From Endurance to Dressage
I know I said I had more to say about Speedy's recent diagnosis, but I have some more thinking to do, and I am waiting to hear from Dr. Tolley. Surprisingly, Speedy and I aren't his only clients. So today, I'll talk about an actual flat tire.
The trip to Alamo Pintado is a solid three hour drive. I normally drive to shows and clinics alone, but for this trip, I asked my husband to join me for a bit of moral support. It's a good thing he agreed to go, because as I was walking over to get Speedy, my husband gave a yell. In my rush to get hooked up and get Speedy hosed off - he was filthy and there was no way I was taking him to the vet looking like that, I hadn't yet done my usual walk around. The trailer had a flat, and not just a little one. The tire gauge read zero. It was so flat that I could make a dent in the tire with a finger. Well crap.
It seemed a wee bit insensitive to take photos of my husband changing the tire as sweat poured off his forehead and his hands turned black, so you'll just have to imagine that part. It's a good thing I did all that prep work for a commercial driver's license (that's all been put on hold as COVID-19 has slowed California's already pokey system of governmental bureaucracy). I knew right where my lug nut wrench was - okay, okay ... it took me two tries to locate it, but I did find it. As my husband knocked the lug nuts loose, I pulled out the Trailer-Aid and got it in position.
I have to give my husband a huge shout-out: YOU ARE AWESOME. He changed that tire in under fifteen minutes. I was in a hurry, but my hurry didn't necessarily have to be his. We were supposed to pull out at 7:00 a.m. to make our 10:30 appointment. With his super-human tire changing skills, we were on the road by 7:15 a.m. The ranch owner offered to let us use her trailer's spare, but since my truck and trailer both have an eight-bolt pattern, we knew the truck's spare would do in a pinch. As it was, the drive over and back were uneventful and no further tire changing was necessary.
When I had Newt's tires rotated at Les Schwab (on Buck Owens Boulevard) about a month ago, I had asked how busy they were and if they could replace my trailer tires soon, but I got busy and didn't have it done. I knew they were getting due though. Nothing will get one's butt in gear like having a flat tire as you're trying to pull out. On our way home from the vet, I called and scheduled an appointment for yesterday.
The staff over at my local Les Schwab (3012 Buck Owens Blvd) never disappoints. Every time I've been in there, I've been treated with respect and courtesy. I don't know if treating women like they don't know anything is just a myth, but you won't find that at Les Schwab, even if you really don't know anything. When asked what size the tires were, all I could say was regular? Are they 10-ply or 14-ply? Uh ... Do you want the "new" spare tire put back on the same rim? Um ... since they're all the same does it matter?
Seriously. No one rolled their eyes or made me feel stupid. Since I was ordering the tires over the phone, I was politely told what numbers to look for on the tire itself. When I arrived the next day, it took a while to get to my trailer, but that's what you get for wanting service the very next day. They're a busy place. I was patient because I knew they would take their time with my job, and I was right.
I didn't catch my technician's name, but he was friendly and patient. I ended up with 14-ply tires aired up to 90 PSI. Apparently, my last tires were running on pressure that was WAY too low. I do my best, but I just don't have a dude gene. Not saying all guys instinctively know what a trailer tire's PSI should be, and not that plenty of gal's don't know it by heart either, but I am just not one of those guys or gals. I'm hands on, but I can't know everything.
My technician also discovered that one of the bolts/studs - the thing the lug nut screws on to, has damaged threads so we couldn't get that last lug nut on. Fortunately, my tires have eight lug nuts, so I should be good for a while. If you're local and you know someone that can replace the bolt/stud, message me. I already called Pensinger's so that's a no-go.
Not only are the folks at Les Schwab courteous and thorough, they're also good about saving you money. The original quote included balancing the tires, but my technician pointed out that this type (all types?) of trailer tires don't need to be balanced so my bill was about $70 cheaper than anticipated. You have to love an honest tire guy.
I hauled the trailer back to the ranch and dutifully covered my shiny new tires with the tire covers my husband bought for me a few years ago. And since I was doing nice things to my machines, I also filled up Newt's fuel tank and the DEF tank. The low DEF warning light had come on while we were headed to Alamo Pintado. Not enough DEF will trigger a major slow down in your engine preventing you from driving at speed. That would be unpleasant.
Don't we all wish our horses' "flat tires" could be fixed so easily?
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.
Newt is pretty big; I am not. In fact, I am what you might call "vertically challenged." I sit squarely at 5'3", about the same height as the majority of my fifth graders. When an adult walks into my classroom, I usually have to wave so that said adult can identify me amongst my ever-growing sea of students.
When we took Newt for a test drive, I was a little worried as I could barely see over her steering wheel. I found that If I just sat up straight, I could manage just fine. Blue Truck was also an F250 Super Duty, but the dash wasn't quite as high.
Sitting up straight has been working for the past three months. Mostly. When my husband and I go somewhere together, he typically drives his truck which is fine with me. We recently went to a party where I was the designated driver, so we took Newt. My husband was a bit freaked out when he saw me peering over the steering wheel like the proverbial old lady.
I told him I was thinking of ordering a cushion, but I hadn't yet done it. To my surprise there was an Amazon box waiting for me the other day, and in it was the seat cushion you see above. I was tickled pink!
The cushion has an adjustable strap that buckles below the seat. It took less than five minutes to install. The foam is firm and supportive, but it is taking me a bit of time to get used to it. I had to adjust my mirrors and pull the seat forward another inch to reach the pedals.
These bigger trucks were definitely not built with 5'3" ladies in mind. And since I purchased Newt with a few miles on her already, I didn't get to pick all of the features that I might have liked. A powered seat that you can raise would have been nice. The seat cushion was a lot cheaper than buying brand new though.
It is amazing what 2 inches can do for visibility. I can now see out the window and over the tops of my side mirrors. What a thoughtful husband I have!
Like I said on Monday, I am still learning about Newt. Every time I pull out my owner's manual, I discover some new option or feature that I didn't know Newt has. This weekend, I discovered some pretty good-to-know buttons.
Sitting smack dab in the middle of California's Central Valley, Bakersfield is flat. It's hard to test out a tow mode that holds a lower gear when you're driving on flat ground. I live on the east side of town though where the valley butts up against the very southern part of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. My husband suggested I haul up to the top of Round Mountain Road. He assured me there was a good spot to turn around up near the top. As it turns out, that spot was too muddy and bumpy, so I went further on up the road.
While two vehicles will fit across the road, it's pretty narrow, and there is no shoulder. Or better said, there's no useable shoulder. As I wound my way up the road, I started eyeballing even that questionable shoulder because I wasn't finding any kind of spot suitable to turn my 27 foot long trailer around. Not only is the trailer long, but Newt adds another 14 feet minus the 2 feet where the trailer is hitched. It's a lot of rig to just "turn around."
I eventually came to a driveway. I stopped in the middle of the road, which you can do when there is zero traffic, especially since I had reached the end of any buildable land. From that point on, the hills are dotted with nothing but oil derricks. I gave that driveway the stink eye, and made an executive decision: I was going to make a three-point turn.
Let me paint you a picture: a road barely wide enough for two cars, no useable shoulder, and what shoulder there was, was muddy, a down-sloping gravel drive way, and a driver who had only driven this truck and trailer combo around the block. Once. Two months ago.
As I took stock of the situation, best friend's voice rang in my ear, she can back that thing up a gnat's ass. And I did. It took a few back and forths, but within five minutes, Newt and I were facing downhill. I smiled smugly to myself, I love girl power, and headed back home, tow mode engaged.
Rather than just park and unhitch, I decided to pull up near the hose and give my trailer a quick spray wash. I've done this a zillion times. Once most of the sitting around for two months gunk was gone, I backed up to my parking spot. Or at least I tried to. I realized that I was hitting the gas, but my truck wasn't moving. For a moment, I panicked, certain that I must have backed into the hedge. I jumped out to take a look and realized that both truck tires were planted deep in the marsh that had formed around the leaking spigot.
I shook my head and could only laugh. Just a few days before, I had asked my husband a question about engaging Newt's 4-wheel drive. Blue Truck had 4 wheel drive, and back in my endurance days, I used it with some frequency. It had been close to 10 years since I had used it though. While perusing my manual the day before, I had done a quick verification that Newt's 4 wheel drive worked the same as Blue Truck's.
With no shift on the fly, I hopped out and locked the hubs in place, clicked the knob to 4-low, and gave it some gas. Newt popped out of the mud with ease. Rather than press my luck, I drove around instead of backing up.
The moral of the story is that I can only back it up a gnat's ass. Any wider than that, and I am SOL.
Equestrians are all about buttons. We want cute ones on our breeches, tricky ones installed on our horses, and if your truck's got some cool ones, all the better. Over the weekend, I learned how to use some of Newt's.
I haven't talked a lot about Newt since she joined our household, but I've sure been enjoying the heck out of her. So far, our adventures have been limited to making the trek to work to the barn, and back home again. Day after day, week after week.
One of my favorite things about the truck is the over-sized fuel tank. It holds a whopping 48 gallons. I only have to stop for diesel twice a month, and frankly, I could probably go three weeks on one tank. For convenience, I pop by the gas station every other weekend. So far, I generally put in about 35 gallons which costs me about $135.
I haven't hauled the horses anywhere yet, but over the long weekend, I thought it was high time to hook her up to my trailer again and learn how to use the manual shift option and the tow/haul button.
As I was finishing hooking up, I switch my dash screen to "towing" and got a nice little surprise.
After going through the checklist, which I found pretty cool, I took Newt for a longer drive up around our closest mountain. It was about a 40 minute round trip. When I got back, I got to try out one of Newt's other buttons. Stay tuned ...
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. We're currently showing Third Level for the 2020 show season. 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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
9/20 TMC (c)
10/11 TMC (*)
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read