1O tips for trai­ler­ing SOLO

A few sim­ple mea­sures can help you head off trou­ble and give you peace of mind.

EQUUS - - Front Page - By Hope El­lis-Ashburn

For years, I’ve en­joyed at­tend­ing trail rides, horse shows and clin­ics with a group of like-minded friends. We’ve de­vel­oped a “mo­bile buddy sys­tem,” help­ing each other out, cheer­ing each other on and just be­ing there to of­fer sup­port when needed. I long ago be­came ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing a friend as­sist me with park­ing my trailer, load­ing and unloading my horse, set­tling in at horse shows and gen­er­ally lend­ing a hand by shar­ing sup­plies and pro­vid­ing moral sup­port when I have show-ring jit­ters.

Then a day I dreaded fi­nally ar­rived: A show I had looked for­ward to for sev­eral months was on the cal­en­dar and no one in my group of friends would be able to go.

I briefly con­sid­ered call­ing the whole thing off and wait­ing un­til the next event when at least one member of our group could go with me. But I had worked hard to pre­pare for this show, and I wasn’t ready to sim­ply scratch it from my sched­ule. As I con­sid­ered my op­tions, I re­al­ized that I knew plenty of rid­ers who rou­tinely trail­ered their horses to shows, trail out­ings and other des­ti­na­tions on their own. Why couldn’t I? Af­ter all, I wasn’t a com­plete novice at ship­ping or show­ing, and I knew I could put to use the col­lec­tive wis­dom I had

ac­cu­mu­lated over the years of trav­el­ing with my friends. So, af­ter care­ful con­sid­er­a­tion, I de­cided that I was ready to go it alone.

I signed up for the show, trail­ered my mare there and had a won­der­ful time. In fact, the next time I’m faced with the need to go it alone, I won’t hes­i­tate. Still, even for veteran trav­el­ers, the prospect of trai­ler­ing your horse on your own can some­times be daunt­ing, and it’s easy to lose track of ba­sic trip-plan­ning im­per­a­tives, amid all the usual horse show prepa­ra­tions. So, I’ve com­piled a list of a few mea­sures that gave me peace of mind on my first solo out­ing and that I still men­tally re­view each time I’m trav­el­ing with my horse alone. Like most horse own­ers, I do my best to keep up with reg­u­lar main­te­nance for my truck and trailer. And on the day of an event, I make sure to start out with a full tank of fuel. These are pri­or­ity items for any out­ing, but when you’re go­ing it alone they as­sume even greater im­por­tance. Be­fore my solo trip, I took the ex­tra time to look over my tow­ing rig and cor­rect any­thing that looked ques­tion­able. In ad­di­tion, I took an in­ven­tory of my tow­ing ve­hi­cle and trailer emer­gency kits, up­dat­ing them and stock­ing them up. I made sure I had jumper ca­bles, for ex­am­ple, as well as all the tools and equip­ment I would need to change a tire. I found that these sim­ple tasks gave me great peace of mind be­cause I

Keep up with reg­u­lar main­te­nance for your truck and trailer. And on the day of an event, make sure to start out with a full tank of fuel.

knew that I had done all that I could to pre­vent a break­down---and I was pre­pared if one oc­curred any­way.

Go over your check­list for tack and equip­ment well in ad­vance. We’ve all had that sink­ing feel­ing that comes when you dis­cover you left an im­por­tant item at home. On trips with friends, most mi­nor items were read­ily re­placed, ei­ther be­cause I could bor­row from some­one or run out to buy an item while my friends took care of my horse. But be­cause I would be on my own, I didn’t want to worry about find­ing a re­place­ment for a for­got­ten item. I had al­ways made a check­list be­fore events, but this time I re­viewed it a few days ear­lier than I had be­fore; this not only en­sured that noth­ing would be left out, but also gave me time to in­spect my tack and equip­ment and gather spares ---such as an ex­tra bri­dle---where pos­si­ble. By the time I was ready to leave, I had the sat­is­fac­tion of know­ing I had care­fully worked through my list and the con­fi­dence that not even bro­ken equip­ment could put a damper on my day.

Be­come fa­mil­iar with the route and al­ter­na­tives. Al­most as bad as hav­ing a break­down is get­ting lost while trav­el­ing to your event. GPS nav­i­ga­tion sys­tems, whether in your ve­hi­cle or on a smart­phone, are won­der­ful tools, but they are not in­fal­li­ble. I have found it a con­fi­dence booster to carry hard copies of maps. By get­ting to know your route ahead of time, you’ll be bet­ter able to han­dle any de­tours or traf­fic issues you might en­counter. Sim­ply know­ing that I had a plan for nav­i­gat­ing de­tours---while still ar­riv­ing by check-in time---al­lowed me to feel more com­fort­able while driv­ing.

As­sem­ble first aid-kits for your horse and your­self. Although both of these are nec­es­sary for any out­ing, when you are trav­el­ing alone they be­come even more im­por­tant. Make cer­tain all items in both of the kits are up-to-date and ready to use should you need them. Es­pe­cially im­por­tant for your horse: Make cer­tain that you can com­pe­tently ad­min­is­ter or ap­ply any of the items in the kit on your own. For ex­am­ple, I wasn’t con­fi­dent about my leg

By get­ting to know your route ahead of time, you’ll be bet­ter able to han­dle any de­tours or traf­fic issues you might en­counter.

ban­dag­ing tech­nique be­cause I had al­ways had a friend around to help, so be­fore my trip I spent some time prac­tic­ing to make sure I could do it on my own. The very act of forc­ing my­self to make cer­tain that I was pro­fi­cient at these skills gave me con­fi­dence that I can han­dle most emer­gen­cies should they arise.

