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Strange Behavior While Trailering

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  • Strange Behavior While Trailering

    I rode in the trailer with my horse last weekend and witnessed some strange behavior. I'm wondering if anyone here has any ideas...

    I've hauled this horse for about a year and a half, and over that time he's gradually become a steady kicker. It started with him just kicking as we went out the driveway, then it became steady until we reached highway speed (only kicking on the local streets, at stop signs, etc). Now he kicks almost the entire trip.

    So I rode in the trailer to see if I could figure out what he was doing. What I saw worries me.

    Here is some background... I was told he was in a trailer accident several years before I got him, and after that he could not be hauled in a normal sized "stall." He tore apart a two-horse and after that was turned outside for two years and essentially abandoned by his owner. The first time I tried hauling him in my trailer (a three horse slant, he was in the front stall) he freaked out, scrambled and almost fell/laid down - and I hadn't even driven five feet. I took the dividers out and now haul him tied in front but with the entire trailer to move around in, and until recently he's been fairly content. No panic attacks, no anxious behavior, he loads happily and comes off cool and calm.

    I have also hauled him in the back two stalls, with another horse in the front stall, with the same happy results. Well, I was asked to haul a horse to a show, and this other horse is fairly large, and I thought perhaps I could haul that horse in the back stall (which is bigger in a slant) and put my boy in the front two stalls. I wanted to test it out before making the trip, so I had my boyfriend drive while I rode in back to make sure he could handle it ok. And that is when I witnessed the weird behavior.

    Every time the trailer slowed or turned left, my horse leaned so far to the left, putting his left hind leg so far underneath himself it was about 6" to the RIGHT of his torso, and his hip/back/rump went completely UNDER the divider. Now - my horse is 16.2 hands! He was almost LAYING DOWN on his left side. He was practically holding himself up with his halter. Turning to the right, he stood just fine and ate his hay. Bumps didn't bother him.

    So then we switched him back to the rear two stalls. He did the same thing, only now he could get his body against the left sidewall of the trailer. He leans HEAVILY on the wall, and as he straightens his body back up, he scrambles and kicks the sidewall and rear door.

    Is this how a horse acts when he has the inner ear issue that messes with his balance?

    I drive VERY carefully. I take turns so slowly it's ridiculous. I slow WAAAAAY ahead of time, VERY gradually coming to a stop. I accelerate so slowly people behind me must wonder what's wrong with my truck.

    It seems to be getting worse for him. I show about once a month so this deeply concerns me. Drugs are not an option due to USEF rules.

    I plan on buying trailer padding from FarmTek to pad the walls from his hip to the floor, as well as padding my back door to protect him.

    But other than that, what can I do? Is there a way to train him to balance more easily? Can I teach him how to stand properly? When he got himself under the divider, a smack on his butt and a yell from me got him to stand up and turn around and look at me, so I know his mind doesn't completely go blank... so I'm hoping it's something I can cure or at least improve.

    Any suggestions would be appreciated!

  • #2
    I sure would have a neuro workup. Was he injured in the accident?

    Comment

    • Original Poster

      #3
      I don't know. The trainer who had him at the time absolutely HATED him and information is not forthcoming. The woman who owned him wasn't really a horse person (just an owner) so, I can't really find out.

      I should add, I hauled him this past Sunday 4.5 hours to a show, in the back as usual, and he was quiet until we got to the show and had to drive around the fairgrounds trying to find the barn. We were going slow, and making lots of left turns, and it sounded like he was scrambling back there. I was almost in tears. Fortunately we found the barn fairly quickly and I was able to get him off.

      Of course he stepped off like nothing had happened... sigh. He trusts me so much and I want to do right for him.

      Comment


      • #4
        Wow, how scary.

        I wonder if he'd do better if he had solid walls on both sides of him.. like perhaps being in the front stall/chute/whatever in a slant, only the divider goes all the way to the floor. That way perhaps he could have plenty to lean on, on both sides?

