Three of my horses escaped last week, after my barn help left a gate unlatched. They galloped down a city road, then onto a highway and then ran up someone’s driveway, into their field and got stuck in a bog up to their belly, which they had to fight their way out of. It was an exceedingly stressful afternoon.
Since they were 20 minutes walk-time away (on busy, high speed roads), and it was nearly dark, I did not want to lead them home. Luckily, I was able to leave them there overnight and then brought my horse trailer over the next morning. And thank goodness there was room to back the trailer right up to the gate – that makes loading so much easier.
I had no idea whether I would be able to get them on the trailer, as they were still pretty jacked up and traffic was zooming by non-stop at 80 km/h. But even though they had not been in a trailer for 6 months, all our trailer play sessions (see my other videos) paid off and all 3 loaded very easily and quickly. Whew!
I had thought Montaro and Juno would get on together, but the horses had a different idea. Montaro went on alone and was looking settled in about 5 minutes, so we closed the doors and took him home first. By the time we came back, Jax and Juno were running the fenceline by the highway looking in the direction the trailer had gone. Jax came over and got in the trailer right away, but Juno was too wound up looking and calling after Dad. I knew that Juno could not be left alone and he had to load and come home with Jax.
So we went back to my place and picked up 10 arena panels which we used to make a small enclosure around the trailer. Jax led Juno straight into it and I put a small pile of alfalfa on the ground – the rest was in hay nets inside the trailer. The enclosure stopped Juno from running the fenceline, making himself frantic, and he settled fairly quickly.
Jax went on and off the trailer a few times, but I waited until Juno felt ready for the possibility. Then, when Jax went on again, I closed the center gate. Within 5 minutes, Juno put both front legs inside the trailer, then I just tapped on his bum, “Come on June-bug” and he hopped in. We quickly closed the doors and set off home.
One week later, I invite them to play in the trailer again – to see where they’re at and also to set it up as a positive space to be in. We have a very big, special surprise when Makah-Mahpee asks to join the fun for the first time!
My goals over the next few weeks are to work on closing both the center gate and the end doors (with little to no anxiety), and then to practice the same skills/comfort level with a halter and lead rope attached. Juno is likely going to take some time to be ready to play, as he was the most affected by their adventure.
And yes, I have put a padlock on the main gate and then also set up a secondary barrier using arena panels across the barn road.
However, the lads chose their escape home wisely and it looks like I will be able to rent some extra pasture there for them during the summer months and hold some workshops there too (which our current landlord won’t allow). In addition, the man who lives there, Mitchell Allen, builds all the horse trails for our city parks – so he knows exactly how to build the track system around my barn that I need, and create my new paddock/shelter area for me. He was so brilliant helping out that I know he will do an excellent job.
When I trudged across the mud to halter Montaro in the man’s field that day, he waited patiently for me, asking, “Do you trust me?” Oh lord, the things these horses put me through! But yes, yes, it all worked out for the best in the end.
Oh, and the girl down the road who come out to help when she saw the horses run by her front window? She’s my new barn help 🙂
Jini Patel Thompson is a natural health writer and Lazer Tapping instructor. She began riding at age 2 in Kenya, and got her first horse at age 8 in Alberta, and so continues a life-long journey and love affair with these amazing creatures.
28 thoughts on “Will all our Trailer Play Hold Solid in a Crisis?”
Another bumper gift, wonderful, Jini……
Awww wonderful Rachel!
I had a trailer ordeal. This is my new horse trailer.
This is my stallion, AKA “Himself’.
Okay this pic didn’t come through… not sure if my browser is being funny right now or….?
Well, he’s only invisible at night because he’s black.
It took two weeks.
This is a horse who has loaded in trailers all his life and has never been in a trailer accident. He got in my old trailer that I sold like he was glad to go anyplace.
