Two months ago, I took Belinda, my Hanoverian mare, to our first show of the season.
Belinda is a well-oiled machine when it comes to showing. She’s been there, done that. While we had the riding part down pat, a few issues did arise before and after our time in the ring.
Belinda has always been a stellar passenger in the trailer. But not on this particular show day. I borrowed an extra tall two-horse bumper pull trailer from a friend for the day. It was a trailer I felt comfortable with and had used to transport several other Warmbloods and Thoroughbreds that came before Belinda.
But for whatever reason, Belinda was not comfortable in this trailer.
Belinda is a big mare. She’s 16.2 hh and thick all around. She’s got a massive head and big ole warmblood feet. She walked up the ramp just fine but the second we tried to latch the butt bar, she panicked and would shoot back down the ramp.
Eventually we were able to get her to the show, but my usually laid back mare was very unhappy in this trailer. We learned the hard way after having to spend the night at a day show (and calling the vet to give her a tranquilizer the next day. And THEN calling a cowboy trainer to load her in his six-horse stock trailer,) that Belinda requires a roomier load when traveling.
I was devastated and exhausted by the end of the ordeal. I felt like a terrible horse owner to have stressed out my mare so much for just a dinky local horse show.
The issues from the trailer manifested in different ways weeks after back at home. Belinda refused to stand tied. She snapped halter after halter and dragged a picnic table across the pasture once when her lead rope got stuck underneath one of the wood panels. Her behavior was becoming dangerous for anyone around her.
I was distraught about this. I felt so guilty for having caused this rift. But coddling my mare wasn’t getting us anywhere.
I’ve never been a big natural horsemanship person. Ground manners have always been important to me and every trainer I’ve worked with, but we always found ways of working with the horses without the rope halter and a round pen.
A friend suggested it, and feeling like Belinda and I needed to get back to the basics, I bought a rope halter. I watched some videos my horsewoman friend suggested and got to work with Belinda on the ground. It took a few days for her to understand and respond to the exercises, but we started to see results fairly quickly.
What it came down to was establishing a level of respect for one another. Belinda reminded me how important this factor is in our partnership (and just about any partnership, for that matter.) I must respect her just as she should respect me. There are still some kinks to work out and I have yet to try to load my mare in the trailer again since we got home, but after taking 10 steps back, we’re starting to take a few steps forward again.