FOR THE LOVE OF HORSES

October 29th, 2020 by

As a young girl, I have always had a fascination with horses. I loved to go to local play days and ride my horse in different events. Since we didn’t have a horse trailer and we weren’t but about a half a mile from the arena, my dad would walk along side me on the road to the arena and then lead my horse back by himself in the dark and I rode home with my mom. I thought I was the luckiest girl alive!

As time went on and I got married and started a family, I never lost that fascination with horses. When my youngest child was around 5, we had an opportunity to ride some horses while on vacation. I realized how much I had missed being on the back of a horse and my youngest daughter seemed to have caught my bug. I began discussing the possibility of getting a horse with my husband. He agreed and I began my hunt for the ‘perfect horse’ that was safe enough for me and my children. We found that so called ‘perfect horse’ and realized quickly it was no fun riding alone or double so then we became a two horse family.
Since my youngest daughter seemed to enjoy riding the most, I found 3 plastic barrels and set them up in our ‘arena’ which was really nothing more than a patch of dirt in our small pasture. Of course, you must have someway to haul the horses to compete so I convinced my husband we needed a trailer and I would search for just that ‘perfect’ trailer. That ‘perfect’ trailer turned out to be a little 2 horse side by side metal trailer that needed a little TLC. Well, maybe more than a ‘little’. New tires, floorboard, wiring, mats and a few other miscellaneous items that turned out to be quite the big project for my husband. We found the little trailer road worthy and we were ‘off to the races’ so to speak.

At the time, we owned a ½ ton Suburban. It had plenty of power pulling the trailer, horses and tack, but like in all hobbies, you tend to look around at what your friends have and realize that maybe that ‘perfect trailer’ wasn’t so perfect after all for our needs. We needed a dressing room in our trailer to store more tack and change clothes and a make shift portacan with a bucket when there were no restrooms available at some of these back yard arenas we frequented. So that little ‘perfect’ trailer got replaced with an aluminum, slant load 2 horse trailer with a dressing room.

Around here, horses and metal trailers don’t mix. Rust never sleeps but Aluminum is the cat’s meow! But along with that, we found our Suburban had quite the load in the back end. We had to buy an equalizer hitch to try to take the load off the back end of the suburban so that our head lights would not be up in the top of trees at night, but mostly so that we would have some control over the front end. We rocked along with that rig for a couple of years and we realized it was time for a truck to handle our heavy load, and plus, I was getting a little tired of hooking up that equalizer hitch every time I wanted to load up the horses.
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We found a used 1 ton Chevy pickup with low mileage to fit our hauling needs. This truck came with a goose neck hitch and that was a good thing, because we had outgrown our little 2 horse bumper pull trailer and decided it was time to upgrade to a goose neck trailer with living quarters. With living quarters, you add more weight to the trailer, but with a one ton, it could handle the new trailers weight with no problem, but when we headed north where the terrain gets steep, that gasoline engine became quite sluggish going up the hills and going down the hills, we had to down shift in order to keep the brakes from burning up. Aside from the fact that Chevy with the gasoline engine became quite the challenge in the hill country, we kept it for 10 years, because we didn’t travel too many times that far away from home where we were encountering hilly terrain.
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By this time, my daughter traded horses for something that required less work and time, so it was just me and occasionally, my husband would ride with me when I wanted to just enjoy nature and ride in the woods. Play days were replaced with barrel races and again, most of time, I traveled alone. Especially to the local barrel races. My husband is not really into horses, but he is supportive of me and my greatest joy.

When I was growing up, my dad taught me how to change a tire and he also taught me how important it was to properly maintain a vehicle in order for it to last you a long time. He told me to always check the oil and other fluids regularly, belts and always check the air pressure in the tires and that my tires would last longer if I balanced and rotated them every 6,000 miles or so and to keep an eye on the tread to make sure it wasn’t getting slick or worn on the sides which was an indicator that I could possibly need my front end aligned and new tires. Since we were a single income family, I was all about making sure my vehicles stayed on track according to what the vehicles recommendations were in the manual, because since I traveled alone at night at times, I did not want to be stranded out on the highway pulling a horse trailer. I also invested in roadside assistance to cover my vehicle and my trailers. I have not had to use it on my vehicle, but I have had to use it on my horse trailer when I had a blow out on I-10 one evening.

Six years ago, we took the plunge and bought our first diesel GMC ¾ ton heavy duty pickup. We also have a travel trailer we like to take on vacations whenever I’m not barrel racing and my husband is not hunting or fishing. We began by researching what kind of vehicle we needed to carry the load if we ever decided to buy a 5th wheel trailer or a larger horse trailer. Thankfully, all that information was at the touch of our fingers and we could look up each vehicles carrying capacity and what engines could handle the load. We were somewhat leery of the diesel engines, mostly because we had never owned one, but after talking to several people that had owned diesel engines, they convinced us that the diesel was the way to go in order to have the power to pull large and heavy loads.
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The first time I hooked up to my horse trailer to my new GMC and took it for a spin, I couldn’t believe what a difference it was compared to my gas engine truck. I hardly knew I was even pulling a trailer! The truck had tons of power and never had to down shift in order to get up a hill and the best thing yet, were the exhaust brakes! Even though my horse trailers have electric brakes, sometimes the brakes aren’t quite enough when you are pulling a heavy load and you have to come to a sudden stop. That heavy trailer just wants to push your truck right down the road, especially going down hill. But with the exhaust brakes they do most of the braking for you so that you don’t have to ride the brakes or worry about if you are going to be able to stop at the bottom of the hill or at that red light that turned so fast on you.

When I am preparing to leave for a barrel race I make sure my truck is in top condition for the drive. I check the oil and other fluid levels, tire pressure, on the truck and trailer, lights, brakes, hitch and one of my favorite features on my truck are the extended mirrors. Those help tremendously when you are pulling a trailer. It doesn’t matter if you have a fancy expensive trailer and the fastest horse, if your towing vehicle can’t get you to that next rodeo or barrel race, you might as well just stay home. That’s the most important thing on your trip. Your towing vehicle must be in tip top shape to get you where you need to be. You need the power, stability and safety features to pull your most prized possessions down the road. I rely on my GMC Duramax to get me to where I need to be and when I get behind the wheel, I know I have done all I can to make sure my truck is safe and reliable so that I can focus on the upcoming ride and the needs of my horse.
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Another feature that is really helpful on our GM vehicles is the On Star service. Since I am alone often, it’s very convenient to have the turn by turn navigation system at my finger tips and if I am ever in a crash its good to know one of the advisers will contact me to see if I am OK and if I don’t respond, they will pin point my location and send out emergency officers. Plus, when I am in a city where I am not familiar with, they can tell me where businesses are that I may need such as banks, restaurants and fuel stations. I use their services many times when I am on the road and it’s reassuring knowing they will guide me to the correct location or be there if there is an emergency situation.

Both my husband and I have really enjoyed our GMC Duramax truck. Since I am the primary driver when pulling the horse trailer, he seldom gets to drive it so those few times that he gets to sit behind the wheel and just drive the look on his face is priceless. As long as we pull horse trailers and other recreational vehicles, we will always drive a Duramax. We feel its the best truck on the road.

Julie Ford
Cleveland, TX

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