‘Trailer loading 101’

11 11 2011

Here’s another great update about Steeldust. It came about a week ago, but a lot has been happening, and I’m just now getting it up. But no less appreciated!

From Melissa: “I am just grinning so much my cheeks hurt. Today is the 8th day since I brought Steeldust home. Just EIGHT DAYS! Remember that we were ALL expecting the old warrior to be quite the handful. Three trainers even backed out from wanting to take him on before I decided to bring him home & do it myself. All of them said that they would probably have him for a minimum of three months just to gentle him to halter, lead, trailer load & pick up all four feet. Ok, so eight days later we have three out of four things accomplished. I have not tried to pick up his feet but today he conquered Trailer loading with ease. Yes TRAILER LOADING! I am sooo proud of him. He very smart and brave. The only thing that is frustrating me is his weight. He is eating up a storm and loves his hot bran/sweet mix/ beet pulp/sliced carrot/apple/corn oil & foalac mash as well as a constant supply of hay but he is just pathetically skinny. I guess when we get him gentled enough to allow a tranquilizer to be injected then I can have his teeth floated but it will just take TIME for him to put that weight back on I guess.”

Are ye cryin’ yet?

“Mr Steeldust (The Boss) is still doing marvelous with his trailer loading & leading. Being able to just park the trailer next to the round-pen has been perfect. He has decided that it is his “Man Cave” and prefers to just go in and sleep in there every night. Too Funny! Please pass it along to other adopters to give this a try and just feed them directly in the trailer (put their hay, grain & treats in there) even with those horses that folks aren’t able to even lead or handle yet. It’s mere presence all the time as a “feed barn/shelter/wind break” will desensitize them and help take away the fear of even seeing or smelling it before they actually have to USE it. It certainly will advance the “trailer training” for many folks especially if the horse feels comfortable and safe going in and out of the trailer BEFORE you NEED to get him in there for some emergency.  My trailer is just going to be parked there for The Boss the whole winter. This is an easy fix for something that can be a real issue for some horses & owners. Though I can just lead The Boss in and have had wonderful luck with him, I really WAS worried at first wondering just HOW I would ever get him into a trailer without a chute should anything go wrong during this gentling time and he should need to go to a vet. I suggest that backing the trailer up to the pen needs to be introduced SLOWLY for some of these horses though and might even need to be brought into position over several days if necessary.”

“I am so proud of how far this old man has come but I don’t want to let people think that EVERYTHING has been a “piece of cake” with the Boss though and leave folks with the impression that they are not progressing fast enough with their own horses. Each horse & situation is different. He has me certainly baffled me at times because he is just not as predictable as what I would expect from any other horses I’ve ever worked with. The things that you would think would scare the livin patooties out of him don’t phase him at all, like the ease of leading him into the trailer, getting cleaned off with the hose, both dogs & the cat all sharing his feed dish with him, throwing a winter horse blanket over his back on an especially cold & sleety evening before he decided to take refuge in the trailer on his own. Then there are other things that have made him act like he was about to go ballistic & launch himself over the fence if I pushed it too far.  ie: Some friends and I were all carrying a big trough up the hill into the pasture the other day and we were going in the general direction of his pen yet about 100′ away. I thought he was going to explode when he saw us with that trough and he went running frantically around the pen crashing into the panels. We dropped the trough immediately and shoved it back down the hill out of his sight. His crashing around was enough to give him a cut over his eye that drew some good blood. SHEESH! Another freak out was when I drove my pick-up into the pasture with a load of hay. This too sent him snorting, crashing & running wildly around the pen. These incidents did not happen in the first days of his arrival, they happened just this week after I thought we had been doing so well. I have to admit that one day I had gone in to shovel poop in his pen and the door just swung back behind me as usual but this time it just didn’t catch. I had not noticed. I was busy hacking at the frozen poop when I looked up and HOLY CRAP, he was gone & just standing out in the pasture grazing. Visions of trying to catch a loose wild horse in open country were flying through my brain. But he didn’t go running off into the sunset and just stood there as I walked right up to him in the pasture, got the lead rope and led him right back into the pen without any hesitation. Whew! LUCKY!!!”

“So yes these ponies are a mysterious bunch who really AREN’T going “by the book” in the domestic horse training world. I am thankful that I have been a lucky owner so far with a really kind hearted horse.”

“The Boss is getting constant & free feeding hay and a nightly hot mash and is holding his own with his weight. So now I am hoping to hopefully start to see some actual weight gain. Adding Probiotics to his mash may be starting to help with all the dietary changes & gelding. As for Banjo, he is doing well and is fat & happy. He is definitely starting to go through yet ANOTHER color phase. The winter coat on his front end is coming in a very dark charcoal grey. I don’t know how he can actually be shedding some of his coat at the same time his winter coat is thickening during this time of year but that’s what is happening. Have you seen this type of color change over the winter before? So there is our bi weekly update. Life is Good. Winter is moving in and the horses are still settling in.”

Well done. 🙂



11 responses

12 11 2011
Paula Denmon

I love your story… And I trailer train all my horses like this. they get used to the trailer, then I teach them to lead and stay at my side, then back, then move forward… trailer trained.

12 11 2011

a wonderful retirement plan for Steeldust. thank you, melissa, for making it happen.

12 11 2011
Laura Snyder Klutey

Wonderful story. So happy to read about a positive outcome for these horses. Thanks for sharing………….

