It’s starting to feel like the only things I can write about is how terrified of different things I am. Whilst I am getting better with my riding there is one thing that still causes me to break into a sweat. Just thinking about it as I type this is giving me butterflies. Trailering, towing the horses put’s the fear of god into me.
For me the whole process is a royal pain in my ass.
Before passing my test I never had a problem towing. I never went far, I know this doesn’t make it right, I’m just being honest, but far enough to be able to take part in local fun rides. I knew that if I wanted to do more, I had to pass my test. I booked myself onto a quick one day course, I didn’t feel that I needed anything else as I was confident in towing a trailer and relatively confident at reversing.
I managed to get in some reversing practice with a friend called Mark. We went to a local farm and he had me reversing a big tractor and trailer all around the farm. My stepdad, known to friends and family as Bamba, also took me out reversing and practising the couple/un-couple. D-Day finally arrived and after a drive around, some reversing practice and lots of couple/un-couple I went for my test. I felt completely sick with nerves and totally screwed it up. I absolutely nailed my reversing, even if I do say so myself. Maybe that was my downfall, I got to confident. I pulled round to complete my un-couple/re-couple and lost it, my mind went completely blank. I couldn’t remember what I was doing. Needless to say I completely screwed it and before lowering the trailer onto the car I released the jockey wheel which dropped the trailer onto the car. INSTANT FAIL!!!!!!!
I knew that I had failed but didn’t dare ask so carried on with my test, everything else went really well and if I hadn’t screwed it all up at the beginning I would have passed with 2 minors.
Devastated doesn’t even come close to how I felt.
I spoke to my instructor and rebooked for a week later. I spent the next week practising what I failed on over and over until I couldn’t get it wrong.
Test day came and it was the same damn person testing me! Luckily I walked away with a pass certificate, I honestly couldn’t have been happier. This meant that I could get out and do whatever I wanted, well, sort of. I actually didn’t have a car that could tow or a trailer to tow the horses. So really if I did want to go anywhere I needed to borrow my mum’s car and my sister in law, Lou’s trailer. This wasn’t ever an issue until both Lou and I wanted to go to different places on the same day. As it was her trailer I couldn’t really say no or even expect her to let me have it. But that got me thinking, I didn’t want to miss out, I wanted to be able to say to a friend lets hack somewhere new and just load up and off we go. So with a call to the bank I took out a loan, started looking at cars and trailers.
Not long after I was the proud owner of a shiny 4x4 and trailer. But this is when all my problems started.
One Sunday morning my friend Gemma and I had arranged to go out with the local Bloodhounds.
The Farmers Bloodhounds are so much fun, their Huntsman Brian is extremely friendly and always makes you feel welcome. I have known his son Jamie for a while now through the rugby club that my brother played at. But had never really known Jamie rode or hunted. Prior to getting Winnie I hadn’t really known about the bloodhounds and it was only because Lou rode with them and Tom helped on the quad that I knew anything about them. I followed in the car a couple of times, there is one thing greater than hearing the sound of those hounds speaking on a line as I speed around the countryside and that’s following those amazing hounds from horseback jumping anything in sight. Unfortunately for me I am too much of a chicken to do this so I’ve only ever been out with the bloodhounds on their Hound Exercise’s prior to the opening meet. These are shorter rides with the option to jump if you want to. Gemma and I had been to one hound exercise together at Whitfield which I absolutely loved. Winnie was so good, we jumped everything and managed to stay at the front of the field. The horses had trailered perfectly and stood happily whilst we had a drink with everyone afterwards.
On this particular Sunday the meet was at Hinton in the Hedges which is about 6 miles from where we live. Horses were groomed to within an inch of their lives, tacked up, loaded and off we went. No more than 2 miles down the road we came to a roundabout and it was here that I lost all my confidence in towing. As we went round the roundabout both the horses started moving, now, when I say moving I don’t just mean your normal moving, I mean the whole trailer was rocking from side to side, I honestly thought it was going over. I don’t know what caused them to do it and I don’t think I ever will. But right then in that moment, I stopped breathing and all I could picture was the trailer tipping over and the horses being injured. I pulled off of the roundabout into the garage to check on the horses and noticed a small of blood around Winnie’s back leg. Fear went through me. What had I done? I’d broken the horses. I called my mum who was meant to meet us at the meet and told her we were going home. When I got home and unloaded Winnie we realised she had stood on herself and cut her cushion on her heel. Turns out she was fine and mum was mortified that I hadn’t continued to the meet.
Since then, whenever I have trailered either of our horses it has put the fear of God into me. If I can I avoid trailering at all costs because whenever I do trailer the same thing happens. The horse/horses lose balance and fidget which causes the trailer to rock…… a lot.
