I'm finally posting about my California trip! The whole recap is crazy long, so I am breaking it up into slightly more manageable parts for myself!
Where to even start? The trip was awesome overall, I LOVE California, I definitely didn't want to leave, and I want to go back asap!! Sun and sand and SO much horse stuff...paradise!! Was it successful in terms of what I wanted to accomplish? Well, not so much, and so much of it was kind of a shitshow with the horses and vet stuff and things just not going as planned. Such a HUGE learning experience though, and lots of ups and downs for sure. But I absolutely loved it down there, and am SO glad I went!
I will also be making a separate post for "Things you need to know before you go to California" because even though I did research and talked to lots of people, we were not that prepared in a lot of ways, and really, nothing beats actual first hand experience. And there is all sorts of stuff that you would never even think of. Also will include info on exactly how much it cost us because I have lots of people curious and yes, it's expensive, but if you plan and are smart about it it's not really this huge impossible thing that a lot of people make it out to be, and we did keep track of everything while we were down there so we will know what to expect and what we could do better/differently for next time.
Our trip down was a bit crazy, doing it in just 2 days was *really* long and *really* shitty!! 18 hours of driving the first day, and 14 the second. It didn't help that both me and Jenn were running on like 6 hours of sleep the entire weekend either! Kris hauled me and Sunny down to Jenn's barn near Calgary on Mar 7, that Friday after work. We didn't get there until about 8pm, and then spent a couple hours packing a loading the trailer. Didn't get to bed till nearly midnight, and we were up at 3am to leave by 4am!
Road bump #2 came pretty quick! While we were stopped and waiting for the vet, we noticed the trailer was sitting pretty low in the front. Since we were just borrowing it, Jenn has picked it up ahead of time and taken it in to a place in Calgary to get the gooseneck hitch adjusted so it would ride level once loaded up. Apparently the guys there hadn't raised it up enough, and the way it was sitting had the rear trucks tires bulging at the bottom. So we knew we had to get that adjusted asap, because we didn't want to be blowing a tire or something, especially not in the middle of nowhere in Montana while hauling horses!! We asked the USDA vet about places to go because he lived in the area, and he was incredibly nice and pulled out the phone book and started calling around for us. There were just tiny towns until the next actual city, Great Falls, and none of them were open on a Saturday. So we ended up having to drive the hour and a bit to Great Falls and then we drove around stopping at random truck and rv places until we finally found a tire place that could help us. All we needed was a big wrench and a hammer, really if we had known we could have packed the stuff and did it ourselves because it was very simple. So the guys at the tire place adjusted it for us and didn't charge us anything, so I made a facebook post and tagged the place in it thanking them, and after a good hour and a bit wasted, we continued on our way!
Road bump #2 came pretty quick! While we were stopped and waiting for the vet, we noticed the trailer was sitting pretty low in the front. Since we were just borrowing it, Jenn has picked it up ahead of time and taken it in to a place in Calgary to get the gooseneck hitch adjusted so it would ride level once loaded up. Apparently the guys there hadn't raised it up enough, and the way it was sitting had the rear trucks tires bulging at the bottom. So we knew we had to get that adjusted asap, because we didn't want to be blowing a tire or something, especially not in the middle of buttfuck nowhere in Montana while hauling horses!! We asked the USDA vet about places to go because he lived in the area, and he was incredibly nice and pulled out the phone book and started calling around for us. There were just tiny towns until the next actual city, Great Falls, and none of them were open on a Saturday. So we ended up having to drive the hour and a bit to Great Falls and then we drove around stopping at random truck and rv places until we finally found a tire place that could help us. All we needed was a big wrench and a hammer, really if we had known we could have packed the shit and did it ourselves because it was very simple, but you'd think if you were paying someone to adjust the hitch you would assume they would do it properly the first time, haha. So the guys at the tire place adjusted it for us and didn't charge us anything, so I made a facebook post and tagged the place in it thanking them, and after a good hour and a bit wasted, we continued on our way.
