Truly, the last meaningful event of 2016, the transfer of Dandy from the farm where he stayed from the first day I bought him, to his new place, closer to our home, unraveled in the moment brilliant, mighty way.
To a lot, that will look like absolutely nothing. A horse was put in a trailer and driven a short 40km or so from point A to point B, nothing to holler about. To people versed in horsemanship, and anyone who has ever been challenged to transport any equine, that is, indeed, not a small feat. What makes it so special ? will you ask. Well, the colt (at 2.5 he is still very much a baby horse) has never been in a trailer before. He has had extremely limited exposure to the very object of a horse trailer, and has seen the inside of one for maybe 5 seconds, the one time, about a month ago, we had one around and open for practice. ALL the rest of the “preparation” he had with today in mind had to be “creative” and “emulate” the action of going into, and out of, a horse trailer.
The worst element of trailer loading a horse is -by far- … humans. Humans have absolutely NO patience when it comes to that one event in the horse’s life where you must show (and preferably possess) the patient of a saint. My absolute terror about this planned road transfer was that the surrounding humans, (the owners/driver of the trailer, the stables’s head, etc) would start getting impatient if a little time was needed, and start interfere, which, of course, was bound to put a lot of unwanted pressure on the horse. That’s when **preparation** is absolutely godsend. Thanks to thorough and faithful preparation, Dandy’s very first loading into a threatening looking tiny metal box actually took about 5 minutes. He never actually took the slack out of his leadrope. I was so proud and happy I would have cried.
Here he’s watching over his shoulder, as the door closes in on him.
It actually unraveled like this : I first went to fetch him in his pasture, and made a point of leading him through the courtyard using the most unlikely possible path, the most challenging, the most narrow spaces, etc. And weirdly enough, he followed me very nicely and willingly. Then into the arena, where we went through our best and most thorough groundwork routine. Exceptionnally, I couldn’t get him to pick me off the fence. Or, rather, I couldn’t get him to *properly* parrarel park at the fence for getting on totally safely, so I just didn’t. Instead we just groomed him, wrapped his legs for protection, and led him to the trailer. When the door was open and ramp slid down, he raised his head up, looked concerned, and backed up. I just had him working circles not far from the ramp. Pressure on the part of the circle going away from the trailer, no pressure going towards it. After about 4 circles he stopped himself near the trailer. I straigthened him up facing the ramp and felt of him on the rope. He walked right on the ramp. We both stopped like a single man, giving/taking a little pause. He smelled the inside of the trailer, the divider, the floor mat. I slipped under the chest bar and gently asked him to move forward more. He obliged. I had asked that the divider be pushed to the side as much as possible to increase the trailer estate and not frighten him. A half suger cube given at the precise time finished convincing him that the trailer was a pretty cool place. He was now fully in. Pulling the divider back in place would have been noisy, have caused vibrations, and would have very probably scared him, so I decided the best course of action was to practice backing off the trailer, putting the divider back, then walking him in again. He walked back out like a pro, happily chewing on lips and looking totally chill. With the divider back in place, the trailer looked more than ever like a sardin can. In all honesty, if I were a horse, I would NOT willingly step in there. But low and behold he looked at me and walked right in. Well, he walked in 4/5 of the way. Then, someone started an air compressor a few meters from the back of the trailer. Dandy stopped, raised his head, ears pricked. I fed him some rope so he would **not** feel trapped in the slightest way, and told Jenn, who stood at the back ” if he wants to walk out, let him, I’ll walk him back in”. But my horse looked at me again, I talked to him, rubbed him on the forehead, and he lowered his head, and finished fitting his big body into that tiny metal box. All out of trust for me.
The croup bar and door caused zero issue, he was happily munching on the haynet. We left the farm and traveled without any glitch at all. He only scratched the floor once, about 5 minutes from reaching destination, at a red light.
Arrived at the new place, everything kept going as smoothly as it possibly could . We opened the door, lowered the ramp, and he stood there, quiet and focused, waiting for me to tell him what to do. I asked him to back up, slowly, and he got out safely and in style. The moment he hit the ground I started leading him, this way, then that way, until his mind was right back on me despite the new surroundings and many other equines looking at him from all sides. I led him through a bunch of narrow gaps and intricate ways, to the pasture. The slack never came out of the rope. Once in the new pasture, he got a little excited at the two horses and one donkey that came rushing to meet him, but he stood very politely until I removed his halter and told him it was ok to go.
What happened next is horse stuff, a lot of charging, kicking, the bossmare making it clear she was in charge, and Dandy trying to defend while keeping his composure. He’ll have a couple of rough days and then hopefully settle in. I’ll visit him tomorrow so make sure to stay tuned !