Wild Horses and Trailer Loading:
Solving Wild Horse and Burro problems is a lot like teaching my mustang to trailer load.
Because early on we had a wreck where she fell, we’ve been working on trailer loading for a very long time now. I’ve gotten a lot of advice and been offered a lot of help. But I don’t want to just get my horse the hell in the trailer. I want calm, controlled stepping up, and calm, quiet, controlled backing out. On command. She’s big and I don’t want to get killed. We’ve spent hours learning to take one step at a time, wherever I indicate, on the command, “Step.” Forward and back, stepping on and off platforms, stepping over poles, forward, back and sideways. Why? Because she wanted to move 10 steps for every one I asked for. Horses are gross movers, which is how we get hurt.
We’ve had everything but those hind feet in and out of various trailers probably 1000 times. She was still afraid to put those back feet in. It was time to try something different. I put her in a pipe stall and backed up the trailer.
On day 1, after about an hour of confinement in the pipe stall, she went in, got her groceries, TRIED to turn around but was blocked by the barrels and ultimately figured it out and backed, nervous but quietly.
Day 2 and 3 ummmmm… No. I fed just enough to keep her from colicking.
Day 4, after about an hour, finally, Yes. Nice bucket of groceries, nice calm backing out, and she got to go out with her friends for the day.
Day 5, after 10 minutes, Yes! Bucket of groceries, backed out, nice and calm, two times! Gets to go out for the day.
I’m thinking, yes! We can do this! Then I realize that after 4 months, I’ve achieved only step one of the goal. I got her back feet in the trailer. Now she needs to be able to do this, on command, a hundred times. I need to be able to close the divider and the tailgate. I need to be able to move the trailer 50’ and let her out so she doesn’t feel she’s going on another 24 hour ride. I need to take her places close to home like the trailhead and the fair grounds.
I see the work stretch out in front of me. Elated for a minute I realize how much more there is to do, that it will be weeks, I feel discouraged. Plus, there’s no guarantee she’s going to go in tomorrow.
It occurs to me, this is a lot like solving wild horse problems. You think, oh, if we could just do this and this, our problem would be solved. Nope. It’s going to be a long, long road, full of steps we don’t even see yet.