May 11, 2015

Lesson Learned: The Hard Way Of Course

I will get to the Clemson ride story, but first a hard life lesson learned.

I've tied Gem to the trailer hundreds of times. I use her lead rope or an actual trailer tie that is nylon webbing with a metal clasp on either end depending on how lazy I am and the situation. Usually I just use her lead rope at the barn and the tie when out and about. I use the trailer as my sole tie area at the barn for tacking/untacking, grooming and various tasks like the farrier. I always tie at trail heads as well. She is super well behaved when tied and doesn't try to test it or get free. I've never even seen her pull back in the past 5.5 years, but even with that I don't ever let her there unattended for more than a potty break or to grab something from the truck.

Saturday was a different story.

We completed our 15 mile leg of the race and sent Dusty off to run his. I was in charge of Wyatt while he ran and I figured he would take between 2 1/2- 3 hours. Since Gem would be tied to the trailer (it hadn't even dawned on me to bring her corral which would have been the smart thing to do) that entire time coming off her exertion, I wanted to give her hay. I've never actually attached her hay bag to the trailer before and I only have the one ring per side. I clipped the bag to the ring and also placed a bucket of water within her reach and left her to nap. Wyatt and I hung around the camp for the most part with the exception of a 15 minute trip to the creek and I made sure to check on her frequently. She was always either eating her hay, drinking her water or taking a nap.

As Dusty neared the finish, I wandered over to cheer him on. I was maybe 200 ft away from my trailer, but I couldn't see it because another trailer was between me and Gem. Dusty crossed the finish and then I heard someone scream that Gem was loose! I was gone for maybe 5 minutes.

Thankfully she came charging over to where we all were instead of running towards the road, but there was a big problem: she had pulled so hard that she broke the trailer ring right off and now the hay bag was following her and making everything much, much worse.

A tie ring used to be attached to both those screws. I've been told that they are meant to give to excessive force as a safety feature and are super easy to replace by undoing the screws and applying the new one. 
She careened around the other trailer towards me and hit the gravel drive of camp and spilled out big time. She crashed onto her left side and skidded down the drive a few feet before getting up. I asked everyone to stop chasing her as it was making it worse and I asked Gemmie to whoa. She came to a stand still breathing hard and shaking.

So many things could have happened that I don't even want to think about. Fortunately she only ended up with some superficial abrasions to her left shoulder, stomach and hip. She walked off just fine and when I checked on her on Sunday there was no swelling and she was walking fine. Her left hip seemed a bit sensitive, but it moved fine and she used it equal to the others. Some of that could be from the ride as well since it was the most strenuous terrain she has been on since October and I pushed her hard on it for the race, but still it makes me nervous. I plan to put her in the round pen Tuesday to see how she is moving. If there was any edema or she was off on it Sunday I would have the vet out.

Lessons were definitely learned though.

1) Don't tie the hay bag to the same ring as the horse. When I go to replace the ring she broke I will be adding at least 1 more to each side  and try to add one up by the roof for water as well.

2) 2 1/2 hours is too long to be tied. I'm not sure what spooked her. It could have been another horse, a dog, someone pulling out. Nobody saw what set her off. The next time we do one of these I will be bringing her corral and set it up.

3) I don't like break away halters. I know a lot of people do, but I don't. I'd rather she break my trailer and have her lead rope/halter on so I can catch her than be naked and loose. However, I would rather her be naked and loose than break her neck. Someone online suggested that I use bailing twine. Make 2 loops, one slightly longer than the other, and tie around the trailer ring. You then clip her to those. If she pulls hard enough the twine will break long before her neck or legs and you have a chance to grab her or have her calm down before the longer loop fails. If that one fails too, well at least she still has something to catch her by. I will be trying this in the future.

Thankfully the day ended on a good note, but it could have been really bad. I have yet to go to a ride that doesn't have plenty of space for a corral and prefer the room and freedom of a corral to a Hi Tie system, but if many more of these begin popping on my calendar I will be asking for a Hi Tie system for Christmas this year.


  1. Glad Gem is OK

  2. OMG what a frightening experience! It seems like this past weekend was a negative one for a few bloggers. I'm glad Gem is okay overall. The baling twine trick really *does* work! I use this for cross ties in the barn: those "panic snaps" will take longer to flip open than it will for a breakaway crown to rip. Actually, I once had a rope halter (Diamond brand, so it was a well-made one) unravel before the stupid panic snap flipped open! Lily sat down in the cross ties when an unexpectedly loose horse came barreling down the barn aisle at another barn and got tangled in the cross ties that were attached to her rope halter. She ended up with a nasty cut on her lip from the panic snap when it finally gave.

    The baling twine will snap before a breakaway halter (which I too hate) but holds much better than a blocker tie ring (I've tried those and have had no luck with them when it came to holding a non-panicking horse). Best thing: baling twine is free!

  3. Scary! Reading your description of Gem running around scared is heart wrenching! But I too am glad the tie ring broke, and not your horse! I have used the baling twine trick, it is great. My horse actually backed off the trailer the other day with the hay bag attached to his halter ring, it had someone gotten stuck on the snap! He hadn't started freaking out yet, so we just quickly unsnapped it, but in another moment it could have been bad.

    As for the corral set up that is a good idea, especially for 2.5 hours. After a ride/race I like to be able to walk them, at least they can self walk in the corral. I still love my hi-tie though, gives as much room as many corrals I've seen, sets up in less than 2 minutes, I use a rope with a safety tab you can pull in emergency. Works for me, I find I'm too tired to want to deal with a corral after the ride!