The horses trailered extremely well, surprisingly, as neither of them have ever made a long multi day trip like this! Sunny doesn't drink in the trailer, I've hauled her 12+ hour hauls before and she won't touch a bucket. So we came prepared, I had been preloading electrolytes the week before we left, and whenever we stopped we watered down pellets and bran so they'd at least eat a bit and get SOME liquids along the way. Jenn's horse Aloan figured out the drinking thing partway through the first day, but it wasn't until we hit Nevada on day 2 and it actually got warm out that Sunny finally gave in and drank, and then was good about drinking the rest of the way.
We planned to overnight in Draper, Utah, on the south end of Salt Lake City, and by the time we were getting close Jenn and I had started to get a bit delirious from so much driving and the lack of sleep, and driving through the city, we were getting to the point where the things we were seeing were WAAAAAY funnier than they should have been! Like Dick's Sporting Goods, yup, that's pretty darn hilarious! Lol. Around 10pm, we finally arrived and met my friend Leah at her barn and we got the horses settled for the night. We were pretty worried about the horses, already having spent 18 hours on the road, and knowing we had another LONG day ahead of us on Sunday. Thank god for the round pen! The horses got to stay the night in a big paddock/round pen at Leah's barn, which I'm sure made all the difference!! Sunny looked ok coming off the trailer, but she's little and had lots of room in her stall. But Aloan is 17.1hh and looked pretty wretched getting off the trailer!! So we turned them out and the horses were SOOOOO happy to be able to stretch their legs, they were bucking and playing and they usually don't do that!
We stopped at a grocery store so we could grab a quick bite, then headed to Leah's house. We ate and chatted for a bit before finally getting to bed very late. With daylight savings time happening we lost an hour of sleep that night, we were up and back on the road around around 6am, so it was another very short night! Lol. Sunny and Aloan both gave us a bit of the hairy eyeball when we went to load them back up in the morning, you could just see they were like "HAHAHAHA ARE YOU KIDDING??" but they got on the trailer without too much prodding and we continued on our way!
Jenn and I were excitedly watching the digital truck thermometer the whole time that morning, watching the temperature slowly rise but having very little idea what the Fahrenheit translated to in actual warmness, haha. We were like "Yes! We've hit forty!! Is it shorts weather yet??" Lol. I was so excited to see the first palm tree, and definitely had a "OHMYGOD A PALM TREE!!!!!!!!!" :D:D:D:D:D:D freakout in the truck when I saw the first one in Arizona, haha. Arizona was GORGEOUS btw, the very small part we drove through, one of my favorite parts of the trip! We hit Mesquite Nevada and it was sunny and gorgeous and warm and definitely shorts weather! HELLO SUMMER!!!! I was SO happy!!!
The rest of the drive on day 2 went well. By the time we entered California it was 80 F and the horses were definitely drinking lots of water and probably horribly confused and wondering how the heck they had gone from -25 to a hot (for us!) summer weather in the past day!! The last 4 hours were probably the worst, we were just like "Please can we just get there already??" We started seeing all the vineyards and fruit trees as we got closer, it was very cool! Everything here was so new and different!
Our first destination was Twin Rivers Ranch in Paso Robles so we could hang out and school cross country for a couple days before heading down to our first event. We pulled in around 8pm and the sun had already gone down so we couldn't really see anything but we took the horses for a walk and found a couple cross country fences in the dark! Got the horses settled in for the night, grabbed some food in town, and then headed out to find my friend Hannah's place, who had graciously offered to put us up for the couple days we were there!
