From Endurance to Dressage
Newt isn't a cheap truck to drive, and I knew that when I bought her. That doesn't make her bills any easier to pay though. In September, I paid Newt's California DMV fees - $780 plus the 57 bucks for the SMOG test. I also needed a complete brake job; that set me back $1,032. That's more than two grand, and I made the regular payment which is a number I can't even stand to share. And before you judge me too harshly for having "champagne tastes," I bought Newt very gently used. She had 22,000 miles which shaved a ton off her price tag. Even so ...
Yesterday morning I had to stop by the gas station; my fuel gauge said I could go about 100 miles which means closer to 75, maybe. I drive 50 miles a day, so I couldn't put it off any longer. Newt's fuel tank is one of my favorite features of the truck. It holds a whopping 48 gallons. Yes, you read that correctly. I no longer ever have to get gas with the horse trailer in tow. I can always get where I am going and back on a single tank. If I were to travel to Sacramento or Las Vegas, I'd have to fill up before I came home, but those trips are pretty rare.
As much as I love that 48 gallon tank, it is a bit of a sock-to-the-gut to fill it up from empty, which is where it was yesterday morning. Number one, it takes a good 15 - 20 minutes to pump that many gallons; I had to leave extra early to allow for that much time. Second, I can't fill up my tank with one swipe of my card. The pump only allows you to charge $99 at a time, and that's not even close to what it costs for a fill up.
At more than $4.00 a gallon, it doesn't take long to reach the maximum of $99. It took a mere 23 gallons to hit that mark, just under half a tank. When the pump shut off, I dutifully replaced the nozzle, let the machine clear, and swiped my card a second time. As I sat in the driver's seat scrolling through my messages - what else are you going to do for 15 minutes?, I watched that top row of numbers fly by much more quickly than the numbers in the bottom row.
When the pump clicked off for the second time, I quickly calculated my total charge - $180 and change for 43 gallons. That's enough to get me to work and the barn and home again for the next 10 days. By mid-October, I'll need to do it all again, and I have a show at the end of October which requires at least another half a tank. This is going to be another expensive month.
I bet diesel is a lot cheaper in Tennessee ... or anywhere outside of California for that matter.
You know, I used to be the first person to defend California. When people complained about the hot weather, I used to say, yeah, but we can ride all winter. When people complained about our forest fires, I would say, at least it's not a blizzard or a hurricane. It's too expensive, yeah, but it's beautiful. You know what? I am DONE defending this state, and the instant my husband gets as tired of the excessive taxation, regulations, and capricious laws as I am, we're out of here.
So what's got my panties all in a wad this month? Too many thing to cover in this space, so I'll keep it down to two. The first has to do with California State Senator Shannon Grove's SB287 which would have created equity in the laws for drivers towing horse trailers used for recreational purposes. The law would have created the same driver’s license requirements for those who haul horse trailers as for those who tow recreational vehicles by allowing for gooseneck hitches instead of specifically requiring fifth-wheel hitches. Right now, I need a Commercial Driver's License because my trailer weighs more than 10,000 pounds, but if I hauled an RV travel trailer of the same weight, I wouldn't.
The bill passed the Senate 38 - 0. According to Senator Grove, "Despite the overwhelming support and speed with which the bill advanced through the legislative process, in the final hours of the bill passing through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, amendments were forced upon the bill to delay implementation until 2027." Yes, you read that correctly. 2 0 2 7.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to delay implementation of the law for SIX YEARS to allow for "programming updates." I can't even begin to list the reasons why I am so incredibly disgusted by California's lawmakers. I'll start with this example: In an effort to alleviate the suffering of those Californian's who lost their jobs due to COVID, there are estimates that TWENTY BILLION dollars in unemployment benefits have been paid out to, wait for it, INCARCERATED inmates at jails and prisons across California who couldn't "find work." That money poured into the bank accounts of MURDERERS, RAPISTS, THIEVES, and PEDOPHILES. Okay, maybe some of them were just thugs and drug dealers. (Source, Source, Source).
California's law makers approved those unemployment expenditures within WEEKS of our economy's shut down. Now, that same legislative body needs SIX YEARS to figure out how to change the language on the DMV booklet and written test to include drivers who haul a horse trailer (instead of an RV) that weighs less 15,000 pounds. How stupid do they think we are? On the plus side, maybe I'll get arrested for driving without a correct license, and then I too can draw millions in unemployment benefits.
