Friday, August 5, 2011

You can lead a horse to water...

It's almost embarrassing to write down this tale, but I know I have to because it's an important one in the saga of training horses. Where do I begin? Well, I've kept the trailer hooked up for the last few weeks and I've been practicing loading Sage and Chinook. She hops in quite nicely when she gets some soaked alfalfa cubes as a treat, and she doesn't mind me closing the divider or anything. Actually, she's been quite excellent. Even Chinook is very good at loading up, hopping right in like a pro.

Wednesday night when I got home, I took them for a drive around the neighborhood and they were both great. So Thursday I took them over to my friend's house. She has four horses about 8 miles from our house out near Silver Falls, so I thought it would be a good experience for the mustangs to go somewhere where they would see new things but just be able to chill out for a little bit and just graze with no pressure. Which, in fact, they did very well.

But by around 8 pm when I decided to head back home, Sage made a point of saying she didn't want to go back into the trailer. I didn't give her the usual treat because I thought she'd be glad to hop in and head back home. Chinook definitely was! But Sage refused. For two and a half hours. She hung back on the lead rope, jumped about, got halfway in and then scooted out, bumped her head, got all worked up, and wouldn't respond to food or anything really. And of course it got dark, which made things even worse. We tried loading Chinook to convince her to come in, and he was such a little star; he jumped right into the trailer and snacked on hay and treats for a good 30 minutes waiting for his mom. But somehow, she just decided she wasn't scared or bothered but rather just didn't want to. And when a mustang doesn't want to, she doesn't want to.

Now, it was getting to be about 10:30 and I was extremely embarrassed, frustrated, and angry. I leave the house in Silverton by 6:30 am to make it to school, and 10:30 is way past my bedtime. Not only that, but I am on call this weekend (which means I have to stay in Corvallis), and I had to pack my stuff and get everything ready to start a brand new rotation on Monday.

It was clear that despite several thousand attempts to convince her to get in, Sage was going to keep refusing. So we decided to leave the horses in a stall overnight and have me come get them in the morning, when Sage would be hungry for breakfast and hopefully walk right in. I was nervous about what they would do alone in a strange stall all night--I mean, heck, Sage has never spent more than an hour in a stall ever. But I had no choice. It was dark, we were all tired, there was nothing left to do.

I borrowed my friend's car to go home, confided in Patrick that I was quite frustrated with the situation, and then set my alarm for 4:30 am. In order to get everything done and go to school, I would need at least that much time. But my eyes flickered open in the morning and I noticed that it was light out...and I knew that it was definitely WAY past 4:30. Actually, it was 5:50, which is much later than I ever get up even on a normal day. I must have messed up in setting my alarm because I was so tired.

In a panic, I rushed down the gravel road to my friend's house--thankfully, there's never any traffic. Still, it takes a good 15-20 minutes to get there. I hoped and prayed that Sage would still be in the stall, that Chinook didn't get hung up on something and kill himself, and that most of all, she would want to get in the trailer. Because I wasn't sure that I'd even have time to get to school on time if everything worked out.

In writing this now, I realize that Sage kind of did save the day because she loaded right up like a champ and they rode very well all the way home. She was chewing on some hay when I got unloaded her and looking very relaxed. Chinook was a very good boy, too. In the end, I was able to leave the house with all my stuff and everything by 6:45. I rolled into the clinic office at 7:59 and was on time for everything. Still, it was not a fun experience!

I know that Sage is young and was very good overall, but it's still very scary to think that I could take her somewhere and this could happen again. I suppose it's just going to take more practice, but next time I think we'll start earlier in the day!


  1. Oh, this reminds me so much of having little kids around, and, if this is the worse thing she ever does, hurrah for her! (and you made it to work on time!!)

  2. Haha, yes, she was acting like a little kid...which, I suppose, she technically is. And I agree, if this is as bad as it gets, that's okay. In the end she's still awesome :)