Backing Gingerly into the New Year

Many people involved with horses may not think twice about owning and using a trailer.

For me it’s been some kind of holy grail.  Ever since I had my first pony!

My friend Sarah and I used to get up before dawn, bicycle two miles to the farm where our ponies shared a field then ride them back home to start grooming, plaiting them up, putting on our best jodhpurs, ties and jackets and hacking five or more miles to the nearest gymkhana.

There we would always see twins Sophie and Charlotte, identical of long blonde hair and immaculate show pony descending from their shiny trailer, cooler than a fridge-full of cucumbers, to bag all the best rosettes.

Fast forward through many years when horse transport never seemed to get high enough on the list of financial priorities.  Of course, it’s no small investment to buy a trailer, even a second-hand one, so you have to be pretty serious about your riding to set aside the money and it’s a really hard sell to a partner who can think of a bucketload of far better things to spend it on.   (“So you’ve got the horse, what more do you want?…..”)

Anyway, enough of all that, because the decades-long wait is over and all good things come to she who bides her time, eventually.  My own shiny trailer is here!

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Ah, I love it!  Battleship grey, nice and anonymous, with a front ramp, which is the most prevalent type in the UK but a rarity in France (it’s a Richardson Original, an English make;  anyone else out there got or had one?), and I much prefer to lead the horse out walking forward – I daresay that’s a novice’s preference!

Today I gave it a full “valet” service;  a good scrub and polish, and, like you do when you wash the car properly, I got a good chance to look at every part of it in detail.  (It’s been a monsoon Christmas here so the trailer’s been mostly living under a tarp since we got it!)  What I was really pleased to see was that it appeared to have been deftly but subtly reinforced in all the places that count.

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The floor has been replaced with the non-rotting, man-made flooring used in more modern trailers (it’s 17 years old);  and both inside and out it’s good and sound.  Reassuring to know that it was previously owned by the Bordeaux mounted police who had obviously looked after it well, and still had stickers all over the back, which I painstakingly peeled off, after thinking about it, as I prefer not to be “the woman with the police trailer”.   My trailer débuts in public will be testing enough without drawing attention to myself!

Just before Christmas I cleared out an old stone outbuilding – ok it still needs a roof !- but it will be the ideal place to house the trailer.  However the access is not quite straightforward.   We spent a comedy half-hour trying to back the trailer in, just ending up in failure, frustration and spinning wheels churning up mud (and turning the air blue!).   So the first fine day this week we took the trailer down to a village car park, unused during the holidays and practised backing the trailer.  Left, right, wiggly, straight …

A man in a neighbouring house came out into his garden to, very unconvincingly, hang a sheet on the washing line:  he must have wondered what the hell we were up to!  Luckily there was no one else about to witness the very slow process of us getting the hang of reversing.  Little by little we got the feel for it, (husband, obviously, was far better than me). I’m not looking forward to doing that in front of anyone else, but it’s got to be done to get us on the road.

Next step:  getting the horses in ….. but are they both of the same mind? 😉

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Our very best wishes for 2013 to you and your loved ones

“BONNE ANNEE”

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About cavaliereattitude

Englishwoman, transplanted to SW France in '86, blogging - with a large dose of humour and self-deprecation - about life with my husband and our horses, the never-ending renovation of an ancient and crumbly stone farmhouse and the attempt to carve a beautiful garden and productive pasture out of a woodland wilderness.........
This entry was posted in Horses, Living in France, Musings, Riding, Rural Living, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Backing Gingerly into the New Year

  1. It’s a beauty. I remember the thrill of my first trailer. It was almost as old as me! Backwards, forwards, go for it. Take the space you need, you have earned it. Let the youngsters get out of the way!