Sheesh. But wait, there was a second issue, and not surprisingly, it too has to do with California's DMV. A week or so ago I was complaining about the high cost of registering our vehicles in this money-hungry state. After paying 57 bucks for the smog test, I went home and tried to pay the $780 for the license plate sticker online. The smog results are submitted to the DMV automatically, and as soon as the test is done, you get a piece of paper that says pass or fail. As I tried to give California the requisite 780 bucks, I was DENIED because the DMV did not have proof of my smog test. Oh, California you disappoint me on so many levels.
I remember being told in that past that it takes some time for the test to register with the DMV, so I gave it a few days before I tried again. Once again, I entered my truck's license plate number and the last five numbers of my truck's VIN and waited until the DMV system located my truck. I didn't know for sure that the state had received my smog test, but since I was finally able to put the renewal in my virtual cart, I figured they had.
I pulled out my credit card - might as well get $780 worth of points, and prepared to pay. After I clicked pay with credit, I read the fine print. To pay instantly with a debit or credit card, wait for this one ... California charges an additional 16%! I'll admit it; I might have exploded with a few MOTHER FORKLIFTS! You have got to be kidding me, California. In a state with arguably the highest taxes of anywhere - you tax us for EVERYTHING, you now want to TAX MY TAX PAYMENT????
There are 49 other states, and at this moment, they all look better than this one.
Almost two years ago, I traded Blue Truck in for a newer model. While I love Newt's hauling power - man is she powerful, I am not so thrilled with her dependability. Early on, she developed a death wobble, and yes, it was as scary as it sounds. Ford fixed it though, so all was good. Then Newt developed another vibration that was also terrifying; that, too, was fixed. And then, a month or so ago, the turbo intake hose (I think) cracked, and I spent $120 fixing it. Even though Newt is still under warranty, my Ford service department couldn't get me in for three weeks, so I bought the part, asked my guy at the oil change place how to fix it, and then with my husband's help, changed it myself.
While it took more than one trip to my friendly oil change shop - they had to reset the check engine light after we replaced the hose, their advice was spot on and Newt was back to running full strength. Besides the issue of not having any power, the hose had to be replaced because at the same time as all that was happening, I got my vehicle registration renewal notice in the mail.
In addition to paying the annual renewal fee, all older vehicles AND DIESELS have to pass the California smog test every other year. Smogging requires that all systems check out clean, and a busted turbo intake hose would have caused a FAIL on the test which would have meant I couldn't get new stickers for my license plate.
When I bought my Juke in 2016, I thought I was done with smog tests forever. My husband hasn't had to have a vehicle smogged in nearly two decades, but that's because he trades his vehicles in every five years or so. Since Juke was new, I didn't have to have it smogged. I thought Newt's newness would grant me the same reprieve. Nope. Diesels, even though they use Diesel Exhaust Fluid to reduce the emissions, still have to be smogged every other year in California. Well crap.
Over the weekend, I took Newt to my At-Least-I-Don't-Hate-Them smog shop. I say that because I hate that the whole process is so expensive, but it's not their fault. The state makes the rules. The 10-minute Smog test is not only a bit pricey - $57, but my DMV tags were $780 this year. We have to renew our tags every year. In ten year's time, California will have squeezed me for nearly $8,000, and that's just in DMV fees.
While I was chatting with the guy who was running the Smog test, he gave Newt an appreciative look and told me what a nice truck she is. She hauls great, that's for sure I told him, but I was horribly embarrassed by how cluttered and messy she was on the inside. The technician laughed and said she's a truck. That's just how it goes. While that may be true, it doesn't make it right. I like to keep my vehicles clean and well maintained, but my life has been so chaotic over the past month that the clutter was threatening to squeeze even the driver out.
As soon as I got home from the Smog shop, I emptied my truck of all of the boxes, receipts, loose papers, old masks, trash, and water bottles. I grabbed the shop vac, a bucket of hot water, a micro fiber cloth, and glass cleaner. By the time I was finished, Newt's interior looked and smelled much better. I couldn't do much about about the exterior dust as the bed was filled with feed bags that needed to be dropped off at the ranch the next day.
There's nothing like a bit of shame to motivate the tired and weary. Next up on Newt's to do list is new tires and probably brake pads. My husband already raised a quizzical eyebrow at Newt's footwear, but I think she can go another month or two.
I just bought myself a new pair of Chuck Taylors, so Newt will have to wait her turn.
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.
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