From Endurance to Dressage
This last month or two has been about me breaking, wrecking, and generally trying to destroy things, although not intentionally. Fortunately, my ship has started to right itself. My truck is driving and handling well, the zippers on all of my boots zip up and down as intended, and my horse trailer no longer looks like it has been through a war.
Yesterday, I got the call that Delaney Manufacturing had finished repairing the fender, and my trailer was ready for pick up. While I know these guys do good work, when I dropped it off, they hadn't sounded like they were sure it would come out looking very good. Their specialty is manufacturing stuff, not necessarily pounding out dents. When I pulled around to the back lot to hook up, I approached the funky fender with my eyes closed. I wasn't sure I really wanted to see. To my delight, it looks almost like it did before I crunched the fender with a brick column.
In total, my small lapse in concentration cost me two, slightly out of the way trips and $400. My husband said it could have been worse; my first thought was it could have been better (if I had been paying attention). When it comes to money, I tend to think in terms of shows and lessons rather than in dollars. So this little SNAFU just cost me the price of a show or five lessons. Saying it only cost $400 sounds less painful than the lost five lessons.
None of that is a reflection on Delaney Manufacturing. They can't be held responsible for my stupidity, so if you live locally and need something made from metal, or need something repaired, check these guys out. DeLaney's can be found just off Rosedale Highway and Fruitvale at 2920 Wear Street. You can call Mike Combs at 661-587-6681. We are once again ready to hit the road which is good timing since Speedy will be at a show on Sunday. More on that next week.
I am grateful it's Friday. Let's hope I don't manage to wreck it.
If I have anything to do with it, it soon will be - broke that is. Shall I list everything that has recently failed, broken, fallen off my truck, or been wrecked? Let's see ... My truck's steering damper was replaced in February, then, after being looked at again a few weeks ago, it fell off. While my truck was at Ford having the steering damper replaced for the second time, I locked the keys in the rental necessitating a call to AAA. Two pairs of boots had zipper blowouts in the same week. I dented my tailgate when we drove out to the desert for a trail ride. A week later, I dented my trailer coming home from a lesson after waiting all day for the highway to reopen after a traffic hazard had shut it down for nearly the entire day.
Life goes on though, so I took my truck to Ford, and the steering damper was replaced (again). I had the zippers replaced on both sets of boots, and while the brass zippers were a bit shocking at first, they work really great and will work for now. The dent in my tailgate is hardly noticeable, so I won't do anything about it. Yesterday afternoon, I dropped my trailer off at DeLaney Manufacturing for repair. They did a great job on the last repair I needed, so I am confident that I'll be happy with whatever they do to fix it. You would think that my run of bad luck would have exhausted itself by now. Until Saturday morning, that's what I thought, too.
I made it to the El Sueño Equestrian Center this past Friday afternoon in plenty of time for a lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. Afterwards, I drove Izzy over to Sean's barn to stable for the night. The next morning, I got in my truck to head back to El Sueño for this weekend's show. Sean and Valerie had already left with Clooney and Cinco, Valerie's two geldings. I was meeting them there.
I loaded Izzy and settled myself into the driver's seat ready for a fun day of showing. I turned the key and was concerned to see a different screen light up on my dash. On it, I saw three very healthy tires and a fourth with very low tire pressure. Oh, hell. At first glance I thought it was the tire on my trailer where the dent was, but then I remembered that my gauges only read the truck's tires. I jumped out and gave the offending tire a thorough exam. Right in the center of the tread, I spotted a very small screw dug into the rubber. I couldn't hear any air leaking, and the tire felt mostly solid after a swift kick, so I decided to try and make it to El Sueño which was just a ten-mile drive down the road.
As I drove - ridiculously slowly I might add, the tire pressure actually came up a pound or two as the tire heated up. As I pulled into the parking area at El Sueño, I pried my clenched fingers from the steering wheel. Before even unloading Izzy, I opened up AAA's app and requested help. Once Izzy was tied to the trailer and eating his breakfast, I also unhooked the trailer.
Fortunately, I had arrived with plenty of time before I needed to show, so at least that pressure was off."T," one of Sean's other students, came over to wait for the tow truck with me. What a way to make me feel like one of the team. Everyone was quick to offer me help, and they were all genuinely worried about my safety and mental well-being. Showing with this group has already turned out to be so much more fun than I was expecting.
