Today was an exciting day for Otis. He had his first outing in our new trailer. It`s a bigger, more modern version of our old one as he grew out of the first trailer.
Otis can be a stressy traveller, and usually sweats, but we thought it might be because he felt claustrophobic in the partitions. Anyway, this afternoon we took a short trip to our dressage lesson in the new trailer with the partitions taken out.
Otis was slightly reluctant to load as it smelt funny, but travelled as well as he ever does and it was an uneventful trip. The trailer was easy to drive and tow, so fingers crossed it is a success.
On the subject of travelling horses, my Mum was telling me about her friends youngster, who is difficult to load. Once, he was being taken to the Winter Fayre Show as a weanling, but it took so long to load him in the morning they missed their class! I don`t think he did anything naughty, but just planted his feet and refused to move. I think the last eighteen months have been spent regularly walking on and off the trailer and going on short journeys. Then last week, in high hopes, my Mum`s friend went to load the now three year old ready to take him to be professionally backed. The gelding loaded fine, but as the ramp went up he went into a full panic. So he had to be brought off again. This went on for a couple of hours and then eventually they gave up.
It`s a nightmare when your horse is difficult to load though; you have to allow plenty of time at either end of the day to load, and you can guarantee that as soon as you`re late, even one minute behind schedule, they won`t load. Or when it`s chucking it down with rain …
My pony used to be horrendous to load; we had a wooden green trailer, and it had a steep ramp and was very dark. Mum and I hated it cos it was heavy but I think my pony hated it too because as soon as we upgraded to an Ifor Williams he walked straight up the ramp! Mum has negligible problems loading now, he occasionally tries it on but otherwise is very reliable.
Otis was brought up to load well and be used to travelling, but when he was five I got a lift with a friend to a competition in her elderly lorry. It juddered terribly and after that Otis was difficult to load. I soon solved this by only using my trailer, and he went back to normal. Nowadays he occasionally goes in a friends trailer, and if it`s been a while he`ll stop and stare. But if you bring out a whip and hold it he practically jumps the ramp! I`ve never hit him with the whip ever!!
I think the horse needs to come to terms with travelling in his own time; and get used to the prospect with the help of a quiet companion. At the same time owners should make sure their transport is the right size for their animal. I`ve seen a 17.3hh horse being squished into a tiny pony trailer before, and then they wonder why he`s reluctant to go on next time! I`m not a fan of the old style trailers which do not have front doors to let light in. It`s basically the same as asking your horse to walk into a cave.
Have a think about how a trailer looks to a horse, a prey species, and you soon understand why horses can take a dislike to loading onto a trailer or lorry.