Saturday, April 24, 2010

I don't have to win them all

First - I'm gonna do this post as a two-parter. I'll write about my Transportation Issues here, then I'll write about the actual trail trial ride over on Tales from the Trail, Gundiva's other blog.

So today was our shakedown cruise in the new trailer. Boy, I'm glad I did it! I had an awesome time at the ride, I hung out with awesome people, and I ran into and worked through some Big Issues. I hope I worked through them. We shall see.

I got most of my horse stuff stowed in the tiny tack area - everything except the bale bag, the shovel, and the horse blankets. I can cram the blanket bag in the tack area, and the bale bag will just have to ride in the back of the pickup (or backseat of the pickup if it rains - sorry, honey!) The shovel and muck fork can ride in the bed even if it rains.

Dixie loaded in the trailer pretty well, and the trailer really does tow like a dream. I left the divider in the center as a straight load. We were on the highway, headed down the hill into town, when she kind of had a fit back there - she flailed around for a few seconds, then settled back down before I could get really worried. It happened twice more before we got to the ride. Every time, I weighed the pros and cons of pulling off and finding somewhere safe and trying to fix whatever was wrong versus just getting to the ride where I'd have help to fix whatever was wrong, and less chance of a loose horse on a road. I decided to keep going, but I was very glad when we made it.

What was happening was that somehow she was getting tangled up in her feet and stepping on her front heel bulbs, then flailing around trying to get her feet back under her. Poor thing, her front heel bulbs were bloody with interference marks. She was covered in sweat and trembling - and she couldn't figure out how to unload. Maybe she hasn't ever had to back out of a straight load? She sure acted like it.

It took forty five minutes for Dixie to decide to back out of that trailer. A ton of people came by and we tried all kinds of things, then I finally told them to go ride and pulled out my folding chair. I sat down and all of a sudden Dixie backed out of the trailer like it ain't no thang, walked over to a patch of grass, and started eating.

Then we rode - post forthcoming. I will say that after the ride, while I ate lunch and hung out with people, she cocked a leg and went to sleep tied to the trailer. And she never pawed or got pissy about being tied there, so that's a good sign.

When we got ready to leave again, Dixie decided she'd rather live at Washoe Lake than ever get in the trailer again. I can't really blame her - it bit her feet and made her back off a cliff - but sometimes you gotta suck up and do what you don't want to do. I did change the divider from straight load to slant load, but it was still a big fight to get her in the trailer.

Well. I tried very hard not to fight. I had to tie her back up and go sit down somewhere else and breathe deeply several times. But I didn't lose my temper. And she eventually got in the truck. And she rode great in the slant! She even had an extra-long trip - I made it most of the way back to 395, realized I forgot something, drove back to the park, got caught up in talking to Sarah for a long time, then drove back to LV. No pawing, no kicking, no interference freakouts, just stood and ate hay. So that was awesome.

But then she wouldn't unload. She just refused. I waited her out and did the same things I did in the morning - jiggling the halter and asking her to back up, pulling on her tail and asking her to back up, poking her in the chest and asking her to back up, cussing her and threatening to sell her at the Fallon auction - nothing. She wasn't budging. I got some grooming supplies and curried her side and brushed out her mane and tail completely, on the theory that she doesn't like to be groomed so I'd annoy her out of the trailer. Nothing (but she sure looked fantastic!) My PBO hung out with me the whole time, and she tried luring her out with grain. Nothing.

After an hour and a half, I decided Dixie was going to stay in the trailer til she died rather than back out. I tied her head back up and pulled the partition, then untied her and let her turn around. I really worried that she'd get stuck or cut herself somehow turning around (and what on earth would you do? Call the fire department?) but I felt like I was out of options. And I felt SO sorry for my poor horse - she just had this look in her eyes like she had completely given up. I feel so bad for putting her in that kind of position.

She turned around just fine and stepped out really gracefully. She let me hook a finger in her halter and walk with her back to her pen, had a drink of water and a good roll, and stalked around pinning her ears at everything like she was perfectly fine. I'm often in awe of how hard these creatures try to cooperate and how readily they forgive us. My poor horse - but she still likes me :)

So I'll haul her with her head tied up front and no divider. She'll stand slanted and should ride pretty comfortably. I can't leave her untied or she'll turn around and ride backward and god knows that idiot might take it in her head to try to leap out of the damn trailer. And I don't think I want to leave the slant partition in for the ride then pull it to get her out. It's not really easy to get it out, and it's dangerous to be in the trailer with a horse, so I want to minimize that time.

I did think about getting interference shipping boots, but I am going to wait for now. I don't want to wrap her legs with anything that might trap heat, so if she hauls ok to Washoe and maybe a couple of local trail rides, I won't get them. If she kicks her legs again, I'll buy shipping boots.


  1. Pull-on bell boots might do the trick to protect her feet - no heat and not too much trouble to put on and take off.

    It sounds like you've figured out the right combination so she can ride comfortably.

  2. Kate and I were thinking the same thing--bell boots--Velcro is a little "easier" to put on, but also for her to "take off" doing whatever she was doing to step on herself.

    Some horses DO like to travel backwards! The turning around can get a little scary--and yes, the fire department--though I hate the thought of the jaws of life on your pretty little banana stand already, so I'm glad she made it. Could you have just backed the trailer into a pen or arena or somewhere secure, and left her for awhile? She may have turned herself around, or, like in the morning, she may have just decided when the time was right for her (though she shouldn't have that opportunity too often...).
    Do you remember Mugwump's story about driving the trailer out from under the horse? I don't remember if she tied her rope to his head or to his tail, but tied the other end to a tree, opened the back door, and drove the truck forward (slowly). It was in younger and more foolish years. But THAT'S desperation (but sounded kinda comical, once you knew the horse didn't get hurt).

  3. Hey Funder! I think I have a couple of sets of shipping boots around her if you need a set. Phebes won't wear them, has a hissy about it. I'll have to dig around and locate them....think they are dark green or black, can't remember. If you use easyboots (can't remember if you shoe or boot) they really help them grip the floor for the ride and protect the heel bulbs too. ~E.G.

  4. Yay for the new trailer and double Yay for blogging at my place!

    Your trailer sounds a lot like the one my parents go us for a wedding present; nice and solid, but maybe not Queen Estes' favorite trailer. Sounds like you've got a good plan for her, though, and she'll get used to it.

  5. Yup, you can't win them all, but at least you can learn stuff along the way. Glad to hear that you've figured out some stuff that will make you and the mare more comfy!

    When I got Fiddle, she was *terrible* about loading and unloading. We practiced for months, until it finally occured to me that she was accustomed to riding in a straight-load trailer, and from her perspective she would have to walk right on top of me to get in! I got out of her way, and she got in the trailer. I felt so stupid.

  6. Bell boots for her feet. She might be having issues with having a "wall" from the manger in front of her if she's used to a more open type trailer. She might ride better in a slant configuration, or just open.

    For the backing out issue, my mom's SSH Rupert had the same issue. The one I did with him that REALLY helped a lot was to work on going in and out of the trailer one FOOT at a time. Like a bad game of hokey-pokey. You put the right hoof in, you put the right hoof out, etc. etc. It helped him to learn that he COULD back out of the trailer, there wasn't a bottomless cliff out there waiting for him. Start with A front foot, then both when she's okay with that, then 3 legs, etc. The other thing you can try is if you can park your trailer in her corral, or up against her gate, to feed her in the trailer and just let her figure it out on her own. Maybe don't put the food all the way in the first few days. Like at Washoe Lake, she's shown you she CAN back out, but she's just not sure about it right now.


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