It took about forty-five minutes for the tow truck to arrive, but the technician who showed up made up for the wait. He was jovial and seemed downright happy to help. Rather than put on the spare, he offered to fix the tire on the spot. Once my tire was fixed and the trailer hooked up, I took a much needed mental break by hanging out with my new coach and team. The rest of the weekend went well, but more about that to come.
Universe, if you can hear me, I think I am done with all of the shenanigans.
Isn't that a guy that every guy likes or finds handy? Is there such a thing as a Guy's Girl? If so, I am her, but I wish I weren't. I like being a girl. I love girl power, but the truth is that I don't like being a girl who's a "handy man." If you're a horse girl though, you need to have a working knowledge of how to use bailing twine, duct tape, wire cutters, and a tire gauge. Being proficient with a drill, hammer, and a screwdriver are also good.
At the show I did last month, I lost power in my trailer. That's not such a big deal with long daylight hours, but I sure do enjoy a shower each day. Even though I knew my batteries were fully charged, I checked the battery box to see what was wrong. I've had loose connections before, so I hoped that was all it was. Nope. As I jiggled the cables, sparks flew. Upon closer inspection, I could see broken wires leading to the battery terminal. I turned the batteries off and borrowed an extension cord from Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. He had graciously let me stable (and camp) at his barn.
With a show this coming weekend, I finally forced myself to stop by an auto parts store to buy new cables. It doesn't take much know-how to buy the right cable - any salesperson can direct you to the right aisle, but that wasn't what was so hard. I run two parallel batteries in my trailer. Connecting them doesn't take a high school diploma; once you see what goes where, it's pretty simple. The hard part was disconnecting the ground wire. That screw was TINY, and the bolt end was super thin, making it almost impossible to grab with the wrench.
My toolbox (which lives in my trailer) has pretty much everything I need ... except a socket set. With a socket wrench, the job would have been much quicker. Instead, I spent about twenty minutes tightening the bolt a fifth of a turn over and over. More than once the wrench lost its grip, and I would have to resize it to fit the bolt, but eventually, I got the job done.
Even though it looks like it should work, I think I actually need a screw with a wider bolt end to really hold the ground cable secure. Just to be on the safe side, I am bringing along my own extension cord. I am even considering ditching the batteries all together for this trip. If I can get power from an outlet, why bother with the batteries?
As long as I can shower, I don't care where the electricity comes from.
I didn't ride on Sunday, and it was a perfect day. Not just pleasant, but beautiful beyond all belief. Our local meteorologist calls those days A+ days. So why didn't I ride? Well, the truth is that I had just finally spread myself so thin that you could kind of see right through me in places. Not really of course, but when I start to feel spread too thin, I suffer from anxiety and things start going wrong.
Over the past few months, I've worked full time at a pretty stressful job, I've been taking lessons (it's a six hour drive round trip), giving two to three lessons per week, riding, showing, and doing day trips with the horses. On top of that, my truck has been giving me trouble. When I got home on Saturday night, more on that below, I decided that I simply had to take Sunday off so that I could get my life back in order.
With that, where to start?
I don't know where to start, really, but here goes. At the SCEC show in April, I had a zipper blow out. I took my boots to a local shoe repair to have a new zipper done. Before I had a chance to go and pick them up, a zipper on my schooling boots also went kaput. Granted, it had been getting glitchy for a while, and I knew that death was imminent, but the timing was pretty sucky. I am not sure why I have so much trouble with zippers, but that is pretty much the only reason my boots ever fail. When I went to pick up my show boots, I left my schooling boots for those zippers to be replaced. They're supposed to be ready today.
When I picked up my show boots, I was more than a bit shocked to see the new zippers. Never in a million years had I thought to ask what color they would be. I assumed they'd be black like the original ones had been. Nope. These are industrial strength, but they're brass. Holy crap. I am not sure I can live with them. I have my name on a list for a pair of Petrie boots once they're in stock, but until then, this is what I have. Are they as bad as they look? Will the brightness of the gold fade? In some ways, I sort of like the edgy "French couture" look, but all of my tack's metal is stainless steel. Could you live with them?
While the boots are really just a mild irritation, the universe decided I needed to be challenged further. After my truck was "fixed" the other week, I was feeling pretty confident about heading down to Moorpark for a lesson on Saturday. As I walked out to my truck on Friday morning - I was on my way to work, I noticed something not quite right (NQR). The horse girls will get the reference. Hanging below my truck was a piece of my truck, and not a piece that I should ever be able to see.
I couldn't believe it. It was the freaking steering damper that Ford JUST replaced two months ago. It was the SAME STEERING DAMPER that Ford checked out exactly one week before. When they "checked it out," the technician - it's a good thing I don't know his name, FORGOT TO BOLT IT BACK TOGETHER. That was the job - screw the damn nut on. Knowing I could drive without it - I hate that I know that, I zip tied it to the nearest stable part and drove to work.
All morning long I phoned Ford's service department until I was finally able to confirm that they had all of the necessary parts in stock to replace it. When I pulled up, the paperwork had already been drawn up and someone was waiting to take the keys from my hand. They knew it was their fault, and they were quick to apologize. In less than an hour, they replaced the steering damper AGAIN. In front of the foreman, I crawled under my truck to verify that it was actually BOLTED on this time. It was.
What really annoyed me about the whole thing - besides everything, was that after I picked up my truck last Friday, I drove to Lancaster with both horses for our poppy ride. While the steering damper doesn't necessarily affect your ability to steer, it does help. Had the steering damper come loose and dragged while I was hauling the horses over the Tehachapi Pass, some really bad stuff could have happened. Since it didn't, I get to be only mildly annoyed with Ford, but I will forever second guess their ability to get a job done correctly.
Speaking of our trip to Lancaster, I forgot to mention that while pulling up the rather short, but steep driveway of our host's property, I also dented my tailgate. Gooseneck trailers are awesome, but they do have a few drawbacks. For really short whoo-de-doos, they can be challenging. In this case, my truck went through the whoop-de-doo and started up the other side while the trailer was still on the other side. At the lowest point of the dip, the truck was going uphill while the trailer was going downhill. The gap between the top of my tailgate and the bottom of the gooseneck wasn't quite large enough to handle the "kink." I now have a slight dent.
But wait; there is more. On Saturday morning, I left the house at 7:00 a.m. for the drive to Moorpark to take a lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage (more on the lesson in a day or two). As soon as I got on the freeway, the traffic came to a screeching halt. There had been a wreck so my less than three hour drive turned out to be more than three hours. After getting out of that mess, my drive up the Grapevine went perfectly with no vibrations; Ford did something right. As I cruised along Interstate 5, I saw a massive wreck on the opposite, northbound side. A tanker truck had split in half (WHAT?!) and poured asphalt all over the road. To my dismay, I5 northbound was closed, and all four lanes were backed up for more than 10 miles. That's the way I would be traveling to go home.
After my lesson was over, I checked the traffic report and saw that I5 northbound was still closed. It had been four hours, and there was no information on when the highway would reopen. There are two other routes, but both of them would add several hours to the trip. Eventually, one lane reopened, but I decided hang out for a while longer to see if all of the lanes would open. For a closure of that length, it can take hours for the traffic to unsnarl, especially if there is only one lane open.
Finally, a little after 4:00 p.m. the road reopened completely. By the time I drove through, the traffic had completely cleared up. Even so, I didn't pull into the barn until 7:00 p.m. - twelve hours after leaving. The entrance to the ranch is pretty narrow, and on the best of days, my truck and trailer just barely fit through the opening. What happened next was an error in judgement: I was tired, and the setting sun was reflecting out of my side mirror reducing my visibility. As I pulled through the opening, I felt a big lurch. I stopped immediately and hopped out to see what was wrong.
Instead of barely making it through the entrance, I had missed. Before driving on down to the barn, I had to first hammer the metal away from the tire so that it didn't cut it. There was already a dent; I didn't want to have to replace a practically brand new tire on top of it. So yeah, now I have to deal with boots and get the fender fixed. Did I mention that we also have a toilet that's not flushing properly?
Life. I just can't make this stuff up.
I really like my new truck, Newt, even though Newt's not so new anymore; I've had her for nearly a year and a half. Considering I owned Blue Truck for almost twenty years, a year and a half means we're still in the honeymoon phase. Newt hasn't had the greatest track record though. Last fall, she developed a terrifying "death wobble" - Google it, but my Ford dealer fixed her right up, and everything was great. And then it wasn't.
In early April, Newt developed a new vibration. Not as frightening as the "death wobble," but it was still pretty awful. It was enough that I couldn't go faster than 40 miles per hour. The thing is, it only happened while towing the trailer and only on one particular piece of road. That would suggest the road was at fault, but to the naked eye, there was nothing on the road that would cause my truck to feel like it was driving over raised caveletti poles.
