Wednesday, August 12, 2009

@$#% Trailer loading and unloading

Today was the day Lily went to the vet. I was a little nervous, of course, given her unloading issue, but I decided to think positive. Besides I'm very worried about her limping.

Sierra went with me and we got busy packing a few supplies. Grabbed cookies, alfalfa, brushes...

Then we had to figure out why we were getting shocked by the trailer (turns out it was touching the electric fence!). Hmm. I wonder if it's been doing that the whole time...

So once we solved that mystery, I put grain in her bucket, Lily got right in, I latched the butt bar and off we went!

Then at the vet she got right out, nice and calm.

Fixed, I thought to myself.

Yeah. Right. Proving once again that I am a moron.

Okay, a little harsh. But STILL.

Dr. Blevins, after doing another block (on the back of her leg instead of the front, just behind the coffin joint) and she went completely sound he recommended we try treating her with an injection designed to increase the lubricant around the coffin joint area mixed with a steroid.

He was quite thorough in his explanation, I'm just terrible at conveying it.

The next three days is stall rest and then in about 10 days we should know if it is working. If not, then we have to get more x-rays and such. Here she is getting her shot for the nerve block.

I came back at the end of the day to pick up Lily.

And Lily declined to load. For 45 minutes. Finally we had to whack her on the butt to get her to load, stay loaded and get the butt bar in place.

I've never had trouble loading her before, it was just the unloading. But here it was. She'd go in, then she'd back out. She'd go in and refuse to move over for the butt bar. She'd get her front feet in and just stand there. We tried light line lunging (the horse is supposed to be on stall rest. lunging seemed like not a good idea - at least not too much). Running her backwards. Pushing her out of the trailer before she decided to leave to show her who was in charge. Finally just whacks on the butt worked. But I think it set up what happened next.

Then, when we got back home I opened her window to give her some alfalfa, thinking it would give her something to focus on so she wouldn't bolt out. It seemed to help when we unloaded at the vet.

I went to open the butt bar and she pushed against it. I told her no and tapped her lightly with my hand to get her to move forward. Then I released the butt bar and encouraged her to come back.

She went forward. She stuck her head out the window. She kept her head out as if that was the exit.

I couldn't believe it. My bolter was suddenly flumoxed by where the exit was.

I went to the front of the trailer realizing that she was really actually freaked out even though she wasn't stomping or anything. It was like she couldn't think, was frozen, confused.

There she was, her head out the window, pushing against it as if she could get out through that tiny rectangle. As gentle as possible, but in a firm tone I said back. Nothing. I rubbed her face, tried to calm her down. Suddenly she pulled her head in, slamming it against the window and backed out - not in a full panic as she does, but quick.

She shook her head repeatedly as she stood just outside the trailer, moving her jaw in a weird sideways motion.

And I thought I just killed my horse. I killed the sweetest horse on the planet just because I opened the darn window...

She shook her head over and over, moved her jaw over and over. I moved her to the stall and she took a couple dizzy steps. She was definitely not happy with me as I put balm on her forehead. I felt terrible, knowing if I knew a little more I might have been able to prevent it.

Talk about one step forward and about 1/2 a mile back.

I'll be by in the morning to check on her. I told our trainer what happened and she assured me she'd survive this and that I didn't do anything wrong. I'm sure I could have done something better. But we agree on one thing.

We've got a whole lot of hauling to do.

PS: the saddle fits Bo! I was too traumatized to ride, but I did put it on him and take a quick turn in the arena...


Pony Girl said...

Wow. You are having quite the time. I am lucky the vet does farm calls (of course, we pay $90 for it, too!) I thought for sure it sounded like the electric shocking trailer was the original cause, but it sounds like something else is up. Might take some pretty consistent work, perhaps once the leg is healed up and she can handle some work. Most natural horsemanship methods seem to employ the "work outside the trailer, rest inside the trailer" approach, I saw Clinton Anderson do an amazing trailer loading demo with a hard to load horse last summer. Anyway, it must have been scary to see her hit her head. I imagine you could try a head bumper but you really can't wrap them in bubble wrap (and even if you did, they'd still find a way to hurt themselves! :) Keep us posted!

