Valentine is a ~5yo Percheron Arabian cross I found on facebook in February. When I first met her, she wouldn’t even let me catch her. By the end of my day there, I had lunged her, saddled her and ridden her (ok–let’s clarify. I sat on her back and led her around. Still. Couldn’t catch her at first.) So, to say we’ve made big strides since we first met is an incredible understatement. Her progress is largely credited to the amazing trainers and friends who have helped us along the way. It’s almost hard to believe she was only with a trainer for 6 full weeks. She started with nothing and now rides like a dream. I really believe she would rather have saddle time than have a night off. The times we’ve taken two night off in a row, she’s made her discontent clear.
All that said, Val is a very green horse. She’s the kind of green most people would handle with kid gloves, but I really haven’t been able to approach her that way. I try to allow myself to expect good things, and most of the time, she doesn’t disappoint. I think there’s a connection there in doing just that–she knows that I believe in her. Most experienced riders would look at me like I have an extra eyeball in my head, but I really do. I believe she will perform how I ask, because I believe she really is trying. There’s never a moment I think she doesn’t want to do well. She wants to please, she wants to be praised, and she wants the feeling of accomplishment that goes with it. Taking that into consideration, I completely broke all my own rules Saturday night as I prepared to take her off site. In a trailer. On a trail ride.
The look on my trainer’s face was amazing when I told her my plans Saturday morning after my riding lesson.
“You’re doing what?…” breathing out each word in a way that can only be meant to feel the gravity of concern beneath. And I can’t blame her. Our first lesson before Va’s 6 week training “horse camp” ended with me on the ground. I’m not sure she’s completely trusted her since. And I appreciate that. I would have probably said the same thing.
“Yep. I really think she’s going to be fine,” I said, hoping I really did believe that was coming from my mouth.
I didn’t sleep the entire night.
To offer you some background, I acquired Val in an effort to find a “match”. I was looking to find a bond in a horse that I has desperately lacked in my gelding at the time. Our biggest hurdle together? He wouldn’t load. For any reason. The prospect of loading him in a trailer filled me with more dread than anything else in the world. After hours of training, dozens of “I-can-load-any-horse” promises that never panned out, and more tears than I can possibly comprehend, I came to the end of my rope. He gave up on me and I think in turn I gave up on him. We had both decided he was never going to be a “good loader”. So when I loaded a green-as-green-gets horse into a trailer three times consecutively without the slightest hesitation, I’m sure you can understand why that might bring me to tears.
So why was I losing sleep the night before the big ride? Well, there are a number of reasons:
1.) This was my first time driving a trailer by myself ANYWHERE
2.) My horse is only just recently saddle trained and I’m about to take her off-site into the wild blue yonder. I must be completely insane.
3.) Green horse+Green rider+new territory=A
Disaster Dream Waiting To Happen
As completely nervous as I was, I couldn’t quell my complete elation that I was about to do something I’ve only dreamed of all my life. Me taking my horse, in my trailer off my farm on a new adventure yet to be charted. How in the world could I ever sleep?!
And so there I was, up at 5:30 in the morning ready to feed Val and get started on our big day. I had to trailer totally packed with anything and everything we might need. I made coffee, packed gatorade, shampooed Val, cleaned and oiled my tack the night before–I was totally set!
So then the next big challenge–getting Val in the trailer. Aside from our first trailering exercise when I purchased her, I had seen her load a few more times at separate events. So, when she wouldn’t put her third leg in on the initial attempt you can imagine how my heart began to race.
I admit. I have serious PTSD over what my previous gelding put me through. I immediately played back horrific memories of Apollo thrashing in the trailer, almost killing me, almost killing himself. My chest began to tighten and I remembered why I love Val so much.
First off, Val wasn’t all the way in not because she didn’t want to go, but because she just didn’t need to go that far in before she could reach the hay. Second, Val doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. She really is kind and gentle. It’s just those young years of inexperience that lend me to nervousness sometimes.
But Dave, the amazing husband that he is, reassured both of us and had her packed in snug and tight within no time. Only 15 minutes behind schedule, we were ready to roll out.
The trail ride that followed the trailer ride is one I will never forget. It wasn’t anything impressive, or even very exciting. What it was, however, was quiet. Beautifully, calmly quiet. We were just happy to be out, together, with friends we had both been long overdue to catch up with–her and Mirage (an old pasture mate) and me and Lacey (my best riding buddy). The story couldn’t have been written any sweeter.
After the ride we hung out in the barn, where Val continued to act the picture of a lady while Lacey and I caught up on life in between our meetings. After several cookies and carrots and a fond farewell to friends, she loaded right back up and we came home, where she enjoyed more cookies.
And I smiled the rest of the day.