My first event in a year, Maria’s first in almost 4 (!) years. What were we getting ourselves into?
Packing (Everything I Own)
I am a pretty professional list-maker, if I do say so myself. Obviously I have packed for plenty of events, dressage shows, jumper shows, clinics and schoolings before. Every single time, I get to the end, and I stand there staring at everything I’ve packed, completely paralyzed by the fear that I am forgetting the most important piece of equipment/clothing/tack and that it will put me into a crisis situation at the worst possible moment at the show. It’s almost never true (although there was one show that I managed to get to without my tall boots – a story for another time), but it still happens every time.
On top of needing to pack my stuff for the weekend, I also needed to do a little spring-cleaning of my trailer tack room, because it had been sitting dormant for several months (a year?). I made my lists, everything that I’d need for Maria’s stall, all my tack and my clothes and then I went to the barn to get started.
I anticipated that this would take an hour or two, in reality I think it ended up taking more like four hours. Fortunately, I did a full clean out of the barn recently, so everything in there was pretty well organized, but the entire trailer tack room needed to be unpacked. Luckily it all came back to me pretty quickly and I was able to get everything ready to go!
Since this show was happening on Easter weekend, the schedule was a little different than normal. The event was running Thursday-Saturday, rather than Friday-Sunday. The classes running on Thursday were the Young Event Horse series, and the Starter-Intermediate divisions were happening on Friday and Saturday, so our plan was to leave Thursday morning to make the drive to the horse park, about 5 and a half hours from where we’re based.
I cleaned, packed and bedded the trailer on Wednesday, so that the only steps left on Thursday morning would be to load the hay bale bag (it kind of takes up my entire tack room so it can’t really go in until you’re ready to seal everything up) and to wrap and load Maria.
We got a ton of rain on Tuesday and Wednesday, completely soaking the ground, so the horses had been in their stalls since Tuesday evening, instead of their normal 24/7 turnout this time of year. I’d gotten Maria out on Wednesday afternoon, but it was so wet and slippery that I couldn’t do anything besides hand walk. I don’t know if I’ve mentioned that Maria doesn’t do very well in a stall for extended periods of time, but it’s definitely not her favorite thing. I pulled her out of her stall on Thursday morning to bandage her legs for the trip, and of course she was dancing around like a lunatic because she’d been in her stall for 36 hours. Normally, this might not be such a huge deal, but Maria doesn’t really have much of a sense of personal space, and when she’s feeling anxious or worked up, it isn’t such a cute trait. Cue frustration on both of our parts.
I finally got her bandaged and ready to load. Now, we travel short distances pretty frequently: vet appointments, lessons at my trainer’s facility, local schoolings and shows. Maria is normally a pro at loading and trailering. We have a 2 horse slant load trailer, so typically I’ll walk her into the trailer, throw her lead through the window and she’ll stick her head out and wait for me to close the door behind her, come around and clip her in. I’ll add the aside here that I’m not looking for any trailering advice; this method has never failed us before. However, Maria was not really in a very accommodating mood this time, so I got her loaded with no problem, but by the time I got around to the window to clip her in, she’d turned to look back at Houdini because suddenly she couldn’t bear to be away from him, at the same time pulling her lead back through the window into the trailer. Cue my hand flying to my forehead in more frustration.
Maria is a fairly big horse, she’s not wide (obviously), but she’s long and tall, so even though we have a warmblood sized trailer, it’s still a bit of a feat for her to turn herself around. So now I had a decision to make, do I open the door and risk her flying out in a frenzy onto the wet ground outside and slipping, or do I try to get her to turn herself back around inside the trailer, since she’s just proven to me that it can, in fact, be done? I could make an argument for both options, but I know Maria and if I had opened that door, it would have been me standing between her and the slippery freedom outside the trailer, not a safe bet for either of us. I decided to try to get her turned back around in the trailer. I did get her turned around, but then I was so worried that she might have strained or scraped or otherwise injured some part of herself in this process, that I ended up unloading her anyway (the right direction, at least), jogging her on the gravel driveway to make sure that she looked okay. Thankfully, she appeared to be feeling perfectly fine. Cue more frustration, at myself this time, and anxiety about now being behind my desired schedule for the day.
Once I got her loaded, the second time, and we got on the road, the trip progressed pretty smoothly. We didn’t hit much traffic or construction and Maria travelled very well. Everything seemed to be merging back to how I’d planned/hoped it would go before we got started. Then, about 2 hours out from the horse park I noticed a truck that had pulled up alongside us. At first, it seemed like he was trying to pass, but then he dropped back and was staying even with us. I assume anyone who has driven with a horse trailer has encountered something like this, but every once in a while when I’m driving with the trailer, there will be people who are completely fascinated by the horses and stare intently as they’re driving by. Typically, I ignore them, but this person seemed very persistent so I looked over. The driver was motioning for me to roll down my window and then gestured toward the trailer to indicate that something was wrong with the hitch. Cue slight panic attack as I pull over to the side of I-35.
There was an issue with the hitch and I ended up having to halfway unhook the trailer on the side of the road, but I was able to get it fixed. I got back into the car with a mixture of relief and residual panic about what could have happened if that stranger hadn’t been paying attention and bothered to tell me about the problem, and I started tearing up a little bit (that’ll be a recurring theme of the weekend). We got back on the road and continued on our way. Then, when we were about 45 minutes from the venue, we got a call from my trainer. Some other members of our group had gotten there early and discovered that 2 of our 6 horses were stabled in one barn and the other 4 were stabled in another barn and they didn’t want to let us move any of the horses so that we could all be together. Cue more frustration.
Once we got there and got unloaded, we discovered that half the aisle across from us was completely empty. My mom went to the office to find out about moving the horses stabled in the other barn to be across from us. Apparently she got there at a great time because they immediately agreed to let us stable all together. The only catch was that all the shavings from the originally assigned stalls had to be moved over to the new stalls, which as you can imagine was a delightful process.
The rest of Thursday went pretty smoothly. We got all of Maria’s and my stuff unloaded and set up at the stall, then helped unload my trainer’s trailer when she arrived a little bit later. We had just enough time to get in a cross country course walk and give the horses a hand walk around the grounds before it got dark.
Aside from one major hitch, which I'll get to next time, Friday and Saturday went pretty well, and you'll be able to read about all of it in part 2. Thanks for reading!