It’s official.  I have a horse trailer.

My New Wheels

My New Wheels

I drove it home the 2 hours from the dealership without incident with help from my friend, Jane.  Thankfully there wasn’t a lot of traffic.  I’m feeling a bit more confident that I’m not going to kill PJ driving him around, but I definitely need some more practice, especially with backing up, so I’m going to exchange a riding lesson with a horse trailer driving lesson.

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A Matter of Balance

Kids who grow up riding seem to have natural balance, lack of fear, and a great seat.  Galloping bareback on a pony that wanted to buck you off at each turn was the best education.  Unfortunately, I didn’t have any of that.  I started lessons when I was 12, which was too old to develop a natural feel, and my initial riding excursions were on super quiet schoolmasters, so no having to learn to hang on.

I’ve been able to overcome a lot of these handicaps.  I am much more bold because I have a horse I can trust, and I work very hard on the mechanics of riding. But, I have to work at it.  I had two lessons in a row this week because I won’t be able to make one of my lessons next week.  At both lessons we worked on my balance.

Barbara had me stand up in my stirrups as PJ trotted.  On the first day it was very difficult to not post or get into two-point position.  To achieve this feat, I had to move through my joints and open my hip angle.  I finally realized how much my hip angle is normally closed and concentrated mostly on that.  I ended up holding PJ’s mane and when the lesson was over, I had a clump of his hair in my hand!

On the second day, it was easier.  PJ moved freer when I got it, which tells me this is something I MUST master. It always comes down to basics – basics that most kids pick up on unruly ponies without even trying.  But, I think I’m a little to old to try to relive a childhood I never had and I’ll stick to my saint of  horse, thank you very much.

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Need a Break from Getting Brakes

Who thought it would be so hard to get a brake controller installed!  I know NOTHING about hauling, so I’ve been reading up, and I do know I need a brake controller to tow a horse trailer.  For those who don’t know, a brake controller adjusts the brakes on the trailer to be stronger or weaker.  When you first hook up the trailer you adjust how much power goes to the brakes, so that you don’t get dragged behind (too much brakes) or pushed into (too little brakes).  With none, one, or two horses, the brakes will need adjustments, and as your brakes age you will need to adjust how much power goes to the trailer brakes.

My truck is a VW Touareg.  It’s an SUV. Even though it is rated to tow 7700 lbs, it is not a traditional tow vehicle.  I expect my trailer with horses to weigh max ~6000 lbs, which shouldn’t be a problem for the Toureg.  I did a lot of research before picking this vehicle. People pull Air Stream trailers and big boats with this thing.  It’s supposed to be a towing power house even though it’s manageable to drive.  My lifestyle just doesn’t work with a pick-up truck and I couldn’t afford or house two vehicles – one for everyday and one for towing.  The “Treg” as they are affectionally called, seemed like the perfect compromise.  Problem is the VW people know nothing about towing and the trailer people know nothing about VWs.

I look online to see about installing a brake controller in my vehicle.  It turns out that the wiring is difficult to find under the dash and I will need some connectors from the VW dealer to do it.  Even though the place where I bought the trailer said they could install one, I didn’t want to drive 2 hours with a friend and find out they didn’t have all of the parts.

So, the first thing I do is go to a local VW dealer to ask them to prep the car so a trailer place could install the brake controller.  They told me “I don’t need a brake controller b/c the Touareg has been designed not to need one.”  I tried to insist that I did but the mechanic was adamant.  I didn’t believe him but this being my first truck and trailer, he planted a seed of doubt in my head because he was so definitive.

However, after talking some more to friends and looking on a bulletin board on Touareg towing (a great place for information over my head), I am again, correctly, convinced that I need a brake controller.  The next place I went to was a trailer place.  They couldn’t even find the brake controller connector under the dash, so they couldn’t install one.  A friend called around to a bunch of other trailer places and none had ever worked on a Touareg and were just as clueless as the first place.  Going back onto the BB I found a place an hour a way that seemed to know what they were doing with Touaregs, but I really didn’t want to go an hour away, especially since they were saying I would need to leave the truck because they weren’t sure about my year of vehicle and they had only done a few (which in my mind was better than none and I would have gone there if I couldn’t find anywhere else).

