Sunday, August 30, 2009

Trailer Unloading Woes

If there's one thing with Lilly I can complain about, it's her antics when she unloads from the horse trailer. As I mentioned in the JCHSS post, when we got home from the show I was in SUCH a good mood. :) We had done so well at the show and Lilly is just a joy to be around. One of my friends came to the show to watch us and she loves Lilly too... so it's not just me. ;)

When we got home, though, I stopped, got her lead rope and clipped it to her halter. Meanwhile, horses all over the farm are whinnying to her. She's whinnying back... Ok, I got it, you're happy to be home. I could tell she was ready to get out of the trailer, as she always is.

So here's my setup: Two horse slant. The front stall holds all my junk. A couple totes, hay, shavings, and one of my new carts. So Lilly rides in the back stall. My trailer has no ramp and I will admit has a bit of a high step, especially for my short, fat pony. There isn't a butt bar. It's a butt strap, and she already broke it, so I decided not to bother having it repaired since it would probably just happen again (although I probably should). I hook the lead rope to her halter, throw it over her back and grab it when she comes out. Sometimes I'll take the lead from the rear of the trailer and hold it while she backs out, it just depends on where we are and what's going on.

So here's what happened... lead rope was over her back, I opened the back door, and was getting ready to ask her to back out, and SHE CAME OUT. She came out at warp speed and I barely had time to get out of the way. So her fat ass ran right into me, her front foot stepped on mine and my freak out (screams of pain and flailing arms to get her off my foot) caused her to freak out. She proceeded to slam her head into the partition creating a nice hairless scrape right above her left eye.

Now my good mood is completely gone, and I'm pissed.

I've been working on this with her for a few months now because she started coming out faster than I wanted her to and often she'd step on her self or catch herself with a shoe and cut her leg. (Where are my wraps, you ask? Good question... it's just so dang hot here in the summer that she's a ball of sweat without them. If she keeps this up, though, I'll have to go back to using them.) So I'd toss her butt back in and after a few times of getting on and coming off, she would do it more slowly and more controlled.

When we first got to the JCHSS show she came flying out, but I put her back in and it only took one time coming back off before she was going slow and I was happy with it. So I thought we were making progress. Guess not.

So on and off she went... on and off, on and off, and it wasn't getting any smoother. In fact, I think had I not been aware, she would have run me over again. I could hold on to her tail or push on her butt, she didn't care, she was coming OUT. She doesn't usually fly out as soon as I open the door. She'll stand as quiet as can be, but as soon as I tell her to back, she flies out. Today was just a special day, I guess.

So I need to figure out why. Why is she flying out of the trailer? I think she's just very anxious to be where she needs to be and is in a hurry to get out. I haven't tested it yet, but I think if I went out there tomorrow, hooked up my trailer and practiced, she would get in and out without much trouble. Again, haven't tried it, and I plan to, but that's the result I expect. I could be wrong. And before you accuse me of being a crazy driver, I'm a really good driver, especially when I have the trailer. Extra slow on the turns and I stop smoothly. Granted, there have been occasional OMG moments where someone cuts me off, but her trailer rides are pleasant.

I was so pissed yesterday that I eventually just called it quits. I was hot, tired, and had to get into work. I was already running late. I've been pondering my options for teaching her to back out slowly. My challenge is that I'm flying solo. Most of the trailer suggestions begin like so: "Start by having another person..." No can do... it's just me. And when she's in the back stall, I can't fit in there safely to back her out from her head. I was thinking I could move all 600lbs of stuff I have from the front of the trailer and load her in the front stall for practice. Then I could be at her head when she comes out and back with her. Maybe she just needs to be shown how to come out of the trailer properly? That would have to be totally temporary because I don't have anywhere else to put all that stuff. By being in the rear stall, though, she's coming out at an angle and maybe by being in the front stall she can come out straight and it'll be easier for her? I need to be able to haul her in that rear stall, but maybe she'll get the hang of it and I can go back to hauling her like I need to.

