California Riding Magazine • May, 2013

Horsey Humor:
Trailer Fun

by Bob Goddard

A few years ago, my daughters conned me into buying a horse trailer. This meant we could attend all the local horse shows without having to beg somebody to trailer our horses. This was good. It also meant I had to learn how to back a trailer. This was bad.

I never owned a trailer before. Thus, I had to learn the Art of Backing through a process of trial and error. And error. And error. And error. And I still don't have it right.

The Art of Backing is governed by a set of physical principles found nowhere else in the universe. For example, we all know that turning the truck steering wheel to the right will make the back of the trailer go left. And I accept that. It requires you to think backwards, but I accept it. However, if turning the truck to the right makes the trailer go left, then shouldn't turning the truck to the left make the trailer go right? Of course it should. But it doesn't. Not all the time, anyway.

The key here is how far you turn the truck wheel. For example, if the back of the trailer is going too far to the right, you should turn the truck to the right to correct it. Right? But not just a little bit. You have to turn the wheel back far enough to let the trailer know you really mean business. If you don't, the trailer will become confused and it will continue to proceed in the wrong direction. This in turn will confuse the driver who inevitably will turn the wheel all the way in the other direction. And this will make the trailer all the more determined to go the wrong way. Theoretically, this process can continue for days, weeks, years or forever.

But enough of the technical stuff. Let's explore the human side of backing a horse trailer. It begins with Bob's Basic Law of Backing: The amount of trouble you have backing a horse trailer is directly proportional to the number of people on hand to "help." For example, if it's just you and your spouse, you can back into the tightest spaces in a matter of minutes. He or she will tell people it took you an hour, but that doesn't matter. It's his or her word against yours.

Now, if there's a large group of people standing around while you try to back the trailer, you're really out of luck. These people have one purpose: to shout as many different and contradictory directions in the shortest amount of time possible. Then they stand back and laugh at you as you make an honest effort to do everything they tell you. After all, every person ever born in the history of world knows more about backing a trailer than you do.

Among the favorite phrases of the helpers is "Crank it!" The actual desired direction does not seem to be an issue. Another favorite is "You got a foot! Keep going!". This is commonly followed by "Okay! You got his other foot!". People on the right tell you to go left and people on the left tell you to go right. If this isn't bad enough, these people rarely define their terms. Do they mean their left or your left? Their right or your right? I mean, doesn't left and right change depending on which way you're facing north?

I suppose that after a period of patient study and practice, I could learn to become an Expert Backer of Trailers. But I probably won't bother. After all, I would hate to deny my friends and family of all this entertainment.