As many of you have read here recently, Mama Tess was unwilling to load into any trailer when I needed to get her to and from the hospital. (She has never had never had loading issues previously.)
I concluded that the instability of her hoof wall right now would make the ride rather painful. And it was no wonder that she didn’t want to go for a ride.
However, many of you suggested that I travel around in the back of my trailer to see/feel what she is seeing and feeling. And, that perhaps I would discover the ‘real’ reason that she is balking to go for a trailer ride.
Well, OK. I’m not against experimenting. Perhaps there was a reason she was balking and maybe I could fix it…
So, I did it. I went for a ride in my trailer.
MY RIDE IN MY TRAILER.
Since it was a holiday weekend and Hubby was around and futzing, I asked him if he could drive, with me inside the horse trailer, out of our driveway, down our HORRIBLE road and out to the mailboxes (on paved road).
He looked at me perplexed.
Me: Because I want to know why Tess doesn’t want to go into the trailer all of a sudden after 22 years…
Hubby: Uhhhh, because she only has half of a hoof?… Because it hurts?….
Me: Yes, but maybe there is something else…
Hubby: OK, Whatever you want.
Me: Go S-L-O-W or I’ll pummel you when I get out.
Hubby (smiling wrying): Oh, I will…
Me: No, I mean it! I’m serious! Drive like you had a horse in there or it won’t be the same!
Hubby: Oh, OK…
OMG! WHOSE IDEA WAS THIS?
OK, first of all, I don’t really expect any of you to sit through the 5 minute video I captured while Hubby drove our pothole riddled (thank you, torrential rains) dirt road, out to the main road and to the mailboxes… The video is rather boring, except for when I start yelling at Hubby and banging on the trailer wall.
Talking about how to trailer your horse is about as controversial as talking about shoeing and saddles. Everyone has an opinion.
In my humble opinion, I think the main issue for Tess was that she needed the divider to help her stabilize the compromised foot.
And… a few other things…
Here’s my opinion having just ridden in my trailer:
1) Trailer rides suck and it is our duty to make the ride as comfortable as possible.
There is no doubt that riding in a trailer is not like riding in a car. Most trailers don’t have a cushy suspension or comfortable seats.
And, Humans understand about turning and leaning. Horses don’t. Equines cannot anticipate the turns in the road. As I stood in my trailer, I closed my eyes and tried to forget that I knew the way we were going. But, even knowing the way we were going, I still found the turns unsettling.
2) Drive EXTRA slowly on bad roads, not just as slowly as you think is extra slow for bumpy roads… SLOW SLOW SLOW
I was yelling at Hubby and banging on the walls, “Heeeeyyyyy! Go EASY! HEEEEYYYYY”. He swore he was going extra slow. Well, if he was, then he needed to go slower. Riding back there felt like a jackhammer when going over bumps and hitting dips in the dirt road. It was awful. My innards were bouncing all over the place and I was mad.
3) Get rid of things that may rattle unnecessarily
This didn’t bother me horribly, but after an hour it might… I have quick-release trailer ties on all of the rings. Well, with only one horse tied, let’s say, the other trailer ties bang away during the entire ride.
4) Make sure to check your springs, suspension… Duh.
I have my trailer overhauled every year. The mechanics are supposed to make sure that the trailer is road-ready as well as check/pack the bearings and lube/oil all the stuff that needs lube and oiling. I never check their work… do you?
After my ride, I had Hubby check under the right wheel. It sounded a bit different than the other side. He didn’t find anything but I will bring the trailer into our nearby mechanic to make sure.
5) MOST IMPORTANT FOR TESS: A divider is good for support and balance – especially with a horse who has a foot issue.
My trailer has a removable divider. Usually I keep it in there because I’ve seen Finn and Gwen and Aladdin all lean on it. (Some people will argue that horses have fallen under the divider and hurt themselves horribly. Some people say the only safe divider is a full wall…)
When I brought Tess into the hospital initially in July of last year, she had the divider. At the time, I thought it would help her support her bad foot.
When I brought her home the first time (and she was even MORE lame), everyone thought that I should take out the divider and leave her untied so that she could lay down on the way home – or – turn around and/or place her feet wherever she was more comfortable. They wanted me to create an open box stall – like they have on huge horse transport trucks.
Tess was wringing wet by the time we got home. And she has been more and more reluctant to enter the trailer (any trailer) since then…
WHEN I RODE in the trailer without the divider yesterday, I tried to stand every way Tess could have stood. And for me, the only way I felt secure was leaning my back against the front wall. I would have felt much better if I had had the divider on my opposite side.
