Saturday, January 31, 2009

Not loading, and loading

So yesterday I had a cruddy non-horse day, then I went to the field. I was going to take Dixie over to the main barn and ride in the arena and try to get that elusive floaty connection one more time.


She wouldn't load. I tried a few aimless things. I almost burst into tears, and I was momentarily overwhelmed by the urge to beat the snot out of my horse. (Note: I didn't, and I wouldn't have, but I did have that horrible shake-the-baby-til-it- stops-crying feeling.) I realized that I wasn't mentally ready to deal with that stupid willful wanton lovely highspirited intelligent mare.

I stayed cool. I put her in crossties, brushed her down well, picked out all four feet. Well, I picked out three feet but she would not stop trying to kick me with her back left foot long enough for me to clean it out, so I settled on just holding the leg up til she quit flailing for half a second, then releasing it. It was important to me that she did not completely win the day.

Then I went home, drank a lot of beer, and played Guitar Hero III with my husband til I felt better.

After a good night's sleep, I felt much more centered and quietly determined to load. that. horse. I followed mugwump's method and it worked absolutely perfectly. Long rope run through the front of the trailer. Very calm body language, lunge whip tap-tap-tap-tapping her hocks whenever she quit trying to load. Took all of 90 seconds. I highly recommend it, if you're in the correct frame of mind.

Anyway, I loaded her head-on into the trailer. I've been loading her, letting her turn around (it's 2-horse with no center divider), and tying her facing backwards. I wanted to see how she'd do facing forward. Dixie, uh, she can't ride in that trailer facing forward.

She immediately started pawing, which is her default behavior for when she's annoyed. But she's a Walking Horse and she paws a good two feet off the ground when she gets going. I stood on the side of the trailer, watching her paw, wondering if this was really safe or would she actually no surely she wouldn't surely she has the good sense not to OH FUCK NO! (Anybody know where this is going?)

She put her left foot in the feed manger. The feed manger is more than waist high, with a 3" lip. This was completely horrible and almost panic-inducing because it was actually a real crisis. I stayed cool, and my friend Mark helped me un-fuck her. I reached in through one window and lifted her leg UP as high as I could to clear the lip and he reached in beside me and pulled BACK as hard as he could. Then I unclipped her head, let her turn her happy ass around, and tied her facing backwards.

Then we trailered down the road to my parents. I unloaded her and let her snort and stare and walk in circles around me and eat grass, while I talked to my parents for a while. Then I loaded her again - same system, but it took maybe 30 seconds this time - and we calmly trailered back to the field.

Other notes: K TOOK POPPY ON A TRAIL RIDE! I rode Champ, her daughter T rode Goblin, and Poppy was perfectly content to walk in the middle. More importantly, K was perfectly comfortable on him. She's getting there!

And Cersei got a deer leg to play with - at the field only thank you! My dad's friend got another deer for him, and Dad (upon request) had the processors save the lower legs for dog toys. It's soooo gross and she loves it.


  1. Ah, dogs. Who wouldn't want to gnaw on the leg of a long-dead ungulate?

    I have seen that method for loading in action and it does seem to work. Good on ya for not loosing your cool -- negative loading experiences can last a lifetime.

    I read an article in the past few months that talked about how much safer it is to haul horses facing backward. Dixie is a smart cookie! Glad you got her out of that scary predicament without too much trouble.

  2. Gah! Sounds like a bit of a wild situation! I've had a couple horses do some awfully kooky things while loading - one actually climbed halfway out the window in front of him and it took like 10 people to figure out how to remove him. My first horse wouldn't load when we got him either. It took the better part of three years to actually have him stand quietly once he got in there.

    Glad it all worked out okay!

  3. Yeah, the main thing I wanted to do Friday and Saturday was to balance between "do not terrorize the horse about the trailer" and "do not let the horse get in the habit of refusing to load."

    I am so glad she didn't get seriously hurt. It could've turned into a torn shoulder or a broken leg so fast. Very scary stuff. Next time I'm out, I'll take a picture of the (extremely unsafe) feed manger setup.

  4. Most horses prefer to trailer facing backward . . . someday when i have all the money in the world i am going to order my dream trailer, a custom Turnbow reverse slant with a side ramp and a rear ramp. They load in the side, and walk forward out the rear--no turning around, no backing out, no weirdness, no nothing. AWESOME . . .


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