Trailering Astar…or Not


One of my horses, Astar, had a pretty bad life until I met him and took him in – he became mine about 6 years ago.  We’ve spent a lot of time developing a solid level of trust with him and have been very patient.  This weekend we had planned and paid for him and I to attend a workshop / clinic where we were going to learn some new things that are foundational to building a solid relationship with  your horse.

Trailer loading – Part 1

Thursday, Andy and I picked up a trailer that his friend’s daughter was letting us borrow for the weekend.  Andy had to go back to work and I met Kaite here at my house to work with Astar on loading into a trailer.

Kaite goes into the stall where Astar is and attempts to latch the snap onto the bottom of his halter.  He is not going for that at all and eventually decides to rear up and Kaite falls to the ground trying to get out from under him.  I gasp and ask if she is okay… she is obviously hurting and says I need to go in and latch the lead line onto my horse.  I go in and he dances a bit, but I get it on him.  He’s not thrilled.

The trailer was relatively small on the inside, but he could fit just fine.  I coaxed him up towards the trailer and got him to put a foot on the ramp – okay – we’re hopeful at this point.  This could go well.

Then my anxiousness and worry begins  to set in as Astar gets more antsy and dancing around.  Not good because I know he can sense those emotions coming from me.  I realize that I’m not being a good leader and allow Kaite to try so she takes over.  Astar is not liking that idea very much, but initially he tries and then gives up.

We attempt for the next hour or so to get him on the trailer and he has several (what we call) “come-aparts” – that’s where the horse (or person) just kind of freaks out all over the place.  At one point he threw himself into one of the sides of the stall (he’s fine except for a minor scratch) and another time stepped on one of the panels we have for the stalls and took it from a 5′ high panel to a 4′ high panel.   At dark we finally give up for the evening with a plan to pick up again in the morning.  We walk inside and I finally break down in tears.  I hate seeing him get so worked up over such a simple thing as walking into a trailer – it simply breaks my heart.

I called my mom to talk about it and she said it was time for me to get quiet with God for awhile and ask what He wants me to hear.  It was also time for me to crumple up my worries and fears in a ball and give them over to God for Him to take care of.  That when I do that I can better help Astar.   In the meantime, she would spend some time talking to Astar and call me back to tell me what she found out.

Trailer loading  – Part 2

I have to admit that I tried to get quiet as my mom suggested the night before – it’s very difficult for me to do.   The thing I got was a song by Warren Barfield “Love is not a fight” – click here for lyrics.  So I’ve been humming that all day and have been meditating on the lyrics.  I was even humming it as we were beginning to work with Astar.

So the plan this morning was to get him on the trailer and attend the 1st of 3 days of the clinic – that was to be from 9 until 12 noon.  My mom, who has this amazing gift from God for talking to animals, called at around 7:00 to let me know that Astar told her that he was going to try really hard and that we needed to remind him that he could do this.   I prayed and I hoped and I cast all my worries to God.  I was much more calm starting out the day.  I was excited about the adventure we were going to embark upon.

So we let Andy have the first shot at catching Astar and getting him loaded.  Andy is so matter-of-fact, we thought he was perfect.  Andy is also very patient so he did a pretty good job at out-stubborning him for awhile.  He also handles him so well — even when Astar went backwards, running into the water bucket along the fence and splitting it open!  Well – time for a new water bucket…lol.  Thankfully no one was hurt.

At about 11 or so, I called my mom to talk to Astar again & to pray for our situation – because although we now had a larger trailer with plenty of room and he said he was going to try – his four feet were not on the trailer.   When I went back outside, he was making faces as if he was trying to avoid something or someone.  It turned out later that that it was the precise time she was talking to him about picking up his feet and putting them on the trailer.

That did not work – he didn’t listen to her very well.   And so we called the farm where the clinic was being held and asked if they had room for any more horses – we’d like to bring one with us as our horse’s buddy.  “No problem,” they said.   We chose Mr. old faithful – Damien.  We thought by putting another horse on the trailer, it would show Astar that it was no so scary.  So on the trailer – 1-2-3 – Damien went!   Astar looked and basically said “nahh, don’t think so” and poor Damien waited patiently on the trailer to see if Astar would change his mind.  Didn’t happen.

So off Damien went from the trailer and back to his pasture, disappointed that he had gone on a trip to nowhere – to the trailer and back again…. bummer.

At almost noon, we were all feeling tired, discouraged and more than a little frustrated.  My friend Carey who had offered to drive the truck that would pull the trailer had to leave and our other friend Kaite needed to go with her – so we took a break and had some lunch.

At that point we had missed  the morning session of the clinic because he just would not go on the trailer so that we could transport him there were going to wait this out and try again in a little bit.  So I sent a prayer request out to my fellow vineyard prayer warriors.  At this point, I’m feeling hopeful still.

Usually the prayer requests take about 12 to 24 hours to go out so I thought, well, I will take my chances anyway and Andy agreed that I should at least put it out there… off the vmail prayer request went, at 11:56 am.  At 12:10 pm, I got the prayer request in my inbox!  WOW!  It took less that 30 minutes to get put out there….God must really be working on this.

Within minutes we received a couple of phone calls – one from a women who has horses, asking what we had tried.  Another from a very wise woman at church – Eunice – she called while I was on the phone with my mother-in-law, Carol.  I had this feeling that calling Eunice back was going to bring tears to my eyes and sure enough, with her first words “I can feel the intensity of the trauma that he has been through” I was in tears.