Anonymous said...

I used to have a couple of really bad loaders, but we managed to get the problem fixed for both of them. Difficulty loading may be related to fear/difficultly getting off. The inconsistency in loading may just be that sometimes she wants to get on the trailer and sometimes she doesn't and it really doesn't have all that much to do with you or what you do. I've found that the key is to do it one foot at a time, keep the feet moving and be sure the horse is able to cope with the backing part - I did a post a while ago on that, but then I'm certainly no expert and have no idea what's up with your mare.

Good luck!

Unknown said...

Trailering scares me. I'm lucky to have a horse that does it well.

Nuzzling Muzzles said...

Unfortunately, horses have to bang their heads a few times to learn just how much they can move around. My horses whacked their heads backing out of windows and throwing their heads up while jumping out of the back of the trailer for a while. They shook their heads and sometimes even took some fur off, but they did survive. If she's still dizzy several hours later, then you might have a vet check her out, but head-conking is pretty common when trailering inexperienced horses. Have you seen those helmets with ear covers that they make for horses?

Trailrider said...

I'm kind of not surprised. Lily's difficulty unloading was just the first symptom, in my opinion. Now that's she's being asked to do more, you're seeing others. Her trailer skills are limited, at best.

Lily will probably need a lot of ground work, and I hope to see you soon to give you my latest book purchase on problem-solving, because there are numerous ground exercises in there that prepare your horse for trailers. It's going to require going back to the basics.

And remember, this has been an issue for Lily for a long time, well before you owned her. It's just now getting addressed.

Unknown said...

PG: I'm going to try that Clinton Anderson approach - I didn't want to lunge her too much because she was supposed to be resting. But all bets are off on Tuesday.

Kate: I've gone to your site and am reading up on your tips. I'm going to work on getting her moving when told.

Cara: I was totally spoiled with Canyon. He loaded completely confidently. But frankly, I'll take trailer issues over bucking. :)

NZ: I have seen those helmets - nice to know its not just my horse that can conk her head. I checked on Lily this morning and she seems just fine.

TR: I had no idea she had issues loading. But she's going to have to learn. Finish that book already! LOL

Trailrider said...

It's hard to know what a horse's problem areas are until you take them out of their comfort zone and challenge them. I suspect Lily had some issues, but she really hadn't been ridden much in the last year before you purchased her. But she's a good horse, and when she's sound again, I'm sure you'll work her through these challenges.

My current farrier (your previous) has good data on the same meds you're giving Lily, but using a different vet (very renowned; I looked her up) and using systemic injections rather than joint injections. But you'd have to give the shots yourself. I almost went that route with Spirit for his arthritis, but ultimately decided he wasn't riding THAT poorly for what I was doing with him, and he just wasn't worth the cost, honestly.

FYI: A horse of James busted his head wide open on a trailer. The worst part was, he was borriwing the horse! The owner was understanding, thankfully. It happens...

Chelsi said...

I hope that you get a positive result with that new treatment. And its great news that saddle fits Bo...a great start! As for trailer loading, I'm with Pony Girl, I've seen some excellent demos but sometimes they are harder to put in to action than they seem.

lytha said...

oh, hey, i found the story you mentioned about the head injury!

i am so lucky baasha trailers well. i would hate to have to train a horse to trailer!


Melanie said...

Ughhhhh...sorry to hear about your latest trailering issue with Lily. My old horse split his face-right down the center of his blaze-wide open once. He had always had trailering issues, but they miraculously seemed to disappear after that incident...thank goodness!! It is scary....

And I know I shouldn't laugh, but how funny/not funny is it that the trailer may have been shocking her this whole time??? Ironic, I tell you....

PS-Glad that saddles fits your Bo! :)