2021 US Dressage Final Diary – Ruth Shirkey – 10/25/2021

It has been a busy 3 weeks since I first started sharing my 2021 DF story.  I am continuing where I left off, post travel planning our overnight stays for the 3.5 day journey just to get from Yarra Yarra Ranch, in Dublin, California to Kentucky Horse Park.

Central to getting from Yarra Yarra to KHP is our means of travel.  We have a wonderful 2011 Ford F-350 Diesel with Crew cab, Long Bed, 4×4, Dually pick-up that we call Max.  Max is so named due to the chrome spikes that came with the truck when we originally purchased it via eBay back in 2015.  Believe it or not, buying online, though not so safe, was the only way we could afford to get a Dually.  The prices are astronomical no matter where you look or when.  Max came from Texas, where apparently there are large numbers of folks driving around in F-350 Duallys.  There were a fairly large number of the vehicles for sale with various accessories.  All we wanted was a Diesel Dually.  Everything else we ended up with just because it was the right truck at the right price.

In order to us to feel confident on this trip, Eric (my husband and partner in crime) determined that we needed to replace a couple of the rear tires.  Believe me when I say that the last thing you ever want to deal with while hauling cross country with horse and a camper on your truck, is a blown-out tire.  Specifically, a blown out inner dually tire.  Speaking from personal experience, having to first remove the fender because your inner dually tire tread ripped the fender partially off the truck while that tread was coming off your tire, is not fun.  Try figuring out where you are going to store that big fender, since you can’t put it back on.  We have used the horse trailer dressing room on one occasion and the camper aisle on another.  Yes, this has happened to us twice!

Removing the tires from a large dually truck which has a huge camper on it and is hooked up to a horse trailer, is not your typical flat tire changing scenario.  I have had to face this situation while on a trip to Del Mar for the April CDI in 2018.  Fortunately, I was with my good friend Barb Crawford and together, we managed to not only get the destroyed fender off, but get the spare tire down from the truck frame and change the darn tire before US Rider ever showed up.  It took a bit over an hour, once I decided I wasn’t just going wait for the someone to come rescue us.   I think everyone needs to know how to change their vehicle and trailer tires.  I personally would rather have to change a horse trailer tire (using my Jiffy Jack of course!) than that danged inner dually tire.  What a pain in the a**.

By the way, the second time this very same tire blew, on a trip back from Thermal CDI, November 2020, Eric, my knight in shining armor was driving and had the tire changed in something like 30 minutes.  It was pitch black and we were pulled over off of 5 on our way home.  I was very impressed!

So, here is to hoping that with 2 brand new tires plus 2 that are less than a year old, on the rear axle, we will have trouble free driving both to and from Kentucky!

The trailer was another matter entirely.  The trailer I have used over the last 20 years was a very reliable Sundowner Valulite 3 horse slant load.  We had a front escape door on the first stall and used that front stall to carry our extra hay and other gear.  This trailer was fairly small though and only 7’ tall.  Knowing that my up and coming 3-year-old is already over 16.2, with a hind end that is about 17 hands, we figured the old trailer might not be suitable in the long run if we were going to haul both Wyleigh and Roxy together.  That just would not work with the old slant load.  

It is funny how fate, luck or whatever you want to call it, works.  A former barn mate, Marti Lohman, had been thinking about selling her Warmblood size Sundowner 2 horse straight load for over a year.  I had spoken with her about it a long time ago, but nothing had ever happened.  How wonderful is it that barely 5 weeks ago, she decided to sell and had put “for sale” signs on the trailer?  Oh, and did I mention that her trailer is parked immediately next to mine at Yarra Yarra?  Needless to say, I was on the phone that minute asking her if I could buy it.  We worked out a very wonderful deal, and she was so incredibly supportive, knowing that I had been working on getting back to the Dressage Finals this year and how much having this trailer would help me.  Once the forms were signed and the trailer was ours, we went to work on checking everything out.  