        But yeah, I'd be getting a neuro exam if I were you, agreed on that.
        Tell a Gelding. Ask a Stallion. Discuss it with a Mare... Pray if it's a Pony!

        Comment


        • #5
          What about a reverse-slant trailer?

          http://balancedridetrailers.com/

          Risa at Happy Trails Trailers is a member here (grinanride), she sells them.

          Or another option if you need to haul more than one horse, what about a stock combo trailer with a center gate and let him have the front or back area to himself? Many horses are more happy being loose in a "box stall" during trailering.

          Comment

          • Original Poster

            #6
            In watching him it did seem like he'd be more comfortable facing the rear. I have no way to tie him, though. I'm a bit leery of trailering a horse completely loose - but I should try it and see what he does. I just don't want him getting hurt as we experiment.

            Comment


            • #7
              I used to have a horse that did the exact same thing in a straight load, but only on the left side. If he was in the right side, he rode fine. I just always hauled him on the right.....

              never knew why.......

              How does he ride in other trailers? It might have something to do with the angle he is standing in the trailer....


              You might try a straight load or a stock trailer.. or see if he is better backwards, some horses prefer to be backwards....

              good luck!
              Turn off the computer and go ride!

              Comment


              • #8
                Hi, I'm new here, but I recently made some observations which may be of use to you.

                I was asked to work with a mare which had fallen in a trailer, and was reluctant to load again. The owner decided she would buy a lorry instead of persisting with the trailer, and so we concentrated on retraining the mare to travel in the lorry.

                The trailer had been a typical British type, with two horses facing forward, seperated by a central divider, but the lorry gave the option of travelling the mare standing at forty five degrees to the direction of travel.

                We managed to load her quietly, bring the partition round to create a narrow stall, and set off on a short journey, during which I observed the mare's behaviour from the next stall.

                The thing which struck me was that when the driver applied the brakes, the horse was inclined to lean away from the direction of travel........exactly the opposite of what I expected. I, on the other hand, leaned toward the direction of travel as the vehicle slowed.

                The result of that was that the horse threw its bulk toward the rear of the box, and so its feet were in danger of slipping away toward the front of the box, potentially causing it to scrabble as it fought to regain its upright position.

                We stopped the vehicle and I adjusted the rearward partition, effectively reducing the space which the horse had to move sideways, which resulted in the horse gaining the support of the rearward partition sooner when the vehicle braked. This allowed the horse to feel more secure, and to keep its centre of balance over its feet to a greater extent, so reducing its tendency to panic.

                We continued on our way, and the mare had a much better experience, and now loads and travels well.

                I don't know about you folks over there, but in this country there is often a tendency to travel horses with too much space, which can cause problems with instability of both horse and vehicle.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Tiffani - if Carson is more comfortable facing the opposite side of the trailer, just have your trailer repair place weld a tie ring on a wall support for him. My old gelding had a temporary hauling problem when he freaked out over a thunderstorm at a show one day. He didn't haul well for awhile after that - seemed to associate storms and trailers. After experimentation, we found that he was much happier hauling backwards (we had a straight load trailer). However, the little goober wanted to reach over and bite whoever was in the slot next to him so we welded a tie ring up to stop that behavior. He eventually got better and we were able to haul him normally but if Carson likes being hauled facing the other wall, you might want to stick with it. Sounds like whatever traumatized him in the accident is causing him to over-compensate to keep his balance and in turn, actually putting him in a scary posture.
                  Susan N.

                  Don't get confused between my personality & my attitude. My personality is who I am, my attitude depends on who you are.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by AengusOg View Post
                    Hi, I'm new here, but I recently made some observations which may be of use to you.

                    I was asked to work with a mare which had fallen in a trailer, and was reluctant to load again. The owner decided she would buy a lorry instead of persisting with the trailer, and so we concentrated on retraining the mare to travel in the lorry.

                    The trailer had been a typical British type, with two horses facing forward, seperated by a central divider, but the lorry gave the option of travelling the mare standing at forty five degrees to the direction of travel.

