse into a trailer may be very scary to a horse, especially if it is a small trailer as the horse views the small trailer as much more confining. My trailer is a large four-horse slant load which is easier to teach horses to load into given the large open space it has, therefore much less confining. When introducing a horse to my trailer, my technique is as follows: First, I lead them to the loading area of the trailer and move them around in one direction or the other to maintain them focusing on me. If the horse wants to lick or smell the trailer, I allow them as long as their energy is directed at going in the trailer. I then lead them to the rear of the trailer, at which point I step in and rub their head as a reward. If they are quiet and compliant during this, I will ask them to take a step forward. If the horse complies, I will release pressure on their lead and reward with a rub on their head. Provided these steps are done with compliance, the horse may follow you in the trailer. Once in, they realize being in the trailer is a comfortable place to be as I keep good hay in the feed bag for them. Horses are naturally relaxed when eating, which reinforces a positive environment.

Additionally, having hay in the feeder does not serve as a bribe to load in the trailer, given they didn’t know it was there until after they got in. While they are eating, I will rub different parts of their body such as hip, head, neck and back, which enhances their relaxation. When unloading, I will turn them in a complete circle many times before leading them forward and unloading them, allowing me as the handler to decide when the horse can unload. Additionally, this process is performed on a daily basis.

Once this process is completed with compliance, you’ll be able to load your horse by pointing and sending them in while you stay on the outside. This process is a broad overview. As such, every horse is different and I urge you to not hesitate in contacting myself or another qualified trainer for questions related to this process or what to do should problems arise. Handler patience and proper timing is critical as horses do not want to be disciplined and would much rather learn to please you.

Until next time, when I discuss the steps necessary to completion of halter breaking, be safe and enjoy your horses!

Have a blessed Day!

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me at