Trailering your horse to trailheads near and far broadens your horizons when it comes to exploring new trails. However, if you trailer him for more than an hour or two, pay close attention to him to be sure he’s completely ready for the ride.
“I remember camping for days at the start line of the Tevis to make sure my horse was ready for endurance events,” says world-renowned trainer Linda Tellington-Jones.
“We rode out and hoped that the horse was sound when we got back to camp! Today, we have so much more knowledge about a horse’s physiology. Now when we’re going for a trail ride, TTouches and a few simple observations can help verify that our horses are ready to go down the trail.”
For a post-trailering checklist and three TTouches to ensure that your ride is as enjoyable as you’d hoped, see The Joy of Riding, The Trail Rider, September/October 2012.
Here’s one more post-trailering TTouch.
Before You Begin
Don’t just unload your horse, then immediately tie him to the trailer or a tree. Give him an opportunity to stretch his legs by walking him around for several minutes after unloading. Before you saddle up, trot him out to check for soundness.
If your horse is hot from the trailer or the weather is especially warm, lead him to a shady area and thoroughly wet your horse down, with the exception of his hindquarters.
Pay particular attention to your horse’s poll. Place a small, wet towel under the halter’s crownpiece, and leave it there. Soak the upper inside portions of his hind legs.
Check your horse for signs of heat exhaustion: elevated respiratory rate; elevated pulse; irregular heartbeat; elevated body temperature; dehydration; profuse sweating or no sweating at all; discolored mucous membranes; and/or lethargy.
If your horse shows any signs of heat exhaustion, continue to douse him with water. Call a veterinarian, keep your horse in the shade, and perform Ear TTouches while waiting for the vet to arrive.
Before you begin the TTouch work, halter your horse, and loosely hold the lead line, or tie your horse to your trailer.
Flick of the Bear Paw
What it is: Flick of the Bear’s Paw TTouch is reminiscent of “strapping,” the traditional British method of slapping a braided mat of hay on the horse’s body to activate circulation and strengthen muscles.
What it does: “Wakes up” feeling in your horse’s body without creating nervousness.
How to perform it: With your hand in a slightly cupped position, make quick flicking motions along each side of the horse’s body. Imagine a bear’s paw fishing for salmon, or how you position your hand when brushing lint off clothing. The amount of pressure used will vary from horse to horse. Some enjoy a vigorous movement and contact, while others prefer a very light, almost sweeping touch.
Cynthia McFarland is a full-time freelance writer who writes regularly for national horse publications. The author of eight books, her most recent is Cow-horse Confidence, written with Martin Black (Western Horseman Publishing). Horse-crazy since childhood, she owns a small farm in north central Florida. She and her Paint Horse gelding, Ben, enjoy regular trail-riding adventures.
Linda Tellington-Jones (www.ttouch.com) has completed six 100-mile Western States Trail Foundation Tevis Cup endurance rides. She’s been an official member of the veterinary team for the United States Endurance Team.
A former U.S. Pony Club instructor and an American Horse Show Association judge, as well as a judge and competitor in the North American Trail Ride Conference events, Tellington-Jones was a founding member of the California Dressage Society.
Tellington-Jones is internationally renowned for creating the Tellington Method, a holistic system of training horses that deepens mutual trust, overrides common resistances, and strengthens the horse-human bond. When not on the road, she resides with her husband, Roland Kleger, on the Big Island of Hawaii.