That said, I have to admit that I have gained some trailering skills.
I have an extra long SUV (the tank!) with no back-up camera, and haul bumper-pull trailers. That's not the easiest combination for lining the ball up under the hitch. Some of the most competent haulers I know still use one person backing up, and one person signalling, and it takes a couple tries to get it in the right place.
|My tank and trailer on the right|
I rarely ever have a second person, so I have developed my own system where I can hook up by myself, with only jumping out of the tank 3 times to sight my line and judge distance. It used to take me jumping out 7 or 8 times, and driving forward to adjust a couple times, but now I can reliably do it with only 3 checks (occasionally only 2).
From start to finish, I can fully hook up a trailer in less than 10 minutes, including lining up the tank, and checking lights and brakes.
I can do it in less than 15 minutes even if you give me a truck and trailer that I haven't ever used before.
I certainly must give Kachina most of the credit for this one, as she is generally great at loading. But even when she is at her most resistant, I can load in less than 10 minutes and handle securing all dividers, doors, etc. in a safe, Pony Club approved order, completely by myself.
This is probably the easiest part. I first towed a horse trailer at age 16 (did the driving part, but had my Dad to help with all the other parts back then). Doing gradual acceleration, deceleration and turning takes a bit of getting used to, but it is mostly second nature to me now. I also know exactly how much I have to slow down for at least a dozen rail crossings in the area so that the trailer doesn't bump too much (unfortunately, the answer for the one on the highway closest to the barn is 5km/hour max).
Backing Up Trailer
This was the part that took me the longest to get. For years of hauling, I would fervently hope that I could pull through at my destination and wouldn't have to back up the trailer. I would sometimes park in the furthest edge of the field at shows so that I had more room to maneuver. If I did have to back up in a tight space, I would hope that I had lots of time and that there was nobody watching (please let nobody see me!) because it might take a million corrections and it was very possible that I would make a dumb move at some point and get myself into an even worse position than when I started. I didn't haul very often so I never really got better.
Then, for one year, I hauled to another barn for a lesson every single week. And every week after my lesson, I would have to park my trailer back in its spot, which meant backing it up to a fence between two other trailers. This was absolutely the ideal way for me to learn: I had quite a bit of room to maneuver in front of the spot, but had to eventually get it into a narrow slot. My lessons were late in the evening so by the time I was parking the trailer, my barn would be dark and deserted with nobody to watch me fail. I always unloaded Kachina and put her back in her pen before parking the trailer, so I didn't have to worry about her. The first few weeks, it took a lot of corrections and screw ups for me to park the trailer, and it would still end up crooked. However, as the weeks went on, I steadily got better. I learned how the trailer moved relative to the tank. My number of adjustments slowly went down and I could park it better.
|Parked perfectly (though there was no trailer on the other side this week)|
The culmination of my trailer backing journey was after the show two weeks ago. I had been driving my friend's trailer, so I had to park it at her barn. After unloading, K's husband jumped in the truck with me to "help" me park and unhook the trailer. I drove up to the spot, and backed the trailer into the space in a line of other trailers, off an awkwardly angled road, on the very first try. I saw a momentary look of surprise on K's husband's face and to me it looked like victory!
I've never tackled a gooseneck, four-horse or living-quarters trailer though, that can be the next challenge!
How are your hauling skills?