When Mya the Wonder Pony had her first foal, I made an erroneous assumption. I assumed that she would be the same cooperative pony with a foal at foot as she had been the previous eight years of our partnership. One day when it was time to load Mya and one-week-old Willowtrail Meg into the horse trailer at pasture, Mya pointed out the error in my thinking.
Rather than waiting to be haltered and led to the trailer as she had previously done, Mya took advantage of a gate that was ajar and bolted for freedom with Meg close on her heels. My concern for their safety was heightened by the fact that they were loose on a highway with a speed limit of 65 miles per hour, fortunately not heavily traveled. I began running up the highway after my loose charges; within moments a sympathetic passerby picked me up and we pursued the loose ponies for nearly a half mile before we caught up to them and I was finally able to disembark and halter Mya and bring her under control.
Since then I’ve devised numerous strategies to prevent a repeat of that frightening episode. While part of the problem that time was that I didn’t have Mya securely haltered before the gate was opened, I’ve also had situations where the mare loaded into the trailer normally but their foal decide to explore and went past the trailer gate towards the highway. While not quite as scary as the Mya-Meg episode, it’s been motivation to create a safer loading situation. The last few years I’ve put the ponies in a secure paddock while I back the trailer into the pasture and close the gate while I load. While that strategy has worked, it’s been time-consuming, so I’m particularly pleased with the solution I’ve devised this year.
I had on hand one cargo-net made of snap cord (bungees) and numerous hooks. I then bought a second larger one. Now I back the trailer close to the gate and before opening it, I create a fence with the cargo-nets between the end of the trailer and the fence on either side of the gate. When I open the gate, there’s essentially a second fence preventing the foal from wondering off course. My anxiety level is significantly lower now when I’m loading mares and foals at pasture.
The other day a visitor was asking about my start with ponies and observed that I didn’t have much equine experience when I brought my first pony into my life. I responded as I usually do, that Mya was a great teacher in those early years. And even now, after sixteen years together, she remains a source of inspiration. I’m very happy that she inspired me this year to create a safer foal-loading strategy.
© Jenifer Morrissey, 2014
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