Boxing clever

A horsebox is a moving black hole and persuading your best friend to enter it requires patience, says Kim Dyson.

Let the horse smell the box and become accustomed to the light difference.
Photo: Kim Dyson

It’s 5am and your class at the show is first. Your horse is groomed, its hooves polished. You put on its beautiful purple box gear and lead it to the horsebox. Then… Panic stations! The horse won’t get in, and time’s running out… An even worse scenario is the horse that won’t get into the box to go home. Then you’re likely to find yourself surrounded by well-meaning helpers, all proffering conflicting advice. At one time or another, we’ve all had to deal with a horse that won’t get into a horsebox. Even an experienced horse can refuse to enter that ‘black hole’.

Hard to box
Reasons a horse can become hard to box include:

  • Having had a bad experience in a box – the sudden corner and brutal braking or abrupt accelerating can all be unnerving. This horse will fear what is about to happen and so would rather not enter the box.
  • Some horses are frightened by trucks rumbling by, while headlights at night can also be unnerving.
  • Many horses are claustrophobic; or may have a fear of the darkness or ‘sound’ of the horsebox.

Moving stable
Your horse must see the horsebox as a moving stable. It should be comfortable and contain food. Park the horsebox next to a wall or in a passage. Make sure the entrance looks inviting. It’s essential that the horsebox doesn’t rock when the horse puts its feet on the ramp. This will frighten it. Also, never tug on the head collar. The greedy horse with a pony-like temperament will follow you in for food. The more nervous horse will likely stop at the bottom of the ramp.

But it will take any horse a few minutes to adjust to the darkness of some boxes – essentially it’s climbing into the box blind.
Remember, too, how unnerving the sound of the box floor is for the horse. It’s a hollow sound, indicating to the horse it’s somehow above ground now. Always start with the most subtle way of persuasion – head collar, then a bridal, then an anti-rearing bit, then stallion chain, then blindfold.

If these fail you’ll need three people, two lunge lines and a whip. Buckle one lunge line to one side of the box and the other line to the other side of the box. Walk the horse up the ramp, let the other two people take the line and hold it just under its tail, gently encouraging it to move inside the box. Wear gloves when loading. The horse that pulls away from you could leave you with a nasty rope burn. Let it run until the end of your lunge line, so it thinks that it is its idea to come forward. No one likes to be forced!

Contact Kim Dyson on 082 888 6511 or at [email protected]. Please state ‘Horse therapy’ in the subject line of your email.