heading5.gif (24204 bytes)
By A. & M. McLean,  The Australian Equine Behaviour Centre,
Clonbinane Road,  Clonbinane Victoria 3658  Australia.
Phone (03) 5787 1374   Fax: (03) 5787 1220  e-mail

About the Authors:
Andrew and Manuela McLean are acknowledged experts on the subject of horse training and understanding equine behaviour.  Training the horse to load easily on a float is usually a procedure that presents no problems if approached correctly.  These notes are intended to give guidance and a step by step method that will work in most cases.   If the horse has already demonstrated difficulties in this part of the education process, or has had a bad experience, you may need to discuss your individual problems with Andrew and Manuela.  The e-mail address is included. 

Before you begin to try and load a horse on a float, be sure that you know what you are doing.  Seek the assistance of an experienced person as you may begin bad habits that take a very long time to cure. 


amfloat.jpg (7505 bytes)Aim:  The horse learns to step forward or backwards calmly into and out of a horse float.

You should be able to halt the horse at any point on the way in or out using the reins, and later the lead rope.  You should be able to move the horse forward when trained using any of the following:

  1. the reins
  2. the lead rope; or
  3. the whip;

After halting at any point on the tailgate or inside the float.  The horse should be completely calm, straight and obedient at all times.  The horse should not feel enough stress to begin sweating.'

Action:  The horse should walk calmly on or off a horse float in response to the forward and backward action of the reins on the bit, and to a tap from the dressage whip.

Important:  In this exercise, after the horse gives a clear response, be completely silent, except to say "good boy".  You may also combine the words with a soft scratch at the base of the mane, as a reward.

Note:  Before beginning this exercise your horse should be well trained in the 'Stop and Go' exercises in my leaflet Gaining Calmness and Clear Responses in Hand.


  • Floating should initially be trained with a bit in the horse's mouth, so it is possible to give cues for clear backwards steps, and precise halts.
  • Prepare the float by removing any dangerous projections, ensuring that the floor is dry. Open the central partition to maximum width and secure it.
  • Stand on the nearside between the horse's head and shoulder, facing its rump so that you can notice and attend to the horse's incorrect responses (you will face the same way as the horse only when his responses become correct ones.)
  • Your left hand, which is holding the reins, should be about 20 cm from the horse's chin -  just below and behind it.  Have a dressage whip in your right hand with your index finger pointing to the whip tip.
  • For this exercise - forward movement - you should tap on the floppy muscle above the elbow (because it is always in reach) and not on the horse's ribcage, even if he rushes backwards.
  • Your whip will be used to provide relative discomfort when the horse does not lead from the light forward-leading pressure of the reins.  So every time you tap the horse, you must precede and overlap the tapping with this mild head pressure, because you are training him to eventually respond to the suggestion of the reins (and later the lead rope) as the only cue.  The head pressure therefore is the mild motivator, the whip-tap is the strong motivator, and stopping both as soon as the horse responds correctly is the primary reward.  So when the horse steps forward, soften the lead and cease tapping instantly.
  • If the horse runs forwards, or panics at the new cue, stop him immediately with the reins.
  • The horse should move forward and backwards calmly before you begin to load him.  When the horse gives calm, clear, and precise responses to 'Stop" and 'Go', he is ready to approach the horse float.
  • The handler should aim to keep the horse facing the interior of the float at all times.  Under no circumstances is the horse allowed to turn away and be re-presented.
  • If the horse looks away to the left, straighten his head by vibrating the right rein, and vice versa. Be strict about having the horse face forward, as looking away is a precursor to turning away.
  • To move the horse towards the float, lead up and tap the horse as described above.  Continue tapping if the horse moves sideways (because it is not forward movement and not correct).

    Reminder:  Whenever the horse steps forward, the mild lead pressure and the tapping MUST cease immediately.

  • If the horse runs backwards you must run with him, and continue tapping until he steps forward, no matter how far he runs.  Tap more intensely the more he resists forward, and the faster he runs backwards.

  • If the horse rears and spins away, do not stop tapping (otherwise you will train him to rear).  Continue tapping until he steps forward, then instantly soften the rein and cease tapping.

  • As before, if the horse runs forward, he must be stopped from running immediately with the reins.

  • If the horse goes onto the float and then begins to run out, begin tapping and maintain mild head pressure immediately he begins to run backwards.  Soften and cease when he steps forward.

  • If the horse turns his head and neck at any point in the float, he must be straightened instantly by vibrating the reins in the opposite direction.

  • Continue the system of 'Stop' and 'Go' until the horse is in the float.
  • At any point, you will know the training is successful when you can load the horse half way, change your mind, and back him off the float again.   Practise taking the horse four steps on, two steps off, three steps back on, and so on.


  • You have trained the initial stages of loading successfully when the horse will take controlled steps at all times forward or backwards, on and off the float.
  • Now you are ready to turn around and face the same direction as the horse, holding the reins in your right hand and the whip in your left hand, across your right hip. pointing to the horse's ribs.
  • When the horse is loading successfully and calmly with no mistakes, and you can stop and go wherever you wish, you are ready to half close the float's central partition so that the horse has only the normal space to walk through.

  • When the horse loads into this new space calmly and successfully, you can begin 'casting' the horse into the float.   That is, you do not quite go all the way into the float, instead sending him a little past you.  To 'shape' this training, you take less and less steps into the float, moving the horse farther past you each time.

  • At this stage, if he slows, you can give him a mild tap with the whip to continue moving him into the front of the float.

  • You must not proceed to any of these levels until you have achieved the previous ones with absolute calmness and obedience.  If you do, you may risk a dangerous situation - always stand clear of the horse's back legs.

  • Finally, you are ready to load the horse in an ordinary headcollar.

Jeep, Hayman Reese & JR Easy Traveller
- the perfect towing combination.

Forward to: Travel Sickness
Back to:  The Horse
Back to: Contents