First, I pulled my new horse trailer out to the edge of its ‘garage’ which is one of those curved metal roofs you see around. Its 20’x20′. I put corral panels around the sides to make a covered corral. I fed him so he had to eat out of the back of the trailer, but since it was parked outside the enclosure he could not chew the wires and tires.
Its a step up slant load trailer. Gradually moving the hay further inside- he merely leaned in to get the hay he could reach. He would not step up, only ate the hay as far as he could lean. After a week of this a tornado warning was made on the 26th so we took the thing down and backed the trailer back under the roof. That is what it is for, to prevent hail damage. My truck has one too. Himself was returned to the inner corral with Dinky next door of course.
The next day I tried something different. There is a place next to the ‘garage’ and corrals where there used to be a cattle loading ramp that burned down in the fire. There is still a slope of dirt there. So we backed it up to it so there was a ramp since he refused to step up. I smoothed it over and added sand so it was a nice ramp. STILL he refused to go in the trailer, just leaning in ridiculously far and all contorted like a giraffe when it drinks water.
So I got an idea. I tied his friend Dinky at the escape door and fed him hay out of it. There was Dinkys head in there happily eating hay. No deal. After several days of this, no dice. Then I led Dinky to the trailer and the little shit got right in! He has never been loaded in his life except by force loading with the cattle chute to evacuate the second range fire. I let Lucky see him in there eating, and going casually in and out like the freeloader that Dinky is.Would he go in to be with Dinky? Nope.
By by now another week had passed. So last night I woke up in the night and had an epiphany. Its the edge. He does not like the edge. So this morning I made it go away.
I removed him so he could not see me work. I resmoothed the ramp, added sand and made a perfect slope. Then a got an old rotten area rug from the spot where I used to doctor his heel years ago when he got hung upside down by his foot. Remember that?
So I laid the rug partly on the floor of the trailer and partly on the sand, then covered the rug and the trailer floor with more sand. There was no edge, just a continuous sand. I put hay at the back wall and Dinky eating the hay from the escape door.
He got right in and is in there eating. It helps that it started raining after that since he hates to be rained on. He is a desert horse.
Oh wait- it all started over when I swept out the trailer floor really clean and he refused to get in again. I backed it back up to the hill of dirt for a ramp. Nope, not getting in. Finally, chaff from the hay had built up on the floor and he stopped being bothered by it and got in, so I gradually moved the trailer so he had to step up from flat ground. I think it is the black rubber mat floor. It horses this looks like stepping off in a hole. So I will put shavings in before I take him someplace so it won’t look like a hole.
Here is Dinky, AKA Dinkus Maximus. I am going to get him a pack saddle so he has a job carrying my camping gear in the Oregon mountains.
That is absolutely hilarious and perfectly logical at the same time!! ohmygosh I can just SEE you wracking your brain… but so GREAT that you just kept listening. I wonder if he woke you up in the night with the message/epiphany. I wouldn’t have thought of the mats either, because mine stand on them in the paddock, no problem. BUT the haulers I’ve hired always put shavings down and I know it really helps the mats to be less slippery when it rains (aside from absorbing urine). The other thing my regular hauler told me is to always leave manure in there – because if they can smell who’s been in there, that always makes it easier. Plus it tells them that this is a place that horses go in.
Okay so next experiment (after you put down shavings and he’s good with it) might be to leave the edge visible… and see what he says about that. And then next, to remove the ramp and see if he’ll step up, now that it’s a totally comfortable place… just some ideas 🙂 Because what if you trailer him somewhere and there’s no ramp?
p.s. And Dinky is 10 kinds of ADORABLE!!! I totally get the ‘job’ idea, plus my lads have shown me they NEED adventure. If I don’t provide it, they’re going to create their own. What could be more fun than trekking through nature together?
Oh, he already steps up from flat ground with the edge showing. I like the horse poo idea.
