Sunday, November 25, 2012

Trailer Troubleshooting, Lousy Lunge Lines, and Volatile Vaccines

Well, we've had an eventful couple of days! After our success with the rope saddle, I was feeling pretty confident in Imogen's ability to reason with scary things and figure them out with relative ease. I decided that it was high time to start putting her in the AquaTread, something that I've been keen to do for quite some time. It will help with the desensitization process as well as get that enormous belly off of her, something which is hard to do while in the early steps of training (where we only go in circles for small amounts of time). Both girls had Thanksgiving off, and I cleaned up my trailer in the afternoon and readied them for an early morning departure on Friday. Imogen had loaded easily onto the trailer when I brought her home, so I figured it wouldn't be too difficult to get her on by myself. (I had help at work, but only in the form of a quiet cluck or two from behind her from a second person.) 

Well! I could not have been more wrong. Friday morning dawned bright, clear, and insanely windy, and it was all I could do to keep my trailer doors open with the blowing wind. I could barely walk upright myself! I pulled both girls out and loaded P first, thinking this would give Immy some incentive to get on the trailer. Unfortunately what this also did was give her a much smaller loading space to work with - my trailer is a two horse straight load, and while the divider can swing wide when there is only one horse getting onto the trailer,  it has to be locked in place when there is already another horse loaded. Immy took one look at that space and said not only no, but hell no. I pulled, I clucked, I backed her and lunged her for a bit... nothing helped to change her mind. She rooted to the spot, eyes bugging out, clearly wanting nothing to do with the terrifying monster cave on wheels. I unloaded P, I tried again.... nothing. I had no one to help me with incentive from behind, which was exactly what I needed, but I had an idea. Disclaimer: NEVER DO THIS with a horse known to set back unless you are super versed at dealing with this type of situation. It could end up VERY badly if a horse panicked due to the pressure from the halter around his ears. Imogen ties and responds appropriately to pressure on her halter, so I decided to give it a try. The plan: hook a lunge line to Imogen's halter, run the lunge line up and out of the side door, run the lunge line back to me, and stand behind her with a dressage whip (if needed) for encouragement. It almost worked - I had both front feet on the ramp and it looked like she was about to go for all four. My problem was that P was already on the trailer again, and Immy was stuck behind her with nowhere to go. Before I could make my next move, disaster struck - from out of nowhere, the snap on my lunge line broke clean in half, and Immy took it as a stroke of good luck for her freedom. She wheeled and galloped at high speed away back to her pen, where she retreated to the far corner and refused to come back. At this point, I was nearly 15 minutes late for work, and so much to my dismay I had to give up and take P alone. Not one of us was happy with this arrangement - me because I had failed to load Immy and also couldn't swim her, and P and Immy because they were now separated and extremely unhappy about that.

Notice her screaming? She's screaming for Imogen. She screamed ALL DAY LONG. She might also be coming into heat through.... that probably didn't help either. 

That evening, I bathed P and groomed Immy, and gave Immy a good long roundpen session and some cuddles. I hate to leave a horse hanging, especially when the hanging includes a huge problem like galloping away from a horse trailer! I guess you just do what you have to when you are running late for work... after all, without work there is no money to feed the ponies. Priorities, you know. 

Luckily, I had a chance to redeem myself Saturday morning - both girls were scheduled for a 9:45AM vet appointment for their Coggins and a few assorted shots. Since they are leaving where they are and heading to a new facility in early December, both of them needed updated Coggins, Rabies certificates, and the Strangles vaccine, seeing as I don't normally vaccinate for that but it is required as per my contract. Neither mare has ever been vaccinated for Stranges as far as I know, and I wasn't exactly keen to start. Strangles is a relatively high-risk vaccine, and reactions are common. Remember this... it will come into play later. Immy also needed a few other shots as well, which I planned on taking home and administering myself later.

The question now was this: would I be able to get her on the trailer in the morning, after what had happened the day before?

I had a plan, and it was relatively simple. After breakfast and a good grooming for them both, I'd toss on their coolers, tie P to the left hand side of the trailer to create a best-friend-and-moral-support barrier, open the divider wide for the right hand spot, run a lunge line from Immy out to the side door and back around to me, and cluck at her from behind. With a big enough block of time, as well as this strategically-created chute, I figured I had a decent shot... but would it happen?

