I must have missed a sacrificial moment or forgotten to give homage to one of the gods of something - probably the weather god; he's always annoyed with me, because the stars did not align for me this weekend.
Horses. What are you going to do?
I'll admit that I am a little bit superstitious. Back when I was endurance racing, there was one, and only one, t-shirt that could serve as my pajama top. I am also careful about what I wish for. Jinxing yourself is a thing. I sort of feel like tempting fate, or the Universe, is pretty stupid, but black cats, broken mirrors, and Friday the 13th have never spooked me.
With horses though, it's best to honor all of the weirdo gods, the real one, too, and offering sacrifices whenever possible can't hurt either. You know, like not stepping on cracks, always take time to pet a dog whose tail is wagging, and don't hesitate to go back to double check that gate one more time.
I must have missed a sacrificial moment or forgotten to give homage to one of the gods of something - probably the weather god; he's always annoyed with me, because the stars did not align for me this weekend.
Early in the week, my friend Jen, who organizes tons of shows and clinics, texted and asked if I wanted to come and do an Erika Jansson Cavaletti Clinic on Saturday. I tried to do one earlier in the year but something came up. I hesitated for a few minutes - was I comfortable jumping into something again without a plan?, and then I threw caution to the wind. "Sure," I told her. "Sign me up." Izzy needs all the show miles he can get.
While we were at the schooling show the weekend before, I noticed that one of my trailer's tires looked a bit low. I made a mental note to ask my husband to bring out the air compressor and fill it up. Of course I forgot to do that, so on Friday afternoon, as I was loading my tack, I noticed the tire again and realized that it was more than low. I popped on my tire gauge. Instead of 40 pounds of pressure, like the rest of the tires had, the gauge read 10.
Reggie, the ranch's fixer of all the things, brought out his air compressor and filled the tire back up. Even though we couldn't hear or see a leak, I just couldn't drive 6 hours round trip with a questionable tire. I gave my favorite tire place a call, Les Schwab over on Buck Owens Boulevard, and asked if they could work on a tire that was still on the trailer.
Not only could they, but they have a large, covered bay for just that purpose. I was told which entrance to use and easily found the enormous covered parking for servicing large rucks. The manager, Justin, came out to greet me with a jack in tow. In less than 15 minutes, he pulled the tire, found the nail, patched it, and had it back on my trailer.
When he said I was good to go, I reminded him that I still needed to pay for the repair. He quickly shook his head and explained that they never charge to fix a flat tire even if I hadn't bought the tire there. Wow. That's amazing customer service. On a personal note, fixing a horse-related problem at no charge earns you my business for the rest of my life. Got a tire or brake problem? Check out Les Schwab on Buck Owens Boulevard; they'll treat you right. I headed back to the ranch feeling much better about Saturday's long drive.
But it was Friday the 13th, and like I said, I must have forgotten to sacrifice something because when I rolled into the barn at 6:00 a.m. on Saturday morning ready to roll, Izzy was missing a shoe and his leg was hot and swollen. Turd. He's fine, but I didn't get to do the cavaletti clinic after all.
Horses. What are you going to do?
I love having my own horse trailer. I hate taking care of it. But, it has to be done. I had this past week off, so I determined to make it productive. One of the biggest chores on my list was cleaning my trailer, inside and out.
Normally, I do the whole thing in one big marathon of a day, but this time I took a more reasonable approach, breaking the task up over three days. The first day, I gave the exterior a cursory hose down, and I swept out the poopy shavings from the horse compartment.
That was the easy part. For day two, I scrubbed the actual crap off of the walls and dragged the mats out to scrub the floor. That has got to be one of the dirtiest jobs out there. Did Mike Rowe every feature horse trailer scrubbing on his show, Dirty Jobs? No? He should have. That is one disgusting job.
For the first time ever, I admitted that I have reached the age where I am physically unable to haul those mats back into the trailer by myself. I recruited my husband's help which meant that part of the job took 5 minutes instead of an hour.
For the third day, I decided to take a page out of the Cob Jockey's book and clean my trailer's exterior the "right way." That is if the "right way" can be done in exactly one hour because that's all I was willing to put into this project.
Not knowing how much I was going to need for my three-horse living quarters trailer, I ordered a full gallon of Wash/Wax All (the product reviewed by the Cob Jockey) from Amazon. At $27.95, it seemed prudent to buy the whole gallon rather than 2 quarts (@$15.95 each) so that I didn't have to skimp on the application. I had no idea if 1 quart would be enough.
