Wednesday, May 28, 2008

The real reason your horse doesn't load...

This picture was taken in (Sorry, Southerners) Jonesboro, Arkansas. As the alert reader who snapped it observed "Every time a car would go by, he would shy to the right as far as he could go and stare the car down. And let's not even mention that he had NO protection from the wind as we were going down the road at 60 miles per hour."

This is the perfect picture to illustrate today's topic, which came up in the comments yesterday: Horses who won't load. Just like horses who refuse jumps, horses who won't take a certain lead, and horses who won't stop, the fault usually lies squarely with...the human involved.

First of all, as one reader observed, check your driving. I see people out there hauling horses like they are in the Indianapolis 500. Changing lanes, turning too fast, stopping and starting too fast. The horse is not stupid. If trailering is a bad experience for him, he will start refusing to go in. If you've never ridden in the back of a trailer yourself, I highly recommend it. You have no idea how hard it is to keep your feet. It will give you a new appreciation for how important it is to stop, start and corner slowly. Stop worrying about the people behind you and whether or not they are pissed off. Worry about your horse! I've discovered that a good rule of thumb for turns that are marked with a recommended speed is to go 10 mph slower with a truck/trailer. Yes, that means you really should only go 15 on that freeway ramp. It's also important to remember that you have to slow way down in any kind of inclement weather. Drive courteously, carefully and slowly and you will usually find that you don't have a lot of trailer loading issues with your horses.

Another related note: A 6'6 trailer is a cow trailer. It is not a horse trailer. Horses will bang their heads in a 6'6 and it will make them hard to load. Unless you have ponies, you really do need the 7' height.

Now let's talk about trailer loading technique. It isn't brain surgery. You want the trailer to be a safe, pleasant haven where there is food and nobody bothers you. Outside the trailer is an annoying place where if you don't move forward, someone whacks on your butt and/or growls at you. Easy choice, right? I am a fan of the old fashioned butt rope for a resistant horse (two people have a longe line, and you seesaw it back and forth on the horse's butt, preferably under the tail to create unpleasant friction. Most horses will move away from that in a hurry) and I also have no problem with the use of whips, brooms, whatever's handy as additional encouragement.

Sometimes trailer loading is as simple as putting the horse's best buddy, who loads well, in the trailer first. Don't try to load the bad loader first - that never works. Oh, and obviously it's not smart to put a horse in next to a horse who kicks his ass in the field. If you have an undivided stock trailer, the mean horse goes in LAST, with a muzzle on.

If you are leading the horse into the trailer, you have to get out of the horse's way. If you're standing there facing the horse, of course he isn't going to jump in. He thinks he is going to land on you. You need to be off to the side, out of his way. Leading him in shoulder to shoulder is best but if he's sitting there thinking about it, make sure you are far enough into the trailer and off to the side so that you're not creating an obstacle.

You cannot pull a horse into a trailer. Your rope should be soft, or you can lightly tug and release. The pressure has to come from behind the horse. If you pull steadily - he'll pull back. 100% of the time.

You have to keep a horse straight so he can load. This may mean people on both sides to do that. Horses will typically try to wiggle left or right so that they are no longer pointed at the trailer. You have to re-center them first before you try again. They aren't going to jump in sideways.

This one is from the East Coast! The reader observes they still have the stickers from New Holland on their butts. "unfortunately, as my husband and i were later informed by LAPS (large animal protection society), the only law regarding transport of live cargo is that it not be a double-decker. probably wouldn't have made me so angry except that they ran several red lights and one of the ponies fell down on a particularly sharp (fast) curve. they were also going ABOVE the speed limit most of the time . so wonderful for the ponies to be getting a "whiff" of that fresh air :( bahhhh."

Great. Yeah, those ponies are going to load awesome, next time!

On to a few other matters:

Today's idiot du jour: An Australian columnist who questions the entire practice of gelding and completely misses the main point about population control! Hey, look, I've found Doug Spink's dream human woman!

And now we're going to do a little Asshat Outing. I received this about the horses who were featured in the recent HBO documentary about how racehorses wind up going to slaughter. This ID's all the individuals responsible. If you know any of these people in real life, it's your job to TELL them how disgusting they are. Or, hey, give us their e-mail addresses and we''ll be happy to help!

Kappy - registered name: Kannapolis.
Kannapolis was sent by Mountaineer Park trainer, Gary Bowersock and owner Paul M. Brown Sr., from his Mountaineer Park backstretch stall to Sugarcreek. Another Mountaineer Park trainer and part time backstretch meat-man, Wilson Langley, transported Kappy to Sugarcreek. The fact that Kappy had raced 45 times winning 12 races and over $94,000.00 clearly meant nothing to his connections. Lame and painfully thin, they tossed him away like yesterday's garbage. Outbidding a kill buyer, we paid $550.00 to save Kappy's life. (Kappy has already found his forever home with Carol Hodgeman where he will enjoy his well earned retirement as a companion to Carol's sport-horse Max!!)