Since he and Dinky are both stallions they make ‘stud piles’. It is a form of dominance display. Whoever pooped most recently on the pile believes he is dominant. During the phobia period, I put Dinkys manure in the trailer but it did not work. Although stud piles make it very easy to keep their areas orderly. I see you wrote a piece about training horses to do piles. Stallions naturally do this.
Dinky is pretty cute. He is less than 3′ tall at the shoulder. He has small man syndrome. He believes he is dominant to Lucky. Because Lucky is so good natured he puts up with this horseplay and the constant nips and bites on the lower parts of his body. But once in a while you can tell he has had enough of this harassment. Once in a while I find Dinky with a great big bite mark on the crest of his neck.
Another hilarious thing they do is wrestle and try to use their forelegs to to hook the forelegs of the other and cause them to fall. Then, they quickly try to lie down on and mash the other with their chest. I saw them do this yesterday. Dinky hooked Luckys front leg with his own then charged under Lucky pushing his foreleg leg back under his belly. Apparently he had control of ‘Himself” with him standing on three legs. But Lucky snatched away his other front leg from the ground and mashed Dinky with his chest.
I have found a darling and useful pack saddle and
This is a picture of a miniature donkey from the guy who makes these saddles. Here is another one
You should seriously video their wrestling matches! I would LOVE to see that!
Can you post a weblink to the guy who makes these pack saddles? Thanks
Jini I love how you roll! It touches my heart. Beautiful and respectful. xo
Thanks Erin – the horses have us all well in hand, don’t they? As long as we are willing…
Here is Himself in the trailer when he first crossed the ‘continuous sand’.
I always feed him in there now. He is glad to get in and is completely used to it. I halter and load him whenever he gets his grain. He freely loads and unloads. Problem solved.
Thank you so much for the pics!!!! Really great and I love your inspiration! I see your trailer is also nice and open with lots of fresh air and viewing slots.
That is amazing Melissa, I am just seeing this and I love the truck, trailer and your ingenious way of making a hill :). I don’t know if I would go thru so much work, but you never know!
Thanks. And because it has those open sides it is considered a stock trailer and I saved $500 in registration fees and sales tax. That because I have an agricultural exception license based on ‘Daphne’s Dairy’. Daphne is my one cow.
You are just a wealth of information – I like your style girl!! These are very useful/helpful things to know 🙂
Those adventure seeking boys. I am sure they had a huge adrenaline rush on that excursion!
So glad they are ok and that the good souls on their path were looking out for them and helped them return home! Also…Really cool that there very scary escapade introduced you to some great new people to enhance yours and there world in the future!
I am so on board(luv the pun) with the trailer fun play. It really is such a less stressful way for all involved to gain exposure and experience with loading and unloading. I love when you described how it helps you also…as this has been 100% my experience! I have gained so much comfort and relaxation with doing the trailer sessions that I know my energy has improved dramatically and I feel that has to give the horses more comfort. I also like how you explained that new trailers bring new experiences! I recently purchased my new trailer( Buck inspired) …woo boo 50bday present to myself!…..and I absolutely love it. It has everything I wanted and has given me even more comfort and ease! But even my best trailer horse Banner needed a few sessions to get his comfort level back to his usual easy trailer loading self. The first one he was like a cat on a hot tin roof …so I really hope people understand that just because a horse is rock solid in one trailer it can take time to be that way in a new one! Buck absolutely has started to appreciate the new trailer. It’s extra wide and extra tall (thank you Jini!!!) for his big frame!