Last Monday, I took it back to my Ford service department and explained how this vibration, while not quite as severe as the "death wobble," was still pretty scary. They looked it over on Tuesday, but couldn't find anything. They looked at it again on Wednesday, but still couldn't find anything. By Thursday, I was more than a little bit grouchy. I didn't spend many tens of thousands of dollars to own a tow vehicle that couldn't safely tow my horse trailer.
On Thursday afternoon, I dropped by the service department for a little chat with the service department supervisor. I laid it out pretty plainly. They had had my truck for three days, and so far they had considered, and then ruled out pretty much everything. I even paid them to have my shocks taken apart to see if they were bad. They weren't. After three days, and after calling Ford's engineering hot line, they were no closer to figuring out what was wrong.
I told them they either needed to figure it out, or I was getting rid of it and heading over to GMC or Dodge. Suddenly, everyone had some new ideas. While I thought it was nuts, they decided it might be my tires, so they swapped out my still fairly new tires for an even newer set. We decided that the only way to see if it indeed was the tires was to hook up my trailer, load my horse, and drive it to the suspected stretch of road.
I took Friday off and drove to Ford, I exchanged the rental car for Newt, and drove out to the ranch where I hooked up the trailer and loaded Izzy. Sal, the service department foreman, met me at the ranch. Together we headed south to the Grapevine, one of California's busiest stretches of highway. From the base of the Grapevine, four lanes twist and turn up a steep grade that tops out at just over 4,000 feet in elevation. It reaches that elevation in less than ten miles. It's a pretty serious haul with a horse trailer, and in fact, a lot of drivers of passenger cars dislike that particular stretch of highway.
It's a good forty-five minute drive from the ranch to the base of the Grapevine, so Sal and I had plenty of time to chat and get to know one another. We shared all sorts of interesting stories, like the one where he taught his adult wife to swim so that they could go snorkeling in the Caribbean. He was a swimmer on his high school team. When they finally took their trip, his wife had a great time while he ended up needing a life preserver as snorkeling turned out to be harder than he thought. He was pretty embarrassed.
Before we headed out on our road test, Sal had hooked up a computer to Newt so that he could scan all of her systems as we made the climb. As we approached the beginning of the climb, we both tightened our seatbelts, looked at one another, and felt like Thelma and Louise as they drove off the edge of the cliff. With Sal watching the data play across his screen, I hung on as my truck vibrated and jarred the living heck out of us both. When the vibration got too strong, I lifted my foot off the gas and slowed down. When things were calmer, I pressed my foot down and we rode another wave of vibrations with our teeth rattling and the engine roaring.
Once we reached the top of the grade, I exited the freeway, got back on heading north, and slowly descended. At the bottom, Sal instructed me to make the climb again. At the Grapevine exit, I pulled off the freeway, circled around, and got back on heading south, or back up the grade. For the second attempt, Sal asked me to put my cruise control on. This is a really tricky section of highway for cruise control because the traffic speed is anything but constant. We were in luck though as the traffic was lighter than usual, so I was able to keep the cruise control on long enough for him to see some results.
To my complete surprise, the instant I started cruise control, the heavy vibration stopped. We tested it over and over as we climbed the grade: cruise control on - no vibration; cruise control off, and our teeth rattled in our head. At the top, we got off the highway again, but this time I pulled over to check on Izzy. He was standing there like nothing had happened. Knowing my horse hadn't been knocked to his knees by all of Newt's shaking and quaking, I felt better for having brought him along. We got back on the freeway and headed back down the hill.
Sal had both good news and bad news. The bad news was that the vibration might go away, but it would depend on me. The good news was that he knew what the problem was. On that particular stretch of Interstate 5, the road is really rough. Since my truck and trailer are both so long, the wheels don't sync as they cross the seems in the asphalt. This causes my truck and trailer to bounce at odds with each other which then bounces me around. Even though it feels as though my foot is steady on the accelerator, it's not.
Vehicles today now have an electronic throttle control (ETC) which means there is a sensor in the throttle that tells the vehicle to add or reduce fuel. As I've been getting bounced around by the rough road, my foot's pressure is coming on and off the throttle. This is telling the ETC to give and take fuel which causes the truck to lurch forward and back. Sal explained that since I am now aware of the issue, I should be able to control it a little bit.
Now that I at least have an explanation, I am no longer worried about my truck falling apart as I head to a show. In fact, I'll be driving over that section of road on Saturday as I head to STC Dressage for a lesson. Instead of feeling stressed out about it, which is how I've felt all month, I am now curious to see how well I can manage my foot control.
Thank you, Ford. Without your help, Newt would have been a goner.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read