I generally mind my own business at the barn. I’m really not above gossip, but I’ll just talk to my husband/the internet about it later. I don’t usually insert myself into the situation.
For example: the completely unsound horse a boarder insists on riding into the ground and has had to bring in a different vet and farrier than the rest of the barn uses because the regular vet/farrier told her to stop riding the horse. Everyone talks about it around her, but I would never say anything to her face. If she’s not going to listen to a vet, she’s not going to listen to me.
Of course, I’m lucky that that one person is pretty much the only source of drama at our barn. Everyone else is low-key and easy-going. Mostly because there aren’t a lot of people to be a source of drama. There are only 12 horses at our barn and my husband and I own 25% of them. Another 1/3 of the horses are retired. My husband and I are the only ones that show. I love it.
I grew up as a poor kid at a fancy show barn. In college, my polo team was the most ghetto team ever seen on the intercollegiate circuit. We had to duct tape our equipment together. Yale would have horses donated by Tommy Lee Jones and we’d be wearing shirts we bought used from the lacrosse team when they got new uniforms. So I’ve dealt with all the snobbery and obnoxiousness of fellow equestrians for years. And it’s not always about money. I’ve been at barns where not being into natural horsemanship makes you “not cool.” Or wearing a helmet makes you “not cool.” Every barn has a thing.
So I like to stick to myself. I do whatever I’m doing and stay out of everyone else’s business. I’m still friendly and I’ll help out if asked, but I don’t try to involve myself.
On Tuesday I was inadvertently involved in other people’s drama.
My husband and I showed up to ride and the barn owner and manager were waiting for us. As soon as we parked they asked if we could help get a horse on a trailer. There was a temporary horse boarded at our barn for one month. Since the month was up, he was leaving. We said sure, we’d help. Then we got all the details.
They had been trying to get the horse on the trailer for 2.5 hours. No seriously. I told my non-horsey friend about this later and her first question was, did they think maybe they should stop and take a break and let things defuse at some point. Apparently not.
So while the barn owner and feeder were the ones asking us to help, the owner of the horse and the horse’s leaser were the ones who had been trying to get the horse on the trailer. In agreeing to help, we had inadvertently stepped into someone else’s business. And let me tell you, one of those people was really not happy about it.
The horse’s owner had gone to turn the trailer around (before we got there they were planning to take it up into the upper arena to try to get him in there). The leaser was holding the horse standing near us. When we said we’d help she started telling us how she had been using natural horsemanship and had spent hours developing trust and a relationship with the horse. And I was like, great, I’m gonna get a lunge line and pulley him onto the trailer.
And she freaked out. She took the horse, put it back in the paddock, told us she could not be part of this, and then drove off. By the time the horse’s owner got back from turning the trailer around, the leaser was gone. Thankfully the owner couldn’t have cared less. She basically said she didn’t really know the leaser so she didn’t care.
So we got a lunge line, set up a pulley, and had the horse on the trailer in about 2 minutes.
They Pulley System: I saw a professional horse hauler do this years ago when one of our camp horses wouldn’t load. I don’t recommend this as a training method. Real training is obviously better. But it works when you have no time and you need to freaking get the horse on the trailer. This also won’t work with a truly panicked horse. That horse will injure itself. But a horse that just doesn’t want to get on? This works. We used this with Nilla when she was refusing to load and now she just walks right on.
What you do is take a long lunge line attached to the horse and take it through the escape door and then through the hitch ring on the side of your trailer. You will pull the lunge line towards the front of the trailer – away from the horse. If you don’t remember your elementary school physics, pulleys allow you to use less force to move weight. The more pulley fulcrums you have (usually wheels, but in this case doorways and hitch posts) the less force you need.
This also works best with 2 people. Have one person lead the horse towards the trailer. The other person should hold the lunge line and take up the slack. If the horse moves forward, all the slack needs to be taken up. This keeps the horse from possibly tripping on the line and also keeps the horse from backing up. This horse had learned that he just needed to pitch a fit, pull back and he’d be allowed to run backwards. We put the pulley on, walked him towards the trailer, he tried to fly backwards, couldn’t and just stopped. We stopped and let him stand there. He walked forward a bit, stopped. Stopping is fine. Backwards is not. He tried to go sideways so I stood by his side with a crop. At no point did I beat this horse. I just tapped him once to remind him of my space and keep him from flying sideways into me. He tried to go back, couldn’t, gave up and just walked on. I ran over and threw the ramp up and locked him in.
That was it. No beating, no punishment, no trust ruining moments. Two minutes after we started he was on the trailer and a few minutes after that he was on his way.
The horses owner, the BO, and the BM were all really impressed. The owner thanked us for helping. No one felt like we had ruined this horse’s trust.
I asked the owner how she got him to our barn a month ago and she said he just walked on the trailer then. So this horse wasn’t untrained or scared. He just didn’t want to get on the freaking trailer and had realized that the leaser wasn’t going to make him do it. He had her number.
After the owner left, my barn owner told me more of the story. Apparently the leaser first said she was going to ride him onto the trailer. Which the BO told her not to do thankfully. The BO had apparently stuck around for the 2.5 hours because she was concerned that, if she left, she’d come back in the morning to find a dead leaser and a loose horse wandering around. I have seen a lot of trainers, natural horsemanship or otherwise, do cool tricks with trailer loading, but I have never seen one try to ride the horse onto the trailer.
On Wednesday, I saw my trainer who knows both the horse’s owner and leaser from previous acquaintance. And she thought the whole thing was hilarious. She also told me the horse did not actually load easily when he left the last barn. Apparently the owner lied to me and it took hours that time too.
Anyway, this was a long story, but this is how I ended up sticking my nose in someone else’s business even though I generally try to avoid doing so.