Jan20collage.jpgSo the last time I posted I was due to head out for my two back to back trips to Florida. I was leaving on the third and expected to be back at Balsalm Hall with the rest of the gang, hunkered down for the winter schooling season by the eighth of January.  Hahaha, silly me!  Selena and I left on the third of January and had an uneventful drive to Ocala.  Colombo, Song of Songs (Raisin), Watson’s Cebastian and Woody arrived in great shape, ready for the winter season.  On the fourth, I set out for Canada to pick up the rest of the gang.  I expected to be back around the seventh or so with Solo and three more.  The rest reads like a journal of everything that can go wrong, going wrong.


I was only a few hours up the road in Savannah, Georgia when I noticed the truck just didn’t seem to be pulling like it usually does.  I looked at the dash and all the lights and dials said we were in fine shape but I was still suspicious.  I pulled over and was advised that I needed a new air filter…ok…I could handle that…one new air filter later and I was on my way.   20 minutes later, the truck did it again, just a softness to the pedal that I wasn’t used to.  I pulled off into Savannah central and found the Ford dealership.  Just as I turned into the service centre the engine light told me I had a problem….go figure!   It was a big problem and the truck had to have a new wiring harness which was to be ordered from Atlanta.  Hopefully it was going to be there on Thursday and I would be back on the road by Friday….sigh.   No wiring harness on Friday and Ford advised me that it would not be in or ready before Monday.  Somewhat stressed at the slow down on my schedule, I drove back to Ocala and spent the weekend there.


Monday dawned bright and sunny in Ocala but not so bright and sunny in Georgia.  Atlanta was iced in and nothing was moving including my wiring harness.  Tuesday the big freeze was still on and on Wednesday the part finally got to Savannah from Aiken.  The only upside to this was that I was able to watch Selena have three lessons from Jennie Lorriston-Clarke.  JLC (as she is best known) was my dressage trainer in the UK.  She was Britain’s top dressage rider throughout her career and is now the president of the British Dressage Society.  It was fantastic to see her again, and I have been saying to Selena for YEARS that I wished she could have some lessons with Jennie.  It was everything I had hoped for and I believe it will take Selena and her mounts another step forward towards achieving their goals this year and in the future.  We are already booked in for next year’s clinic in Gainsville, Florida.  Thank you Pat Deasy for putting on the clinic and making us so welcome.


On Wednesday night Selena drove back to Ocala and I drove North to Savannah.  I set out with a happy truck on Thursday morning and arrived in Canada mid day on Friday.  The truck had an appt for an emissions test and safety test on Friday afternoon, all went quickly and well (trailer had had safety just before the first trip plus 6 new tires….keep that in mind as you read on). I loaded the boys and girls and set off for my seven pm appointment with the border vet.  The first little problem I encountered consisted of SIX HUNDRED cattle en route to Russia that were already being checked at the border when I got there.  I did not get through the border until ten pm – so now the horses have already been on for 3 hours and we have not gone anywhere.  One horse to drop off en route and another to pick up.  Unfortunately he was not super keen to leave home and it was 12.30 before I was back on the road.  So 5.5 hours and I am just across the border.  I drove a nice careful route and was making good time without being stupid.  At 12pm I was in Walterboro filling up with gas and went into the back to check the horses.  I check the horses at least every 4 hours – basically, every time we stop for any reason.  Everyone had been in great form at the previous stop.  They had all had extra electrolytes by syringe at about 8pm and had been eating and drinking SO well that I had to fill more nets and refill the water containers.  They had literally eaten a bale each and were all drinking well.  We travel them with hay and water available all the time and boost electrolytes for a week before the trip plus a syringe full just before they load and halfway there.  I filled the nets and water and realised immediately that Solo was not a happy bunny.  Nothing huge, but he was not headfirst into the net as soon as I put it up and I could hear a ‘snotty’ noise in his nostrils although he was drinking more than the others put together and had been eating in his usual piggy fashion.  I moved into major panic mode immediately with a fear of shipping fever prevalent in my mind.


There were two ladies in the gas station office and those ladies spent the next ten minutes using their own phones to call every emergency vet number in the book until finally someone gave me the name of an equine clinic only 45minutes away.  Shambley Equine Clinic.  I spoke to the doc and he said he would meet me there.  GPS in hand I set out but for some reason it picked out the wrong ‘Kay Lane’ and I realised quite quickly that I was set in the wrong direction.  By this time I was feeling a bit stressed and pulled over to try to re orientate myself.  Blue flashing lights pulled up behind me and I thought I was in trouble with the police for parking illegally to find my bearings.  Not at all!!!!  The Walterboro sheriffs were amazing. Once they understood my predicament they contacted the Sheriffs at Summerville where the clinic was located and got the directions sorted out for me.  Not only that, but they gave me a police escort through town to the road I needed to be on, and set me up with the police in the next town in case I needed help.  At 1.15 I pulled into Shambley and Doctor Mark Shambley met me with a smile and a welcome.  I felt ten times more confident of the outcome the minute I met him, you could tell he was a horseman as well as a vet and sure enough, he and his wife are Masters of Foxhounds and have a ton of beautiful horses of their own.  An hour later Solo was in a stall on fluids and antibiotics and my other three charges were unloaded into box stalls outside.  I fed hayed and watered everyone and settled into a night of watching my boy.  By 6am his temp which had been 103 when I unloaded him was back down to 97, his heart rate was 32 and his resps were 8.  You can’t get much better than that!  By 12 noon I was exhausted and cold through and through.  The clinic staff and Dr Shambley showed me the warmest room in the house and I slept on the operating table for the afternoon LOL.


