Trailer Loading Practice

A barn friend and I are planning on hauling out to the GMHA Fall Foliage Ride this weekend. The last time Tristan got on a trailer was for his surgery, and the barn friend is leasing a new horse and had never seen him load. So I brought my truck out to the barn, hitched up the trailer, and we worked on loading with both of them.

Tristan is not great at loading. Over the years, he’s gotten much less dramatic, thankfully. Yesterday, he approached and backed off 3-4 times before finally walking on. I tend to take a very patient road with him and let him look as much as he wants. I never ask him to go forward until I see that he has softened a little bit. He only gets punished if he goes back, and then he gets shanked once or twice, hard, with the chain. Experience has taught me that if he gets away with backing up he will go from minor nuisance to full-blown dangerous in minutes, so I do not tolerate a single step back. Each of the times he “backed off” yesterday were him squirreling out to the side, and my choosing to turn and re-present rather than argue about lateral work. He only yanked back once, and regretted it.
Pawing, pawing, pawing…
We left them to settle in for just a few minutes, and I fed Tristan some treats. When I stepped away for a minute he commenced pawing, which is par for the course for him. When we’ve actually gone somewhere, he usually just chills once we’re there. God forbid, however, I load him to leave and then don’t pull away immediately. WHAM, WHAM, WHAM. I have done everything over the years to stop it and nothing has ever worked. Pawing is his annoyance behavior of first resort, whether he’s in a stall, in the wash rack, or on a trailer. It’s just part of him.
He backed off the trailer beautifully, again according to pattern: one hasty backup into the butt bar as soon as he hears me back there, I jab him in the but with a knuckle, and he steps up. Once I’m sure he’s settled, I drop the butt bar and pull on his tail and tell him “back.” He backs delicately down the ramp in mincing, careful steps, leaving me plenty of time to grab the lead rope I leave tossed over his neck.
I need to make a few purchases to update the first aid kit – instant ice bag and electrolyte paste, primarily – but other than that we should be good to go on Sunday!
first aid · trailering

First Aid Kit for the Trailer: Spring Checkup

Okay, so it’s more like midsummer checkup, but still: yesterday, I went through the first aid kit that I keep in the trailer. It’s a fairly obsessive kit, because my theory is that while I’m at the barn, I can find just about anything I need or run out to buy it posthaste. If I’m out on the road, who knows where I might be or what I might find?

I keep it in this tupperware box, which is about 12″x9″ – pretty decent size. It’s not packed to the gills. First up was going through the checklist that lives with the kit itself.

Sadly, because I’m a loser, this checklist is left over from the last time I went through the kit, and is no longer accurate. So I just checked again and made additional notes.

Missing this time: two rolls of vetwrap, the lube, the 60cc syringe, the scissors from the suture kit (huh?), the tube of banamine, one of the two pens, one of the two bags of electrolytes.

The antibiotic ointment had expired, as had the saline solution. I threw away the antibiotic ointment but saline solution doesn’t really expire, thanks marketing guys.

I tested the flashlight batteries and the in in the pen, then the thermometer – I stuck it into my armpit. I once nailed some Pony Clubbers on their horse management inspection because while they had a digital thermometer, the batteries were dead. Since then, I’ve been very careful about checking my own during these inspections, because: karma.

Some things I decided not to replace: the second pen, the second roll of tape, the scissors, and the second dose of electrolytes.

Some things I replaced right away: I had already replaced the banamine and just kept it in my main tack trunk, so I transferred that over to the kit. I have enough leftover vet wrap to cover my entire horse head to tail, so it was easy to grab two rolls out and get them to the kit.

I stopped by Walmart on the way home and bought more lube (which necessitated a fair bit of considering time in front of the personal pleasure section at Walmart while wearing my breeches, earning me more than a few sideways looks), a tube of antibiotic ointment, and one addition to the kit: a travel size tube of antibacterial hand wash.

I am not a big believer in the stuff on a daily basis, but I’ve seen how effective it can be around the barn for biosecurity. Every new horse gets a quarantine stall and a big pump jug of the stuff on the door. Our barn is an interesting confluence of several circumstances – rural area with a few other not-great barns nearby, super-fancy and $$$ horses in for training or sales all the time, one or two pregnant mares or new babies at all times, and a very particular ban manager. It’s really great, but it does mean there’s a higher level of care taken about that sort of thing.

