Two days ago, Sue and I packaged Raven up for the two hour trip to our trainer.
Packaging a dressage horse for transport is not a simple task.
First you must know what sort of venue it is you are pulling for.
If it’s a high level dressage test, then you have to be on your game in every aspect.
So your first action is to groom your horse. I don’t know if my insistence on spiffing my horse up is out of pride, or habit. I think it’s the former, because once you arrive at your destination, every other horseman-probably your competitors-is watching to see what comes out of the box. Admit it. Don’t you do that? We can’t help it. A horse trailer is the equivalent of a Christmas present, even one that’s not for you. Your judge may be watching. You want to make a good impression right from the get go. You don’t KNOW if the judge is watching your horse from the moment you open the door, but I bet my lunch your competitors are.
If your horse looks sloppy, you have immediately lost points with those around you. Sloppy horse, sloppy rider.
So you want your boy coming out looking his best.
After putting a nice shine on your horse, next step is dressing him.
This entails attaching large, expensive pieces of protective gear to his legs. Suspensory ligaments and tendons are subjected to unusual forces when traveling in a horse trailer, and should the horse lose his balance, he could remove half the skin on his forelegs while scrambling for purchase in the trailer. Hocks can be skinned up, and hocks, being meatless, take forever to heal.
While you’re at it, you add a head bumper, a tail wrap and booties for his feet. Any dust mote that tries to find its way through the bubble wrap can be thwarted by a blanket or a sheet.
Finally, looking like a quadrupedal blimp, he’s ready to board the trailer.
Trailers suitable for dressage horses are not cheap. They need to be big and roomy. The good ones are apparently engineered by NASA, using the same technology that put rovers on Mars. The cost is about the same, by the way.
The trailer is, of course, squeaky clean. The floor is bedded in nice, soft footing, be it shavings or straw or pelleted bedding. No matter how recently Dressage Horse pee’ed, the moment he settles in the trailer, he will empty gallons onto the floor of the trailer. Arggggh……
You clean it out from underneath him, if you have time, knowing you’re wasting it, because while traveling, he’s pooping. Somehow, despite being tied up and having no hands, the horse spends his time on the trip pushing the manure into every nook and cranny of the trailer. What’s left over is packed tightly into his feet.
You then put up a bag of hay for him to eat while traveling, knowing that most of it will be added to the midden at his feet.
Finally, he’s ready. Off you go, pulling the trailer as if it were loaded with eggs. These are eggs with senses of humor, though. They play in there.
It feels as if they’re doing Basic Training calisthenics. Sometimes you wonder if they are going to overturn the trailer!
When you stop for a break, you park way back in the parking lot. You hurry with your reasons for the break-to get something to eat, to pee, to check on the horse. That’s the first thing you do when you get out of the truck-check on the horse.
Once you arrive at your destination, things are reversed-the horse comes off the trailer, he wants to stand and look around, sniffing the air for new horses and looking at the new scenery. You remove his shipping clothes, walk him around to let him pee (he won’t), keep his mind in one piece (it’s usually lost when he gets off the trailer, when he sees new places and hears new horses), and let him get the kinks out.
I usually clean out the horse trailer immediately while Sue takes Raven off.
That’s how a dressage horse travels.
That’s not how eventers travel, though.
I rode this morning in the covered arena.
I usually groom Raven before riding out of habit, but this time I had to, as he was very wet. We are in a week long (and counting) cycle of typical Pacific Northwest winter-pouring rain with intermittent bouts of hail and tree thrashing winds.
After the ride, I put his heavy, wet blanket back on and almost apologetically turned Raven back out in the butt ugly weather. But he was okay with that…horses want to be outside, no matter the weather.
I was mucking out his stall when a truck pulling a horse trailer pulled up.
Andi got out. An eventer, she’s the newest person in the barn. Dublin is her big 6 year old Irish Sport Horse. His paddock is right next to Raven’s.
She used the barn’s restroom and on her way back out the barn, I asked her, what’s up?
“We’re going to do some cross-country” she said.
“In THIS weather?? Look at this wind, the trees are sideways.”
“Girl, you’re a sissy. Eventers eat this stuff up.”
She laughed on her way to the paddocks.
Less than a minute later, I heard Dublin’s mighty feet clipclopping over the sound of falling rain.
Did she bring him into the barn?
Nope. She led him right to her open horse trailer, no blanket, no shipping boots and tossed him in the trailer. It took her no more than four minutes from parking to pulling away, and that’s including using the bathroom.
They’re a hardy bunch, are eventers. No wonder we dressage folks have a reputation for being sissies.