Sunday, September 19, 2010

It's All in How You Manage the Ropes

On Sunday morning I went through my usual routine of getting Lostine ready for a trail ride in the mountains, only this time she absolutely refused to get in the trailer. None of my tried and true methods worked, so I regressed back to my old method of getting babies in the trailer.

I attached a long line to her halter, threaded it through the window in the front of the trailer and pulled on it with my left hand while encouraging her forward from behind with a long whip in my right hand. Tapping her croup repeatedly with the whip was easy for her to ignore. Cracking the whip loudly behind her also didn't have any effect. Throwing the rope part of the whip over her back and around her hocks did nothing, but if I pulled on her head she would take a step forward. That was my cue to release the pressure on both her head and from behind to reward her and let her rest.

We continued on inch by inch until she had nowhere to go but up into the trailer. She went up alright. She reared and hit her head on the top of the trailer. Fortunately, she quickly learned how high she could rear without hitting her head, because she did rear several more times. This was all just stubbornness. She's a 23 year old horse who has be riding in trailers her whole life.

I kept the pressure on until she stopped rearing and went in. She found some hay in a bag by her window, snatched a few bites, and then turned around and let herself out. We did this two more times, each time I asked her to stay in the trailer a little bit longer. I had to be very conscious the entire time of what the rope was doing in my hands. I could not let it loop around my hand or arm, because if Lostine decided to make a run for it, I'd be dragged along.

Unfortunately, she started this habit of lowering her head and turning it away from the trailer, which caused the rope to repeatedly get caught under the folded partition wall. Then her head was pinned down, which was a recipe for disaster. I had to keep releasing the rope and jumping in the trailer to get it out from underneath the wall. I really needed the help of a second person, but didn't have anyone who could assist me. By the time Lostine got in and out of the trailer on the third occasion, a storm had moved in and it was too nasty to go on a trail ride anyway.

This storm was predicated for the afternoon, but it arrived several hours early. I didn't want Lostine to be spooking at everything that moved in the wind or get rained on, so I released her back into the paddock and caught Bombay. I needed to practice putting on his polo wraps. It's been a few years since I've used some.

At first I tied Bombay to a post in the paddock, but when I turned around, Gabbrielle was trapped in his lead rope between him and the post. Argh! She always does that and I never learn my lesson. I can't tie a horse to a post when there are other loose horses around. It's another recipe for disaster. I backed Gabbrielle out of the mess, rescued Bombay, and led him to a separate pen.

Once he was tied to a post there, I began wrapping the left front leg with the polo wrap. No issues. Right front -- no issues. Left back was a bit more complicated. I began wrapping, heard a noise behind me, looked back, and saw a whirlwind headed our way. I wrapped faster and faster, praying I could get the Velcro attached before the whirlwind hit, but it beat me by half a second.

Bombay jumped, ripping the polo wrap out of my hands, pulled back, reared, bucked, kicked, did a dance from side to side while I ran for my life. I watched in horror as he struggled to get free from the post and appeared to be unwrapping and shredding that brand new polo wrap with his hooves. I yelled, "WHOA!" and amazingly, he held still.

He was stiff as a board, ready to explode again, so I spoke softly to him while trying to finish unwrapping that fabric snake from around his legs, because at this point it was wrapped around both hind legs. The wind kept coming in strong gusts, and the new tarp on the haystack was rattling and ballooning out beside us. Fortunately, Bombay held still until I could free him from the polo wrap.

I then had to desensitize him to a 9-foot strip of felt flapping in the wind, by throwing the polo wrap like a rope over his head, neck, body, and around his legs. He was good about that. Then I used him as a hanger to hold the polo wrap over his back while I picked out all the burrs. Amazingly, he didn't rip any holes in the wrap during the incident.

By the time I was done with him, I had spent several hours working with both horses and the wind was horrid. I closed up the trailer in preparation for rain and backed it into its parking spot and called it a day.


Katharine Swan said...

I jokingly told my mother-in-law tonight that it was Bad Horse Day, but maybe I was right! I'll blog about my experiences later, but for now, suffice it to say that your horses weren't the only ones acting like lunatics. It was windy here too -- maybe it's the same darn wind you've got there!

fernvalley01 said...

Kind of a sh*tty day, but you accomplished some good stuff in spite of it I see

baystatebrumby said...

Isn't is so infuriating when a horse decides to ask so uncharacteristically? I hate it whn my horse does that. Of course, she always has her reasons but that doesn't make it any more easy to deal with. The next time she loads, this experience might be a distant, forgettable memory. I hope so!

Breathe said...

You are making me feel better about my trailer loading unwinding a bit. Sorry you didn't get to ride, but given the direction the weather went, perhaps it was for the best.

Crazy day, girl.

Fantastyk Voyager said...

How is Lostine's head? Annie reared up and hit her head so hard she got concussed. This was when I bought her and was bringing her home. I thought we had killed her, trying to load her into the trailer. She even bled from her nose. Her forehead is still raised on one side and she still has severe PTS (post traumatic stress) from the experience.

After many years and many lessons, she will load, but still doesn't really like to. I'm glad you were able to work her through it. I'm not that brave.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

All I can say is that you are much much more braver than I am....


allhorsestuff said...

Da----..what a day that was!!!
Sometimes they REALLY don't turn out the way we will them, want them or plan them!

After prooving all the wrong things can happen and will happen to my ACCIDENT PRONE mare...I
never load my mare into the trailer without:

LEGWRAPS( I thought she got kicked last year, had to have an x-ray. Found out his year..while traveling alone- she kicked the divider -herself, I found!)

Glad it seemed to work for a desensitizing day...hope her head is okay! AND YOU!
Hope next time...goes without incidents!