12 11 2011
deborah hurley

sounds like you are doing an amazing job!! just wanted to leave you with a thought and please dont take it as a critisism, but it is poss. that his reactions to some unusual things may be intesifing because he is less active then normal for him being in a pen at winter time and is eating much more rich food then he would normally have at this time of year. so he is all hyper. 🙂 good luck and great job hope you both are very happy for along time to come :))

12 11 2011
Melissa Margetts

Deborah, I have certainly considered his dietary changes & decreased activity level as playing a part in his dramatic responses at times. None of his reactions have really been predictable if you look at his nonchalance when it comes to other situations that SHOULD set him off, which was the point I was trying to make. Being sprayed/bathed with water hoses, A huge soccer ball being blown around the pen by the wind, flapping tarps & trailer loading into a “cave” can be considered pretty common “horse eaters” for many horses but none of those things even phase him. Seeing a trough move from 100′ away seems considerably less threatening even if he were jacked up on grain and didn’t seem to warrant such a flight response. Earlier on the same day as his “trough explosion”, I was bungeeing a tarp onto the windward side of the horse trailer in order to give him even more protection and the wind made that tarp flap around quite a bit while I was bungeeing all four corners. This big old noisy tarp was flapping all over the place only ten feet from him and Steeldust just calmly stood there eating his hay. There is just no predictability. That is one of the reasons I was so surprised that he just stood grazing in the pasture once he had gotten out instead of taking off across the mesa to burn off some of his oats. He sure will be keeping me on my toes.

12 11 2011


12 11 2011

I loved reading this. I hadn’t thought of using of the horse trailer like a stall to that extent. I did feed my mustang in it, but I stood by her the whole time. I should have just let her be and left it there for weeks, as you describe.

I’ve had the same experience with my girl, that you’ve had–what spooked her surprised me. In the earlier days, I worried she might not be a good trail horse when she’d scare at a very small thing, but then when really big things happened, she was as brave as could be and has been super easy to train to carry a saddle. We had a wind and rainstorm here last night and the whole herd came running in to their stalls like mad banshees, but she was level-headed through it. She didn’t want to go into her stall though–she prefers to be outside in bad weather. :/

I am amazed at how much Mr Steeldust has given you so fast. To me, that says he is very, very intelligent. Good luck with the fourth goal.

13 11 2011
Puller Lanigan

Hi Melissa, I’m coming in on this event after the fact. Am I to interpret that you have only had Steeldust for 8 days? Or did he come in with Banjo? I am so happy you took this old Warrior. I think he knows you have a soft spot for him and I think he has one for you too. I am wondering if he didn’t interpret the trough as something harming you? Same with the truck…you were in the ‘belly of the beast’…or possibly he thought the truck was taking you away? Like his mares. 😦 Trailer training was a wonderful idea and he is certainly a smart cookie to figure it’s a ‘safe’ place to bed down for the night. He may have become desensitized flapping tarps at STH…I’m sure they have lots of those around (hay, sides of pens, etc.) So he probably learned that those things aren’t scary. Again, points to his ability to adapt to changes in his environment quickly. Those are good survival skills.

Oh, so if he has only been with you a short time…you won’t see weight gain for at least a month. Sounds like he’s getting optimal nutrients….give it time. He’ll be as rounded as Banjo before you know it.

Again, thank you for helping two of our wild ones. I hope you have many years to enjoy with them.

13 11 2011
Melissa Margetts

Banjo came home with me right from the adoption in Cortez which was the week after the round up. Steeldust had been taken directly to Canyon City STH right from the round up. I had already contacted BLM and let them know that if Steeldust was captured in the cull that I would take him so I filled out paperwork for him in advance. There was a waiting period before those horses taken to STH could be sold because there were some legal issues being settled concerning this round up. ALL of the males in STH are required to be gelded before any sale takes place and the gelding couldn’t get done till the legal issues with this herd were addressed. After the males are gelded they hold onto them for an additional 3 weeks to make sure that no infection develops. He had not been handled there at the prison except at the gelding as he was not elligible for the WHIP training program which is only for the “adoption” horses chosen by BLM or adopters, not “sale” horses. I was finally able to spring him from prison on October 23rd. WhooHoo! and yes, eight days later I was trailer loading him. He is one smart cookie. One thing that I have noticed (as in the trough issue) is that he is VERY aware of things going on at a DISTANCE and will seem to be “on alert” faaaaaar sooner than my other domestic raised horses. With his role as a band stallion in the wild, it was his duty to be on watch to protect his band and get them out of harms way as soon as he sensed something was amiss. So he must have read our movements coming up the hill with that trough in his direction as danger and he would have probably sent his alpha mare & band running for the hills upon first catching sight of us.

14 11 2011
george w doerre

others have already told you what a wonderful thing you are doing here and i more than agree. i’m a city born country boy and can’t match my know how with the above. my take on why sd went crazy about the trough incident? animals have a
6th sense which has been bred out of most homo saps. for instance many dogs can tell when people will have a seziure, 2 days before thar person gets the seziure. they read something that we emit like radio signals. everytime you went near sd you were emitting love and a desire to help him.he read that and responded. when you were busy with the trough you were not sending that message
and thus he read a different one. and reacted.

14 11 2011
Pat Amthor

Ok, Fabulous work with this horse that will be so good when trained for riding in the country. We have friends who have Spring Creek Horses and they have been sturdy, steady mounts for working cattle, riding trails, ground work and have such personalities.

Keep this horse safe!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: