Trailering the “Scrambling” Horse
What is Scrambling?
The term “Scrambling” is used to describe a horse that basically “panics” in the trailer and literally pins itself to the side of the trailer wall and the divider. When they do this they will make a trailer shake severely which can do some serious damage to themselves as well as the trailer.
Why do they do this?
There are various reasons why a horse scrambles. Normally it happens when a horse is thrown off balance which does happen with every horse although some horses can balance easier than others. The horse that scrambles is looking for a way to balance and reverts to bracing itself to wall and divider in a panic mode. Strangely enough, they may not always do this yet keep in mind, once a horse does do this, it will always have the potential to do this again when they become fearful in the trailer.
What happens when this occurs?
Normally you will not be aware a horse scrambling in a trailer unless your trailer starts shaking profusely. You should be alarmed if your horse is getting unexplained injuries. This is an indication that you should consider evaluating as your horse may be scrambling. Just the other day I experienced a horse that scrambled in the trailer. The horse had bleeding gashes on its nose, pasterns and sides and was trembling when unloaded. She had done all this damage to herself due to insecure feelings and panic.
My mare Mocha taught me all about “scrambling”
Several months later we attended a play day and ran into the trainer. We decided to have some additional training done and loaded her into her trailer. A couple blocks down the road her trailer was shaking severely so she pulled over. Mocha had pinned herself so bad we couldn’t even pull her out of it. Her eyes were just zoned out like she wasn’t even here. She couldn’t be eased at all! Now this was dangerous! How do you pull that divider pin out without putting yourself in danger? The trainer went into the trailer and pulled that pin and Mocha bolted out banging that divider into the trainer who was seriously bruised up and down her arm. Luckily nothing was broke. We asked ourselves why was she doing this in her trailer and not mine. The only thing we could come up with was that her divider was about 4 inches narrower.
About a year later, I was trailering Mocha in the first stall (toward the front) and my friend’s horse in the second stall. We were heading to a trail head about 4 miles from where I live. I drive very slowly and cautiously with horses on board especially around corners. Suddenly my trailer was shaking like crazy so I pulled over immediately. Again Mocha was pinned….I grabbed her lead rope and said “Easy! Step up!” and pulled her lead and she stepped up and released herself from the pinned position. After assuring her that she was ok, we traveled on. It happened again right as we got to the trail head. She again had a raw sore on her hip about the size of a baseball. Disappointingly, we did not get to ride that day.
What can we do?
Trailering a horse is a big thing and not to be taken lightly. Your horse has to trust you totally to get into a box that moves like crazy and if hurt during this process, your horse may start to mistrust you. If so, how do you regain their trust? Make the trailer a safer place by removing all the obvious dangers in the trailer. The next step is to build their confidence ensuring they will be safe and unharmed in the trailer. This can be as easy as loading them into the trailer to eat and then removing them several times a week. Then loading and starting the truck while they eat several times a week. Then loading and taking for a short slow trip down the road and eventually increasing the length of the trips. Increase the area your horse has and don't place them next to a wall if you suspect they are scrambling so they have the room to spread their hind legs. As much as I hate shipping boots, use them! Why take the chance of an injury when you put so much time into planning a ride.
One other word of advice.
I have seen too many injuries to both horse and rider with trailer situations, many which could have been avoided with proper precautions. Because of the potential danger of being in a trailer with a horse, I personally teach my horses to load into and back out by themselves without anyone in the trailer. Using the same method to load and unload every time makes it a no-brainer for you and your horse which will help to avoid injuries. I will write in the future about the method I use for loading and unloading. Hopefully this information will be of some help to others that may have horses with trailering problems. Thanks for the interest….Happy Trails. ~Pam