                    We managed to load her quietly, bring the partition round to create a narrow stall, and set off on a short journey, during which I observed the mare's behaviour from the next stall.

                    The thing which struck me was that when the driver applied the brakes, the horse was inclined to lean away from the direction of travel........exactly the opposite of what I expected. I, on the other hand, leaned toward the direction of travel as the vehicle slowed.

                    The result of that was that the horse threw its bulk toward the rear of the box, and so its feet were in danger of slipping away toward the front of the box, potentially causing it to scrabble as it fought to regain its upright position.

                    We stopped the vehicle and I adjusted the rearward partition, effectively reducing the space which the horse had to move sideways, which resulted in the horse gaining the support of the rearward partition sooner when the vehicle braked. This allowed the horse to feel more secure, and to keep its centre of balance over its feet to a greater extent, so reducing its tendency to panic.

                    We continued on our way, and the mare had a much better experience, and now loads and travels well.

                    I don't know about you folks over there, but in this country there is often a tendency to travel horses with too much space, which can cause problems with instability of both horse and vehicle.

                    I will say, my mare rode better when confined to a single slot where she could lean against the wall and divider. Given the whole trailer, she scrambled a bit.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Did I misunderstand? I thought he was having rather serious trouble keeping his balance only in one direction.

                      Horses are weird, aren't they?

                      Comment

                      • Original Poster

                        #12
                        Yes, only when turning left and braking. Turning right and accelerating, he is steady as a rock.

                        What AengusOg describes is pretty much what he is doing. He is overcompensating and leaning his body as far left as possible. And, in a slant load, left is towards the back. When he's hauling straight, left is left. He is BETTER when he's straight but still leans heavily. When I was watching him do it I was TERRIFIED that he was going to fall over. I had no idea a horse could balance with their leg that far under their body.

                        Unfortunately I cannot put him in a more confined area. He absolutely panics in that small of a space, although I do agree it would give him more support and I wish I could explain it to him LOL.

                        I am going to try hauling him loose and see which way he puts his own body, and go from there. I suspect he wants to ride backwards.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Classy is hauled loose - she does great. She also prefers to ride facing the rear, which if you do some research you'll see that there are several studies that show that horses will most of the time choose to face the rear. If you think about how they are built, and how they can distribute their weight, it makes perfect sense. I've been working with Turnbow Trailers these last couple months. They make reverse slant trailers. Not that you need to get a new trailer - you just need to be creative with the one you've got. I'm shopping b/c I want a LQ. Good luck!

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Tiffany B - You are on the right track now IME - your horse is trying mightily to maintain his natural forehand weighted balance - he has no choice but to shift his weight to the hind end to resist the pressure of being pitched forward and to the side ( left side slant ) - borrow a stock trailer would be my advice and see how he goes - he is probably to the point where it is uncomfortable / painful to try and maintain his balance on the hind end, he just cannot help it.
                            Risa
                            HappyTrailsTrailers
                            BalancedRideTrailers

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              When you consider that a horse has about 60% of his body weight over his front legs, it's no wonder that he may prefer to travel 'backwards' in a trailer, as that will allow him to use his large hind end muscles to compensate for the braking of the vehicle.

                              Horses facing forward in a trailer must have huge forces acting on their forelimbs in that situation, and those standing at an angle across the space must be only fractionally less affected.

                              Comment

                              • Original Poster

                                #16
                                We will be doing some test hauls on Tuesday, so I'll update you guys and let you know the results.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Take out one divider so that he has the back two stalls for himself.

                                  Do not tie. Let him pick his best position. He may ride backwards, straight, or more likely backwards at a slight angle.

                                  If you have a 4 horse or even a three horse, you can still haul the occasional second horse in the front stall.

                                  If he nips the other horse, get a piece of plywood and bolt it to the appropriate divider from the divider up. That will prevent the him from nipping the 2nd horse. Attaching it so that it blocks only the area above the divider gives the second horse room to spread his legs, which is very important.

