Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Huh. It looked like he fit in there..."

Yesterday I went on a long trail ride with my friend Natalie. She rode one of her trusty grulla geldings and I was aboard Wally. We hauled out to the area surrounding Irvine Park which, to those of you unfamiliar with Orange County, California, is one of the few remaining undeveloped areas out here where riders can truly appreciate what early southern California looked like before it was paved over with asphalt and shopping malls. The 3-hour ride was wonderful and included all the elements that tested a true trail horse: water crossings, street crossings, bridges, hills (both up and down), and stepping over logs set in the trail to prevent erosion. Oh. And when we navigated through the park we had to negotiate our way past picnickers and hordes of little girls who were jumping up from their sandwiches and potato chips screaming, "Horses! Look at the horses!"

Wally was a real trooper. My formerly disgruntled ex-western pleasure show horse has found his niche: Trail Horse Extraordinaire.

But actually getting him to the trail ride... Not so much fun.

You see, Natalie and I decided to carpool-- or "trailer pool"-- because gasoline is just about $4.00 a gallon out here. She has a slant load and Wally had only been hauled in a slant before I bought him (I have a straight load trailer), so I figured, what the heck: Wally could ride with her horse. Not so easy. Wally hopped right in and he was happy as a clam. But once we got to the trail head at the park, it became obvious that there wasn't quite enough room for him to step back a foot, pivot on his hind end, and turn around to walk out. Instead he'd have to back out, which required him to step off her trailer with his hind feet into nothingness. She doesn't have a ramp. That scared poor Walter. If you could see him backing down the ramp of my straight load, you'd understand: He backs out cautiously and slowly, with little itty bitty baby steps. The task of blindly backing out of Natalie's step up trailer was simply too challenging. Not ones to resort to extreme measures, Natalie and I took our time with Wally until he finally got up the courage to dangle one hind hoof out into space (all of about a 6-inch drop, by the way), and hop down.

Then we rode. And then we cooled out our horses, gave them some snacks and plenty to drink and we re-loaded. Wally once again hopped right in and we were confident that the unloading lesson was learned. Yeah, right.

When we got back to my house, Wally once again looked at us as if we were crazy. He simply wasn't budging. He'd start to put his hind hoof out, then immediately re-think that idea. And he couldn't turn enough to lead out head first.

Finally Natalie said, "Cindy, I don't know what to do!"

Apparently, the prospect of Wally living in her trailer didn't appeal to her. Then I got an idea. We had some sandbags lining the horse trail in front of our house to prevent run-off during the rains. I hoisted a few beneath the back of the trailer, making a pair of soft yet supportive "steps" for Wally. Natalie and I tried again. She gave Wally the command to "back" at his front end while I was at his hind end, reassuring him that I wasn't going to let him descend into oblivion. Finally, he stepped down with one brave hind hoof, felt the sand bag, and then came out.

Victory at last!

By not panicking and resorting to yanking and whacking on Wally, we got him out of the trailer. And the moral of this story? Don't assume that your horse fits in a trailer just because he can get in the trailer. It needs to be roomy enough that he can also comfortably get out of the trailer.

Needless to say, next trip I'm hauling Wally in my straight load trailer.

And now I'm off to ride Wyatt in the arena before Easter dinner. My sister, Jill, is coming to watch. She has yet to see Wyatt, and her first introduction will be watching me attempt to canter him around the entire arena. He trotted a lot of nice circles on Friday. And he longed great! So we'll see how this goes. Stay tuned!


Anonymous said...

hmm... I had a slat trailer for my horses, they always had to back out into nothing-ness. It didn't seem to bother them though. But i know what you mean by little -itty-bitty steps.
The trail ride sounds like fun, and I hope all goes well for Wyatt's-uh- Show and tell.

Anonymous said...

Bucky backs out of trailers with itty-bitty steps. We trained him to NOT turn around in trailers as he's so long and could get stuck. I do have a video somewhere of him backing out of a eight-horse trailer. And he was in it first so you can imagine how long it took for him to back out. It was HILARIOUS. I need to find it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Cindy! I must say in spite of all your your trailer excitments I am still jealous that you have the weather to go trail riding..I live in WI and we just got a major snowstorm. Keep on riding, and think of those of us who are stuck in the indoors still;)

Nancy said...

I echo Joy's comments!!! I'm in New Hampshire, and we still have a foot of snow/ice on the ground.

And we have no indoor ring where I board Leo. I gaze longingly at the riding arena, where we still cant even open the gate because of all the snow!

Thank god for your riding adventures Cindy!

Anonymous said...

That was funny, thanks Cindy. I've had Sas in both straight and slant load trailers, but neither of them had a ramp, so she knows how to just back out and step down. When she reaches the edge we always tell her "step down" so she knows where the drop-off is.


Anonymous said...

I got a new horse trailer last year-a major upgrade from a old stock trailer. I decided to practice trailer loading my horses, some took a little time, but eventually jumped up and backed off willing. Until I got to my mom's very klutz palomino mare.. Oh she happily jumped in the trailer at the first try, munched on the scrapes of hay for a couple min. And even started backing out like a pro, up until her hind hoof touched nothing.. Eyes wide, breathing loudly, head slightly up, she trys again.. and AGAIN there is nothing there! You can see the wheels turn in her head, trying to figure out what to do. On her next try, she backs her self to the very edge of the trailer, then very slowly stretches one hoof out until it is fully extended straight out behind her. Unfortunately there wasn't land out there either. But after some more thinking time she figures out she has to step down and not out.

Anonymous said...

Bucky unloading from the giant rig. Have fun. =)

Cindy Hale said...

Ha! Gina, Bucky looked like he was wondering just when he was going to get out of that loooong tunnel fo a trailer!

For all of Wally's bravado and macho antics, he is such a WUSS about backing out of a trailer. Just keep in mind that I inherited all of his little "quirks." It's taking me a while to fix all of them. But I am going to put: "Back out of trailer like a real horse" at the top of my list.