Either the Cob Jockey's trailer is much, much newer (probably) than mine, or she worked a lot harder (also likely) than I did because it was HARD work scrubbing those stains away. I had already sprayed off the obvious debris, and I had used a brush to scrub away the top layer of road grime. Even so, I SCRUBBED.
I will say that while it took a fair amount of elbow grease, my trailer did come out cleaner than it would have without the wash/wax product. I couldn't get all of the streaks off, mostly because I didn't want to spend the time, but it does look a lot better.
Once everything was wiped down and dry, I tossed in some fresh shavings. I know it's ridiculous, but fresh shavings can make even the poopiest trailer look like new.
I also hung my new Trailer/Mini Hay Net Freedom Feeder, courtesy of the company's owner who happens to be a part of Team Symphony (Chemaine Hurtado's group of Adult Amateurs and Juniors). I've used these slow feeders a lot over the years and love how long they last. This is the first trailer-sized net I've had, and so far, it's working really well for traveling.
So for now, my trailer is sparkling clean. While it won't stay that way - just sitting there parked it gathers spider webs and dirt, it made me feel good to get it looking ship-shape.
The only question now is, who gets to show first?
I knew I was jinxing myself by talking about Blue Truck's longevity and over-all good health. No sooner had those words left my mouth than Blue Truck gave a cough and refused to get out of bed.
Finding a trustworthy mechanic who is also fair in his pricing is not an easy task. Getting Blue Truck to a mechanic, even with free towing through AAA, is filled with irksome details. Who can pick me up? How long is the repair going to take? Who can drive me back over there? You all get it. Dealing with car repairs is simply the worst.
To make my job even more difficult, Blue Truck didn't just up and quit all in one day. It took several weeks. The first time Blue Truck had trouble starting was after it had been sitting for a few weeks in cold weather. I immediately chalked up the sluggish start to the battery. I drove the truck home and then drove it for several days without further issue.
A week or so later, the day we re-replaced the first trailer vent in fact, I tried to start Blue Truck to re-park it after the trailer vent had been repaired - we'd hauled it over to the barn to have access to an electrical outlet. As soon as my husband left the ranch, Blue Truck gave a whir, whir, whir ... nothing. I made a hasty call to my husband, and he drove back prepared to jump start the battery.
Except we could both tell it didn't sound like the battery. And then, because life likes to irritate me, Blue Truck fired right up as though it hadn't been lying at death's door five minutes before.
There was no way I felt comfortable hauling the horses while Blue Truck's ability to start was in question. Driving a nineteen-year-old truck is already loaded with maybes and what ifs. I don't need another layer of hope it starts stress. So, I put in a call to the ranch owner to ask her about the mobile service she uses. She in turn passed my number to Doug who called back right away.
Doug runs a mobile service here in town where he typically services fleet vehicles. I am not sure that his business is geared for single vehicle repairs, but since the ranch uses him annually anyway, he came out to service all the vehicles on the property. This turned out to be good timing for me.
Doug's mechanic started with the easy stuff: oil change, battery check, spark plugs, fuel filter, and ... Houston, we have a problem. You see, like any annoying problem, the truck ran just fine for the mechanic. The first day, he couldn't figure out why it wouldn't start dependably for me. When he changed the fuel filter however, it quit starting all together. A new and healthy fuel filter should not cause a problem.
The mechanic was certainly puzzled. He left, which freaked me out a bit, but he returned the next day with a variety of gauges and other tools. In no time at all he determined that Blue Truck's fuel pump had seen better days.
Replacing the fuel pump is a lot like an organ transplant - a lot of old stuff has to come out before the new can be installed. Replacing the fuel pump also requires several hours, so it wasn't until last week that Doug could get me on the schedule.
With very little fanfare, Doug's mechanic replaced what needed replacing. Blue Truck now starts when it's supposed to, and I once again feel safe-ish hauling my boys where they need to go. Not that there's anywhere to go right now, but I like knowing that we'll probably get there and back.
If you're local and looking for a dependable and reasonably priced mechanic, shoot me an email, and I'll share Doug's info with you.
A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of my horse trailer's vent covers was broken. My husband and I replaced it, but during the process, we discovered that the other two vent lids needed replacing as well. If you've ever read any of Laura Numeroff's books about giving mice and moose cookies and muffins, you'll know exactly what I mean. Inevitably, one thing leads to another.
