Monday, August 24, 2015

Adventures in Learning to Trailer: The Maiden Voyage of the HMS Valium

RJ is not convinced this is a good idea.
If you've followed this blog you may remember that sometime back in February I bought a trailer. You can read about it here.
I didn't have a horse, but bought a trailer anyway, because, well, why the heck not?

Once the weather turned nicer and the glacier that had formed over the trailer had melted (thank you, Mother Nature!) I began with the business of learning to actually drive the thing.  Because taking a couple practice runs with an empty trailer before putting an actual horse in it seemed like a pretty reasonable course of action. If you're so inclined, you can read about some of those adventures here. And here.

This weekend I decided it was time to take my first trip with an actual horse in the trailer.  Mary-Ann, my friend who'd bravely accompanied me on my first test drive, asked if I wanted to meet her at a local park where there are miles of trails and cross-country obstacles.  Sounded like a good idea, so we settled on a time and I went into planning mode.  Because that's what I do.

I made a list of what I needed to do to get the trailer ready.  I made a list of what I needed to have in the trailer.  I made a list of what I needed to do with RJ before putting him in the trailer. Then I checked my copy of Cherry Hill's Trailering Your Horse to see if I was forgetting anything.  Then I went to the barn and did everything on my lists.  My son was amazed by all the effort I was putting in for, as he put it, "a 10 minute drive."  He also jokingly suggested that I should consider taking a valium before setting out. BAM!  The trailer now had a name, the HMS Valium. (We name our vehicles in this family. Doesn't everybody?)

I got to the barn about an hour and a half before I was supposed to leave, as I am paranoid and figured that there would be a million last minute details to take care of.  I hooked up, checked and re-checked and re-re-checked things, and then loaded RJ.  RJ, bless his heart, looked highly skeptical of the morning's goings on but climbed willingly into the trailer despite any misgivings he may have had.  I'll admit I was nervous - the 10 minute drive has a really big hill with a twisty-turny road. I was having visions that my truck wouldn't  make it up, that the brakes would go on the way back down, or that my driving would be so bad that I'd get to the park and find RJ with multiple wounds from scrambling to stay on his feet.

Am I a bit neurotic?  Yes.  Without a doubt.  To ease my neuroses I turned to my phone and searched through my music until I found something inspirational.  Normally I'd go for a little AC/DC, but in this case I chose Wagner.  Yep, you read that right. Wagner.  I chose his Ride of the Valkyries, because if that doesn't give you a kick-ass "ride off to battle feeling" nothing will. Plus, I figured if I was pretending to be a Valkyrie I wouldn't be all in a twitter about driving the damn trailer. So off I went, the strains of Wagner wafting out of my open windows. I got some odd looks as I went through town, and a few more when I pulled into the park, but none of that mattered as the first part of the journey had gone without a hitch.

Thing went easily on the way home as well.  The parking area at the park is large, and there is rarely any need to back up.  All I needed to do was drive in and do a big loop so I was facing the drive out, and then pull out straight to leave.  Easy-peasy. When we left for the park the road was wide open and I had no cars following me on the way over.  On the way back it looked as though I had a funeral procession behind me, there were so many cars. I didn't let it bother me,  I just concentrated on keeping things slow and smooth for RJ. The only hiccup came when I turned on the small country road the farm is on.  The road is narrow, and there are some blind turns and rises. I  around a bend and was faced with 2 aged bikers in full Tour de France regalia teeter-tottering along as they tried to make it up the slight incline.

Seriously, these two were 75 if they were a day, so God bless 'em for doing what they were doing, but they gave me fits!  They were riding one-third of the way into the road, just wobbling away, and clearly had no idea I was behind them.  I was trying to figure out if I should just stay behind them and risk getting plowed into  if a car came around the blind bend. Or if I tried to pass and accidentally whacked one or both of them with the trailer and send them hurtling into the roadside brush.  Then I thought maybe I should hit the horn and alert them to my presence so they could move over and let me pass.  Then I worried that beeping might cause one or both of them to drop dead of a heart attack. So I stayed behind them, inching along at snail's pace, hoping they didn't stroke out in the 100 yards it was going to take to get to the driveway.

I'm happy to say the HMS Valium and her crew arrived home safely (as, I'm hoping, the septuagenarian bikers did as well). I was feeling such a sense of accomplishment I took my daughter over to our favorite local restaurant for a little celebration. Driving one's horse in a trailer may be no big deal to some, and I'm guessing those folks may have been doing it for so long they don't remember what the first time felt like.  To me it felt a bit like when I had my first child and had to take him home from the hospital.  Number one, I was amazed that anyone was stupid enough to trust me with this poor innocent soul's life. Number two, I was suddenly aware of all that can go wrong on the road.  Driving suddenly became WAY. MORE. SERIOUS.

So there you have it.  Trip #1 is in the books, and I'm looking forward to many more successful outings in the future.

Time to celebrate!


  1. I can totally relate. I need to get a copy of that book! Hopefully Amazon has it.

    1. Hi Hillary! Thanks for reading and commenting. Here you:

    2. Just ordered that and "the complete guide to buying, maintaining, and servicing a horse trailer" . Love Amazon prime. Thanks for sharing the link :)

  2. Trailering horses is at the top of the Least Fun Things Ever To Do list. Not relaxing. Ever. The opposite of relaxing.

    If I could share a couple of things I learned the hard way:

    1. Always have an escape hatch.

    Meaning there needs to be a lane to merge into when a$$h*les cut you off, which they will no matter how slow you are going, and no matter how much room you try to leave between you and the vehicle in front of you. That way you can avoid slamming on the brakes.

    This may be the turning lane, or the shoulder. If there is no shoulder, I will drive in the left lane to have access to the turning lane. On the highway, I'll ride in the middle lane so I have access to both the left or right lanes in an emergency.

    Your horse will not want to ride with you anymore if you slam on the brakes while trailering. Ask me how I know.

    2. As for parking the trailer, which is it's own fresh hell sometimes...

    Don't put your nose where your a$$ can't go. Meaning plan ahead for parking. Maybe get out and scope before you get your rig in a situation. Practicing backing the rig in a parking lot was super helpful for me.

    Congrats on your trailer independence!

  3. My first time driving a trailer went like this: "You got your license this week right? Great cause we need someone to drive one of the trailers home because Audrey's horse crashed through the triple and she broke her arm so she can't drive. Don't worry there aren't many turns."

    So you know, you were just slightly more prepared for this trip than I was for my first one. Sounds like you did great. Tucker would like to know when we are meeting up with you and RJ at CHP.

  4. woo hoo so exciting!! hauling a horse in the trailer for the first (few) time(s) was very much a white knuckle moment for me - but that sense of satisfaction and accomplishment is kinda awesome!

  5. Wooooo! So exciting. I'm glad the maiden voyage went well :D