While it felt like a routine show season, Speedy and I ended up with some very gratifying successes. Early on, we won the Adult Amateur High Score at two different CDS shows. In August, we took home First Level Reserve Champion at the CDS Central Regional Adult Amateur Competition. This weekend, my CDS chapter, Tehachapi Mountain Chapter, awarded us First Level Adult Amateur Reserve for the season.
Each October, Tehachapi Mountain Chapter holds an awards and appreciation banquet at Oak Tree Country Club, about an hour's drive from Bakersfield. The list of attendees is usually quite large given that Bear Valley Springs is a community of fewer than 23,000 people. It is astonishing that such a small town can generate so much interest in dressage!
I mentioned a few times over the summer that winning the adult amateur show average was a goal of mine. While we didn't win first place, I was quite honored and proud to accept First Level Reserve.
In my opinion, just entering at A at all is a huge accomplishment. Doing it with a decent score is like winning at the Olympics. Just think how many riders can't even get their horses show ready. I know because I am one of them, too. I've been working with Izzy for more than two years, and he's still not ready to enter a real show. So knowing how hard it is to make it to show after show all season, winning reserve feels like a grand achievement to me.
One of TMC's regular volunteers custom made the reserve awards; first place received trophies. Tracy designed the awards specifically to suit each rider. I am delighted with my helmet bag!
Tracy even selected a special print to line the inside of the bag. She told me that mine was selected to complement Speedy's black leather RAAC halter.
During dinner, my husband and I sat next to the junior First Level Champion. While I competed with him all summer, it was the first time we had a chance to chat. He's quite a talented rider, and as I found out, a well rounded young man. We've already decided that next year at Second Level there's going to be some butt kicking. No doubt it will once again be him doing the kicking. I am glad he's still a junior!
Not long ago, I wrote about my prematurely aging Custom Revolution. Frankly, I am a bit disappointed that such an expensive saddle could wear out so quickly. I bought the saddle used about 6 years ago, but it was in like new condition. I've kept it covered, cleaned, and well conditioned. Even so, it has started to fall apart. The seat has a split, the pommel's leather is cracking, and the stitching on both knee rolls is nearly gone.
The local Trilogy rep suggested I get a seat saver, which I did. She also said that the saddle had plenty of miles left in it and that I should keep using it. I agreed, but I also started looking around to get a feel for what I might like as a replacement.
As luck would have it, I was able to hop up on the ranch owner's horse who was sporting a newer Custom Revolution. Even though the seat size was a bit small at 17 inches, I was instantly impressed with the deep seat. It was certainly deeper than mine anyway.
That planted a seed that started growing, and before I knew it, I started getting messages from people selling saddles. The most intriguing email came on behalf of Leslie Webb, a well known trainer, competitor, and author.
Leslie lives in Bakersfield. Last spring, she decided to retire from showing and riding although she is still available for coaching, clinics, and lessons. This fall, she decided to clear out her barn and tack room which included nine County saddles.
I didn't know much about County saddles, but some quick research revealed that they're a workhorse of a saddle known for their ability to fit a wide variety of horses. I gave Leslie a call and within a week I had one of her saddles to try out over the weekend.
Given that my Custom still has plenty of wear left in it, I decided I would give the County a try but only for comparison's sake. It wasn't in my budget to buy a new saddle, but then I tossed it up on Izzy. The dang thing fit like it was made for him. It definitely fit better than my Custom which has always been a wee bit too wide for him.
Just in case it didn't fit as well as I thought, I decided to lunge Izzy before getting on. It was probably just coincidence, but his stride was suddenly longer than it usually is when I lunge. I climbed on and immediately grinned. I had no idea that I actually preferred a deeper seat.
I worked Izzy at all three gaits. Sitting the trot became nearly effortless, and the canter felt amazing. Interestingly, I was unable to do a rising trot. I simply couldn't get my legs underneath me. I was disappointed but secretly relieved that the saddle wasn't going to work.
I called Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, who suggested two things. The first was that I needed to stretch my hip flexors. The County was putting my pelvis in a better position, but I was probably drawing my leg up. Additionally, she suggested I get video of me riding and send it to her so she could see what was happening.
When I next rode in the saddle, I had best friend video, but before I got in the saddle, I did some whole body stretching. Amazingly, my leg draped better and I was able to post the trot. All of a sudden, I really wanted the saddle, but I forced myself to ride in it a third time before making a decision.
Of course I bought the saddle, a County Connection with a 17.5 inch seat and a medium tree. I've been riding Izzy in it all week, and I can't believe how much better I am riding. I am struggling less with my position because I feel more balanced in the saddled.
Last night, I was able to school Izzy through some naughty moments much more effectively. In fact, we tried changes of lead through the trot for the first time and nailed them.
