Originally Published April 5, 2021
I hope you are all enjoying whatever spring looks like in your area. The end of winter for us was a bit cold, windy, icy and more indoor than outdoor for the humans, but spring brings sunshine and new growth.
It also brings an entirely new opportunity to the Hope Horsemanship Herd, they made a move a few miles up the highway to a beautiful farm. The farm owners travel often but would like to have horses again in their lives and have asked if I would help them find and maintain a couple of nice horses for them and their family to ride around the 600+ acres property.
It’s a nice fit for me and will be fun to work with a larger herd adding two of their horses to my three mares. They are just positioning themselves for this expansion and have a beautiful new barn in the “horse pasture” area that is not finished out on the inside yet but will be this year.
We are all looking forward to the new relationship and opportunities and I had a talk (no really, I did) that she was being upgraded to a nice office, in the high ground overlooking the river, but also she was being promoted to manage a larger herd in a new place. She accepted and we made the move.
The move was initially the most difficult on Wyoming because she has not left the farm except on trail since she arrived there four years ago. Because of her experience with trailers in the past has been 100% negative (meaning a trailer always means removing her from whatever herd and left she had gotten used to) this process has been not only physical (being confined) but emotional (trusting that she wasn’t being taken away again from everything she had come to know). I have only been. mildly successful in the past 2 years getting her to stay on the trailer willingly.
This move gave me an opportunity to put purpose and meaning behind the “exercise” because she was actually leaving a place, but she was sticking with her family, her herd. The place is less important than the herd, so I knew if I could just get her to face her fears, she would see it worked out this time.
So often we work horses in the hypothetical… much arena work is this way. I believe it does matter that we do our best to use horses or put them in a position of purpose as well. It is important to learn the communication of good steering, body control, self-carriage, and impulsion but once these skills become manageable it’s an important developmental step mentally and physically to get out on the trail, open a gate from the saddle, work a cow, jump a log, or in this case use the trailer to get to a new home. The purpose adds something valuable to the entire process.
In this case it also meant we had no choice but forward. It wasn’t easy- the video gives the highlights but not the entire 2 hour process of working this mare as best I could to choosing the trailer willingly, and finding some comfort in the process. In the end it was messy, and I had to insist with more force than I wanted to. She knew by the end of the morning that there was no other option, I would back up this ask completely as much as she required and she did walk in, a little more shut down than I would like someday.
In my observation with horses and trailers, this level of anxiety and being shut down comes from the emotional connection, and with all the work I’ve done to get her comfortable getting on the trailer including adding her herd leader, nothing was going to get her to face that fear except the purpose of you must come or be left behind. Finally something worse- only she didn’t understand that.
I am pleased to say that once she unloaded 5 minutes up the road and walked into her new field with her herd, she seemed to be completely in the moment and I see no lasting detrimental effects. The herd is settled in and seems content in the new place. Wyoming is friendly as she ever was seeking me out whenever I visit.
I have not revisited the trailer, but I will soon. Now that this step has come it is important to continue forward with her. We have 2 local clinics this year she will participate in and one hopefully this fall in North Carolina, the wild one is going to have to get used to the fact that her job will mean a little travel.
Here is my video of the herd move, enjoy!