Tuesday, March 11, 2008


Sandy waits patiently in the loading chute

I always get questions about how we load a wild horse. Do they just lead right into the trailer? Well, that would be nice! But no, they don't lead anywhere. At least, mine never have. And while I've posted the loading process before, I'll do it again to catch others up to speed.

The horses are cut out of the herd and sent down an alley way made of panels which narrows into a chute. There is a gate in front and a gate behind which keeps the animal still while halters are being put on. Halters, by the way, are optional and not everyone wants to start with one. If you're a new mustang owner, though, I'd recommend it. Heck, this is #5 for me and I still wanted one. Although this time I had City Boy make me a shorter lead so that it wouldn't be stepped on so easily.

Halter is dropped down into chute and slipped over Sandy's head.

Halter is buckled as Sandy wonders just what's going on.

A quick pat on the neck once the crown piece is buckled.

Each horse reacts a bit differently to the haltering process. Some are calm, cool and collected while others try to jump over the panels and out of their skin. Sandy did one small rear, but that was it. As you can see in his photos, he stood pretty still and accepted his fate without much of a fuss.

There are two panels, one on each side, that lead out of the chute to the trailer. Once the trailer is backed into place, the chute gate opens and most horses hop right into the trailer without much thought. They're just happy to be out of the chute. For those who hesitate, the people standing to the sides will wave arms or flags to encourage some forward motion. Sandy trotted right in.

Unloading at home can sometimes be a challenge as the horses haven't ever stepped down from a trailer before. Combine that with two days of travel and a horse with sea legs, not land legs, and you've got quite a show! City Boy had panels set up for unloading so it was a straight shot from trailer to his new home. Sandy came out easily enough, but the poor boy looked like a drunken sailor. He was certain the ground was going to give way beneath his feet and walked on his tip toes (never have I seen a ballerina horse before!) and cautiously entered his paddock. His legs shook for the next 30 minutes as he adjusted to life on firm ground.

On his second day here, Sandy is still working on his confidence issues. He's drawn an invisible line in front of himself and insists I stay there on my side and not cross onto his. He likes me in front of him where he can keep an eye on me; I'm definitely a predator in his eyes and must be kept in a safe place. He doesn't mind the touching sensation, he's just not happy with my body moving alongside his. I can rub him all over with the long branch, and if my arm were a couple feet longer he'd let me rub on him. But I haven't got Go Go Gadget arms, unfortunately, so yesterday was spent getting into his space. He hasn't got an ounce of kick in him, thankfully, but he does get to chomping with his teeth when he's nervous. Who can blame him? He was on the bottom of the totem pole and has bite marks all over his body. So as soon as my body wanders back into forbidden territory, his nose bends around and he tries to grab at my arm in an effort to keep me away.

I've never had to discipline a 1000 pound wild horse less than 48 hours from unloading. There are some interesting thoughts that cross your mind. Thoughts like, "He could kill me just for looking at him wrong," and "I'm standing right in front of this big boy's face...what if he strikes out at me or lunges at me with those teeth?" and "Was I on crack when I signed up for this???" But obviously I couldn't let him bite me, so I just kept popping his nose, either with my hand or by giving small jerks on the lead to remind him that teeth are not acceptable. I sent him in circles around me until he finally decided it was easier to give in than to work tight circles or bite, and eventually managed to brush his sides while he stood enjoying it.

He's a nice boy, really. It's just going to take a bit of time to gain some confidence and realize I'm not planning on having him for dinner.

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Rising Rainbow said...

Sounds like Sandy's a thinker. That's good. Those horses that just go bizerk when something is new and startles them can be tough I think. Give me a thinker any day of the week.

20 meter circle of life said...

I think Sandy has a lovely eye. He will be fine and pretty soon I think you are going to great progress.
BTW when I convince Hubby to expand the herd want to help me find the most amazing Kiger dressage horse ever??

Jessie said...

Oh my, I remember those "he could kill me thoughts" all too well :-)

Sounds like he's coming along. It was about 2 weeks before Remington would let me touch him without trembling on first contact. I am glad we are over that now!!

Tracey said...

MiKael, yes, he's a thinker. Oh, man...I'd hate if he were reactive!

20 meter...YES! I think you should be able to have a dressage Kiger :)

Jessie, it's good to know Remi was trembling because I think you've done an amazing job with him. In fact, I was thinking of you while I was out there; I had no idea you'd had those days with him. Sandy's eyes remind me of Remington's.

photogchic said...

You took on quite a challenge, but if anyone can get this horse where it needs to be, it is you. So excited that you are starting your training journey.

Katee said...

He looked very reasonable about being in the chute. What a good boy. I'm glad that his sea legs went away quickly, but I just can't picture a "ballerina horse."

Lacey said...

I remember my mustangs loading experience when I adopted her...she managed to rear up and completely turn herself around in the chute when the halter was placed on her! It was scary but a little humourous....only funny after we got her home and learned her personality...now she jumps out of stalls if left alone! I am really excited for you! I can't wait to see you on the TV and showin' your stuff! I'm excited and in no way affiliated with the process! Best of Luck and You sure did get a nice looking guy there! I sure hope he continues to stay calm!

Callie said...

Phenominal!........That is so cool. What a challange....Keep his progress comin'.

Gecko said...

I'm so glad you're sharing this, there are so many little (and not so little) things that go into working with these Mustangs. Sandy is beautiful and definetly seems like he has a lot of potential!