I thought it might just be Winnie so I signed up to a hedge hopping clinic with Casper to see how he was. I put my brave pants on, loaded him, which he did first time and off I went. I had given myself plenty of time to get there, anticipating him being a pain to load like Winnie was but he wasn’t so off we went really early. That was where it stopped, on every single turn the trailer shook. No when you’re travelling down country roads it’s kind of hard to avoid the corners. I think I actually stopped to check he was ok 3 times. When I did finally arrive I was on the verge of tears and shaking like a leaf. I didn’t want to trailer him home but knew that I had to, it was just as bad as on the way there.
I don’t know if it is me or my trailer that is the problem because just after Christmas Lou trailered me to a meet so that I could Gate-Shut for her. We loaded Winnie, which has become a bit of a two man job, but that’s another story. Despite us only travelling 2 miles to the meet I loaded her untacked and decided to tack her up there. Loaded and ready we travelled to the meet as if she wasn’t even in the trailer. I couldn’t believe it. Calm and happy because she had travelled well and we were early so I wasn’t going to be late and feel rushed we had a great day.
So, was it me? Was it that she was untacked? Was it that all the doors were shut? I didn’t know. But I thought that if it worked when Lou was towing then it must work for me.
I’m not going to lie it took me ages to actually trailer the horses. My trailer basically became a straw and hay transporter. I didn’t tow the horses anywhere until Izzy decided that she wanted some lessons. This forced me to trailer her pony Blue. If she was going to get lessons she might as well have them on her pony.
The first time I took Blue and Izzy to Plum Park I was a nervous wreck, I was worried about where I was going to go, which was the best way? Which had the least corners or turns, the best road conditions, least pot-holes. Whatever it took to get the easiest drive.
Blue turned out to be an absolute dream to trailer. No matter what corner we turned or how rough the road was I didn’t know he was in the trailer. It took a while for me to calm down whilst trailering him though. My poor daughter Izzy wasn’t allowed to talk to me or distract me for ages, until I realised that Blue was fine and wasn’t going to tip the trailer over.
Izzy recently went to on a school trip for a week so I decided to take her lesson and take Casper XC training to Plum Park. I’d been told to ignore the trailer rocking and drive faster as the more they moved the slower I drove.
Casper took a while to load which got my stress levels up but with the help of my partner Luke we finally loaded him and set off. Within seconds the damn trailer was rocking and Casper was all over the place. We made it onto the straight dual carriageway and the trailer was still rocking intermittently. I was a nervous wreck by this point, hating every minute of it, shaking, tears streaming down my face. I changed my mind 1000 times and very nearly went home. If it hadn’t been for Chloe texting me to say don’t go home I’m certain that I would have. By the time we arrived I didn’t think I was in the right frame of mind to ride, nevertheless I tacked up, got on and off we went. It took me a while to calm down but Casper could see the XC jumps and already knew that he was here to do a job.
No the thing about Casper is that when he gets excited he tends to put in a little buck or 2, so with this in mind I warmed him up away from Luke and Chloe so that we were on the flat and if he did prat around then I would be more likely to stay on.
Casper warmed up and me anxious at what jumps Chloe was going to make me jump we set off for a few small tyres and some poles. Ears forward, eyes on the prize Casper took absolutely no notice of the cows or sheep that were in the field, or the other horses that were calling us from their paddocks. We flew over the first few jumps and almost instantly I relaxed. Gradually the jumps got higher, we flew over the scary looking house jump and just before we finished I made the fatal mistake of commenting on how I had admired this particular jump they had that I’d seen in the open XC recently. Stupid me. That only meant one thing. Before I was allowed to cool down I had to jump it. Now this jump isn’t that high, but it’s got a nice spread on it and looks a bit like a keyboard. The sort of jump that horses spook at. Casper ran out the first time but that was my fault as I was nervous of it and Casper could sense that. We circled round and tried it again. This time I was determined to complete it. No way was I going to let him run out again. But more importantly my stupid competitive nature wouldn’t let me fail in front of a friend. I can’t have anyone thinking that I am a failure. So driving him forward and a quick tap on the shoulder we were flying over this jump that I would never have umped this time last year. I couldn’t stop smiling. I’d done it.
I guess the point of this post is that, it’s OK to be scared, as long as you don’t let it consume you. I want to do so many things with the horses this year and I don’t want my fear of trailering to stop me. I’ve signed up to Kirtlington Sponsored Ride, something I have always wanted to do. Even thinking about it now and knowing I have to trailer him there has given me butterflies, actually I feel a bit sick. I have a long road ahead of me to get over my fear of trailering and to figure out why the horses are doing this but I have to. I have to be a big girl and be brave. I can’t, and I won’t, let this fear consume me.
Baby Steps. So my homework is to take the horses out more often. Trailer somewhere for a hack, just go for a drive. It doesn’t matter what it is but I’ve got to do it, because with the Bloodhounds meeting near me in just under 3 weeks I have something to work for.
Be Brave, Be Confident, or in the words of a friend of mine, Mr BZ…… Don’t Be Shit…