The 2-horse trailer has been resting at Yarra Yarra for about 4 years without a lot of use.  We figured the tires would need replacing considering the miles we were going to put on.  That was an easy decision.  We did not know what shape the roof or the rest of the trailer was in and so I contacted Peter Matheson at Performance Trailer Service.  Peter has worked on the trailer in the past and would be able to help us with the repair and maintenance we needed for our trip.

We had the bearings done, the brakes checked and the 4 tires replaced.  The roof was inspected and it needed to be fully sealed again.  Good thing we did this last week because yesterday’s (Sunday, October 24th) rain storm was a humdinger and really tested the watertightness of the trailer.  I also had a second spare tire holder put on the trailer and we bought a second spare to go on it.

Since this new(er) trailer has a roof rack, we are going to use it and put our hay for the entire trip up there, except for two bales (one hay, one alfalfa) that will go in the dressing room for feeding during the outbound leg of the trip.  One major decision is how to protect the hay on the roof rack.  We can use a tarp, but those can be tricky if the winds are high, since the tarp can blow off.  Or, we can put the bales in waterproof bags.  We ended up going with the waterproof bales bags and are quite happy with them.  No chance of them blowing off in the wind, and these bags are pretty sturdy and can be used at the show site to keep the hay/alfalfa from getting everywhere.

Our old trailer still needed to be unpacked and the new(er) trailer packed to see how much room we really had to work with.  On a bit of a whim, I decided on a Friday night to put the old trailer on the Facebook market thinking that is would take a couple of weeks to sell, and that I would have time to move all the equipment out of the old trailer before it went anywhere.  Of course on Saturday morning I was getting messenger hits asking about the trailer and before I knew it I had agreed to show it at 8am the next morning (Sunday).  Yikes!  I still had everything in the old trailer!  So, along with riding my horse on Saturday morning, I spent the rest of Saturday frantically moving everything from the old trailer to the new one.  It was really ridiculous.  I had everything jammed into the horse stalls and the dressing room.

The horse trailer market is something to behold right now.  In less than 24 hours I had that trailer sold at full asking price (which it turns out was almost exactly what I had paid for it 20 years before) and it was gone.  There was no fall-back option if things did not work out with the new trailer.  The good news was that I had some money back in my savings account to help cover the costs of the DF trip.

Having now taken one short trip to Wilton for a clinic with Christine Traurig, I can say that Wyleigh is ok with the new trailer configuration and that we should have a good trip to Kentucky.  

There are no guarantees that everything will go smoothly on such a long road trip.  We try to stack the odd in our favor as much as possible to make sure that we have done what we can to avoid the obvious risks.  As long as mother nature doesn’t throw anything crazy at us on the drive, we should be ok and if something doesn’t go quite right, hopefully we are prepared for that too.  We are even bringing snow chains for both the truck and trailer, though I certainly hope I will never have to drive in weather where my horse trailer needs chains!  

Our next goal is to review what is on the trailer in terms of equipment.  Things like horse blankets, grain, buckets, saddle pads, etc. need to be assessed and any extra equipment removed.  We don’t want to carry anything cross country that we aren’t going to use.

Since next weekend is our last weekend before our departure on November 3rd, it will be my last chance to remove the unneeded items.  Just to keep myself busy, I have decided that one more practice run at the Grand Prix test is needed, and so I am taking Wyleigh to Greenville on Saturday the 30th for a final run at the GP test.  That will leave Sunday for me to work on the trailer.  Lots of time before the Wednesday departure, right?

Comments 2

Comments 2

  • Helen HanimannOctober 27, 2021 at 4:09 pm

    Wow! What an adventure! Wishing you all the luck in the world Ruth, love Helen

  • Judy Serie NagyOctober 31, 2021 at 10:45 pm

    You three make quite an amazing team, Ruth. I cannot imagine even thinking about what you’re doing … and for the second time. I will be sending positive vibes starting November 3 … and they’ll reach all the way to Kentucky!

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