I went to visit Jason, a neighbor, and when I pulled into his yard, I saw him loading a horse into a trailer. At least, he was trying to load the horse into the trailer. The horse was having none of it. Jason would circle the horse around and bring it up to the trailer’s gate at a slow lope, but just as the horse reached the trailer, it snorted and ran past the gate.

I watched Jason do it a few more times with no luck. I got out of my pickup and walked over to see if I could help. Jason was an expert horseman, and I wasn’t sure I could do anything more than he was doing, but maybe I could help head the horse from going past the trailer.

“Can I be of any assistance?” I asked.

Jason let out a sigh, and I could sense his frustration. “If you want to try to head him in if he tries to go around, it might help, but I have my doubts.”

Jason brought the horse around in a circle and up to the trailer, but as before, the horse snorted and tried to shoot past. I was there and waved my arms, but the horse just darted past me, making a break for it.

“Is this his first time in a trailer?” I asked.

Jason shook his head as he tied the horse to a fence. “That’s the crazy thing. I tried to load some of my other horses, and they did the same thing. So, I decided to try old Chief here because he is the oldest and gentlest. I’ve never seen anything like this.”

“Is it a new trailer that they aren’t used to?” I asked.

He nodded. “I borrowed this from my brother because I needed something that would haul six horses, and mine only hauls four. But I have loaded my horses in many trailers.”

“It’s been a while since I worked with horses,” I said, “but I’ve only seen an entire group of horses shy away from something like this a few times.”

“I’d love to hear about it,” Jason said as we sat down on a bench.

“All three times it happened, we were in the Bechler Wilderness of Yellowstone,” I said. “The first time, we were heading into Dananda Falls when the horses started bucking and acting crazy. Suddenly, a bear came out of the woods. He wasn’t interested in us and seemed surprised to see us there. He turned and headed back into the woods.”

Jason laughed. “I’m sure there is no bear in the trailer.”

“The second time I saw it was in the same area,” I said. “We were heading into a very remote area called Ranger Lake. We had tied our horses and were checking saddles for the final ascent to the lake when the horses started thrashing, jerking at their ropes, and going crazy. A big bull moose walked right through our camp, unafraid of us, acting like he didn’t care if we were there. The horses were more frightened of him than they were of the bear. We had been around deer and elk and had no problems, but the moose was different.”

Jason thought momentarily, then said, “My brother is not a hunter, and it isn’t hunting season, so I’m sure there hasn’t been a moose in there.”

“Well, there was one other time I saw horses go crazy like that,” I replied. “We had been up in the woods for a week and were on our way back when our horses started bucking and snorting. Our pack horses broke loose and crashed through some trees, busting our pack boxes and spewing things all over. And you wouldn’t believe what appeared to cause it. A group was coming down the trail leading llamas.” I laughed. “Can you believe it? Llamas.”

I looked over at Jason, and he had a shocked look on his face. “Did you say llamas?”

I nodded. “Yeah. I figured it was just because the horses had never seen one.”

“My brother loaned this trailer to a man to haul llamas,” Jason said. “In fact, my brother sent me over to that man’s place to get it.”

Jason ended up washing the trailer, then sprayed it with something to kill the smell. He later told me his horses loaded right up when he finished.

It’s strange what scents animals are afraid of.