She told me that she understood the love that is there between Astar and I; that God loves that horse more than I do and that He put us together for a reason – there’s no accident there.  One of those reasons is that we both have things we need to get rid of in our past and deal with.  She said that we, as human beings were given dominion (by God) over all of the creatures of the earth and that with that comes wisdom that is needed in order to care for them in the right way.  She said that this may or may not be the right timing for Astar to go to the clinic and that if it is not, I will need to accept that and trust that there will be a right time in the future.

The amazing part about so much of what she said is that I have never talked to her about Astar, nor details of his past, nor has she met him and barely knows me.  So for Eunice to tell me everything she did, I knew it was coming from God’s own heart and speaking through her.  That she was His vessel and I am so thankful for that.

My conversation with Eunice was so intense that I felt like I had been praying for about 2 or 3 hours and it was only about 20-30 minutes!  It was emotionally draining and energizing at the very same time.  And I was encouraged to go out, brush my horse and talk to him a bit.  So I brought the brush, some treats and a hope-filled heart.  I walked in and Astar was not eager to see me initially.  Then, once I started brushing him, he stood perfectly still and soaked it all in.  Next step – in the trailer.

So all I thought about was that I was going to get him in the trailer – we were not even going to talk about going anywhere.  So I went into the trailer and sat there.  I sat and talked to him and he looked curious.  So I offered him an apple nugget treat (little hard horse-treats that are apple-flavored).  He was very interested so I offered it to him for sticking his nose out so far.  The next thing was to see if he would put a foot in the trailer — so I held the treat out just far enough that he couldn’t reach it without first putting one of his feet up on the trailer.  He did it!   He put one foot up on the trailer and I gave him a treat.  So I tried again and he eventually, with coaxing, did it another time — now I was out of treats — DRAT!  Such good progress and I felt like I was onto something.  Astar’s eyes were bright and shiny; he was curious and even playful.  We were actually having fun!

So I ran in and asked my husband to please take me to the feed store to get some more treats – and I told him what had just transpired.  So there was hope again.  I called Kaite and told her what had happened and my plan.  With treats purchased, we headed back home so I could pick up where I had left off.  Word of note – make sure you have enough treats BEFORE you start working with your horse because he was not as cooperative or willing when I came back.  It was also very hot outside at this point.  I didn’t want to quit on him, but it got to be so hot I had to come inside before I overheated.  I was still holding onto my hope, though it was waning with the increasing amount of failed attempts.  I am trying to focus on the positives — I did get him to put one foot in the trailer of his own accord; I got him to enjoy time with me – at least for a moment.

At the same time, my heart continues to break.   So I press on.  Andy and I get online and we look for some ways to get a stubborn, nervous horse onto a trailer.  We found some new ideas that we had not tried.  Just as we were going to go out and try one of them, Kaite got here.  So we had a lesson in the round pen with him – one of the ideas was to take him out to a round pen and work him to get his focus back on us as boss.   It was not the best lesson.  In fact, he didn’t even want to come to me when I asked him to – wouldn’t let me catch him up…. I had to walk away and leave him there – to return with bribery – dinner and treats.

Dinner went into the trailer to entice him into it.  It’s in the trailer and if he wants it, he has to go into get it.  And if turns out that he doesn’t want his food that bad, then he won’t go into the trailer and he’ll just go without his grain.  Not to worry – he has water and hay… he’s not being starved, by any means.

And as I walk away, my heart breaks… for him, and for me.  I thought we had developed a relationship and a level of trust between us – and it feels that he wants nothing to do with me and just doesn’t even want to try.  It saddens me, where he is and I feel helpless (except to pray) to help him, so he can see that we love him so very much and would never, ever hurt him; that we want to take him somewhere fun and bring him back with us – this is his home.  I love my horse so very much and all I want is the best for him!

So what does tomorrow bring?  Well, we are going to give him one last chance to get on the trailer in the morning.  Astar gets as many tries between 7 am and 7:30 am and if he chooses to not go on the trailer, then we will be gathering up Irish (our other horse) and taking him to the clinic.  Irish knows a lot, though he could stand to benefit from some groundwork and a few foundational elements…. and I could stand to benefit from the clinic with Irish as well.  Whatever I learn, I will just have to bring back to Astar.  So at least our money won’t have gone to waste.

It still breaks my heart and makes me feel like I am abandoning Astar for even thinking about taking another horse (another one of my kids) in his place.  What am I to do, though?  I can’t just throw away the hard-earned money that I put into the class.  Perhaps this is what God had planned all along – maybe it’s okay that Astar is not going and that his “clinic” was the last couple of days with the trailer.  I’m not ruling out that he will get on the trailer in the morning and we will go — though I have to admit that I am not holding my breath.  I feel so let down by him and disappointed in how things turned out.

So how do I find the joy there?  How do I celebrate taking my other “child” when the one that needs the help the most is being left behind?  What do I do with these feelings?   Where do I put them – my sadness for him?  My heart cries for Astar more than he knows.

At this point, I believe that what Andy, Astar (the horse) and I need at this point is for anyone and everyone who is willing to please pray for him to release his fears and his past.  It’s time to move on and find the joy in life.  It’s time to stop worrying about the bad things that could happen and start thinking about all of the wonderful happy possibilities.  Sure life happens and it can’t always be happy – however, we can always find the joy in all things if we look hard enough…. wow – I guess I just answered my question from above!!    Crazy what happens when you journal!

Please – whoever reads this – pray for Astar and I.  That we may both experience the peace that passes all understanding and move beyond our fears!

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