Getting desperate, I called another VW dealer.  They guy on the other end of the phone said, “We can’t do that here but I know someone who can!”  Yay!!!!  His friend, not even a half-hour a way, had installed many brake controllers in Porsche Cayennes, which are almost identical to the Touaregs.  I call them up and they say sure, they could do it but I needed to buy the brake controller first because he didn’t have one – he fixes and races Porsches; he’s not a trailer place.  I hang up and look on the Touareg BB to see what kind they like, but just to be on the safe side, I call back up the mechanic and ask him what kind he likes.  He thinks about it a minute and then realizes that he has a very slightly used one that he’s never going to use again and offers it to me at a discount.  It was only used once.  And it’s the exact kind the Touareg BB liked the best.  And he can install it the next day (today).

I drive down there and within 2 hours I have an installed and working brake controller!!!  And I’m planning on picking up the trailer next Saturday.  One less stress out of the way but now it’s getting real that I’ll have to drive this thing.

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Away We Go

I took the plunge.  I bought a truck and trailer.  Three weeks ago I bought the truck (trading in my car that I LOVED to now drive a boat).  Today I drove 2 hours and bought a trailer. I thought I would need to order a new trailer but they said I could have the one on the lot that had been built in Oct 2012.  However, the truck isn’t quite ready to drive away towing anything – it needs a break controller.  The truck was used, the trailer is new.

But soon I will be able to have the freedom to go to a show if I want, or take a clinic without begging someone to take it with me.  I’m so excited.  On the other hand, I’m terrified to drive it.   Right now, I’m also exhausted from the adrenaline rush.  AAAHHH.

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Shoulder-in Soldier On

I moved my Tuesday lesson to today due to work commitments.  With it being so cold, PJ was forward but a little tight – a lesser version than he was at the show, which was a good thing because Barbara gave me some ideas to get him to relax.  She had me bend and counter-bend on a circle to laterally stretch him.  For longitudinal stretch, I kept him on a long and low rein.  He quickly warmed up and it was time for real work.

Barbara said it was time to work on more new stuff and she suggested shoulder-in.  At first I just worked at sitting trot – ouch.  I hadn’t expected to ride today, so when I went to the gym, I ran on the treadmill, which always makes my hips tight.  Not good for sitting trot.  But I muddled through.  Then we worked on shoulder-in.  I can’t say I felt or saw exactly what PJ was doing it, so it was good to only being doing it in the presence of a ground person.  Barbara told me “yes, you got it” or “oops, his shoulders are back on the rail,” or “oops, you had it but now it’s too much.”  PJ changed from wrong to right to wrong so fast that I couldn’t quite figure it out right away.  Eventually, I could get 2 (literally 2) steps before I lost it, but I sort of felt it.  This is not something I will try on my own.

Despite having GREAT lessons each time, I’m still not motivated to ride outside of lessons. Hopefully with the change of weather, I’ll have a change of attitude. Until then, I’ll just look forward to my next lesson.

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A Beautiful Day

After the bitter cold of last week and the blizzard of yesterday, I was pleasantly surprised to experience a rise in temperature and sunshine.  I took full advantage.  PJ and I went for a hack in the snow.   I feel much better now.


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A Real Ride

Finally, my entire ride isn’t my warm-up!  It used to be that my entire 45-min lesson was an attempt to get PJ moving correctly at walk-trot-canter, and usually ended up with both of us exhausted by the time we got it.  But today, I had a normal 20-minute warm-up.  We walked and trotted and cantered and he worked from back to front and was in front of my leg.  Then we moved on to new stuff!

Barbara thought the best new stuff to try was medium trot.  To get it, we worked on short diagonals.  I needed to half halt an get him to sit and then send him forward across the diagonal.  The problem was that I couldn’t get him to sit enough – meaning I couldn’t get him to sit more than (our new) normal, and then when I sent him forward, I pushed too hard and he rushed.  To help us, we did a 10-meter circle before going forward.  It was quite obvious that I couldn’t get him to sit in the 10-m circle because he slowed down instead of sat and it was hard to keep the size small.  After a number of tries, Barbara had us switch tactics and try shoulder-in to get him to reach with the inside hind.  That took the rest of our lesson time, but I was able to feel a little of what I was after.  So, my goal is to get PJ to sit a little more than normal and then be able to send him forward without rushing.

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