From Endurance to Dressage
Between a Rock and an Easy Place
Newt, my new truck, has seen a lot of trailering action since all this Covid-19 business got started. What with all the trail rides on Izzy and lessons at my friend Amy's place, I've been hooking up and disconnecting at least once a week.
While I have been hooking up a gooseneck trailer since I bought my first one back in 2000, Newt presented some challenges. You see, Blue Truck, my old 2000 Ford F250, was configured differently than Newt. Blue Truck had a short bed and the cab, while still a crew cab, was smaller overall. In addition, Blue Truck had two bucket seats in the front with a console in between. Also, the back seat was a bench with with no head rests.
The thing is, at 5'3", I am what you might call vertically challenged. As it is, I have to use a booster seat to see over Newt's steering wheel. It's a little embarrassing. With Blue Truck's cab configuration and shorter bed, I could lift myself out of my seat and peer between the gap in the bucket seats to almost see the hitch in the bed of the truck. Almost. I got very good at using the ridges in the bed to help me line up where the ball was in the bed. The first time I hooked my trailer to Newt, I realized that I was going to need some practice.
Newt is much bigger than Blue Truck. The whole cab is roomier making the distance to the rear window a lot farther away. I also have a center seat in the front that keeps me from being able to really turn around and get a good view out the rear window. Newt also has an eight foot long bed which means it goes on forever. The location of my two inch diameter ball is pretty much a crap shoot when you're sitting in the driver's seat. You know it's out there somewhere, but exactly where is the question.
Ideally, one should be able to hook up a horse trailer utilizing just mirrors, but for the life of me, I can't do it. Or, rather, I don't want to. It's a lot easier to just turn around and look out the back window so I can really see what I am doing.
To help improve my visibility, the first thing I did was fold down my center front seat. That helped a ton. While the three rear headrests still block my view a little bit, I can live with it. I still have to lift myself up a bit, but at least now I can look out the window. The next task was figuring out how to line up my truck's ball with the trailer's gooseneck without being able to see it.
While I have a rear back up camera, it's mounted in the top of the tailgate, which would be great if I were hooking up to a bumper pull. With a gooseneck, you have to drop your tailgate which means my camera is pointed straight at the ground - not very helpful. With nothing but lots of long black ridges running front to back, I figured out that I needed to add some context, a visual that would give me a frame of reference. Enter, the rock.
It was such a simple solution that I wondered why I hadn't thought of it before. Even with Blue Truck there were times when I missed left or right a few times. I used to joke that if I didn't line it up correctly the first time, it always took me a half dozen times of being an inch too far to the right or an inch too far to the left. With the rock, I get it lined up every single time.
All I do is place the rock at the end of my tailgate so that it's directly in line with the ball (see photo above). Once I am in the truck, I look out the window and line the rock up with the gooseneck. I back up slowly, keeping the rock and hitch in a straight line. Now, I never miss.
Of course, from inside the truck I can't see the ball and the rock at the same time, but I can see the rock and the hitch. The only thing I still have to get out and check for is whether the ball is right below the hitch or whether I am need to pull forward or back slightly. I am rarely off more than five or six inches at most, and frequently, I am only off by inches.
So that's the story of how a rock made my life a lot easier.
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About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: