From Endurance to Dressage
I love having my own horse trailer, truly I do. It's not cheap keeping it up though. In August I bought new tires. That was a quick $891 gone. That's the price of nearly two shows, a lot of lessons, board for a month and a half, six months of farrier work, or a lot of beet pulp. Over the weekend I bought new batteries. Between the two batteries, I shelled out $300. That too is the price of a few lessons or several pairs of new breeches.
I don't remember how long ago it was that I last purchased batteries, but it was at least six years ago. They were due. My trailer has living quarters which means the batteries are used primarily for "living" as opposed to just turning on the lights and fans in the horse box. For the last couple of shows, I've been relying on the generator for simple tasks like turning on the lights and running water to brush my teeth, take a shower, and flush the toilet.
My first living quarters trailer was stolen, which is how I ended up with this one. Unlike the first trailer, this one runs on two parallel batteries which gives me the same voltage but double the power. I love the extra "juice," but it does come at a price. The batteries, as powerful as they are, only run 12 volt appliances. They can't charge my phone or laptop which is why I also carry a generator. The bonus is that the generator also charges my trailer's batteries.
The thing with 12 volt appliances is that they don't work with just the generator; they need the power to come through the 12 volt batteries. This means that I have to bring the generator AND the dead batteries, and in order to turn on a light, the generator has to be running to give a charge to the dead batteries. It's a bit of a pain which is why I finally went and bought new batteries.
Since I don't want to run the generator all night, the other device I use is a solar charger that my husband bought for me. I charge it at home, and then I leave it on my trailer's wheel well or some other place that gets direct sunlight most of the day. At night, I plug in my phone, and by morning it's fully charged. When I run the generator in the evening, I also recharge the solar charger.
There is actually more. In order to keep my trailer's batteries charged while not in use, I employ a Battery Tender. This device charges the batteries and then maintains the charge without over charging them. I have three of them - we used to have quads, but this weekend I discovered that two of them don't seem to be working anymore. I have ordered a new, more powerful model.
Not only is maintaining a trailer expensive, it requires a lot of "supplements." When I bring the generator and the solar charger, I have to bring all sorts of cables and plug ends so that everything runs. Sometimes, I think it's an awful lot of work just to have a phone and be able to take a shower.
First World problems ...
While I love Newt, my new truck, driving her around every day is a big pain in the butt. There are parking lots that I simply cannot squeeze her into. Most parking lots in fact. She also consumes a lot of fuel. Juke was much more fun to drive, and I could park that thing ANYWHERE. The thing with being tiny and fuel efficient though is that you're, well tiny. Tiny meant going to the feed store took a lot of planning because nothing but me and the feed were going to fit.
Newt's not tiny, and anything I can think of buying fits with no trouble. I didn't realize how used to "planning" I was until this weekend when I suddenly decided to go to both the feed store and the grocery store on my way home from the barn. With Juke, there simply wasn't room for a few bags of beet pulp, rice bran, shavings, and a loaf of bread. Forget two cases of water, some Gatorade, a watermelon, and a week's worth of meal ingredients.
As I was leaving the ranch, I started making a list of where I wanted to go but hit a mental roadblock with a big STOP sign when I added in the grocery store. Then I remembered that I was basically driving around something the size of an aircraft carrier and gleefully realized that all the stuff fits. All of it! And then some.
I may hate walking from the very end of the parking lot or from the other side of the street, but I sure do love having all of that room. I also love the huge fuel tank and all the towing power that comes with such a big truck.
Newt may be an expensive daily driver, but she's got her uses. I think I'll keep her.
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!
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 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 …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
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)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
10/11 A. Newcomb (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