With rain predicted on Christmas Eve, I managed to persuade my husband to swing by the ranch after work to help me install that last two vent lids. By the time he arrived, I had both vent lids disassembled with only the roof part left to remove. We're now experts.
My husband climbed up on the roof to remove the broken lids, and then he slid the new lids onto their respective hinges. From inside, I screwed everything back together. Like I said, we're experts.
With a family Christmas Eve dinner awaiting us, my husband quickly left to get home and shower while I finished cleaning up. After he had left, I realized that the other job I wanted help with, installing a Symphony Dressage license plate cover, had been forgotten.
Irritated, but determined, I decided to tackle the job myself. I backed the truck up to the rear of my trailer to serve as scaffolding; my trailer is really tall, and the license plate is at the very top.
I am fairly handy, but sometimes that's not enough. The license plate was attached tightly. Who did they think was going to try and steal it, Hulk? I finally had to add a step stool to my tailgate so that I could precariously lean over the top of the door to hold one bolt while simultaneously trying to loosen the nut on the other side. And this was done while standing on tiptoe on the stool. What I lack in brute strength, I make up for with problem solving skills.
My car and truck already sport Chemaine Hurtado's logo, as do some saddle pads and a jacket. Now my trailer feels like part of Team Symphony, too.
Give a girl a screwdriver and a monkey wrench or two, and watch out!
I love having my own trailer. It's liberating. I can go anywhere I want, whenever I want. The only problem with having your own truck and trailer is that they occasionally break or need repairs. Less than three years ago, we replaced all three of the roof vents over the living quarters portion of my horse trailer.
A week or two ago, I saw this on the ground, and I knew it hadn't blown in like Mary Poppins. I glanced up to the roof of my trailer and saw the rest of it dangling uselessly.
I assumed we had to replace the whole unit agin. As it happens, roof vents are a weak spot on a trailer's roof as they get baked by the California sun. Turns out you can replace just the cover without having to install the whole unit (which involves a lot more work). I called up my favorite RV center, Pensingers RV Parts and Service, where they sold me exactly what I needed - these are guaranteed to be unbreakable, and then they gave me 10% off my purchase because they're just nice that way.
Replacing just the vent lid is a very easy do-it-yourself job. I give it 1 hammer out of 5 on the degree of difficulty. All you need are some screw drivers and a pair of pliers.
From the inside, you need to remove the decorative casing, then the screen, and finally the handle. These are all simply screwed in. Next, remove the handle mechanism from the cross bar by unscrewing each end. You can see it dangling in the lower middle portion of the above photo.
From the roof, you can now manually raise the bar that lifts the vent up and down. With a little jiggling, the vent will then slide off the hinge. Replace the new vent by first sliding it onto the hinge bar - pinch each end tightly with pliers so that it doesn't back slide off. Place the "lifting arm" - I really don't know what that piece is called, into the round slot of the vent lid's track. Go back inside and reattach the handle mechanism. Replace the screen, the handle itself, and the outside housing, and you're done.
Of course, once we got on the roof to get a good look at the vent, we discovered that another vent lid was also broken, and the third one was in equally bad shape.
The heavy duty vent lids cost $33.73, so replacing all of them with the sturdier plastic will run about $100. I know what we're going to be doing this weekend.
It's tough when you have to manage not only your wheels but your roof as well. And guess what? Blue Truck isn't feeling too well after all. We're in the midst of scheduling an appointment.
'Tis the season ... for vehicle repairs?!
Over the weekend, I drove by Blue Truck, who lives at the ranch, and realized that it had been several weeks (or longer) since it had been started or driven. It has also been cold. For a truck as old as mine, that usually means I am going to need jumper cables or a new battery.
As I'd predicted, Blue Truck didn't start right up. It took a few tries and one final plea to the Almighty. He must have been listening because I finally got the engine to roar to life. Keeping it revved up ever so slightly, I took off around the neighborhood trying to get Blue Truck's fluids moving.
When I got back to the ranch, I turned the truck off and then tried to restart it. The engine turned over slowly, but it finally caught. I decided to drive it home to give the battery more time to charge. I ended up driving it to work the next day, and then I drove across town to the vet hospital the day after that. (More on that tomorrow.)
When I decided that I would need to take the boys to the vet, I realized my trailer hadn't been moved since late August. How could that much time have gone by? Surely we'd been somewhere over the past three months. After some checking back through my calendar, it was clear that we hadn't.