Today, I stopped by Tractor Supply and picked up another 60cc syringe with catheter tip. Pre-surgery, I had a half dozen of these around; during Tristan’s rehab, one after another succumbed to broken parts, staining from betadine, or just plain old got lost. Time to re-up.

All I have left to do is update the inventory list and the emergency contact information inside (new barn, need to add the fiance since he would probably care if something terrible happened).

Always bring peppermints!

blog hop · trailering

Viva Carlos Blog Hop: Travel Bug

I’m catching up, ok?

Most of us have been somewhere with our horse, whether its camping, a trail ride, a horse show or just moving them to another barn. Like most things with horses, sometimes success is just a measure of trial and error. What is your best tip for traveling with horses?

Lots of other people have answered to make a list and check it twice. I do that. I even have a separate sub-list for my trailer-specific first aid kit. To describe it as obsessive would not be doing it justice.
However, here is my absolute #1 tip for travelling with horses: bring way, way more water than you think you will need, and bring it from home.
There are many reasons for this, so I’ll break it down.
First, horses can become suddenly picky in the weirdest of ways. Having water that they’re used to, from home, diminishes the chances that they’ll go off drinking.
Second, never, ever, ever plan on water being available where you’re going, even at shows. Biosecurity is a real thing. If you arrive at a show, and the only way to get water is out of a communal trough, DO NOT USE IT. Don’t be that horrible example who brings strangles back to your home barn. (I am also fairly neurotic about not letting Tristan graze if trailer parking is in a strange pasture, but I know that’s a little above and beyond.) Bringing your own water helps neatly avoid this problem. If there’s a hose/spigot available, and you can fill up separately from the main trough that everyone and their cousin has used for their horse, then that’s a bonus, and fill up your empty containers before you go home, just in case.
Corollary to this: don’t be that person who waltzes up to the big trough and lets their horse drink right out of it. You are the Pony Club poster child for thoughtless horse owner. I’m serious about this. Don’t do it. If you must, dunk a clean bucket in to fill up.
Third, you never know how long you’re going to be stuck on a trailer. “Oh, it was only a short ride to the trailhead!” becomes a 4 hour wait in bumper-to-bumper traffic on a hot summer day. If you didn’t bring enough water, or didn’t fill all your empty buckets from the (safe!) hose before you left, then you can’t pull over and offer your horse water and you are going to really, really regret your lack of preparation. I’ve been hauling horses at the tail end of what was supposed to be a short drive and sat for hours and hours in stopped traffic when a horrible accident closed the entire highway. I was very glad I could have my companion jump out and offer water to the horses.
I never hitch up the trailer without somewhere between 20 and 40 gallons of water, depending on how many horses I’m hauling. I usually fill up four 5 gallon buckets, and then I have a few 5 gallon gas containers that I fill up with water as well. I dump and refill them regularly if I haven’t used them up. I scrub them and let them dry in the sun if they show the slightest hint of slime. (I also have 3-5 possible buckets to use for sponging or drinking for horses, so they’re not drinking out of those buckets.) I covet one of those big water tanks that tucks under a gooseneck or in a tack room. Someday!
If you’re hauling with someone else who doesn’t have adequate water buckets in their rig, then it’s your responsibility to provide water for your horse and, if you’re a thoughtful person, for the other horse as well.
So, there’s my lecture/advice. Water: don’t leave home without it.
bathing · spring · trailering

In Vermont, May is still practically winter…

Sunday: gorgeous sunny day, blue sky, light breeze. We went for a 2 mile hack up and down the road with a friend who’s conditioning her new horse. I thought about going up and down the hayfield hill for some additional work, but the trainer was showing a sales horse in the outdoor arena and a galloping mustang probably would’ve been more excitement than they really needed.

So I untacked and decided to do a bath. I rinsed, and I shampooed, and I rinsed, and I did conditioner, and I rinsed…and then realized I had been scrubbing and bathing for a solid hour and poor Tristan was shivering a little bit.

I promptly felt like the world’s worst mom: cold well water, a wash stall in the shade outside, a light breeze, and his flanks were quivering on and off. I scraped off all the excess water and brought him out into the sunshine. He stopped shivering and was perfectly happy to handgraze.

