2021 US Dressage Final Diary – Ruth Shirkey – 11/6/2021

On the road. Well, actually the third day on the road.

Our first morning started off at about 4am when the alarm went off. We stayed the night in our camper at Yarra Yarra in order to get an easier start. Things always seem to take longer when we leave from home. However, that did mean that the last minute, “oh no, we forgot, fill in the blank” went on last night, so we didn’t actually get to Yarra Yarra for our sleepover until about 8pm. Wyleigh pretty quickly let me know that an early morning was not what she had in mind. She met me at her stall door then quickly went out into her paddock. She never does this. That was a pretty clear indicator that she had seen the truck and trailer and no, she wasn’t up for an early morning expedition, thank you very much!

She was gracious enough to wait for me to put her halter on and come back into her stall so that I could clean her up and put her boots on. Since she is riding alone, I only put bell boots on her, as she is not very fond of the shipping boots, no matter what variety I use. Since she was already a bit grumpy about the situation, annoying her more wasn’t going to be the right answer.


The trailer is still pretty new to her and she hesitated a bit going in but as always trusted me to get her safely wherever we go, and followed me into the trailer. It is a 2 horse straight-load and we had tied the divider to the right side to allow her plenty of riding room, while still being able to put the bales of hay and alfalfa on the unused side for easy access to feed while we travel the 3.5 days to Kentucky.

Off we went at 5:30, onto 580, then 680 and eventually 80 North, which would take us all the way into Nebraska. Having done the first 2 days of the trip twice before, we basically knew where we wanted to stop for gas or bio breaks (for us and the dogs). We found that the mileage was a little less than expected and that a 15-week-old puppy needs a bit more frequent potty stops, so our first day had a few more stops than we had previously experienced in the other two trips. Other than that, the first day went really well.


Our first stopover was with Jan and Gary Lawrence at Millbrook Farms in Fairfield, Utah. It is such a lovely place and their facility is wonderful. Gary had a stall all setup for Wyleigh and she started her stay off by rolling about 2 thousand times before she settled into eating her grain and hay. We were then invited over to their house for a spectacular dinner. Jan is the most wonderful cook and I don’t know how she knew this, but I have always wanted to have Beef Bourguignon. When she told me that was what we were having for dinner, I was thrilled!

The dish was amazing. I had two helpings and secretly wanted to take the extra that she had made for her freezer. I reconsidered the idea of stealing it when she said she had spent about 2 days in the preparation and cooking. I didn’t have the heart to take the leftovers that she had worked so hard to make for us. We also shared 2 bottles of this Cabernet Sauvignon from Bennett Lane Winery and it really complimented the Beef Bourguignon.

Then desert. Jan had made Pomegranate Ice Cream and Shortbread Coconut cookies. I am not sure how she got the idea to combine the coconut flakes with the shortbread, but that was just about the best cookie I have ever had.

The time flew by as we chatted about our horses, what been happening this last year, USDF/USEF updates, making freestyles and fly fishing. Yes, it is wide ranging conversation and the time went by way too quickly. I wished we could stay another day, just to hang out, eat and talk. Unfortunately, in addition to a 12-hour drive, we had lost an hour to a time zone change. It was really late and time for bed. With another 4am wake-up call so we could leave by 5am, we wanted to get at least few hours of sleep.

The second day was essentially the same as the first, though a little shorter in miles to go. Wyleigh didn’t eat and drink as well as I hoped during the drive, but she always drank and ate all her food at the stopovers. With the early starts, I don’t feed her any grain in the mornings, only at night and just the same amount of PM grain as always, nothing extra to make up for the missing AM grain. I figure I will feed her more once we arrive in Kentucky, if she drops any weight.

Our second night was at Jumprope Stables in Ogallala, Nebraska. Another very good facility that had a nice stall waiting for Wyleigh and a spot for us to plug our camper in for the night. The temperatures were chilly over night and Wyleigh was blanketed, even though she tried to convince me that a blanket was not what she wanted. The day time temps would finally get to about 50 around noon. So over night I had a medium weight blanket which I would switch to a lighter blanket for the early morning travel. I would monitor the outside temperature and when it hit 50, on the next stop, I would get in the trailer and take her blanket off. She really seemed to appreciate this. I would also give her a carrot at every stop and check her hay and water.

The third night was in St. Peters, Missouri. This stopover is basically a self-serve barn with no one on the property. We are always happy that we can plug in to their RV hookup and stay right at the barn. The stalls are huge here and must have been made for draft horses! In the morning Wyleigh was quite frisky and did a bit of jumping around and bucking in the stall, just to let me know she was ready for the last leg of the trip.

We arrived at Spy Coast Farms on Saturday the 6th , just as planned. This facility is like horse heaven. The shed row barn that we were assigned is the same as the one we had 2 years ago on our last trip to the Final. Wyleigh loves this place. The view outside is of hundreds of acres of fenced green pastures. The stalls are huge and full of shavings. This is home for 3 nights.

On Sunday, I will lunge her and hand walk her and Monday, I will ride her to help her get the kinks out, if there are any left over from the drive. I will also use my massage gun on her to help release any tension. Hopefully, she will be her usual self after all the trailering. On Tuesday, we will move her to the Kentucky Horse Park and the stall that she will stay in until we depart on Sunday, after the competitions.

The next report will be about KHP and the Dressage Finals experience.

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