                                  Properly done, it will not prevent the divider from swinging, thus making it easy to load and unload the 2nd horse.

                                  I do this with my 4 horse, the only difference being that the plywood is below the divider rather than above because the front two stalls are occupied by hounds.

                                  I have had a couple of horses that were very unhappy in a stall, but rode quietly loose in the two back stalls.

                                  CSSJR

                                  Protect your privacy. Replace Google with IXQUICK at www.ixquick.com.


                                  If we do not wish to lose our freedom, we must learn to tolerate our
                                  neighbor's right to freedom even though he might express that freedom
                                  in a manner we consider to be eccentric.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    And how does he haul in a 4 horse head to head facing backwards?
                                    I Grew up w/ a huge 17H+ dressage horse that was 1. very difficult to load and 2. scrambled the walls as your horse does.

                                    When he was eventually sold guess what he rode like a dream in..a tiny step up Quarter horse size/style trailer where he hung his big butt over the back door and kinda floated on his rump. Squeezed in w/ no whre or room to go.
                                    Who woul dhave thought?? After years of bandages, bell boots, padded walls n dividers...horses go figure.

                                    Also may I add your horse could be just plan clausterphobic and need to get his head out into some open space.............try a head to head, I personally hate slant loads and I know so many love them but I feel horses get very weary shifting all the time. I think there is documentaion some where about how horses muscles react/fatigue being shipped reverse, straight and slant??
                                    anyone come across it???

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Hi Tiffany,
                                      Here are my two cents: ( I specialize in trailer loading difficult-to-load horses and horses that have been in trailering accidents, and what you describe is not uncommon and can be fixed, so don't worry!)..... I would tackle this in two ways: 1st is to get the neuro workup and even a physical one to eliminate something physical causing this.... 2nd (and I think more helpful in the long run) is to re-train him to go into the smaller space without panicking. This can be done, and usually in one day or at the most over a weekend in severe cases. If you are in the middleburg area I would be happy to help. I also have a video on YouTube (search under AeronRiding or Flip That Horse! for my videos).... I also sell a DVD on teaching a scared horse to go calmly and quietly in a two-horse trailer. I think if you get him over that fear, it would help a lot with all the other problems, and allow you to use any kind of trailer for him in the future.... ps. I don't ever tie any of my horses when trailering, even in a big stock trailer, so don't be afraid to try it! Good luck!

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        If your horse is a wall climber, which is common with horses that don't haul in trailers, the more confined the space, the worse he will be. Wall climbers have the need to spread their legs out wide and panic if they can't.

                                        As for the neuro workup....if he is winning in recognized shows, I doubt that he has any unsoundness of any kind whether physical or neurological.

                                        I find it hard to believe that any problem sufficient to make him a nut in a trailer would not show up in some obvious way.

                                        For instance, if he had a weak side it should show in his action, jumping, turning, etc.

                                        Put him loose in a double or triple stall and hit the road.

                                        It might also help to park the trailer in a small paddock with no feed or water and hang a water bucket and a feed bucket in the trailer and let him live off that for a few days. It will not cure him by itself, but it will help.

                                        Just be sure the trailer is hitched to something unless is is a 4 horse or more gooseneck. A bumper hitch or small G-neck will very likely turn over or roll down the hill.

                                        If it is hitched, hitch to something that has seen some rough use. Lots of horses like to rake their teeth across the hood or other tender parts.

                                        Better yet, park it so the truck is outside the gate and the trailer inside so the horse can't get tangled up in bumpers, side mirrors, etc.

                                        Because your last trip was uneventful until you got to the show grounds, I would guess that he became excited at the realization he was at a show. Horses certainly have that much intelligence.

                                        CSSJR

                                        Protect your privacy. Replace Google with IXQUICK at www.ixquick.com.


                                        If we do not wish to lose our freedom, we must learn to tolerate our
                                        neighbor's right to freedom even though he might express that freedom
                                        in a manner we consider to be eccentric.

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