By that night I felt safe to leave him and I booked into a local hotel for a good night’s sleep before I drove the rest of the gang to Ocala (6hrs). I had hoped to be able to turn straight around and get back to Solo but again….silly me.  I was about ten minutes out of the clinic when I had my first flat tire (brand new remember?)  I looked in the mirror and saw the bulge, looked up and about 10 yards ahead was JW Tire Service.  I pulled over to the kerb and two men absolutely RAN out to help me.  They had air in the tires and all tires checked right there at the side of the road in about five minutes and refused point blank to let me pay them.  Off I went on my merry way feeling that nothing else could possibly go wrong….silly me.


Another half an hour and I was on the I95 when I looked in the mirror and again saw a bulgy tire.  I pulled off into a gas station – Clyde Market in South Newport.  I went inside and explained my predicament to the young lady on the till, her name was Sheri Burnett and believe me, she is some exceptional young woman.  She took over, told me to chill while she called a few people and in about five minutes there were two of the local firefighters changing my tire. Jason Tucker and Charles Evans who is also the owner of Coastel Graphix (custom signs and graphics design).  These two had my wheel changed and had me back on the road in less that twenty minutes.  I was almost in tears I was so grateful and overwhelmed by everyone’s support and help.  I drove on to Ocala and dropped off the rest of the gang but I was not done yet.  When I had stopped at one point I had turned on the electrics in the truck but had not actually started the loud diesel engine.  Outside the truck (you could not hear anything amiss from inside the cab) I heard a bit of a buzzing noise.  Since I was going to have to stay in Ocala overnight in order to fix my tire (did not want to be on the road without a spare), I whipped the truck to Ford Ocala at 7.15 the next morning and asked them to do an oil change and check the noise I heard.  I was scared the wiring harness was the problem.  No, it was broken vacuum hoses.  Thank goodness I had been outside the truck, with the key turned but the engine not running – phew.  How on earth would you know there was a problem and why doesn’t the stupid engine thingy on the dash light up!


Next the trailer had to go to the tire place to have ALL the tires checked and the spare replaced.  No problem with any of the tires, the rims were rusting through.  Now tell me, why wasn’t that seen when the safety was done and the six new tires were put on?????  I was not a happy bunny.  I felt I had done everything to prevent truck and trailer issues.  The truck had had a full service, safety and check between Christmas and New Year, the trailer had had full service safety and check between Christmas and New Year and the truck had had another safety check and emissions check on the Friday afternoon between trips.  Nevertheless, there I was with all the problems you can imagine.  The travel gods were not on my side.  I set out for Summerville, SC on the Tuesday afternoon and made it back by 9.30 that night.  Meanwhile Solo continued to have good vital signs but was not eating with his usual enthusiasm.


The next day I spent sitting watching him.  We finally decided that he had a sore tummy from all the meds, maybe ulcers, and gave him an ulcer medication.  Both he and Colombo are normally on Omega Alpha’s ‘Gastro FX’ but he had not had any since Friday.  Sure enough, ulcer meds last night and this morning see him eating all his grain again and looking more like himself.  He is due to be released from hospital tomorrow and I hope, I REALLY hope, to have a very boring drive to Ocala in the morning.  One more set of bloodwork and we are out of there.   


It sounds like a litany of problems and bad luck but look at it this way. 

Twice I was on I95 and realised that I had truck problems BEFORE I was stranded on the verge with all those trucks whizzing by AND I was empty at the time. 

Twice I had flat tires and complete strangers insisted on helping me and getting me on the road.

I found out Solo was sick at a gas station where the ladies found me a vet and insisted on helping me.

I found out Solo was sick only 45 minutes from a fabulous equine clinic and hospital with a fabulous veterinarian and staff.

I found out the vacuum hoses were broken before the vacuum pump gave up the ghost.

All in all, it could have been a lot worse and I cannot tell you how grateful I am to all those absolutely amazing people who helped.  Southern hospitality is alive and well.


So – everyone keep your fingers crossed for me, I am revved and ready for tomorrow.  I will let y’all (you like that?  I am practising) know how it goes.