The morning after our first day of trailering our two horses cross country, the kids had been exercising the horses before we loaded them up for another day on the road. Our Haflinger cross, Jasper, was recovering from a rough first day and first night.
Please let me out!
My wife and I had been connecting the trailer when the kids hollered that Jasper was a bit agitated. We turned just in time to see Jasper fall to the ground.
Actually, when half a ton of horse hits the ground, you both hear it and feel it through the earth.
Both of us dropped what we were doing and ran over to the grassy area. Jasper was already standing up, still wild-eyed. As we approached, we realized why. Smoke was rising from the field next door, and as we got closer we could see that the owner of that field was burning a huge pile of wooden pallets.
Horses don’t like fire, especially when they’ve had a recent bad experience. The previous month, there had been a prarie fire that had made its way almost to Zip and Jasper’s pasture in Texas. Zip had taken it pretty much in stride (as he does most things), but Jasper had understandably been very agitated as the fire moved closer, and that had been in the familiar turf of his home pasture. After an all-day highway trek in the trailer followed by a rough night confined to a stable, his nerves were in no shape to deal with another fire, and he had simply lost his footing in the wet grass while our daughter was lunging him.
Jasper is a stout and muscular horse, and as his feet had shot out from under him while walking in a circle, he had hit pretty squarely on his shoulder and rump. We checked him all over and didn’t find anything injured besides his pride. He was walking just fine, his feet were in good shape, and he didn’t seem tender at all. My wife walked him over to the other side of the barn where he couldn’t see the fire (but probably could still smell it) and worked him lightly to make sure he kept moving.
By now, we were heading out much later than we’d hoped, but the delay was necessary. Convinced he would be OK, we loaded up the haybags, pointed for Zip to jump in, locked the divider in place, and then all took deep breaths as we prepared to get Jasper into the trailer. He definitely didn’t want to go in, and though surprisingly it didn’t end up to take quite as long to convince him as I expected, it was a lot more difficult than it had been the previous morning.
Once we were safely loaded, we headed back out to the Interstate to start our next leg. Thankfully, we had planned this day to be a bit shorter, with a 2-night stay that would give Jasper some time to recover.
Jasper still kicked the sides of the trailer from time to time, and definitely let us know he was unhappy, but we found he was a bit more resigned to his fate this day. He still wouldn’t eat while we were moving, and the only water he would take was in the form of buckets of soaked hay we held up for him at rest stops. Of course, we made sure to mix electrolytes into the water for both horses.
Not a lot of rest at the rest stop...
Zip, on the other hand, seemed perfectly happy in the trailer, as long as there was plenty of hay. Looking back, we think this might have been because being a submissive horse in a pastured herd, he had always been last in line for food. In the trailer, he had his own hay bag that he could eat in his own time with no interruptions.
By the time we pulled into our dear friends’ homestead in rural Kentucky, though, both Zip and Jasper were ready to get out of the trailer. While we set up the temporary electric fence in their yard, the kids (ours and our friends’) took the horses for a walk through the fields.
We let the horses rest for two nights here (actually, it was more for us than for the horses we stayed – we hadn’t seen these friends for years, and we would’ve stayed much longer if we’d been able). Zip and Jasper loved it, were quite happy with being out under open skies again, and enjoyed the attention and treats all the kids lavished upon them.
Happy horse and happy kids... life is good!
For their part, the horses contributed about 80lbs each of fresh manure to help fertilize the yard and add to our friends’ compost pile.
After a couple days’ rest, we figured the horses would be relaxed and ready to start the next leg of our journey.
We were wrong. (Click Here to read Part 4)