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.