It was almost completely foiled, all thanks to that same lunge line that had busted the day before. I've had the dang thing for almost a decade, and it has been useful and wonderful - the perfect weight, meter markers, a stop on the end, all the things I love in a lunge line. Alas, the years seem to have taken a toll on it, but after the snap had broken yesterday, I still had a metal piece on it to snap a secondary snap to. With the new snap in place, I tied P, opened the divider, hooked up Imogen, ran the lunge line through, and came around behind her with my dressage whip (which I never ended up using). A few clucks, a few wiggles back and forth, and I had her front feet on the trailer. And then, without warning, the second piece of metal attached to the lunge line broke, and Immy found herself free again. And again, as you can imagine, she wheeled and galloped away again back to her pen. Thankfully, she was easily caught again, and I rigged the line up again by tying it onto the snap. Maybe that would work?

Again, I had her front feet on the ramp. I almost had her back feet on too... and then the actual body of the lunge line itself broke clean in half, and once again I found myself watching her tail retreating back to her pen,  galloping away at full speed with a long piece of lunge line trailing. Again, she was caught, and again we tried, after I had tied the lunge line back together. (Note: I do have a second lunge line, but I couldn't find it ANYWHERE.... after I returned from the vet I discovered it was hiding under the backseat of my truck. I had forgotten that I put it in there in case I needed it for one of the dogs or in an emergency. Fail!)

Third time was the charm... she loaded!
At that point, I realized I had another problem - did I dare try and shut the divider while she was still loose, or did I just shut the ramp and then reach over and shut the divider from the outside once she was securely closed in? I opted for the latter, not wanting her to come shooting back out again while I attempted to squeeze her in with the divider. I shut her in, listening to her tap dance for a moment, and then looked up in surprise to see her head popping back out over the ramp! My oversized warmblood trailer apparently is no match for a tiny little mare - she had completely turned herself around and was now facing the wrong way. Did I unload her and try again, or did I see if she could turn back around while inside the trailer? I walked back to the front side door, took ahold of her lunge line, and tried to see if I could right her. Thankfully, she managed to turn herself around again, and was secured back into her proper spot. P loaded unevenfully, and we were off, making it to our vet appointment with time to spare. Score! 

The girls at the vet. Imogen totally showed up her big sister by standing immobile with a foot cocked, while P wiggled and pawed. Naughty girl...

Two Coggins, two Strangles IN vaccines, two sets of paperwork, and one baggie with Immy's other vaccines later, and we were off again. Imogen totally surprised me by loading onto the trailer with no problems at all - I guess she was ready to go home!

Both girls also had their feet done when we arrived home, the first time that I've done Immy's feet myself. They're pretty cruddy feet, there's no doubt about that, but there is a lot of promise in them. I am hoping that getting rid of the sweet feed and adding in the vit/min supplement will help give her the boost she needs to put out a better foot. She lands decidedly toe first, and has some thrush that we are working on clearing up. She has always, always been footsore after every trim I've ever seen her have (and all were done by a very good farrier who always left most of the bottom of her foot alone), so we'll see how she is feeling when we get her moving again. 

And remember that Strangles vaccine that I wasn't all that keen on giving in the first place? P seems to have come through it with no problems, but today Imogen has a snotty nostril on the side where she received the vaccine, and both hinds are stocked up. Ughhhhh! She doesn't have a fever and seems otherwise fine, so hopefully she'll be feeling better in a few days. Vaccines are the absolute pits. 


  1. Oh gosh, what a palaver - I can almost hear her chuckling as she dodged away from you each of those times! Hope she feels better soon and you can get her into that pool next time. It's funny (and cute!) to see their bums together in the trailer, that 0.8h difference looks a big gap in that shot! She's nearly a hand smaller than Gogo was too, would this affect her suitability for eventing down the track?

  2. You are amazing with the girls. We are talking about a horse, that not too long ago was terrified of humans. And now, not 1 but 3 scary lunge line snaps and she trusts you enough to go inside of the scary cave with the invisible monster.

    P's love for I is something else. I bet when you breed P, the baby will be blessed with two moms instead of just one.

    As I said, you are amazing :)

  3. Wow, when that lunge line quit, it was serious about it...

  4. I really dislike having to give strangles vaccines to horses whose strangles history is unknown... especially the IN.

    I felt like that *before* my friend's gelding had a nice reaction of peeing blood, ventral edema, swollen lymph nodes, diarrhea, multiple test, biopsies, etc.

  5. I have to admit I chuckled when I read the longe line broke for the 3rd time. We've all had those kinds of days. What a good pony for getting in that trailer!