I spent the next two hours worrying about my stupid decision, because that’s what I do. When he wasn’t drying off as fast as I wanted in the sunshine – which kept going and coming as clouds passed over – I started layering coolers: irish knit on the bottom with a wool dress sheet/cooler on the top. Then I pulled the irish knit and we went back out into the sun for a while. Then I swapped the wool cooler for his rattier fleece cooler, cinched it around his stomach, threw him all the hay he could eat, and checked in with the trainer’s barn manager.

“Yeah, I thought you were being really brave!” she said. “It’s still pretty cool!”

Sigh. When I finally left, he had a strip down his belly that was still damp, and his legs were still slightly damp. His core had warmed up considerably, chest and sides were once again warm to the touch, and he was happily eating, drinking, and pooping. He’s fine today.  HORSES.

In the in-between of everything, I hauled all the various storage things back up the hill to my trailer from where they’d been stored in my truck, in our apartment, in my other car…really a bit of everywhere. It was nice to get the trailer really swept out after the winter, go through all the bins and pull things that needed to be cleaned, discarded, or gone through. It looks great in there – and if I ever have time off and energy, we’re ready to go somewhere exciting!

puppy · spring · trailering

To Do List

This is by way of being a to-do list. I have been so overwhelmed these last two weeks – zero down time, zero reflection, and not nearly enough pony time.

I did have a lovely ride on Tuesday night, in which I confirmed again that the Pentosan = fantastic. He’s now finished his loading dose and is on to monthly, which means it’s time for me to turn the screws and see how long & deep the effects really go.

So, to do:

– check on trailer; is it done? will it cost me a mint? good thing I’ve been distracted, otherwise I would worry that the mechanic hasn’t called me in 2 weeks
– clean out truck, ffs
– organize trailer tack boxes
– organize tack room space, ugh
– deep-clean all purpose saddle, in order to use new conditioning lotion the saddle-fitter found for me
– write ALL the blog posts, including my shopping at Everything Equine & the awesome extreme trail class & some blog hop catch up
– look at schedule & see if it matches up with newly-discovered local horse club’s group trail rides
– call farrier; Tristan was re-shod in the front which was NOT the plan and now I am confused and a bit frustrated; poor communication + lack of follow up on my part, or an actual need?

Also, ride the pony more.

This does not include the other things I have to do, like work on my conference proposal and get a dog license and clean out the fridge and and and.



Trailer Inspection & Saddle Fitting

Spring cleaning all around!

First, Sunday, the trailer went in to get inspected. It was an hour of highs and lows.

High: Hitched that sucker up on the second try. BOOM. I take a great deal of pride in my ability to handle my rig.

Low: The electrical socket on my hitch on the truck has rusted such that the plug for the trailer did not go in all the way. So the trailer brakes did not get power.


Luckily, when planning for my rig I was very conservative: the truck can haul and stop the empty trailer under normal conditions. Which is what we had to do, over dirt roads, down steep hills, around a few tight corners, and then into the lot at the mechanic’s.

High: Backed that sucker right up in there.
Low: Looked around at the neighborhood and decided I should totally empty the trailer before leaving it. I have accumulated a LOT of crap in that trailer. More spring cleaning on the list!
A portion of the crap.
On the way home, I swung by Autozone out of curiosity. The truck has a date with the mechanic on Tuesday anyway – it has a bit of an oil leak, ugh – so I figured if I could pick up the right part they could swap out the electrical hookup for me too.
Can I just say: that may have been the first time in my LIFE that I have entered an auto parts store and been treated like an intelligent adult? Something abut muck boots + breeches + muddy coat + mussed hair + baseball cap set me apart. I was also able to intelligently describe what I wanted and they admired my truck when we went out to double-check the right part. Excellent experience all around: I will definitely go back for future stuff!
High: The part I needed was only $15 for the high-end version, and one of my new friends at the store told me if my mechanic charges me more than $20 for installing it he is ripping me off and I should tell him so. High five, random dairy farmer dude!

Then today: saddle-fitting!
I spent a solid 30 minutes outside with curry comb and shedding blade trying to get some hair off of him, and he still looked like a homeless ragamuffin at the end of it. SIGH.
 A cute homeless ragamuffin, at least.