Jenn and I were SO excited to finally be able to get a decent night's sleep and not have to wake up super early after all that driving!! In the morning we got up, met Hannah's horse Sol, and got to see the area in the daylight! What a gorgeous place!! We headed out to Twin to take care of the horses, and Hannah came with us. She showed us around the farm, they have such a beautiful facility! We took the horses for a walk and checked out some of the cross country jumps, and the horses got to eat some grass and have a good roll:) Aside from looking a bit gaunt the first day, being a bit dehydrated from the trip, they came through the trip extremely well. We put the horses away and did a bit more wandering on the course. After a couple hours at Twin we headed into town and Hannah showed us around a bit! Got some groceries, and checked out the tack stores in town. Headed back to Twin later on and Jenn and I hopped on for a little hack to let the horses stretch their legs and to see how they felt. Hannah snapped some photos while we rode, gorgeous photos will the hills and vineyards in the background! Finished the ride by going for a little canter around the front cross country field, one of the things I had been so excited to do was to just take Sunny out and let her canter and just stretch her muscles IN A STRAIGHT LINE! Not in a tiny indoor where she's constantly turning, or in her paddock with crappy, uneven icy footing. Winters up here are REALLY hard on horses, it sucks:P
Tuesday morning Hannah trailered Sol out to Twin and we all saddled up to ride together. Jenn and I did a little bit of cross country schooling, just some training and prelim stuff to ease the horses back into things. Aloan came out as his usual workmanlike self, but Sunny knew what we were there for that day and was WILD for the first bit. Lol. Once we got going she calmed down though. Had a silly moment early in our ride where I went to pop over a ditch before doing the prelim coffin line, and for some stupid reason instead of sitting back I just kind of 2 pointed up to it and basically just sat there and Sunny propped a bit when she saw the ditch which was on a little downhill slope, and because I was in a totally useless position up there I totally spun off over her shoulder and landed on my feet holding the reins, and I was so mad at myself, I was yelling at myself in my head going "WTF JESSICA, what are you doing?! Sit the hell back and put your god damn leg on and RIDE!!!" So I got back on and actually rode like I was supposed to, and Sunny was great. Other than that, both Sunny and Aloan came out and jumped around great, did some banks, water lines and the intermediate goose, no big deal, haha. I kept expecting Sunny to drift left over everything like she did all of last year, and doing the goose which was a skinny, the head was on our right, and I aimed her to the right of it, expecting her left drift to take us over the middle of it. Well Sunny surprised me and stayed dead straight and was like "I will jump RIGHT beside that damn goose head, because that's where you aimed me!!" Lol. Realized it a few days later that our last cross country before that had been last fall at our final event in September, where Sunny misjudged fence 3 on cross country and crashed into it, and almost wore it as a hat. So I was pretty darn impressed with her coming out cold and jumping around everything no problem like a freaking rock star. You know you have a good horse when...!!
After that we loaded the horses up and headed down to Morro Bay to go riding on the beach!! Things that you might not realize: The beach is a SCARY place for horses that have never seem anything like it before! Now that I've gone once I know what I would do differently for next time! Especially with a horse that had never seen the ocean before.
Apparently the waves were pretty big that day, and it wasn't the actual water that was the problem, but the horses find the white foam that rolls in with the waves pretty darn horrifying!! So we had a good bit of bolting, backing at light speed and spinning, and at one point Sunny tripped over her own feet and went over backwards into the shallow water, tossing me off in the process. SO. Changed our strategy a bit after that, putting their bitt to the waves and letting them work their shit out works MUCH better than making them face it head on!
Walked up and down the beach for a bit and went for a couple gallops, it was lots of fun! Finished off the exciting beach ride with some hacking around, then loaded up the horses and said goodbye to Hannah as she was heading home and back to work the next day and we were going to be heading down to Copper Meadows in the morning. We told her we would definitely be back!!
Some helmet came clips from down at the beach...
Later that day I could already feel the soreness from my tumble on the hard wet sand/shallow water setting in, and the next morning I woke up in the trailer and was just WRECKED, holy crap, it was so brutal!! I have not been that sore in a long time! And I still bounce pretty good for 30 too, I must mention!
We were planning on schooling a bit more cross country first thing the next morning and then packing up and heading down to Copper Meadows. I got on with a few things in mind that I definitely wanted to make sure were not issues anymore (right facing corners!) that we didn't address when we were schooling the day before. I also knew I needed to take it REAL easy, because I had popped some advil but still felt extremely sore and stiff and knew my riding would be nowhere near what I am normally capable of, and I definitely couldn't afford come off AGAIN. On a normal day I wouldn't have even tried riding the way I felt, but we only had 2 days to school before the event at Copper so it's not like I had much of a choice!