Bring a mo­bile charger for your cell phone. When trav­el­ing alone with your horse, a cell phone is more than a mat­ter of con­ve­nience; it can mean the dif­fer­ence be­tween a quick re­sponse to an emer­gency or be­ing stuck on your own for hours. Be­fore go­ing any­where make cer­tain that your cell phone bat­tery has plenty of charge. And re­mem­ber that us­ing your phone’s GPS app can be a drain on its bat­tery. Even if you plan to be away for only a day, bring along the charger just in case. Know­ing that help was only a phone call away made my trip more en­joy­able.

Establish a rea­son­able timetable. Al­low your­self plenty of time. With­out the help of friends, I quickly dis­cov­ered, most of the items on my todo list took longer to ac­com­plish. You’ll want to al­low for ex­tra time for things like set­ting up your stall space, groom­ing your horse and pre­par­ing your­self for the day ahead. If you’ll be mem­o­riz­ing pat­terns, cour­ses or tests and you are ac­cus­tomed to hav­ing a friend along to dis­cuss op­tions or cre­ate a plan, set­ting aside some ad­di­tional time to qui­etly go over these on your own can help re­duce your stress lev­els.

With­out the help of friends, I quickly dis­cov­ered, most of the items on my to-do list took longer to ac­com­plish. You’ll want to al­low for ex­tra time for things like set­ting up your stall space, groom­ing your horse and pre­par­ing your­self for the day ahead.

Try to an­tic­i­pate driv­ing and tow­ing chal­lenges. Of course you wouldn’t at­tempt a solo trip if you weren’t com­pe­tent at tow­ing. But there are other tasks that you may need to do when you’re on the road. Can you change a trailer tire with­out as­sis­tance?

Do you know how to cor­rectly ap­ply a set of jumper ca­bles to a dead bat­tery? I felt con­fi­dent I could han­dle each of these based on my ex­pe­ri­ences trav­el­ing with friends, but if I hadn’t I would have brushed up on those skills be­fore my trip. Re­view your route, and per­haps talk to horsepeo­ple who are fa­mil­iar with it, and iden­tify way­points that would be ap­pro­pri­ate for stop­ping to check on your horse, re­fuel or even han­dle emer­gency sit­u­a­tions. At the very least, look for spots with park­ing ar­eas and ac­cess roads spa­cious enough for you to com­fort­ably ma­neu­ver and park your rig. For added peace of mind, con­sider sign­ing up with a com­pany that spe­cial­izes in pro­vid­ing road­side-as­sis­tance for tow­ing. Des­ig­nate a con­tact at your home base. I found it help­ful to share my sched­ule and check in with some­one at my home base from time to time. If they know when you ex­pect to ar­rive at your des­ti­na­tion or re­turn home, they’ll know some­thing might be amiss if you fail to check in at pre­des­ig­nated times. Be sure to let them know the route you plan to travel as well as your sched­ule. I soon de­ter­mined that pre­pared­ness led to con­fi­dence.

Scale back your sched­ule. Given that you won’t have a friend to help, be care­ful not to overex­tend your­self. If, for ex­am­ple, you will be com­pet­ing at a horse show, think about re­duc­ing your num­ber of classes. At a re­cent show I at­tended, I de­cided to forgo the hal­ter and equi­tation classes I usu­ally en­tered and in­stead fo­cus on the classes that I en­joyed the most and where I knew that I had the great­est chances for suc­cess. By the end of the day, con­sid­er­ing how tired I felt and know­ing that I still had the trip home to con­tend with, I knew that I had made the right de­ci­sion. Sim­i­larly, if I were go­ing on a trail out­ing, I would con­sider cut­ting back on the dis­tance I planned to cover.

I found there was an added ben­e­fit to re­duc­ing my num­ber of classes---I had more time to be a spec­ta­tor at the show. Watch­ing other classes made my day much more re­lax­ing and en­joy­able--and it was ed­u­ca­tional, too. I got to see how the cour­ses rode for other rid­ers and how they tack­led prob­lems they en­coun­tered while show­ing. This also gave my horse a break: While I sat in the stands my mare was able to en­joy some down­time in her rented stall, munch­ing hay.

Use the op­por­tu­nity to make new friends. The so­cial­iz­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties pre­sented by horse shows are part of their ap­peal for many of us. On my first solo jour­ney, I quickly found that there were oth­ers who were trav­el­ing alone as well. By of­fer­ing to lend a hand I was of­fered help in re­turn. I ended up making sev­eral new friends that I will look for­ward to see­ing at many events in the fu­ture.

While I was a bit more tired than usual when I re­turned home from my first solo show, thanks to fol­low­ing these tips I had a safe, suc­cess­ful and highly en­joy­able trip. I de­ter­mined that although it’s def­i­nitely more fun to travel with friends I now have the con­fi­dence to go it alone when nec­es­sary.

At a re­cent show, I de­cided to forgo the hal­ter and equi­tation classes I usu­ally en­tered, and in­stead fo­cus on the classes I en­joyed the most.

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