Saturday, October 4, 2008

Difficulties trailering, part 2

After the first guy who was supposed to trailer my horse stood me up, the only way I could get him moved the same day was to move him later that evening.

It was probably a bad idea, and I shouldn't have even considered trying to load Panama in the dark, after his history with trailers. It compounded the problem that the trailer the guy brought had a ramp, which tends to scare Panama more. And it was as dark as a cave inside, since there were no windows to allow the horses to see out.

But the thing is, he did load for me, completely, on the second try. He just went right on in. Unfortunately, we hadn't really discussed with the guy that he'd need to shut the doors immediately; after several seconds Panama decided it wasn't such a good idea, after all, and backed out.

After that I was unable to get him to load for me again. The driver tried, too, and couldn't do it. Then I had the idea of using a lunge line and wrapping it around his rear end to move him forward from behind — a technique that has worked for me in the past, not for loading, but for getting him to move forward when he's balking. Unfortunately, it wasn't very well coordinated, and the line slipped down over his hocks, which made him start kicking to free himself — and then run away.

This is where it gets really fun. I was still holding onto one end of the line when Panama started trotting away. I had loosened my grip to let the line come off the back of his legs, so it started to slip through my hand. When I felt the burn, I instinctively tightened my grip — and was promptly pulled off my feet.

Since I was standing on the ramp, I was a little above the ground, which is why I think what happened next was even possible: I felt my body instinctively tuck and roll, and was surprised to find that my feet knew right where the ground was. I literally went head-over-heels, rolled, and landed right back up on my feet again.

Of course, today my neck and shoulders are a bit sore, but still, I'm impressed with the things my body will do to protect itself!

Anyway, the guy whose place we were moving out of spoke up then with an idea. By the time I realized what he was going to do, and how bad for Panama it was, I felt helpless to stop it from happening. Basically, the guy tied a long, strong rope to Panama's halter, wound it around one of the support posts in the front of the trailer, and slowly shortened the rope to force Panama in.

Unfortunately, Panama is the kind of horse who responds to force by fighting back harder, and oh did he fight! His legs were flailing like mad and he kept losing his footing; I was worried he would cut up his legs on the edges of the ramp, but luckily he didn't. If he had gone down one more time I was going to say, "Enough," but he got into the trailer just when I was making up my mind to speak up.

We did ultimately get Panama loaded up and transported to his new home safely, but the way we accomplished it stuck with me and made me feel awful. First, it was horrifically frightening for him — when we arrived at the new place and opened up the trailer, I discovered he was soaked in sweat. Second, he could have been badly hurt in the process — and even though he wasn't, it still scares me to think of how it could have gone.

Third, and most important, the experience is going to leave an impression — and the next time we go to load him will be that much more difficult. And he'd just finally been getting better at it, too!

As my husband keeps pointing out, though, he's safe in his new home, and it's a good home. I'll blog about the new place soon.

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