And he fits so much better and can turn around so much easier. The floor is non slip so I don’t need shavings and the floor also has a whiz proof design (that’s what they call it) that allows the urine to pass through and then drain out! As I also use food in the trailer and I really didn’t like the idea of shavings being involved if at all possible! Buck now eats all his dinner mashes in the trailer and his comfort level is increasing like nobody’s business! My husband has also joined in so he can gain comfort and confidence and there is so much room in the trailer that it really feels safe for everyone! It also has a stud wall so that Dreamer can be completely safe from Buck while we travel. Dreamer has been on many trailer rides with the whole trailer to himself and he never moves from the spot he is originally in so I am pretty sure he likes to stay in that spot. He has complete protection from Buck from floor to ceiling….and Buck still has the choice to turn around and ride backwards if he wants. The best part is in an emergency …it is big enough that all 4 horses could fit…so that gives me huge piece of mind. The other part of your story that I absolutely love is that it proves you just never know what kind of situation/emergency might come up? And having your horse as comfortable and confident in the trailer as possible can be so helpful in a pinch! I have a short video of Buck doing his thing in the trailer that I will post on the group FB page!
Thanks again Jini…as usual your knowledge sharing has really helped me in ways that are so beneficial to me and the horses I share life with! ✌🏼❤️🐴
Michelle’s new trailer:
Inside Michelle’s new trailer…
Wow your new trailer sounds awesome! And I LOVE how bright and open it looks!! That stud wall is also brilliant, so that Buck can still see everything and have lots of light, but he can’t bug anyone.
Oh I’m so pleased for you Michelle and hooray for giving yourself permission to get what you really wanted 🙂
I do love the non-slip and whiz floor – what make/brand is your trailer? I’ve never heard of that before and yes, the shavings are a hassle. Especially if you use your trailer a lot.
Guess you’ve got to work everyone up to the point where all 4 will/can load for your evacuation plan. I love that your hubby’s getting comfy in there too. And yes, great point about every trailer being different. When Aude freaked out at the hay storage container, I realized that to her it looked like a horse trailer! 8x8x20′ – same size as my horse trailer too! So I was happy to let them in one at a time to explore it and go in and out. The more training the better!
What did you end up getting for height, length and width?
It is good to know your horses can be evacuated in an emergency. But in the 55 square mile forest fire of central Texas in 2011 my boys were so freaked they would not get in. I lead them holding their lead ropes out the window of my truck at a gallop for two and a half miles to a ranch where they would be safe and the next day that ranch burned up too. Is it possible to start a new discussion? I wonder if blindfolds would have worked. Probably not.
Yeah I don’t know that any “training” is gonna hold under conditions like that! I think that’s where the relationship/intimacy/trust between you, along with the horse’s deeper instincts are what matters.
Personally, I would say that your boys being willing to gallop alongside your truck on leadropes (??!!!!) is WAY more difficult, amazing, trusting than getting into a trailer though. Just saying 🙂
What people did here was to write their name in Sharpie on the horses rumps and label them “1 of 2” for example. And write their phone number in Sharpie marker on a hoof. I think that’s an excellent back-up plan. Because at the end of the day, control disappears and surrender is all that’s left.
i LOVE the sharpie idea! It would work on Dinky but Himself is black. Fortunately he has two white hind hooves, although in a crisis they might be covered in dirt or not noticed. Perhaps the grease paint markers they use on endurance horses would work.
I read some reviews on livestock markers. One woman went on and on about how she used them to mark her kids. By the end of the day it had rubbed off. I certainly would not use that to mark my children.
The Amazon link didn’t work… but when I tried to search on there, it came up with this – which I had NEVER heard of before!
“Due to deep snow, the spring weather stick harvest has been delayed until April. The best weather sticks are those harvested in the spring! The secret of the weather stick was discovered by the Abenaki Indians of New England in the 1700s. They point UP when it’s sunny and DOWN when it’s raining or snowing. Our sticks are cut from the branches of Balsam fir trees…”
who knew?? The Jeffers one looks good though – reviews said they last for 1-3 weeks. GREAT thing to have handy if you live in a fire zone for sure. Thanks Melissa!
Jini, I want you to know that I am so grateful you are taking the time to video horses allowed to their free choice that shows open, honest, loving, trusting respect. Thank you so very much for sharing yourself, your herd, and your experiences.
Peace always to all, Paulette
Awwww you’re so very welcome! Glad you’re enjoying them 🙂