As I tried to go to sleep last night, though, I started to wonder if it's uncomfortable for her to back out of the trailer. When she flies out, she gets her two back legs and one front leg out, but then that last leg that's still in the trailer is drug out. She literally drags it out, along with most of my shavings, and it slams to the concrete. So the step is so high that she can't even pick that foot up (or she's too lazy, one of the two) to get it out of the trailer and put it down. She has to drag it out.

So now I'm contemplating a ramp... I have no idea how much it would cost to add a ramp to the trailer, or if that would even fix the problem, but that might be what I have to do.

Any suggestions for teaching her how to step out of the trailer SLOWLY? One foot at a time perhaps? With a slant load trailer and one lonely handler?


  1. :( I'm glad you weren't hurt worse! UGH, that reminds me of a few weeks ago when I thought Daisy was about to plow me down, thank GOD she just kinda pushed me and I didn't fall/ get under her hooves (lets just say we had some come to Jesus moments after that, lol, it was of course another Rusty-coming-up-on-her-butt problem -_-')

    Is your foot okay??

    I really haven't had a whole lot of experience with this. My QH mare I had a while ago used to get off a little fast, but not terrible. I think if I were you I'd get a butt BAR put in, not a chain. Is that possible? That way you can make sure she is staying off the bar with the door open, and not letting her out until she is standing good.

    anyway, I found a post on it at mugwumps that I remembered reading a while ago, not sure if you want to go this way, but it might be a possible solution (you'd need a friend to help tho) not sure I like it...seems like it might make the horse trailer shy, but mugwump has never steered me wrong before, she is a genius.

    Good luck!

  2. Get a session with a trainer who has experience with trailer loading and problems in general.

  3. Thanks, Britnie! Me too! It could have been bad! I think Lilly got hurt worse than I did. My foot is ok, but her scrape is icky. It's just one of those skin-off scrapes, but they alyways look gross.

    I'm hoping this particular case, where she flies out immediately, is a one time thing... because our problem hasn't been that she flies out as soon as I open the door. Usually she stands perfectly still until I tell her to come out and THEN she flies out. So it's usually just her safety that I'm worried about. Saturday's thing was not the norm, and I hope it doesn't become that way.

    I read the mugwump post and a few others online as well. They were great ideas, but most of them aren't really condusive to the type of trailer that I have, or the fact that I don't have another person. I could do the mugwump thing with just me I think, because I can toss her back in the trailer over and over, like she suggests, and that's pretty much what I've been doing with her already, minus the whip. I'm not sure the whip would be a good idea with Lilly just because of her personality (don't really need a whip to get entice her), and she already jumps back into the trailer. I just wonder if that would teach her to fly in too... to get away from the whip.

    With the slant load, I can't get in there with her, so some of those ideas had to be tossed aside too. Unless I put her in the front stall, then I could do that.

    My trainer friend suggested that I teach her to unload at the same time I'm teaching her to load. So one foot on, then back off. Two feet on, back off. Three feet on, back off... etc. So that she learns how to step out one foot at a time. I think this is a great idea, but I just don't know if it'll all go out the window as soon as she's at a show where she is super anxious to get out.

    I also read it's a good idea to teach them how to back over ground poles so they learn how and where to put their feet when they're backing up. People even raise them like cavalettis and have the horse back over them that way. I think we'll do that for sure.

    One other thing I thought about is that she gets to get out of the trailer as soon as we get somewhere. It's hot in the trailer and I'm anixous to get her out myself. So we stop, and I get her out. We get home, I stop, and I get her out. I'm thinking maybe I should leave her in there so she doesn't think as soon as we stop she gets to come out. Maybe she'll relax a bit while she's waiting for me to sign up for classes? She'll just have to be hot for a few more minutes.

    Or, like anonymous said, maybe I can trailer her to my trainer's place and we can work on her there. She'll be in a hurry to get out, that's for sure!