I was an absolute mess for our schooling:P Was pretty conservative during our ride, popped a couple of training fences to start, went through the one water, then we headed over to the coffin complex. Had one messy pass where I saw the long to the ditch and "went" but Sunny added a stride, which is exactly the right thing for her to do and what we have been working so hard on! I was unseated and ate shit right up to her ears and we were lined up to the chevron a couple strides after, and usually Sunny just goes regardless, but maybe she could tell that I was pretty much coming off if we continued and she just kind of stopped in front of it and I got back in the saddle, feeling pretty embarrassed with myself:P Did the second time around but it wasn't real pretty. Sunny was being really good and trying hard for me even though I was riding like shit so I didn't want to make an issue where there wasn't one, because it was definitely me that was the problem, not her! Then we headed over to the bank complex where the prelim corner was, and I planned on just figure eighting over it a couple times. Well apparently I had some major overthinking/over-riding going on because of our corner "issues" last summer, on the first approach I picked so much on the way up to I never actually let her leave the ground. Second time around she launched it and jumped me right out of the tack, but for all the times she's jumped me off, she's never done anything but continue on in a straight line as I landed in a heap on top of her, and this time was no different. Sunny totally saved my butt again. Came around it one more time and she jumped it decently, so that was good for that. Headed up to the front water, did the prelim angled combo, one simple water line, galloped over to a prelim open oxer and jumped it, and then called it a day. Definitely wasn't happy at all with how I rode but Sunny took care of me and did everything I asked so I really couldn't have asked for more in that situation.
Some helmet cams from schooling...
We packed up and were on the road to Copper Meadows by 10:30, which we figured would give us plenty of time to get there in the daylight, get the horses settled, and maybe go for a hack later. Google maps said it would be about 5 1/2 hours down, and had us going right through LA, which Jenn and I both questioned having heard about "crazy LA traffic", but we asked a couple people about it and the general consensus was that it's fine as long as you avoid rush hour. Of course since nothing can go smoothly for us, google maps got us lost in LA, so we ended being stuck in there through rush hour, so that was a ton of fun. Next time we are definitely going AROUND LA! It was me driving through the worst of it, which was fine because I don't panic and can just sort of go with the flow no matter what. It was very exciting though, poor Jenn was having a heart attack in the passenger seat, and I was mildly amused by all the insanity I was being a part of. It wasn't the amount of traffic, although I can see why it would be intimidating to some! It was the crazy ass drivers! No one uses signal lights, if there is any space at all in front of you, people just head right on over and expect you to move, very narrowly cutting you off. People merging in don't signal or try to time it so they, they just drive on over into your lane, doesn't matter if there is room or if you are in that lane already and do not have room to move out of the way. There's these truck exits that route the big trucks around the overpasses instead of over, then immediately merge them back on, so you've got big trucks trying to come merge back in every 5 seconds. People don't know where they're supposed to be exiting, so they'll slam on their brakes randomly or cut across 4 lanes of traffic. It was just insanity, especially paired with the insane volume of cars on the road. I felt REALLY bad for the horses because they had quite the rough ride that day! We made it to Escondido and needed gas, and I was so done with driving by that point, the one gas station we stopped at was NOT made for trucks, and to get in there I had to block the entire one entry of the parking lot for 10 minutes while waiting to get to a pump, and everyone was giving me death glares and I thought maybe I was going to get shot, haha. But we got in and out eventually, it was Jenn's turn to drive, everything worked out ok, and it was only another quiet hour of driving on a rural road to get to Copper Meadows from there.
I decided somewhere along the way that day that I have NOTHING to EVER complain about with Alberta traffic!! Lol.
It was already dark by the time we arrived, and we were tired and wanting to get the horses off the trailer ASAP and the place looked huge and we had no idea where we were stabled, so we pull up to this one gate and Jenn goes to get out to check the big stabling board by the fence, and this guy runs up wearing a staff shirt and Jenn goes "Hi! We're just looking to see where we are stabled..." and the guys goes "Whoa whoa whoa!!! First things first!!" And me and Jenn are a bit taken aback and are like ??? and he rattles off "Red wine, white wine, beer, cooler, coke, pepsi or sprite?" And we're just kind of sitting there confused, and he goes "First thing first! We get you guys a drink! Then we find your stabling!" And then we notice he's got coolers sitting there and we finally clue in and start laughing and I just ask for a water and Jenn gets a pop, and then he found where we were supposed to go and told us where trailer parking was. So that was awesome, we got the horses unloaded and settled in and parked the trailer and then took the horses for a late night hand walk and graze, before running into a couple other Albertans and then we headed to bed.
To be continued!!! ;)