September 27, 2004

Trailers, loading, and tension — oh my!

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Last night I was a little worried about riding Isis on the trail. Would she listen to me? Would she pay attention and not freak out? We’d never ridden in a wide open space or woods, much less with a horse she didn’t know.

Trail worries were soon replaced by trailering ones. Isis doesn’t load very well. Last time, it took several hours to get her to load. During the phone call last night, I warned my instructor, who reasssured me that she has a method for getting horses on the trailer that wasn’t stressful.

Isis obviously didn’t have my instructor’s confidence. She did not want to load onto the three horse gooseneck slant-load trailer. Didn’t matter that another horse was in the trailer already. So, my instructor attached the lounge line to Isis’ halter, pulled the line through the trailer window, and held the end. After about 30 minutes and some encouragement, Isis finally loaded.

She trailered beautifully to Norris and then didn’t want to unload. The trailer doesn’t have enough space for a horse to turn around; the only way off is to back off. Stepping off the back of the trailer must have been scary for her because she refused. After a *lot* of various tries, Isis finally got off (took over an hour). We promptly put her back on the trailer (add another 15 minutes) and then proceeded to take her off again (another 45 minutes).

By this time, I was a nervous wreck. Isis was dripping sweat. You could tell by her eyes that she wasn’t scared, she was just refusing to get off the trailer (even though she had gotten off before). She would put her foot down on the ground and then get back up into the trailer.

We finally got her back off the trailer. My instructor said okay, now we ride. Tough love. Isis had to understand that it wasn’t coddling time, it was work time and just because she had been a butt with loading didn’t mean she would get off easy. I tacked Isis up and we started up the trail…

Isis was amazing. She took everything in stride: cars moving down the road next to her, crossing water, motor cycles, etc. The first part of the trail was straight uphill, and that was hard. We stopped every few minutes and let the horses catch their breath.

Before we were half way through the ride, Isis was exhausted. She didn’t want to walk on the trail because of the stones, so she tried to go to one side or the other — often swiping me into a tree trunk. Other times, I’d try to keep her on the trail and she’d step in a pile of leaves (which I fretted over hidden holes).

I walked next to her for the last mile or so along a gravel road. She walked with a mincing, ouchy step, placing every foot very carefully. My instructor pointed out that sometimes horses need tough love, and that horses are pretty tough critters. Isis wouldn’t break. She’d be okay; I just had to relax and keep her moving. I was the one who had to calm down.

After we returned to the trailer, we loaded and unloaded Isis twice. Each time she improved. The last time, she loaded beautifully. We got Isis back to the barn, and she unloaded like a champ.

Isis was treated to a full body massage, liniment, brief sponge bath to remove the worse sweat stains, and plenty of hay. I napped when I got home.

Next time we ride on those trails, Isis will have protective slip-on shoes to prevent the stones from hurting her feet.

What a day for both of us.

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