Thursday, June 16, 2011

Day 159 A great experience (there is hope!)

For as long as I have known Little Love, which is five years, she has never traveled in a trailer with another horse.  However, I had a strong hunch that it would make all the difference.  This is the reason I was hell bent on finding a big transporter to take her to Finland, because I knew that if she travelled alone, it would be highly stressful.  Today I found out that my instinct was right. 

Becky and I had talked about putting Col into the trailer with Little Love, just to see if it made a difference.  I knew this was the right thing to do, but the thought of it made me a bit nervous.  What if she freaked out anyways.  Or worse, what if she freaked out and got Col going, too?  On the other hand, there was a big chance it would work out brilliantly, since Col is a great traveler.  The only way to find out was to do it...

When I loaded Little Love into the trailer, Col was right behind her, ready to get in on the other side.  Sometimes when you load Col, he stops on the ramp and says no.  It's not a freaky no, but rather a "show me the money" kind of no.  He did the same thing today.  Little Love was in the trailer eating her grain and Col had this look on his face: "Where's my grain?"  I tossed Becky a second bucket we had prepared just in case, and that did it, Col walked in. 

Being in the trailer does not seem to bother Col one bit.  Which is great for someone like Little Love.  When Becky closed the back, she lifted her head up and looked back, but when she saw that Col couldn't have cared less, she sighed and took a carrot from me.  I kept breathing in and out, focusing on staying in my body, but I couldn't help the adrenaline gushing into my blood.  I can't tell you how many time I muttered my "mantra" to myself; If it's not happening now, it's not happening - If it's not happening...

It was completely silent in the trailer when we drove down the driveway; the horses must have been standing stock still.  Becky was driving and she takes all the turns extra slowly.  Which is perfect for Little Love.  We drove into the village, took a left turn around the block and came back.  When we approached the driveway, there was a big truck in the middle of the road, so we had to stop to see what was going on.  My heartrate kicked up a notch immediately and I listened for Little Love in the back.  Nothing.  Complete and utter silence.  I got out to talk to the two men who were at the gate.  Turned out they were there to work on Becky's sewage tank.  Great.  How were we going to fit both the truck and our car/trailer combinating into the parking lot? 

We drove up first and parked the trailer.  The truck followed and the workers had to figure out where to put it.  In awe I listened to my horse in the trailer - she was standing still.  No calling, no pawing, no stomping her feet even though the car was parked and the engine was off.  This was a miracle.  We opened the upper part of the side door and Col stuck his head out.  I could see Little Love's ears, but that was it.  We decided to take the horses out from the front because there was no room behind the trailer.  This meant Col had to come out first.  Little Love started pawing when she realized she was getting left behind, but as soon as Col was out I was able to undo her chest bar.  She waited for the signal to move forward and then we walked out.  Given, she was in a hurry to get out, but not at all in a panicky way.  She was listening to me, she was controlling her own emotions, she was dealing with her fears. 

After we took the horses out, we walked them into the pasture and let them go.  I can't begin to tell you how happy I was, how relieved, how hopeful.  I realize that in two weeks Little Love will have to travel three hours alone to France, but to know that she can be calm when traveling was a revelation for me.  Perhaps, if we do this again with Col, she will have at least a few good memories to help her when she is alone.  Col was absolutely brilliant, as was Becky. 

It was a good exercise, not just because it gave Little Love a positive experience in traveling, but it also showed me (and her) that she can do this.  Also, I now know how hard it is for me to control my own emotions in this situation.  If I am a nervous wreck even before anything bad happens, how can I expect my horse to deal with all this?  I really need to work on my own fears and anxieties.  I also need to know when to back off and perhaps let someone else, someone who is calmer and not so emotional, take over the situation.  With this I mean that perhaps I'm not the best possible person to load Little Love into a truck if my adrenaline levels are skyrocketing.  This is definitely something I need to talk to her about and prepare her for. 

But what a great great experience.  I'm still smiling thinking about it!


  1. Friends make everything better!

  2. I can sympathize with your nerves. I am also a bit of a panic merchant and my gelding a nervous traveller. My filly walks on without a care in the world and when we did a move recently, she was an angel. My gelding, like Little Love, can be nervous and take off. Where I had to load him, if he got away, he could run onto a busy road and I loaded him with a racing bit as well as a halter. Two lead ropes, one on the halter and one on the bit. I hate bits and it's the only time I will use one as I've had him bolt down the road when loading before and don't want him getting hit by a truck. I too was so nervous that my hands were shaking and I was more wound up than my horse, but he just marched straight in after my filly. I'm only ever nervous loading him and only due to past experience like you. Someone else loading Lilo may be good but it's you she trusts. Perhaps you both have a lesson in this for eachother.

  3. What a nice trailering experience this was! I agree with Kamilla, Little Love trusts you, so even if you decide to have a Zen minded friend help load Lilo, you would benefit the situation so much by being there too! She responds to you, and all your different heart rates, and looks to you for guidance. Awesome! You and Becky are a great team!

  4. What a wonderful job you have done in getting Little Love ready for her journey! I think I can count on one hand - the number of people that would have taken that kind of time to get a horse o.k. with travelling in a trailer.

    Just like all other aspects of working with horses, that often gets rushed too. Taking the time the HORSE NEEDS is so SO important.

    I have been taking Griffin into more and more strange places around the farm and down the road recently and just like you -- I am working on taking everything a step at a time and staying calm. I tend to tense up and get panicky myself when I think something is going to frighten my boy...not only because I don't want either of us hurt, but also because I hate seeing him scared.

    I know that Griffin picks up on my slightest reaction to ANYTHING -- so I know I need to work on staying relaxed myself in edgy situations. Even my more traditional minded horse friends tell me that -- that I tend to get worried too much and it then Grif gets worried because "I" am worried.

    I am working on that.....on keeping my focus on interacting with Griffin in each moment rather than on everything else that is going on around us. It is hard...really hard. But I know it can be done!!!!

    Sending lots of (((((HUGGS))))) to you and Lilo :)

  5. Thank you all for your comments! I hope that when it comes to loading Little Love in the truck in France, there is someone there who has more Zen than I do :-)
    Carol, it's interesting that you mentioned the "time factor". I was just talking to one of my best friends about this and she commented on how many people claim they are taking time to train their horse something like trailer loading. But often "taking time" means something like 2 hours. Which is in the big scheme of things is NOTHING. Her own horse lives in an open stable and had to learn how to go into a very tight and narrow automatic feeder. It took her MONTHS to train him, but now he does it without a problem.
    Sometimes it takes months. And we should be willing to give our horses the time it takes instead of expecting them to learn something in two hours just because we think that's enough. So keep working with Griff on the scary things, one step at a time!

  6. Good luck with everything!

    I'm really looking forward to hearing about how things go as you start to get settled in in Finland. Becky must be quite sad though.

  7. Not to mention Col. Is Col going to get a new friend?