Last year I saved up my money and bought a horse trailer, much to my mare’s dislike.
After a summer of lameness and recovery, I began to worry about what would happen if a real injury occurred on our property, or a fire or a hurricane, and I had no real means to get Belinda out of harm’s way. So I did it. I saved up my money and bought a trailer.
It’s an ugly thing. A Rice brand “Beaufort Sixty“, made in the U.K., with a front side ramp and back ramp, two-horse bumper pull. It’s extra tall, extra wide and extra long, perfect for my big Hanoverian mare who is nervous and seems claustrophobic in smaller trailers. My boyfriend calls it the mobile “porta potty.”
I’ve never owned a trailer before, but have hauled several in my lifetime. However, I’ve never been the cool “no big deal” type driver. I am always worried about the factors I can’t control on the road.
Belinda had a bad experience at show once, and has given me trouble loading in two-horse trailers ever since. So I hired a natural horsemanship trainer to help me with ground work and loading. It was a really rewarding and truly eye-opening experience. I learned that there is no short cut to earning trust and respect from your horse.
It took months of training. Loading and unloading, in the front yard for Belinda to slowly start to trust me. At one point, I got ahead of myself and tried to trailer her 5 miles down the road to a state park for trail riding. She loaded fine, but refused to get back on the trailer to come home.
After an exhausting two hours and a defeated, long walk home, I was devastated. I was convinced I had ruined everything we had worked so hard on building the months before.
My trainer, Gina, told me to expect set backs. We got back to work immediately.
Eventually it came time to try to leave the property again. I scheduled a lesson with my riding instructor, whose farm is about 45 minutes away. I figured if I could get Belinda on the trailer and to her barn safely, she would be there to help me load her to go home.
Worst case scenario, Belinda would be in a safe place if she had to spend the night.
The night before our lesson I was so terrified I couldn’t sleep. I packed the truck and trailer in a hurry that morning. When I brought Belinda out of her stall and walked her toward the trailer, she became stiff and nervous.
But when I asked her to load, she followed me right up the ramp. We secured the trailer and were ready to leave. But Belinda wouldn’t touch her hay and was literally trembling inside. I felt awful. My heart melted for her and I called my trainer with every intention of canceling the lesson.
My instructor, Lauren, gave me the tough pep talk I needed. I had laid the ground work for Belinda. Now I had to be a tough horse mom and take that next step. In doing so, I had to be confident for my mare when she wasn’t.
So we pulled out of the drive way and made the trek to Lauren’s farm.
From the rearview mirrors I could see Belinda’s head whip back behind her in attempts to look at the traffic from the open rear-end of the trailer. When I unloaded her, she snorted and pranced around for a minute, then returned to being the calm and collected mare I know.
We had a great lesson and she got to romp around for a few minutes in a big grassy pasture before it was time to go home.
I was determined to load Belinda by myself. And after 20 minutes or so of trying, we weren’t getting anywhere. But I refused to lose my cool. When Belinda was reluctant and stubborn, I remained calm. When we made tiny bits of progress, I stayed calm but rewarded her with rest.
She loaded in the trailer after 30 minutes.
The fact that she trusted me to get back on the trailer after a long drive was the best part of our day. I was so proud of my mare, and myself!
I’m sure she’ll still give me trouble to load the next few times I ask her, but I think we’re finally headed in the right direction. I couldn’t be more relieved.