the barn in fall

the barn in fall

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Horses on Wheels

Our farm has lost two animals.  No, no one died.  My daughter went to college and took her cat, Sally.  Nice cat, but socially dysfunctional since a previous owner cut all her toes off.  (They call it declawing - a neutral word, like "enhanced interrogation."  It's still torture for the one on the receiving end.)  The other cats threw a party when she left.

Also, our boarder horse, Code Red, has left.  He'd been here two years, since his owner adopted him from a rescue group.  He's a good horse, but stubborn about the one thing he hates - getting in a horse trailer.  It's not an unusual problem, but one his owner needs to solve.  She's been trying for two years, but Code Red objected.  Strenuously.  Now he's at a stable where a trainer will work with him.

I have mixed feelings about trailering horses.  Even though I did it for years, my sympathy is with Code Red.  Horse trailers don't ride like your comfy car - they're noisy, with no real suspension, so every bump in the road is a jolting bang.  Four-legged animals aren't made to balance while the earth shakes beneath them, especially in the head-forward position we often ask of them.  They do much better if they stand sideways and can brace themselves without pitching head first into a wall.

But we need to be able to move our horses.  For us, it was purely for pleasure - my daughters did horse shows and the high school equestrian team.  At first we hitched a ride with others, then borrowed a very old trailer.  I shudder to think how we squeezed Laurel and our friend's horse Magic into that little red box.  We literally closed the door on Magic's thoroughbred butt.
The following season we had our own trailer - roomier, but still that head-forward position, not to mention a bit claustrophobic.  The only picture I have of it is when we were unloading after a horse show:

My horse Fritz has limited trailering experience, and is certain he shouldn't be in one.  Smart guy.  But when we moved here he needed a ride, so we used a 4-horse stock trailer.  Using the divider to separate it into two compartments, the horse has room to stand any direction he chooses.  They'll choose sideways or at an angle every time.  So that's what we bought for our next trailer.

I can't say the horses liked it, but they loaded without objection.  Better yet are the aluminum trailers that don't heat up like ovens in the summer.  You see them a lot now, mostly slant-loads.  Horses are riding more safely than they used to.  But trust me, they could still use a horse version of Ralph Nader to reform the trailer industry. 

Well-trained horses do what their owners ask of them, trusting they'll be safe, including stepping into loud, vibrating metal boxes that move.  That's a lot of trust.  Ultimately, Code Red is right - horses don't belong on wheels.  Until we find a better solution, please drive carefully around horse trailers!

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