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  2. ptigris213 says:

    Oh, to have had the childhood you did… I already loathe Sophie and Charlotte, I probably knew their American counterparts. Just remember, they’re probably both obese by now, and have seventeen snotty kids of their own.
    You are going about learning to back up the right way. Slowly and surely. I’m learning, too, with my little Casita camper. It takes time and a patient spouse (like yours and mine) but eventually your mind is able to make that flip. It also helps to cheat a little-if you find a ‘pull through’, take it!
    If you like, I can send you an article I pulled from a “Practical Horseman” issue from way back in the 80’s, before it was bought out by Equus and turned into a blow in card advertisement collection with nothing worthy of note to read.
    If the Boys haven’t trailered in a while, take your time. Slow and easy wins the race, don’t force them. It’s an advantage to have a front exit. I wish they had that in American trailers, but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen one here.
    A Happy and Prosperous New Year to you and yours, my friend.

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    • Thanks M – do send me that article; so far we took advice from a Horse and Hound masterclass video (why are even basic lessons in everything called “Masterclasses” now?!) which was very helpful, but nothing quite explains getting the feeling when it clicks.

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  3. ptigris213 says:

    Oops, I forgot…the article is about backing up a horse trailer.

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  4. I learned to back the trailer because I used to collect feed and shavings twice a week and the LSH was travelling a lot so there was no-one there to do it except me. I had many frustrating semi-jacknifed moments but I got the hang of it in the end. So will you! Best of luck with it & I hope the horses take to it.

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  5. I think there will be no substitute for gritting the teeth and getting better at it ‘cos you have to do it, exactly as you say, Martine. I definitely do not want to have to rely on my LSH to play chauffeur – otherwise we’d scarcely ever get out!

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  6. ptigris213 says:

    Ah, and the best part is this:…well, let me tell you a story. My family was at a local campground for a family get together. While we there, a woman pulled up at the campsite across the road. She was driving a big red dually pulling a whacking great fifth wheel trailer. She stopped and got out to look at the campsite. My father, who was an Olympic class misogynist said, “Oh, I know, that stupid woman is going to come over here and ask me to back that trailer in for her. I’m not doing it.”
    I knew better. I said, “Don’t bet on it, Dad. She’ll have that big trailer in there FIRST TRY.”
    “Oh, no she won’t, Women can’t back anything up. Just look at your mother.”
    We all watched as the woman got back into the truck and in one smooth move, backed that big fifth wheel in, sweet and straight, without a moments hesitation. One move and she was in.
    Dad, of course, found something else to take his attention. He never could admit to being wrong or being shown up. The rest of my family all looked at me in astonishment. “How did you KNOW?” Mom asked.
    “Mom, she’s obviously a horseman. Horsemen have to know how to back trailers.”
    The thing was, I just KNEW she was a horseman. It wasn’t a horse trailer, she wasn’t wearing a hat, but she had Western Horsemanship written all over her.
    Yes, my dad WAS that big of a s–thead, which made it all the better when I could rub his bigotry in his nose.
    So that’s where it’s going to come in handy, my friend…when you go to a show or an arena, and back up your rig in front of all the misogynists out there.
    So you must practise!!!

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  7. Elaine L says:

    How wonderful for you!! I also envied the “trailer” people for a long, long, time. Finally at horse number 3, trailer ownership became a reality. There is a wonderful freedom knowing you can take your horse anywhere, almost the same as riding. I have owned my trailer for 9 years and still haven’t driven it loaded: empy, yes, loaded no. Leo always drives and of course I let him. He isn’t the best at backing. It’s a long rig: 40 ft of tagalong truck, hitch, and trailer. Leo is a marvelous driver, very steady and calm and he really does a good job. But you must practice, practice, practice. When I lived in Newtown, I used to haul manure to my neighbor for her garden and got very proficient at backing up my little cart. It’s really all relative, no different than parallel parking a car. What a great way to start your new year; adventures await!! Have fun!

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  8. Eric’s a far steadier driver than me, but I know he won’t want to go to horse gatherings of whatever kind just to hang around and wait for me! But I enjoy driving and now I’ve got the trailer, it would be such a waste not to make the most of that wonderful freedom you write of. I surely intend to have lots of fun and adventures – many thanks, Elaine!

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  9. ptigris213 says:

    Well, Elaine, I have to admit…I hate parallel parking, and won’t do it unless absolutely FORCED. I’ll park two blocks away to avoid parallel parking!

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