February 2017 – One Great Horsemanship Tip
Many women have the dream of going places with their horses and doing fun things! Many times driving the horse and trailer to places is something that is so far out of our comfort zone, it is not even possible. If you are in this category, this tip will help! If you are not in this category, read this really great tip anyway, you can just replace the concept of trailer driving with any other issue you might be having.
Because ultimately, everything is everything else!
Driving your trailer – For you – Let’s say you are worried about pulling the trailer with your horse in it! Many people worry about this, you are not alone.
1.) Practice hooking up your own truck to your own trailer by yourself. Once you know it is hooked up correctly, you’ll be more confident that it will perform as it is designed to do every time.
2.) Just like when you first learned to drive, a big empty parking lot with lined parking spaces and curbs would be a great place to practice! But the last thing you need is someone who is going to micromanage your experience, you want to be able to experiment with driving your truck and trailer without a horse. Drive in this parking lot until you are bored and you don’t hit any curbs or unintentional lines. Stop whenever you want to and get out and walk around your rig to see how you are doing in a NO PRESSURE SITUATION. Take the time it takes, maybe 7 times or more. This may seem like a lot of time now but in the scheme of years of peaceful travels, taking this time now is well worth it.
3.) Go slow and make slow calculated moves forward. Find markers in your mirrors where you can see parts of your trailer. Adjust your mirrors so you can see your trailer’s tires but only about 1/2-1 inch of the trailer should show in your mirrors, you’ll need those mirrors to see the traffic so practice using them now.
4.) a. Horse trailers are designed to haul thousands of pounds of horses, so horse trailers travel much quieter when they are loaded up with horses and all of your gear.
b. Once you have driven around in a safe and empty parking lot and you’ve figured out how to go forward, use the lines and curbs in the parking lot to notice the turning radius you need to not run over curbs or hit other cars,
c. learned how to go backward, use the lines and markers in your mirrors.
d. take a drive on the road and notice the sounds that are normal coming from your truck and trailer. This way you won’t worry about normal noises but, you’ll be alert for abnormal noises like issues with your tires or noises the horses are making.
e. While you are at it, change a tire on your trailer so you are confident that you have all that you need to change a tire if you need to. Trailer tires are notorious for needing to be changed on the highway! If you know you can do this, you will be far more confident about what you need and where to find it all when you have a problem, including an appropriate place to change the tire. Well meaning people may stop to help, sometimes they are more trouble than help. You’ll be leaving your horses inside your trailer while you change the tire, so be sure you have the correct jack to lift your trailer full of horses!
5.) I drive with my windows open to hear things better until I feel comfortable. If you do this during your practice driving, you’ll get use to it for later. Take notice of what speed you feel safe driving, stopping and turning. When your trailer is empty it will feel different than when your trailer is full.
6.) Drive your trailer every day wherever you go, without your horse until you are so good at it, when you add your horse, you will only think about your horse and not worry about the driving. Driving your trailer to work, the convenience store or gas station doesn’t seem very convenient but that skill will come in handy if you need to stop when you have your horse and trailer one day in the future.
Driving your trailer with your horse! – By the time your horse is in your trailer, you will not be worrying about the driving but about how your horse is traveling. Know that, most often, the anticipation of the trailer ride for horses, is worse than the actual traveling. Once your horse is safely in your trailer:
1.) Take a walk around the rig to inspect all of the trailer hookups, tires and doors so you know all are in order. I don’t leave this step up to anyone else.
2.) My trailer is a smorgasbord on wheels. All of the best hay is in the trailer. I want my horses to want to be in there and to look forward to the ride. I recommend this step. I am careful, not to feed a nervous horse anything it can choke on if it is nervously eating. Great hay is a great idea. This is not a bribe, but a great memory!
3.) Naturally, riding in a horse trailer is pretty un-natural for horses and if you have ever ridden in one ( I recommend this), you’ll see that they are mostly noisy and bumpy, sudden stops and turns can be quite unbalancing.
4.) It can get hot in there pretty easily, especially if there are multiple horses inside, so I recommend keeping the windows wide open, remember your horse is wearing a fur coat! And, no, I do not recommend a blanket.
5.) Once your horse is in the trailer, I do not recommend taking him out until you reach your destination. When you do reach your destination, I recommend taking your time to unload. We want our horses to wait patiently, not assume that as soon as we get there, they get unloaded right away. I often open windows and possibly doors to let air in.
6.) The question of tying horses in the trailer often comes up. For me, if a horse needs to be tied, I tie them, but I prefer not to tie horses. This is directly related to how I teach horses to self load. If I have a concern that a horse is going to turn around in the trailer, I’ll tie them, if not, I won’t, but I do keep a halter and lead rope on my horses and since my lead rope is a heavy 12 foot lead rope, I just toss it over their back on the way in and retrieve it on their way out.
Trailer loading and perhaps trailering horses can be some of the most stressful activities known to horse people. I have spent a good portion of my horse training career helping people with horse trailering issues. I hope this tip is helpful.