Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Trailer Tire Woes and Focus on the Feet

My older daughter, who is 19, just got back to Illinois after driving our 4-horse gooseneck horse trailer back from South Carolina with her horse.  My daughter is an experienced trailer driver, but this was her longest trip - 900 miles each way.  Her horse made the trip OK, and even drank some at rest stops.

Yesterday morning we were at the barn while she was unloading stuff from the trailer and truck when we heard an odd hissing sound - one of the front trailer tires was leaking from the valve stem (the cap was still on) - you could put your finger over it and feel the air coming out!  This valve stem failure is troubling because we had a similar problem with another trailer tire last year.  So my daughter took the tire off so we could take it to be fixed.  She used this handy roll-on roll-off trailer jack to change tires - very easy to use and serves as a nice chock behind a wheel if you have to park on a hill:

As soon as we got the tire off, the other tire - the rear tire - showed a low pressure of 30 pounds.  All tires had been properly inflated before she left South Carolina and none had showed signs of leaking until now.  Once we got the spare on, this took the pressure off the rear tire.

We took the bad tire in and the tire place fixed the valve stem - for free!  Now my daughter will take off the back tire and put on the fixed tire, and then we can take the other tire in to have it checked out - it doesn't seem to have a valve stem leak but may have some other problem.

How fortunate that this problem didn't come up on the drive from South Carolina! - she's had to change tires on the road before (we have US Rider roadside coverage which for some reason she didn't use last time) - but it's never a fun experience - the tires are heavy and hard to handle.

This morning was much cooler, with some wind and light rain.  And we were going to new pastures, so the horses were all pretty up.  I did some leading work with both Misty and Dawn, who both were really focussed on getting to the pasture - if I had let either one go they would have galloped all the way!

I try to be very clear with the horses about what I want when I lead - when I'm leading a single horse I want the horse to walk behind me on a loose lead while staying out of my personal space, which I define as an arm's length, and to stop when I stop.  If a horse is having trouble with this, I focus on the feet, never the head, since my objective is to stop the feet.

To do this, as I am leading, I don't let the horse creep up on me and I check the brakes by stopping and turning to face the horse.  I watch the feet as I turn - I want one front foot to stop moving and the second front foot to come to rest at a point that doesn't pass the first front foot.  If the second foot goes too far, or if the horse is in my space, I ask for the horse to move out of my space by getting big - I raise my energy and step towards the horses, and if necessary, make noises (hissing works well) and/or throw my hands up in the air (not at the horse) to look bigger.  I don't push on the horse with my hands or use the lead rope at all - the horse needs to decide to move just from the pressure of my body and presence.

In almost all cases, the horses pick this up almost instantly - very soon, the horses are slowing down if I even glance over my shoulder, and stop instantly if I turn around.  I think the key is being very clear and also consistent - if I follow these rules with a horse every time I lead, things are much easier because the horses know exactly what I want them to do.

Both Misty and Dawn made it out to the pasture in good form!


  1. Glad to hear there wasn't any trouble on the road with the tire and it waited until she got home to need repairing.

  2. Lucky break with that tire. Glad it all worked out for the best.

    I appreciate your horse handling skills. Every moment of training can only be good for them in the long run. I've seen too many horses that think nothing of walking all over people.

  3. Wow - I am glad your daughter got home safely! She is quite the brave girl driving all that way and hauling her horse!

  4. I am SO GLAD the tire issue arose after she made it home. Anytime I see a horse trailer pulled on the interstate I always stop to offer help. One time I ended up driving home, getting my truck, and driving this lady's trailer with her horse in it to her farm while she stayed with her truck. I hope whenever I find myself in that situation I will have good karma built up . . .

  5. If it had to happen, at least it was good timing. I once walked outside to return a rental car and found that it had a flat tire. I called them and begged them not to charge me for another day while I took it into the shop to repair it. They gave me two hours, and the trip to return it was one hour, so the tire shop had to get the job done in an hour. I stressed to them how important it was that they get it done right away, and they started working on the cars of people who came in after me. I threw a fit, and finally got them on the ball. I returned the car after my two-hour deadline, and the car rental company wanted to charge me for the extra day. My husband chewed them out and reminded them that I just bought a new tire for THEIR vehicle, and they should be thanking me. I could have just pumped up the tire and returned it with a leak.

    Anyway, about the leading, I won't let my horses walk behind me, because they will jump right over me or run into me if spooked. So, I try to keep their heads at my shoulder and have them walk next to me. There's still always a chance that they will spook to the side and bump into me, but I'd rather be bumped sideways than forward. They know to stay out of my space, but when they are scared they act first and think later.

  6. NuzzMuzz - thank you for your comments! When I lead two horses at the same time, I do ask them to lead at my shoulder or slightly behind, so I can keep a better eye on what they are up to - it reduces the chances of playing or aggression to the other horse while I am leading. I can understand from your comment why you prefer to lead with the horse next to you. My thinking in having the horse lead behind is that the horse is farther away from me, hence more room before they could run into me, and my horses are trained to stay out of my space - in all the cases of spooks where they're behind me, they have moved to my left or right, avoiding my space, rather than over me - perhaps I've just been lucky so far!


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