Sunday, January 1, 2012

Scary Moments in Horse Training

1,200 pound prey animals are inherently dangerous. Even if you've got the most well-trained horse EVER, stuff happens. When you're dealing with a young horse, well, watch out. Case in point: today's trailering fiasco.

If you've never seen a horse in this position, you've never watched a very large, fat horse try to turn around in a rather narrow trailer. Sorry about the bad art; even if I had had a camera at the time, I wouldn't exactly have wanted to stop and take a picture.

Annie and I were having a good training session. We took a little walk and brushed up our leading-nicely skills, longed, and she was good for everything. Since she was calm and well-behaved, I figured this would be a good time to work on our trailering. Annie has trailered before, but she doesn't like it, and it takes a while to convince her to hop in. Closing the door and getting her to come out are stressful for her. If we're going to any parks/events this spring, we have to do better.

Eventually I got her in the trailer without too much fuss; just a lot of patient bribing and waiting. She has no problem stepping up into the trailer (there's no ramp) and indeed, she practices it daily on the tack room steps, much to my chagrin. It's getting herself all the way inside that scares her. It's kind of dark and echoey in there, and she can't see what monsters might be waiting outside. This time, however, she was pretty calm. The bucket of sweetfeed certainly helped. I let her eat a while and petted her, and tried to make being inside this dark scary tin can a positive experience. Then it was time to back out.

Annie has no problem backing up, at least on the ground. In the trailer, it's way more scary for her. Again, she can't see out, so she doesn't know what she's backing her butt into (it's the totally familiar yard she's always been in, but it COULD have transformed into a lava pit while she was in the trailer). There's also a "big" step downward for her, which she can't see. Plus, and here's where my own idiocy didn't help matters, the back end of the trailer was a bit wet/slippery. Well, she backed up, hit the slippery spot, slithered around a bit, and came forward again all spooked and jittery now. Damn, I should have put sand down!

We tried a couple more times, and she just wasn't having any of it. She pooped nervous-green-diarreha stuff and made the floor more slippery. She got so upset that she started to try to turn around in the trailer with me in it. I stopped her, jamming my finger pretty good in the process, and got her eating again, but I knew this project was going bad fast.

That's when I abandoned ship. "Sorry kid, but I can't have you squishing me to death." I unclipped the leadrope, slipped past her and went out the back (having foolishly neglected to unlatch the escape door). Whew! I rushed to grab a broom, and attacked the mess at the end of the trailer. Annie didn't move, just stared back at me with a pathetic expression. I felt terrible.

She was still pretty calm, and I for a moment I thought she'd back out on her own, but suddenly she bent sideways and threw herself forward at the same time.

This is pretty much my trailer, except mine is green and the windows were boarded over during the winter of Annie's injury, so that she'd be warmer on the hour-long trip to and from surgery. As you can see, it's not a small trailer. You can technically fit four horses in it, if you can get them to stand closely side by side. However, it's not a wide trailer. I'd guess five or six feet wide. Annie is probably nine feet long. You can see how the math doesn't work out here.

She got stuck, then went down on her knees, practically staring at her rear toes. I was totally terrified, but at least I didn't start yelling or yanking. Annie seemed unhappy, but not panicked; she stayed in this position for a minute or so, and then heaved herself around with a heroic effort, scurried out of the trailer and stopped. I caught her immediately and gave her lots of sympathy treats and petting. She was uninjured, except for a bit of a scape on her side.

I can just imagine how well our next trailering sessions is going to go!

My hubby suggested backing her into the trailer in the first place. I'm not sure I can back her into anything I can hardly get her to go into front-ways, but at least it would save us the terrifying conundrum of backing out. *sigh* Poor Annie. I HAVE to do better next time.

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