With Blue Truck's battery fully charged, I hooked up my trailer, prepared for a long morning of trouble shooting. To my surprise, nearly everything went easy peasy, and the lights worked from the get go. I was particularly glad about that though as I had some wiring redone in August.
There was one issue though, and I am more than a bit irritated by it. I glanced at a piece of plastic laying on the ground next to the trailer and realized it was one of the vent covers that we just replaced two years ago.
I am great at finding the silver lining in nearly any situation, but really?! The only consolation is that this particular roof vent is directly over the shower pan which means that even when it rained last week, nothing was damaged. So yah! for small blessings, I guess. Now of course I have to go buy all the stuff to fix it AGAIN. With winter just arriving, I am not going to have much time to procrastinate.
It's always something, isn't it?
A week or so ago I had a small accident in my daily driver, the Juke. As much as I love this car, this is the second accident I've had in it, and the third time it's been in the body shop. All short stories with no injuries, but that car has racked up nearly $8,000 in body work - none of it my fault.
All of that means that I've been driving the less-than-efficient Blue Truck every day. I drive exactly 51 miles a day on my home to work to barn to home tour. To add insult to injury, Blue truck is a gas guzzler; I am going through more than 5 gallons a day. With fuel prices what they are, I am spending at least $20 a day in gas. Even though Juke is an apparent fender-bender magnet, at least its fuel mileage is more efficient. I spend about $5 a day in it.
I grumbled about it all week, and then while at the feed store, I groaned as I tried to lift my tailgate to close it. That thing weighs a ton. I grumpily told the guy who loaded my feed that I was getting old. He chuckled as he closed the tailgate for me. I think he was about the same age as Blue Truck. Laugh all you want, Buddy, just wait until you're my age.
When I got to the barn, I dropped the tailgate and hopped up on it for a few minutes, swinging my legs like you do when you're young. It made me remember all the times I had done that as a kid while I watched my dad work. It reminded me of high school parties out in a field and camping at the beach. Tailgates are wonderful things, especially on an old truck that's been part of the family.
As I sat there swinging my legs, enjoying the sunny afternoon, I paused to wonder just how old I was when we bought Blue Truck. I know Blue Truck is getting up there at 18 years of age, but if that's true, I must have been pretty young when we signed on the dotted line. After doing some quick math, I realized that we've had Blue Truck since I was about 29 years old. I am now 47.
It struck me that Blue Truck has been in our family longer than any dog or horse we've owned and even longer than many people have had their kids. The only thing in our household older than Blue Truck is our marriage license.
Blue Truck may be a bit geriatric, but sliding in behind its wheel is like slipping on a pair of well worn slippers. I'd love a new truck of course, but Blue Truck is going to be hard to replace.
Keep on truckin', Blue Truck. Sorry I complained about you.
A few weeks back I wrote about my little electrical problem with my horse trailer; my lights quit working. I ended up plugging my trailer into a second receptacle that got me there and back even if it did look a bit ghetto.
Draping my trailer plug over my tailgate was not a long term solution, so I hauled my truck and trailer down to Pensingers, a local store that services RVs. Since these guys work by the hour, I decided to get my full hour(s)' worth by throwing in a second job.
I have to say that it never occurred to me to install fans in my trailer even though I live in one of the hottest places in the country. I actually saw fans like these on another blogger's page, but I can't remember who it was. If you recently traveled to Montana or Wyoming to visit a friend on a ranch, please speak up as this was your idea.
My trainer is married to an electrician, so I asked him about installing some fans in my horse trailer. He did some Google searching and landed on these fans from Coolhorse. They were only $34.90 each with $8.00 shipping.
The guys at Pensingers were more than happy to install the fans that I brought. I walked Fernando through my trailer and explained where I wanted them. Since I already have interior lights above the sliding windows, the wiring was already there which made the job pretty easy - says the person whose only job was to swipe her credit card.
My interior lights turn on with an outside switch, so we put the fans on the same switch. The lights also have an on/off button which you can see at the top of the light box. Since I rarely need those lights, I simply turned each one off, so that when I turn on the fans using the outside switch, the lights won't come on, but the fans will.
Even with my drop down windows open, the roof vents open, and the tail windows open, it gets hot in my trailer, especially when we're stuck in traffic or waiting for a light. Since they're only twelve volt fans, they only create a small amount of circulation, but it's enough to be felt.
