Most of the racehorses left for Woodbine yesterday. Harold, and the two boarded horses went first. That all went according to plan. All three loaded politely. The next trailer came for the youngsters. Willam, Monster, Freeman, and Winchester. All four got a bit of atravet (mild tranquilizer) ahead of time.
Monster, who last season loaded reluctantly but without any fireworks, had a whole new plan for this year. It surprised everyone, because he’s mostly a fairly placid and confident soul. But when Monster takes a notion, it is, like the rest of him, kind of a BIG notion. There were really way too many people there trying to help. And I think it just overwhelmed him. We did finally get him loaded, and all seemed to be okay when he started eating his hay.
After the chaos of loading Monster, I chased all the men away and sweet talked William onto the trailer using the same technique as last year. Rewarding every forward step with neck scratching, effusive praise, and the occasional covert kiss on the nose. This time Ana helped by lightly tapping his hip in a steady rhythm and stopping when he stepped forward. So that wonderful things happened when he went forward, and less comfortable (though not alarming) things happened when he did not go forward. William is a good soul, and cooperated very well.
Meanwhile though, Monster was getting a little cranky in the trailer. Kicking and pawing. I was a bit worried about that, and was pretty relieved when we got William into the next slant stall, hoping that would settle him down. Harri and I went to get Freeman and Winchester, the youngsters (3 year olds). This would be their first trip, so I was expecting it to take a while to load them. But as we led them towards the trailer, Monster completely lost it in the trailer. He reared up, and either hit his head or hit the end of his trailer tie, I’m not sure which. His hind feet slipped out from under him and he started thrashing around. One of his front legs got caught over the front wall and he went down with the leg caught over the wall. Then he really started fighting. The boss ran into the trailer and quickly pulled William off the trailer. William, bless his heart, looked puzzled and alarmed by Monster’s hysteria but exited quietly.
We threw William and the two younger boys into stalls while the boss and the shipper tried to get Monster untangled. The shipper went into the front of the trailer and managed to unhook Monster’s front leg. He dropped down, sort of upside down and thrashed around some more before somehow righting himself and coming up with the tie wrapped around the top of his head. The shipper, who kept a very cool head throughout, somehow got the halter off him, undid the trailer tie and put it back on while Monster stood there a bit shell-shocked by the whole deal.
Other than a couple of cuts, Monster appeared, rather miraculously, to be essentially unhurt. I reloaded William (exactly the same way as before), and he was such a good boy, he pretty much walked right on. I was very proud of him. He handled all that chaos with much more aplomb than I would have expected. He can be a very reactive guy, but he’s naturally so willing and kind that he will do anything you ask him if you just give him time to work up his courage.
We took Freeman and Winchester out of the stalls to load them up too. But then Monster started fussing again. The boss suddenly decided (very wisely I think) that we should not push our luck. They closed up the trailer and got on the road as fast as they could hustle. And we put Freeman and Winchester back out. They can go another day.
Word is that Monster is fine. He went out to train in the sand ring today and was sound. Ana, who is now hotwalking for the boss, tells me that he was a very good boy and quite cheerful when she walked him. Linda (who owns him) figures that Monster escaping injury like that pretty much guarantees that he will be a worthless racehorse since it’s the good ones who get hurt (she is joking… kind of…).
I’ve gotta say that for a few minutes there I was purely terrified for Monster. I literally felt sick to my stomach watching it, and waiting for blood and tragedy. He is, of course, my very favorite horse at work. Gorgeous, smart, and usually sort of goofy cool. Not too cool about trailer loading though apparently.
I really wish we had a trailer at work to practice loading these guys ahead of time. They are good boys. But it’s hard for them to just be loaded up like that with no advance training.