(Photo courtesy Kelly Walker.)

At the end of the party on Saturday, I hopped (ha) on Zip bareback and Tinia led me around the barnyard. This was another of my glorified merry-go-round horse rides, but that’s all about to change.

Monday evening, horse trainer Mike Trader from Soggy Bottom Farm picked up Zip.

Zip is a hard loader. Tinia from Heart of Phoenix Equine Rescue told me that Zip was the most difficult horse to load she’d ever seen. The first time we went to see Zip and Patriot, Zip had injured her leg when they put her in the trailer, which is one of the reasons we waited so long after getting Patriot to get Zip–we had to wait for her leg to heal. Zip is very gentle and easy to deal with otherwise, but loading, forget it. She doesn’t want to get on a trailer. This is a big problem. Zip has some training behind her, but I want to be sure Morgan has a safe horse to ride, so a few weeks of training with a professional is in order–especially since Morgan and I aren’t experienced horse people, either. Morgan’s had several years of riding lessons (in the past), but she’s never owned her own horse before. Training Zip to load was the first job. I’d warned Mike she was a hard load.

She refused to get in the trailer from the get-go. He worked her in circles, making her sweat, then he’d take her up to the trailer again. When she wouldn’t get on voluntarily, he’d pull her away and work her again. The only break she got was when she had her head facing into the trailer, but when she wouldn’t get on, he’d pull her away and work her in the circles again. He did that over and over until she WANTED to get on the trailer and got on voluntarily. He spent 45 minutes breaking her of her trailer issue. When he got her back to his farm, he took her off and on and off and on the trailer another half dozen times–and every time, she hopped right on the trailer, and right off. (And no doubt he’s been doing that with her every day since.) It was fascinating to watch. There are really only two ways to get a horse on a trailer–either you have to force them on, or you have to train them to want to get on. He was incredibly patient with her. Obviously, forcing a horse on a trailer isn’t what you want. (It’s nigh on impossible anyway, and makes everybody unhappy.) A horse that will get on a trailer voluntarily is what you want–and now I have one.

Mike, working with Zip before loading:

Zip, thinking about how many more times she wants to go in circles before she gives in and gets on the trailer:

Mike, putting Zip’s regular halter on after loading:

This evening, I’m going to Soggy Bottom to watch Mike work with Zip for an hour, then for the second hour, I’ll be taking a riding lesson! Since Morgan is still out of town, I get to have all the fun to myself. When Morgan gets back, she’ll be going with me and we’ll both be watching him train Zip (to learn his methods) and taking riding lessons together. Zip will be staying at Soggy Bottom for a month–and we need to be able to continue her training when we get her back home. Mike trains using natural horsemanship methods (he came recommended by Tinia), and he specializes in training for trail riding.

Fun times ahead!!


  1. Remudamom says:

    Good deal. Sounds like he uses Clinton Anderson methods. Have fun.

  2. wkf says:

    Good Job! He is going to be great for y’all! Natural horsemanship has lots of names you can read up on. Yes Clinton Anderson, but there is also Buck Brannaman, Ray Hunt, John Lyons, Monty Roberts, Tom Dorrance ,Pat Parelli, There are numerous spanish trainers…… Clinton makes me laugh with his straight forward speak. The journey is lots of fun. GOOD LUCK!!

  3. JerseyMom says:

    My Gabe doesn’t like to load either but when he objects I make him circle and circle too…or back up~ in a hurry~ until he’d rather get on than be a pill. Usually only takes a few circles or back-ups and he decides I’m not gonna give up and hops on. Patience and perseverance are key with so many horsey issues. Fortunately my Tate will hop right on if Gabe is loaded. Without his buddy it’s gonna be a long, sweaty time for all…… Enjoy having the horses and lessons to yourself!

  4. bonita says:

    Oh dear, Oh my,
    what will Patriot do without his Zip?

  5. Leck Kill Farm says:

    Stuff like that is amazing!

    I remember my parents had someone come to their farm when they had a particularly awful horse issue. The guy was amazing, some people truly have a gift when it comes to training.

    Is Patriot going for training too?

    • Suzanne McMinn says:

      Patriot will probably go at some later point. Right now, I just want to get Morgan on a horse, and Zip is the closest to being ready. I can’t afford to just bam-bam, send them both. Zip should be a good safe ride when we get her back, and I’ll probably wait till next year to work on Patriot. Meanwhile, Morgan will have a horse to enjoy riding.

  6. kdubbs says:

    Yay! So glad to see you both taking some good lessons–that’s the right way to start. Looks like your trainer handled the laoding issue in just the right way, too. Can’t wait for a lesson report–you’ll have a blast!

  7. liz2 says:

    Hope Patriot’s pasture fence is super secure. Wouldn’t want him to escape again to go looking for another horse friend! He will miss his best friend Zip.

  8. doubletroublegen says:

    So thrilled for you all that Zip is getting the help she needs. I actually met the trainer one day at Green’s and had a long talk with him about horses. And he is a member of the Kanawha County Farm Bureau! I think he is a good guy and love it when a man has lots of patience when dealing with animals, you cant bully them into doing what you want. :woof:

  9. brookdale says:

    Lookin’ good up there on the horse, Suzanne!
    I wonder, does that guy train cows? Thinking of GB… 😆

  10. outbackfarm says:

    That guy is a good trainer. And so patient. I bet he has lots of experience doing that same thing over and over. I just had to load a Jersey heifer into a trailor. Total different picture! She got on though. I hope you and Morgan have many happy rides together soon.

    Did you happen to see my email about the Chocolate Spa soap? I really want to make some but am wondering about the temps. I searched all over Chattanooga the other day for an unsweetened chocolate bar and finally found one at Wholefoods for about $6.50. Just wondering.

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