Star - registered name: Cinema Star.
Cinema Star was sent by his Mountaineer Park trainer and owner, Loren G. Cox from his Mountaineer Park backstretch stall to Sugarcreek. Star was transported off the backstretch by the well-known backstretch "meat-man" Dick Rudibaugh. Cinema Star, a son of Silver Charm raced 43 times winning 5 races and over $147,000!! In 2002 Star sold at the Keeneland Yearling Sale for $260,000. Lame from what we would later be diagnosed as a basal sesamoid fracture, the brave and regal Cinema Star was tossed away like nothing more than used chewing gum. Outbidding a kill buyer, we paid $525.00 to save Star's life. (According to our veterinarian, Star will be sound for use as a light riding horse, following a brief 60 days of pasture rest. Star is currently available for adoption).

Ellie - registered name: Elegant River.
Elegant River was sent by her Mountaineer Park trainer and owner, Edward Clouston from her Mountaineer Park backstretch stall to Sugarcreek, via backstretch meat-man Dick Rudibaugh. Ellie raced 19 times winning only once with earnings of nearly $15,000. Her only "crime" being that she just wasn’t very fast, Ellie too was tossed away like a pair of old shoes. Outbidding a kill buyer, we paid $525.00 to spare her life. (Ellie is sweet, beautiful, sound, and quiet to ride. Ellie is currently available for adoption)

The additional 3 Sugarcreek horses whose rescue was facilitated by a most generous anonymous donor (you know who you are!!) along with the Fans of Barbaro (FOB's)

Yourgie - registered name: East Over Baghdad.
East Over Baghdad was purchased by kill buyer Fred Bauer for $425.00. We later paid $525.00 to purchase "Yourgie" from Bauer in order to spare his life. We dont know exactly how Yourgie ended up at Sugarcreek, but we do know that he raced 26 times winning 3 races and over $52,000. Having last raced at Charlestown racetrack on 12-23-07 for trainer Angelmarie A. Dwoskin and owner, River Rock Stable. This stunning 16.3 hh, very sweet gray gelding also was thrown away by his connections to be sold as meat-on-the-hoof. (Yourgie has an old attached bone-chip in his knee which the vet feels is a non-issue. He is currently recuperating from a slight ligament strain, and it is believed that he will be sound for most riding endeavors following a brief period of rest. Yourgie is currently available for adoption).

Belle - registered name Bam Attack.
Bam Attack was purchased by Sugarcreek Auction owner and kill buyer Leroy Baker for $475.00. We later paid $525.00 to purchase Belle from Baker in order to spare her life. We don’t know who brought our beautiful Belle to Sugarcreek, but we do know that she raced 50 times, winning only 2 races and just over $18,000. Clearly Belle also committed the ultimate horseracing "crime" of just not being very fast. Bam Attack last raced on 1-29-08 at Beulah Park for trainer, Jack W. York and owner, Robin Harvey. (Belle is a beautiful, sweet, sound, and quiet girl. She is easy to ride, and is currently available for adoption).

Ollie - registered name Zagor's Deco Due.
Zagor's Deco Due was also purchased by Sugarcreek Auction owner Leroy Baker for $370.00. We later paid Baker $445.00 in order to spare his life. "Ollie" is the oldest of our gang of 6 having been foaled in Illinois in 1995. At 13 years old, I’’m certain that Ollie would have a LOT of stories to tell us if he could only talk! During his racing career, Ollie raced 88 times, winning 8 races and over $57,000. He last raced at Beulah Park on 5-7-05. If anyone out there can help us fill in the blanks as to where Zagor's Deco Due has been all the years since his last race, we would love to hear from you! (Ollie is a sound and kind boy. He is blind in one eye due to an injury that was left untreated. Ollie is adjusting to his recent loss of vision, and is sound and quiet to ride. Ollie is currently available for adoption).

It is with a heavy heart that I feel I must mention those who we were unable to save on April 11, 2008. May their sweet and gentle souls forever rest in peace. We will forever remember you. Please forgive the inhumanity of man, and know that you did matter to us and that each and every one of you were very much loved.

Miss Fancy Gold - 2004 Dark Bay or Brown Filly. Raced 23 times winning 1 race and earning nearly $18,000. Miss Fancy Gold last raced at Beulah Park for trainer Edward J. Harvey and owner Karen L. Harvey. Miss Fancy Gold last raced on 4-7-08, only 4 days prior to being sold to slaughter.

All Be At Once - 2002 Bay Horse. All Be At Once raced 6 times never winning a race and earned just over $1,000. His last racing start was made at Fairmount Park in Illinois on 6-26-07 for trainer John K. Witthauer and owner Daniel E. Beard.