I figure any extra air I can get moving in there is better than none. Speedy alone can heat up that area pretty quickly. It's doubly sticky when both boys are in there.
The fans are fairly quiet, but you know horses. Speedy loads with no prompting from me, but he'll always notice that something is new.
I contemplated how to introduce him to the fans. I wasn't sure whether to load him with the fans running or turn the fans on after he was already in there. Surprise!
The day before we left for RAAC, I decided I had better do a practice run. I tied him to the trailer and then started up my truck. With the engine going, I hit the switch for the fans. It was actually hard to hear them. I walked Speedy to the door and asked him to load like always. He didn't even look at the fans until he was inside. He put his nose up to the far one and had a peek out the window. And that was it. I love it when things turn out to be non-issues.
Pensingers made quick work of my plug issue as well. As I suspected, there was simply a bad connection which the service department repaired. My final bill ended up being $142.50 for labor (plus $77.98 for the fans). It was a bit of a bill, but now I know the plug is working, and the fans were installed correctly. Had we tried to do it ourselves, we would have probably short circuited everything and then had an even larger bill.
Money well spent, I think.
RAAC news coming in a few days ... I go back to work today, so it's going to take me a few days to write up how the show went.
Don't get me wrong; I love having a trailer, especially one that allows me to sleep on the show grounds rather than footing a hotel bill. With so many bells and whistles though come problems.
Since last summer, I've been battling an intermittent trailer light issue. Last summer I was able to sand off the metal bits of the plug and receptacle which seemed to remove the corrosion allowing the lights to work.
On Saturday morning, my brake lights and running lights worked great. When I loaded up on Sunday morning, none of the running lights worked, but I did have brake lights and blinkers. I went to the show anyway as running lights only come on when the headlights are on.
On Wednesday morning, I decided that I had better figure out what was wrong as I'm leaving for a two-day show this morning. The last time the lights went wonky, I simply rubbed sandpaper all over the metal bits of the plug which got things working again.
After an hour of sandpapering and climbing in and out of the truck bed to check the lights, I had only made the problem worse! None of the trailer lights were working, not even the brake lights. I'll admit to using a few choice words, most of which began with the letter "F."
Fortunately, Blue Truck has a second plug receptacle beneath the bumper for bumper pull trailers. When I plugged into that receptacle, the lights lit up as usual. That told me that something was wrong with the bed receptacle. I pulled out my truck's manual (as if that were going to help), and turned to the page dealing with the fuses. After tugging on a few and getting nowhere, I decided to get some help.
The ranch owners are quite handy with vehicle issues, so I hunted them down and asked for some advice. It was agreed upon by all (why I contributed to the conversation I don't know as I clearly couldn't fix it) that I should take the truck and trailer in to have it repaired professionally.
In the meantime, a bungee cord and some electrical tape are going to get me to the show and back. I made an appointment to have the wiring, and a few other things, checked out next week. Nothing like added stress as I head to a show!
We bought Blue Truck eighteen years ago this month. Blue truck has been around the block; a few times actually. Back in 2008, we said that if we got ten good years out of the truck, we'd be happy. We had no idea we'd get eighteen and counting.
Every year I question whether Blue Truck can still handle the job of towing my three horse trailer. Just recently I loaded both boys for a trip to Tehachapi which required crossing the Tehachapi Pass at around 3,771 feet. Bakersfield's elevation is about 400 feet. It's a steep climb, especially with two horses. Blue Truck handled the work load without complaint.
Since I am not really looking forward to making payments on a new truck, I do my best to keep Blue Truck happy and healthy. At least once a year Blue Truck gets a spa day. This year's treatments included an oil change with a check of all fluids, plus a tire rotation. I could almost hear BT sighing as the guys replaced the oil filter and checked the tire pressure.
Since pulling into the gas station with a trailer in tow requires a bit of luck (I need an entire row of gas pumps to be free of cars), I took advantage of being trailer-free to fill up the gas tank as well. Blue Truck needed one more thing that was closer to a dental checkup than a spa visit. BT needed a smog test.
Here in California, vehicles older than six years need to be tested to see if they have excess emissions. We have an air quality issue here in sunny California and poor-running vehicles contribute to the bad air. I am happy to report that Blue Truck passed with flying colors.
Summer is when Blue Truck works the hardest, so I feel better knowing that we're once again road worthy. Keep on truckin' Blue Truck!