Load­ing Trou­ble

Trail Rider - - LAST LAUGH - BY BOB GOD­DARD ~ IL­LUS­TRA­TION BY AN­NIE KENNEDY

MMy daugh­ter, Jamie, joined a lo­cal trail­rid­ing club. The group meets at a trail­head within a half hour drive of our house. While the or­ga­nized rides are fun for Jamie, there’s a prob­lem: she’s al­ways late. I think the club is about ready to ban­ish her. She’s never been on time. Not once. It’s not be­cause we don’t get up early enough. And it’s not be­cause we don’t al­low ad­e­quate travel time. Our chronic tar­di­ness is due to a stub­born Mor­gan named Ed­die. Ed­die is Jamie’s horse, and he doesn’t like load­ing into his trailer.

Jamie says we need to be pa­tient. “Think about it, Dad. To him, the trailer is a mys­te­ri­ous metal box that maybe has a wolf in it. It’s nat­u­ral for him to re­sist. We need to lower his stress level.”

His stress level? What about mine? We’ve al­ready done ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble to make this a pleas­ant, non­threat­en­ing ex­pe­ri­ence for Ed­die. We bought a big trailer with ex­cel­lent air­flow. We in­stalled non­slip mats. We made sure that noth­ing in­side can flop, bang, clang, or oth­er­wise up­set his frag­ile emo­tional bal­ance. Heaven for­bid we leave an er­rant piece of bal­ing twine hang­ing loose.

So right now, ev­ery­thing is packed, and we’re all ready to go. We just have to fig­ure out a way to get Ed­die into the trailer.

Pa­tience, Pa­tience

why is he so skit­tish about this?” I ask as I open the trailer doors.

“He doesn’t trust us enough. We need to be as­sertive, but calm,” she en­light­ens me. And then, with ground­less op­ti­mism, chirps, “Be ready to latch the chain as soon as he goes in.”

“I’m al­ways calm.” I want to make that clear. “If you keep talk­ing, you’ll spook him.” “I didn’t say any­thing.” Ed­die moves up to the edge of the trailer. He’s heard enough ar­gu­ing. Jamie goes into statue mode, care­ful not to do or say any­thing that might break the spell. An­tic­i­pa­tion mounts; there’s al­ways a chance (the­o­ret­i­cal and astro­nom­i­cal) that the horse will step right in, and we can go.

We’re fools. As usual, Ed­die halts at the open­ing, peeks his head in and sniffs for preda­tors. No, this is not a good time to go in there. Not a good time at all.

“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Jamie!”

“We’ll stand here all day if we have to,” Jamie in­forms ei­ther me or the horse or both. “I didn’t say any­thing.” And then, a mir­a­cle hap­pens. Out of nowhere and for no rea­son, Ed­die lifts one hoof onto the trailer floor. Jamie and I glance at the hoof and then at each other. Could it be? Is he re­ally go­ing to make this easy for us?

Af­ter a mo­ment’s re­flec­tion, Ed­die re­turns his hoof to the ground.

I get an idea. “Jamie,” I whis­per, “the next time he does that, I’ll get be­hind him and push. He’ll be off bal­ance.”

Jamie whis­pers back, “That’s crazy. The last thing you want to do is star­tle him. He could kick you into next week.” She pauses. “Go ahead and give it a try.”

“I didn’t say any­thing.” I’m back to nor­mal vol­ume.

“Even­tu­ally, he’s go­ing to get bored, and he’ll just walk in. We have to wait him out. We need to be pa­tient and quiet.”

The Wait Him Out Pe­riod lasts all of 90 sec­onds. This is fol­lowed by the Tap Him on the Butt with a Rid­ing Crop Phase.

“Dad, if I an­noy him enough, he’ll get in just to get away from it.”

“I wanted to get away from it 45 min­utes ago.”

Horse See, Horse Do

says Ja- mie. “Hold Ed­die for a minute.” Jamie dis­ap­pears into the barn for a cou­ple of min­utes and re­turns with Im­age, Ed­die’s pas­ture pal. Im­age is an easy loader.

With­out a word, Jamie brushes past Ed­die and marches Im­age to the edge of the trailer. The horses nip at each other in greet­ing as Jamie un­latches Im­age’s lead rope. “Get in.” Im­age goes in like a shot. “Learn­ing by ex­am­ple?” “Not quite. We’re just fool­ing him. He’ll feel a lot bet­ter about go­ing in with Im­age al­ready loaded.”

Jamie gives Ed­die a pat on the rear and the horse steps in­side the trailer. Then, as I latch the back chain, she backs Im­age out of the trailer. “That was pure ge­nius, Jamie.” “Maybe. But I’m not sure how many times he’ll fall for that.”

As with any form of de­cep­tion, load­ing trick­ery has within it the seeds of its own ruin. In this case, Jamie hadn’t given any thought about how she was go­ing to get Ed­die back in the trailer af­ter the trail ride.

But I didn’t say any­thing. TTR

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