Sunday, January 1, 2012

Weather (or not)

It has been absurdly nice outside.

Heather and Bunny on Lone Fir Road, Christmas Eve
Blue, unimpressed with the Kuda saddle

This one's for Cartman, Pinky and Dazzby. I know how much they like red hair.

Heather on Christmas Eve: She says a Christmas Eve ride is a family tradition of hers. Her parents used to send the kids on a trail ride with a picnic on the day before Christmas to get them out from underfoot. :)

Me and Blue on Christmas Eve

Another shot of us on Lone Fir. The part we did was 3.5 miles gradual uphill... then turn around and do 3.5 back down.

Those are the Blue Mountains in the background. Nevermind that they're pink. :)

The Christmas Eve ride on Lone Fir was a big success. It's a pretty hard ride for us, especially this time of year, but both horses were game. And you won't find a better road for conditioning. There are maybe five houses total, so it's a very low-traffic neighborhood. The way I see it, the long, gradual uphill builds cardio and the long, gradual downhill helps with balance. It's a win-win!

The day after Christmas, we took them up to Madame Dorion and kept up a blistering 8mph pace. OK, the speed itself is not too notable. Bunny could easily do double that. The thing that was notable was that we never let up. There was no slowing down or stopping for naughty behavior or equipment malfunctions. The whole thing was very steady. From deep sand, up and down steep hills, onto limestone gravel, we just kept going. Very, very steady.

Well, anyway the riding was steady. Not so much the ride over.

Gradually, Bunny has been getting less and less trailer-friendly. She left a hoof chip in there after our last trip to dressage lessons with Anna. She banged herself up a little on the way up to Lone Fir on Christmas Eve. At Madame Dorion, she came out of the trailer soaked in sweat and wedged against the door. She got back in willingly enough, but that was the last time. All the way there and all the way back, she banged around, barely keeping her feet under her and pulling pretty hard on my steering. Something was clearly not right with Bunny in that trailer.

Since the Dorion trip, Heather and I have done two training sessions with Bunny just to get her into the trailer.  Everything is parked and chocked. It's going nowhere. But the first time we go her in and shut the butt bar behind her, she had a full-on panic attack.

I have never seen a horse lose it in the trailer quite like this. It's a little two-horse cracker box trailer, so there's nowhere to go. After banging on the door and leaning and blowing and snorting and shying and head-tossing, she did the damnedest thing—she dropped to her knees, then dropped her rear-end. And she lay there, quiet as a lamb waiting for the slaughter. That moment of respite gave me enough time to unhook the but bar. As soon as she heard it, she was out of the trailer like a flash. I don't even remember her standing up. Just one minute she was on the floor, the next she was outside.

It took a good half-hour to get her all the way in again. And she'd back out immediately. If Heather so much as touched Bunny's rear, as if closing the door, the poor horse would tremble. And if Heather applied pressure, Bunny would bolt back out.

So that's where we are. I don't think it is a trailer problem. Blue has been completely unfazed throughout, and both horses have ridden in both stalls. I took Blue to the lake by himself on New Years Eve, and he was in and out of the trailer, same as always. No banging around on corners or anything.

Even so, I'm going to call The Trailer Place and see if they can go over it front to back... just in case. It's due for repacking anyway, and it needs some cosmetic fixes after both Bunny and Sinwaan have done their best to remodel the interior with their hijinks...

Is it just a fluke that my horses are all good travelers?


  1. A few thoughts about Bunny off the top of my head:

    Does she travel poorly ALONE, or only with another horse? (is the other horse bothering her?)

    Do other horses seem less comfortable in the trailer than in months prior (is Bunny reacting more strongly to something that all the horses experience in the trailer?)

    Does Bunny travel better (or worse) depending on the driver?

    Taking the trailer in to the Trailer Place is the best place to start, yes. Make sure they check for electrical shorts that may be "zapping" the horses as they travel.

    Fee had a lot of trailer-loading issues when I got her, but has gotten over them...except one time when the trailer tire had a slow leak. I couldn't hear the hiss, but SHE could, and she backed out of the rig several times when she is normally self-loading. I didn't understand what was happening, and finally climbed in the trailer and said "get in." She got in (I was standing on the hissy thing, obviously ready to keep her safe) and travelled just fine. When we returned to the trailer after our training ride, that tire was flatflatflat!

    I should listen to my horse sometimes.....

  2. Love the red hair!!

    And those are some serious nice views of the Blue Mtns.

    Glad to see you guys are out and training, I'm trying to get going myself.

    Do Heather and Bunny go to rides with you? Its so nice to have a training buddy. I hope you guys can figure out causing the trailer anxiety. It sounds like something is seriously bothering her. Could you try her in another trailer to see if she reacts the same way?

    Happy New Year!

  3. My horse tried to kill herself in a straight load (one of those crackerboxes). She got a foot wedged in the manger, then when I unclipped her head she flipped backwards, dented the doors out an inch, and ended up on her back. I gave up on training around THAT. Sold the trailer, rode at home for a year til I could afford a no-manger slant. I'm not saying that's what Heather will have to do, but I totally understand the frustration and fear and heartbreak!

  4. Some answers...

    First, Aarene:

    I guess I should mention that we just have the one crackerbox trailer to work with—mine. I am also the only one with a truck, so I do all the driving. :) So no change of truck, trailer or driver since Bunny's been here.

    Bunny hasn't traveled alone since the trouble started, so I can't speak to that. The first round of retraining camp was accomplished with ol' reliable Quincy in the other stall instead of Blue. Quincy is about as reactive as a dirt clod, but his complete calm didn't make Bunny any easier to load. The second retraining session she was by herself, and her behavior was basically unchanged. Of course, she is not a herd-oriented kind of horse, so it doesn't really shock me that she was just as worried with a buddy as she was by herself.

    The other horses are just fine in the trailer. Quincy was completely non-reactive to either the trailer or Bunny. Blue was a little worried about Bunny, but has traveled fine without her in the same time period.

    CG: Yes, Heather comes to rides as much as motherhood allows. I have boarded with her the whole time I've lived in WW, and accidentally got her addicted to this sport too. I don't know if you remember in camp at Mount Adams this year, she also brought her mom and her new baby. Hoping this coming year the kids can stay home and we can have a quieter, more relaxed camping experience without the newborn. :)

    As far as the trailer stuff, there might be one person with a slant who could be convinced to help us. It would make an interesting experiment.

    And finally Funder:

    Believe me, that scenario has crossed my mind. The more Bunny's panic escalates, the more I think of pictures I've seen of horses with their feet in the manger. Bunny is a BIG, rangy standardbred, and I'm not sure we'd get her out without taking off the roof of the trailer. So far, at least, her energy has been focused backwards. Given the options, I'll take it. It is better than forward into the manger or sideways into the escape door. *shudder*

    My long-term hope is to keep this trailer another year and then trade up to a low-end slant on an affordable payment plan. My horse is just fine in the crackerbox, but I'd like to have a real tack room instead of the dinky little manger locker.