Zelda is a very lucky horse. Or maybe I’m a very lucky owner. Yesterday we had an experience that could have been much, much worse. But we were lucky.
The hunt yesterday was about a 25 minute drive from my barn. All on back roads. It was a cold morning, only in the low 20s, and I had my doubts about hunting at all. I guess I should have listened to that tiny voice. Instead, I loaded up Zelda and set off. About 10 minutes into the drive, I heard banging coming from the trailer.
Uh oh. That is NOT the sound you want to hear. I can’t tell you exactly where it was that it happened, but it made me pause. Then I heard it again. A thrashing sound. I pulled over into the Super Stop & Shop parking lot and opened the side door of the trailer. Just as I had feared, Zelda had fallen down. The velcro trailer tie had not released and her new leather halter had not broken. She was stuck with her head at an angle and her front legs under the front bar of the trailer stall. She was very still and I thought she must have hurt herself. I think she was waiting for me to help her. Thank goodness, she’s not a horse that panics easily.
Getting her loose was my first priority. I was able to get the halter off (in retrospect, I’m not sure why I didn’t unfasten the velcro), and lowered the front bar. Getting her up was the next goal. She scrambled to her feet almost immediately once she had some space and I hoped that she didn’t try to charge out the front of the stall through the side bar. But she didn’t. I got the bar up, the halter back on. She was standing solidly on all four legs. There was no blood. I started breathing again.
Zelda started to munch on some hay.
I sat in the car hyperventilating. My shins were killing me and I realized I had bruised them leaning against the running board. I wasn’t sure that I could drive home. I wondered how long I could sit in the car and go nowhere. Every few minutes I got out and I checked on her. She was still eating.
I checked the back of the trailer. I wondered if she had peed and maybe the liquid had frozen. About 7 years ago, Kroni fell in a trailer when that had happened. It was also in November when the temperatures were in the low 20s. The floor of the trailer had turned into a sheet of ice.
That wasn’t the issue, though. The trailer was dry and clean. I hadn’t put shavings down as it was a short trip, but there was nothing wet, nothing slippery. And yet she had lost her footing. A Google search reveals that horses frequently fall down in trailers. Some are wedged solidly in, requiring sedation and several people to remove them. Some end up on their backs, with their legs in their air. Many are injured.
After about a half hour, I worked up the nerve to drive home. It was an excruciating drive, but uneventful. When I pulled into the barn, I could finally feel the tension leave my body. Zelda backed out looking completely unconcerned. She wanted to graze. I checked her over and couldn’t find a scratch on her so I gave her some warm, soaked hay cubes with some bute and I watched her for almost forty five minutes.
Zelda and I really dodged a bullet yesterday. Trailering is one of my least favorite things, but mostly I worry about other drivers, of brakes failing, or something like that. I wasn’t worried that she would fall. She rides well in the trailer and we were going slowly — no sudden stops, no sharp turns.
My husband researched the issue while I took care of her. His conclusion? That rubber mats become extra slippery in the cold weather. Some people recommend bedding deeply in shavings (although not everyone). I think I will do that next time, even for a short ride. But I’m also going to order mats with a non-slip surface. My husband found mats with a button surface (for traction) which are used in wash stalls. I’m going to talk to the manufacturer this week about using them for trailers.
In the meantime, I may be done for the season. I’m not sure I can work up the enthusiasm to trailer to the last two hunts. I think I may just hack my horses locally while I recover from the “what ifs”.
Today, Zelda was her usual self. It was much warmer today and she basked in the sun, monopolizing the hay. She isn’t holding the experience against me, but I still feel awful — your horse trusts you to take care of them. They load up in those metal boxes mostly without a second thought. And we get so used to trailering them that it’s easy to forget that it’s a dangerous activity that can have dire consequences.
Have any of you had a horse fall in the trailer? What have you done to keep it from happening again?