I feel that Tess could have securely unweighted her bad foot if she could have leaned against something. All the theories of her picking her comfortable position are all good – except I feel her most comfortable position would be sandwiched between two supports so that she could absorb the torques more easily.
I concluded that the reason my other horses have no issues with my trailer is because they all ride with the divider – always.
From now on, if I need to transport Tess I will use the divider.
RETHINKING THE BOX STALL FOR LONG HAULS
When I was showing my horses on the National circuit, I always bought the box stalls for the young ones to ride ‘more comfortably’. At that time, box stalls were concluded to be more comfortable because horses could lie down or stand any way they wanted.
And, this seemed right, in theory.
But, now that I’m thinking about this, I think balanced support via walls or dividers more important.
I have ridden in our two-horse straight load gooseneck. It is rattlely and noisy. We have two minis that we take to a neighbor’s for vacation and always ride in back with them. We use bales of hay to ‘trap’ them because they are short enough to go under the divider.
Ironically, when trailering our boys to a trail head, traveling on divided highways and two-lane roads, they both are calm, ready to ride when we pull them out. When we ride off our own property into the park they are spooky and jazzed.
I’ve heard of people putting horses in a stock trailer and then complain that the horses were chasing each other as they drive down the road. I personally would never do that. Horses might be claustrophobic, but they also have a fear of falling. Confinement is safer IMO.
I had the opportunity to ride in the center slot of a 3 horse straight load back when I just received my driver’s license and was about to start towing my own trailer. The ride was a mere 2 miles on a paved road and the driver went SLOW. But – WOW. What a learning experience for me, to know what my horses felt.
Oh – and the ride on the level paved road was rough enough. But then – over the railroad tracks? Geez.
People complain because I start slow, stop slow, and turn ever slower. And I don’t turn while stopping or while accelerating, thanks to the early experience in the trailer. One thing at any one time. Slow before turning. Turn. Accelerate slowly once the rig is straightened.
So today’s trailer has a bumper sticker that reads “I drive for the safety of my horses. When able, I will pull over and let you pass”.
I wish that every driver had to ride in a trailer before getting a license to drive. Regardless of whether or not, they ever tow a trailer with live cargo.
This all sounds great but you also have to remember that horses are balancing on 4 legs not 2 like we are so this all is only partly true . They travel better facing backwards . Studies have been done on their heart rate when moving and facing back was the lowest and facing forward the heart rate was up the most and slant was in the middle
I also use the dividers. My first trailer was a stock bumper pull. Just for fun once, I hopped out of the truck and stood on the trailer’s running board to watch the horses inside while my hubby drove down the long dirt road to the barn. I was shocked to see how much the horses’ legs shook to absorb shock and maintain their balance. It’s almost constant! Since then, I’ve also noticed my horses always prop their rumps into the corner where the dividers meet the wall, and they stay pressed into that corner for the duration of the trip.
It’s no wonder poor Mama Tess was soaked with sweat, poor girl. That was a very thoughtful thing you did for her, putting yourself in her place.
Thanks for the trailer ride! You have confirmed my very thoughts on horses in trailers. We travel many miles each year & I’ve always used the dividers. I am glad I have. My horses load and travel well so I guess we’re doing it right.
The divider issue makes a lot of sense to me now that I think about it. I’m not a horse and have never been a horse, but wouldn’t one have to be pretty relaxed to be willing to lie down in a trailer? It seems like most horses would be too alert/wary to relax that much. Hopefully you can come to an agreement with Tess now. Has she forgiven you yet? lol
I think it’s a great idea that you took a ride in the trailer.
I was thinking about the being able to lie down part and horses don’t usually lie down unless they feel pretty comfortable with their surroundings, so why would one choose to do that in a horse trailer. In my small herd of three there always seems to be one horse standing when the others are napping. I think your theory about using dividers is a good one. Definitely, doing everything you can to stop the rattles would be good, although horses can get used to just about any noise if it is consistent and rhythmic, which those sounds were. I think with Mama Tess, it was probably the lack of a supporting wall, that was hard on her.
I did this rather soon after getting our trailer, which is very similar to yours. I totally agree that a divider is necessary at all times. If the divider rattles loudly, stick a small towel or piece of wrap at the latch. It’s much bumper inside than it appears from a truck cab. Going down the highway these days I’ll take note of horse trailers that are bouncing like crazy, even on flat roads.