Not quite ‘driving Miss Daisy’; driving Miss Bridget when she first arrived was no mean feat!
She was a nightmare to load- she is the only horse I have ever had that I have had to get my husband out of bed to help me load for an early morning departure- a brush behind her to push her up the ramp was the only way, and the brush travelled with us where ever we went for a couple of months! She was very particular about where on the lorry she travelled and how the partitions were spaced, and who she was next to, mild hysteria and rocking dramatically from side to side indicted that in no uncertain terms she was in an unsatisfactory travelling position. And if we had to drive close to trees or a hedge and the offending greenery scrawked the lorry sides – all hell would break loose- usually resulting in snapped partitions or something equally expensive!I am a firm believer that with horses (well most things actually!) that repeated good experiences, calm manner and consistent approach will reap rewards, and Bridget now leaps on to the lorry, and doesn’t care who she stands next to!!
My first ever experience of a bad loader was an ex racehorse named Charlie who thought my little baked bean can of a trailer was not any form of transport he would be taking! It was dark when we left home and I think he loaded not really realising he was doing so- but every corner involved him scrabbling dramatically to stay on his feet and no matter how carefully I drove, the noise was horrendous! After a lovely couple of hours with hounds I went back to the trailers where my horse firmly planted his feet at the bottom of the ramp and refused point blank to move. I had to endure the humiliation of a steady flow of people returning to their transport, loading their horse and spending some time (depending on how long it took for the next unfortunate volunteer to arrive so they could excuse themselves) helping me trying to load my very determined horse! Lots of ideas, suggestions, some more constructive than others! until eventually 2 rather burley men arrived, dismantled my partition and physically lifted him in to the trailer! I am eternally grateful – (and still occasionally reminded about it). Needless to say loading practice ensued, days of patient persuasion, feeding in the trailer, short journeys, more food and always leaving plenty of time. He became a great traveller and I never did put the partition back in- and he never scrabbled around corners again!
Over the years I have had a few aside from Bridget, who have been tricky to load and usually a rope around their bottom, or long lines either side of the ramp are enough to encourage them on board, but some you see when out and about are not having any of it.
I often wonder what has happened to horses that I see in lorry parks standing at the bottom of their ramp, ears back, toes firmly dug in to the ground flatly refusing to put a toe on to the ramp! I, rightly or wrongly, am convinced that it is usually down to contentment when travelling. If you had to stand braced to go round a corner, struggling to keep your feet or lurching at every junction, you too may think twice about travelling. So consider when you are driving your precious cargo how they have to deal with stops and starts and moving round corners. Consider driving a bucket of water from a to b – 3/4’s full. When you get there- is it still 3/4’s full? if so, good job- you are ready to drive your horse about, if not, think about braking time- watch the road ahead and plan. Think smoothly around the corners and gently through the gears – your horse will thank you for it and you will reap the rewards of a relaxed horse doing his or her best for you in return!
Employers often need lorry or trailer drivers, and if you are a groom looking for employment with out these qualifications it may be worth you investing in your future and doing your hgv or trailer test- if you need any free advice on the best way to go about this, speak to us at Premier Equestrian Recruitment – and improve you career prospects for the new year 07714236765