Monday, June 17, 2013

"These kind of things happen to everyone sooner or later."

Well, FUCK.
We have been introducing Firefly to a saddle, with the hope she could pack our 3yro around in a leadline class at the next show.  The idea is to make the show a family affair--have my older son show Firefly in halter, then the younger can be led about on her while the older son is led on Tril, then I can do a couple of classes on Tril.  Sounds great; still does.  Especially when Firefly has been doing so well.
Typical, "Don't really give a crap" attitude.

"I give a crap only in that you're making me work.  Boo work."

"No work = no crap given."

And not a crap was given that day.  Little dude sure loved it, though.
The problem is our trailer--it's a slant-load, with a divider that doesn't go all the way to the floor.  How do I transport a full sized horse and a 36" mini safely?  Well, step one is...bring the trailer over and see what we can figure out.  
Well--while it wasn't as bad as it could have been, I could see it from there, which is enough to scare the shit out of me while also make me angry at myself. Everyone's okay, at least physically.
I loaded Tril first, and like how he's been when we've loaded him on a friend's trailer for our joint riding lessons, he wouldn't go in unless hubby got behind and pushed him on the butt. But then, we got him in and he snacked on the alfalfa while I shut the divider.
After a few moments to let him adjust, I brought up Firefly. She marched right in, and I was hopeful as she seemed just taller enough not to fit under the divider. I thought about tying her to a post in the back corner where there is more space, but there was no good place to tie (hubby pointed to an ideal location and said if he knew how, he'd weld a hook there for her). So I stood next to her while she was alongside Tril, and was just checking for position and safety, her lead rope in my hand. 
Then, somehow, she got her butt just a hair under that divider, found her butt a bit wedged which made her worry, felt Tril which made her spook, and kicked in surprise. Tril freaked and kicked back a few times, throwing his confined body against the divider that mercifully held. The whole thing was maybe 2 seconds at most, but it was two seconds of loud and kicking hooves. Hubby yelled, "Get out of there!" and I jumped out, Firefly still in hand. Hubby took her, and I hopped back in to soothe Tril, who was shaking all over and definitely feeling stuck. He didn't completely freak out, though he was certainly frightened. I wasn't about to undo the divider with him that scared, though, and risk him bolting over or past me. So, I just stayed with him and gently touched his rump, talking softly until his eyes softened a bit and he stopped quivering. After a few minutes, when I felt the adrenalin had passed, I undid the divider to lead him out. While he was eager to exit, he had enough sense to listen and walk carefully and respectfully, if quickly, out.
I looked him over and lunged him and saw nothing obvious, though he'll probably be somehow sore from the whole ordeal so I gave him some Bute regardless.
I figured...fuck. Now, whereas before he was reluctant to get on a trailer, now his attitude is "Fuck no." Not, "FUCK YOU AND FUCK NO AND FUCK OFF!" Just...planting his feet, refusing to go forward, and "Fuck no." I wanted immediately to replace this negative event with a positive experience and tried to get him back on the trailer for maybe 30-45min or wasn't happening, at least not in that time frame. The boys (who had accompanied us--hitching up the trailer is very exciting for them, and we thought this would be brief) were restless and hubby was understandably losing patience with restless boys, so there wasn't time to completely correct my mistake.
I found if I pulled on him at all to try and get him in, he'd throw his head straight back. I wasn't about to have him flip over on me, so part of what I worked on with him was just not throwing back his head and not freezing in fear as we approached. I tried bribing him with Mrs. Pastures cookies, and that was successful in getting him near--but not in--the trailer. Hubby pushing behind now has Tril going sideways. Eventually, I just sat at the edge of the trailer, and found it interesting that when I did that, Tril was relaxed to just stand there with me. The closest I could get him to the inside of the trailer was when I'd be sitting there. But if I'd stand up, he'd get a little worried.
I needed a positive experience to end with, and time wasn't allowing for it to be getting him on the trailer. I had to settle with it being me standing up in the trailer, lead rope pulling his head gently in, and him accepting a cookie as far into the trailer as his neck would reach (those feet were NOT moving). *sigh*
Firefly, meanwhile, was also a bit shaken up but over it quickly. She also had zero problem marching right in. Though a bit concerned at first, she was thrilled to see Tril's alfalfa still there, and relaxed as I let her dive into it for a few bites. Well, so at least that's good.
So everyone is physically fine, as far as I can tell, and half the involved equines doesn't seem any worse for wear mentally. The
I'm unnerved by this, angry I did this, and embarrassed if not ashamed.  An experienced horseperson acknowledged what I knew--Tril had just trained me and now his trailer problems will likely be worse--but she also comforted me with the words that titled this blog post:  "These kind of things happen to everyone sooner or later."  I would prefer not to ever, though, thankyouverymuch.  Dammit.
I battle anxiety, self-doubt, and emotional discomfort with knowledge.  In the days since, I dove into various books and instructional videos, and am focusing on the common theme:  this is not a trailer problem, this is a leading problem.  I found many trainers, some unknown, some nationally-known, had the same idea: control the horse's feet.  Don't bribe, don't use a second person, don't go in first, don't force--work on the ground to build up relationships, and then work on controlling the horse's feet, then work on telling the horse where to take those feet.  Take my time.  Use a dressage whip (or similar) to reinforce requests.
I'm not mentioning trainers by name because, honestly, I don't think there's any one right way--the right way is the one that works for that horse.  I find some trainers a bit dubious, particularly when they start pushing their brand of a product, but that doesn't mean I toss out their approaches completely.  I don't want to get into a battle of this person vs. that person, or a pro-her or anti-him.  I just look for something that seems to make sense in my situation.  "Try it.  If it doesn't work, I try something else."  Best advice anyone in the horse world ever gave me.
Today, instead of just lunging Tril, I did some round pen and groundwork with him.  While at first confused, he quickly learned and was eager to perform and please.  I found myself wishing I'd brought my trailer because within 10min, I felt he was ready to try.  But that will be tomorrow.
My goal is he will be better at loading into a trailer than he was before the heart attack moment once this is all said and done--we'll see how it goes.

The nice thing is, all that groundwork seemed to help set up a very nice ride.  So, yaaaaaay.

Meanwhile, it looks like trailering both at the same time is out.  Oof.

1 comment:

  1. Oh man, that sucks. Don't beat yourself up over it though. It was an honest mistake that anyone could have done, and the horses will eventually forgive and forget!