When we last left off with our story, I was taking the trailer out to the bumpkinlands of East Texas. Our local killpen is actually only about 1.5 hours away, but my two munchkins were being held in quarantine several hours past that, almost on the border of Louisiana. This didn't click in my head until literally the night before I departed.
I struck out at 6am, which was a little later than I had anticipated. I had just worked very hard for several days in a row, and was feeling pretty worn out, so I just didn't quite drag my butt out of bed fast enough. I had debated about taking the divider in my trailer out, but they told me that it would be better to leave it in, because the zonk hadn't been in with any others. They told me they thought he was kind of an asshole, but they didn't really elaborate on why aside from the fact that he is definitely 100% not a horse.
It was a loooooooooong drive. I thankfully had some combination of Christmas music and audiobooks to get me through (and Monster Dog, who came as my company), and even though I got lost near the end of the journey, I eventually found the place around 11:30am. Unfortunately, the guys there had forgotten that I was coming. and none of them were there. Oh great... I get to attempt to load a feral zonkey and mule by myself into my trailer. What could go wrong, right?
Once I arrived, I set to wandering around the pens and chutes to see if I could find my critters.
The little mule had halter marks on her, so I figured she was at least halterable. What I hadn't betted on was how totally uncatchable she was. She was in a pen with a group of other mules and ponies, including a beautiful white matching mule that was probably related to her. If I had more room, I would have considered taking her too as a teammate, but there really is just only so much room to go around. I didn't count, but there were at least 5 others in the pen with her, so she had lots of friends to slip in amongst and run. I couldn't get anywhere near her, and it was just me. After watching her tear around me for a little while, I gave up and decided to try with the zonkey, who was in a pen alone.
I backed my trailer up to a chute with a long run attached. These pens run lots of cows through as well as unbroke horses, so they have a system where they can open a series of gates to run the stock down into the waiting trailer at the end of the chute. After opening and closing a series of chutes, I opened his pen and waited to see what would happen. Cool as you please, he sauntered out and wandered down the alleyway like it was no big deal. I closed the gates behind him as he passed through each one, until we finally reached the opening of my trailer. He stopped there and started to munch the bit of grass along the corners of the chute, totally unconcerned.
Someone has left a long stick with a flag on the end of it near the entrance of the chute. With just a little bit of flag waving, he hopped on the trailer of his own accord.
Well that was easy. Too easy....
I closed the divider, the ramp, and the top doors in case he decided to make an exit. Then, I went to go see what I could do about this wild little mule.
It took all of my skill as a horse handler to get the little mule out of that pen. By myself, with just my flag stick and my wits, I had to figure out how to cut her out of her herd, get her over to the big swinging gate, and open the gate without scaring her off or letting any of the others out of the pen, thus allowing her to run out of the gate into the chute and down to my trailer. Sounds easy, right?
It took a few minutes with some false starts, but eventually I separated just her out of the group of ponies galloping around me in circles. I have a large appreciation for cutting horses and what they have to do, cause it ain't easy and I'm not exactly the speediest human on the planet. Once I cut her out, I had to get her wedged into the corner of the long swinging gate, get close enough to her without her bolting off around me to reach the gate, and push it open. Finally, I succeeded, and thankfully none of the others tried to sneak out with her. But it wasn't easy.
Thankfully, once I had her closed up between two gates further down the way, I was able to get close enough to her to put a halter on, and tried leading her around a bit. She seemed to know something about leading, so I took that as a good sign, and walked her to the trailer.
Then I realized we had a huge problem. The zonkey was fully capable of going underneath the chest and butt bars. How was I going to get the mule loaded and keep him from sneaking back out underneath the butt bar - all by myself?
I gave it my best effort. I opened the ramp and stood on it, blocking the exit for the zonk. By some miracle, the little mule knew what to do, and literally jumped right onto the trailer, much to my surprise. In fact, I was so surprised that I stepped forward for just a second, feeling totally pleased with myself.... and the zonk shot right underneath the butt bar and was gone. Thankfully, I had left the other gates all shut, so he couldn't get very far. I secured the little mule - no better time to learn how to tie, I suppose - and went to try and get the zonk back on. True to his nature, once he had realized that the trailer wasn't all that great after all, he decided he was not having anything to do with getting back on. I got him as far as two feet on the ramp, and then he stopped dead and was not moving one more inch. I actually got to walk right up to him and pet him, so firmly rooted he was. I almost even had a halter on him when I heard the rumble of a diesel truck. The owners of the pen had sent over two friends to see about helping me load - which was all for the better, seeing as I didn't think I was going to get anywhere anytime soon.
The guys and I ran the zonk down through another series of gates to a squeeze chute. Once in the chute, we got a halter and lead rope onto him, and one of the guys lead him while I walked behind with the flag stick. He was not happy about this, but he tolerated it well enough. Getting him on the trailer was difficult, but with some effort, we got him loaded.
I stopped to check on them down the road, and I found this:
They had both turned themselves around so that they were both under the chest bars, eating hay and hanging out. The zonk was rather squished, but there wasn't really anything I could do about it, and he didn't seem to mind much.
It took ages to get home, and it was dark by the time we arrived, but we manged to unload both without much excitement, and, totally exhausted, I passed out for the night after making sure everyone had hay and water and was not about to kill themselves.
Up next: a lesson with O, and working with my two little beasts!