For a long time after Stella’s horrible ordeal with gastric ulcers, I firmly believed that she was going to be a “stay-at-home” pony. I didn’t think she would be able to deal with the stress of trailering to a new barn, going to new places, and leaving her safe little haven at Slatehill.
Little by little, though, Stella started proving me wrong. And every time she checked another accomplishment off her list (loading calmly, visiting another barn for a lesson, trailering with another horse), I found myself thinking “well, that was good, but what’s going to happen when we do something really difficult?”
Now, don’t get me wrong; it’s not that I wasn’t proud of each milestone. It’s just that I never truly believed she was “cured”. I never really gave her full credit for her accomplishments. I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.
Today we went on yet another new adventure. A trailer ride with Stella’s young pasture-mate, Kami, to a new barn neither of them have visited before. Stella loaded well, stood quietly on the trailer, and when we made a coffee stop part-way there and I opened the door to check on her, I was pretty happy with her level of “chill”. This pony was really figuring this whole road trip thing out. Apparently trailering to a new barn is far more stressful for me than her!
We got to Five Fires, a wonderful local facility where you can trailer-in and make use of their fantastic indoor, and Stella calmly backed off the trailer and stood patiently while we sorted out Kami and kids and stabling arrangements. I remember wondering, in that moment, when the time would come that I was going to stop being surprised by Stella’s good behaviour.
Then in to the barn she went like a trouper. I put her in a stall (she really hasn’t been in a stall since moving to Slatehill), and she started eating her hay, taking time out to look out the window and down the aisle way now and then. I groomed, tacked up, and got ready to ride without so much as a whinny.
Off we went into the arena. Where she has never been before. Where she didn’t spook, didn’t fuss, didn’t even give things a second look. We started off with a little ground work (we’ve just started an online workshop with Tristan Tucker, so this gave us a chance to do a little homework), and then we lunged for a couple minutes (totally unnecessarily, since she was completely quiet and focused already).
I led her over to the mounting block (where she stood like a dream) and hopped on. We spent the next half hour doing walk, trot and canter work all around that lovely arena (and Stella got her first taste of a really nice forward canter – I think she really liked having all that space)!
After our ride, we decided to let the two mares have a little play time in the arena. We were expecting a lot of farting around, but, as seemed to be the theme of the day, the girls were quiet and the endeavour was entirely uneventful (although the letter H seemed to raise an eyebrow for some reason)…
Then it was time to leave. Stella walked right on the trailer without so much as a moment’s hesitatation, and we were off, headed back home to her pasture and friends. She trailered beautifully, and arrived at home dry and relaxed. Out she went into the field where she had a nice roll and started to graze.
So, what did Stella accomplish this time? Well, let’s see. First time trailering-in somewhere where she couldn’t step off the trailer and immediately start grazing. First time going into a strange stall in a strange barn. First time in that arena. First time being the “babysitter” for a younger horse who was herself trailering to a new barn for the first time.
And my sweet, amazing pony hadn’t put a foot wrong all day. I guess now it’s time. Time for me to stop being surprised when she’s able to handle situations quietly. Time for me to stop waiting for that darn other shoe to drop. This pony’s a pro.
So what about you? Do you find trailering to a new barn stressful? How do you overcome that?
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