Saddle-fitting went exceptionally well. One of my favorite things about Vermont is how genuinely lovely all the horse people I’ve met are. My barn manager, trainer, farrier, vet, and now saddle fitter. We’d actually met some years ago, when I lived in Vermont before; she was the first person ever to fit Tris, and advised me to buy my jump saddle. So it was terrific to see her again and find she hadn’t changed at all.

It was also terrific to find that my assessment of his saddles was spot on: both were a good overall fit, but both needed adjusting, the jump saddle much more dramatically than the dressage saddle. 
I am somewhat ashamed that when I pulled out the jump saddle – which I haven’t ridden in for about 6 months – it was badly in need of conditioning. Oops.
A pricey, but excellent, couple of tasks checked off the to do list. While the fitter was working on the dressage saddle, I conditioned my jump saddle. Then it dried out. Then I added another layer of conditioning. Then another. (!) I’ve brought it home to keep it up. Ack.
I am not sure how much riding I will get done this week (PUPPY) but Tris will be a beginner lesson pony tomorrow, then he’s going to be a pretend IHSA horse on Saturday for the local university. 

\For the record: dose 3 of 4 of the Pentosan loading dose was today.

trailering · truck

Getting Ready for Hauling in Eight Million Complicated Steps

So: free admission up front that this is my fault. I got myself into this situation through a combination of neglect, laziness, and being broke. But getting my truck and trailer back on the road is proving an uphill battle. It’s one that I will win eventually! But man, is it frustrating in the interim.

Step 1: Re-registering the trailer.

When I moved to Vermont, I parked the trailer. I planned on registering and inspecting it in the spring – no worries! Then Tristan had surgery, and my attention was wholly taken up with his recovery and rehab. Before I knew it, it was late summer again, and there was no way he was ready to go do anything off property.

So, in short, the trailer has been sitting in the same field since November 2012. The registration had expired, and transferring it to Vermont required a) a VIN assignment (horse trailer rules, they are different everywhere, and the trailer is too old to have had a VIN previously), b) paying the sales tax on a trailer I bought eight years ago, THANKS VERMONT, and c) finally getting the registration current.

(when registering all vehicles in Vermont, if you have no proof that you have paid the sales tax, even if the vehicle is 30+ years old and you bought it many years ago, they require you to pay sales tax; in this case, they assigned a basic minimum value to the trailer of $200 and made me pay $12 sales tax, which was not quite enough to refuse in righteous fury but was still enough to be annoying)

All of this was accomplished in a joyful 90 minutes at the DMV last week. Good grief.

Step 2: Get the truck inspected.

No problem right? Except. With this horrible, awful winter, I did not get out as often as I should have to start the truck and run it for a bit to keep the battery primed. So it died. It really died. After a jump and 30 minutes of running it had no intention of starting again.

Not only that, but it was good and buried in a snowbank, which is not a problem of shoveling. The truck is a 2WD and does. not. do. snow. That’s why it sits in winter. But I had a suspicion that even if I could get a jump and start it in order to drive to the mechanic myself, it would never get out of its parking space.

So last night I called AAA, and they showed up with a very big flatbed tow truck and winched the truck out of its parking space and brought it to the mechanic. And I do mean winched it out: it turns out that the tires had been frozen in at least 4″ of ice, and in fact the winch dragged the tow truck back a few inches before the driver re-leveraged it. Holy crap. But eventually, the truck got on to the flat bed trailer, got to the mechanic.

Then it got inspected. Thankfully, it passed inspection with zero problems, just needed a new battery and oil change. GOOD TRUCK.

Step 3: Get the trailer inspected.

This will not happen until the snow melts in early April. There is quite simply no way the trailer is getting out of the snow bank until then. Not. Happening.

Of all the steps, I am dreading this one the most. The trailer has been sitting for nearly 18 months. It is an old trailer. At minimum, it needs the brakes and wheel bearings gone over, and most likely a new breakaway battery. I am worried about the tires, the floor, and the general health of the frame. I don’t know what Vermont requires for an inspection, and I can’t find that information online. I can’t figure out how much money to set aside to fix it – more than $1k? I hope not. I just don’t now. If it’s too much over $1k, I will have to make some serious decisions about the trailer’s future with me.