From Endurance to Dressage
I took Izzy to a two-day USDF show this past weekend, and I mean it literally when I say we didn't die. Most of the time we mean we made it though the show without anything too terrible happening. I cannot say that about this little adventure. And before I go on, it is OKAY to laugh. When I called my parents to tell them about it, we were laughing hysterically. My husband, not so much.
I should preface this by telling you that one of my greatest fears is being stuck on the side of a busy highway with a problem I can't solve.
The trip from Bakersfield to Santa Barbara while hauling a trailer is nearly three hours. It involves driving down the valley on Interstate 5, one of California's busiest freeways. From there I take the 126, much less busy, but still four lanes. The last highway is Interstate 101, another very busy freeway that runs from San Diego to the top of Washington state.
Shortly after leaving the valley and beginning the long pull up and over the Grapevine - the section of I5 that includes the pass, the front end of my truck began to vibrate and stutter fairly violently. So violently, that I immediately took my foot off the gas and began to look for a place to pull over. That particular stretch of I5 is pretty sketchy as the cars are on the left, and the two right hand lanes are usually a long train of semi trucks crawling up over the pass. There really isn't a place to pull over.
Each time I attempted to come back up to speed, the truck would vibrate and shake. Eventually I was able to creep over into the far right hand lane, and suddenly the vibration disappeared. I called my husband and asked for advice. He of course freaked out - he hates that I travel alone. His advice was to turn around and come home which I immediately ignored. The vibrating had stopped by then, so I kept my speed at 50 and decided to pull off at an upcoming rest area to check things out.
I parked in one of the trucking lanes and quickly jumped out looking for a flat tire. All of my tires were good, and Izzy was standing in the trailer looking at me as if to say what?. I got back in and adjusted my trailer brakes up and down thinking maybe they were sticking. I continued on without anything else happening other than an occasional small vibration, but nothing like the violent shaking from earlier.
I drove on for another hour and a half and was nearly to Santa Barbara when several vehicles passed me honking and waving for me to pull over. I looked in my mirrors and couldn't see anything wrong, but I trusted that something was making folks flag me down. Again, there wasn't much of a shoulder, but I spotted a small space between the freeway and the lane that was merging on. I pulled into that spot.
With my heart pounding in terror, remember, this is one of my greatest fears, I plastered myself to the side of the truck as I tried not to get hit by the cars whizzing by me just feet away. I didn't see a flat tire, but when I looked closer, I saw that my propane tank was underneath my trailer attached with only the rubber hose! The metal bracket that held it to the trailer had snapped. I reached under the trailer to drag it out, but it was wedged too firmly for me to shake it loose.
As I struggled with the tank worried about the cars flying by me just feet away, I heard something, and turned to see a masked man who pushed me out of the way of traffic. Really, he was like a masked Batman. He jerked the tank free and asked me for a wrench to disconnect it. In a daze - where had this masked crusader come from? I unlocked my trailer door and pulled out my tool kit. He grabbed a wrench, disconnected the tank from the trailer, and then asked for something to tie down the loose hose. I found some zip ties which he used to secure everything. He put the damaged tank in my truck bed, and before I could really thank him, he went jogging off down the side of the freeway to his parked car.
Inside the living quarters of my trailer, it looked as though a tornado had struck. The cabinet doors were all hanging open, and everything was strewn about the floor. The vibrations I had felt earlier must have been even stronger in the trailer. Izzy must have had a rough ride. I wasn't able to do anything about it sitting on the side of the highway, so I locked the door and ran back to my truck. The show grounds were less than 15 minutes away, so it seemed much safer to deal with things there.
I checked in, and drove to my assigned barn. I unloaded everything, tucked Izzy into his stall, and drove around to the trailer parking area. I didn't want to do it, but I knew my husband was worried. I wanted to tell him that I had discovered the cause of the vibration, but the problem was that I knew he'd be even more concerned because I now had a very full and very damaged propane tank sitting in the back of my truck next to a gas can and a generator.
I gave him a call. He was even more freaked out than before. I knew he wasn't mad at me, but his concern always involves a lot of yelling. He made me PROMISE that I would get rid of the tank IMMEDIATELY. I don't know about you, but I wasn't quite sure what to do with that tank.
After trying several non-emergency numbers, I finally gave up and dialed 911. The dispatcher thought that situation was an emergency and took down all of my location information. She advised me to turn on my hazards and wait for the fire department to arrive.
The SBFD deserves a huge shoutout. That truck showed up within five minutes, lights flashing, and burly firemen ready to assist. I explained, tearfully - by this point I was a bundle of nerves with tears leaking out, what had happened. Those three fire fighters were amazing. They listened carefully and then inspected everything while I stood back. They looked at the tank and decided that since they couldn't smell any gas leaking, there wasn't any immediate risk of all of us being blown up. They decided that letting the gas out was the safest option.
While the gas was being dispelled into the air, they examined the broken bracket and offered some suggestions for getting it fixed. They waited around with me for about 30 minutes as the tank slowly drained (It took several hours to drain completely.). I thanked them profusely and apologized repeatedly for being the lady with a cat stuck in the tree. They never laughed at me though and treated me with nothing but respect and kindness.
Truthfully, it really was a dangerous situation that could have ended very, very badly. My husband and I later joked that the metal on that tank must have been two inches thick. Had it been punctured and had it sparked, we really could have died. But, we didn't. The rest of the weekend didn't get any better, but we didn't die, so there's that.
Stay tuned for more tomorrow.
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 the lower levels. 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%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%