It could just be coincidence of course, but I am going to believe that the saddle is magic.
I am pretty ready for October to be over as it has been a whopper of a month. We now have a sick yellow dog.
If you have dogs, you are familiar with the middle of the night leap from bed as you hear THAT SOUND. Unfortunately, Brienne of Tarth's tummy troubles are from the back end.
It all started Sunday evening when she had to take an evening poo, which is not part of her regular routine. Even more uncharacteristic was that it was pretty ploppy. Her appetite was good however, and she was drinking as usual.
When Monday rolled around, she was still eating and drinking, but the diarrhea was worsening. Tuesday morning, I woke up to a gazillion little piles of stinky poo all over the floor. By Tuesday afternoon, she was lethargic and refusing to drink, eat, or even get up.
My husband called me at the barn letting me know I had better come home. As soon as I saw her, I told my husband she needed to be seen. Her temperature was slightly elevated, her hind end was shaking, and she refused to stand or walk. Of course, it was about 5:45 pm when I got home which meant it was too late to get her into our regular vet.
We zipped her over to the emergency vet (on Easton for you local folks) and were quite pleased with how efficient and kind the staff there were. It probably didn't hurt that I was prepared with her vitals, health history, current medications/supplements, name of my regular vet, and a credit card.
Our initial suspicion was poisoning from gnawing on palm fronds (not segos). After a quick exam, the doctor ordered a round of blood tests that included a complete blood panel, a CBC with differential, an electrolyte profile, a check of her pancreatic function, a cortisol test, and a urinalysis. The doctor suspected Addison's Disease (failure of the adrenal gland to produce hormones).
We spent several tense hours in the waiting room while I googled Addison's Disease. I wanted to be prepared. Fortunately, Brienne's blood work came back completely normal, especially her electrolytes. The doctor shrugged her shoulders and agreed with our initial (hopeful) diagnosis of palm frond overload with hind end muscles sore from so much pooing.
We elected to give her subcutaneous fluids and a cocktail of pain drugs to help her sleep. The doctor prescribed a course of antibiotics in case it's something bacterial in her gut. She also recommended a bland diet of rice and chicken which I had already started that morning. She slept really well on Tuesday night and looked somewhat perkier last night.
The diarrhea seems to have stopped, but her appetite is still depressed and she's not really drinking as well as she should. It's a good thing she loves ice cubes. She's doing a lot of sleeping which is probably what she needs more than anything. She seems over the worse of it, but we're keeping a close eye on her.
Dogs and horses - they're both so fragile!
After recommissioning the crap bridle, I realized that my tack was looking pretty grungy. Speedy's easy on his stuff, but as I've written at least 4 bazillion times, Izzy is not. He's gross.
Last weekend, I dismantled Izzy's day to day bridle and dropped the bit into a bucket of water to soak. I scrubbed the crud off each piece of his bridle, and then wiped it dry. I set it aside and then gave Speedy's bridle an equally thorough cleaning.
Once both bridles were clean and dry, I gave each one a quick massage with some Higher Standards Leather Balm and then reattached my bits and reins. I hung both bridles neatly and took a moment to admire the look and feel of a clean bridle. Then I saddled up the big brown sweat machine and got the bridle dirty again.
And the funky, once-a-week bridle? After a day or two of looking at it, I couldn't stand it. It too got a thorough cleaning and conditioning.
But first, an update on the Cottonwood Fire ... Gray Stallion was not the only survivor! Since yesterday, I have discovered that one horse is being treated for burns by a friend. She is covering the vet bills and treating the mare. I've also heard that Dr. Pipkin, from a different practice, is treating at least two others for burns and smoke inhalation. Other horses were led away from the scene, but I don't know how many, nor whether they were burned or injured. We do know that nearly two dozen were killed. It's shaping up to be a tough October here in sunny California ...
This past Thursday, I hauled Speedy down to Bakersfield Vet Hospital for a progress check on his coronary band injury. I should mention that getting Speedy to the vet on a weekday requires a very early start to the day.
I work fairly close to the vet hospital, but Speedy and I both live about 30 minutes to the east. The only way to get him to the vet before they close is to drop him off on my way to work. To do this, I have to drive to the barn, and switch vehicles (and my work keys, ID badge, barn bag, etc.). Then I have to round Speedy up from his turn out and load him in the pitch black.
We then make the half hour journey to the vet hospital where I unload him and find his day stall. The gate is locked, but the staff gives me the gate code. Once he's tucked in, I race back out to my truck and grab him some alfalfa for the day's wait.
I then navigate my truck and trailer through city traffic and park alongside the school where I work. The kids think it is quite funny to see a horse trailer parked next to the bike racks. After the last bell rings, I jump back in the truck and retrace my steps to the vet hospital for a late afternoon appointment.
I've done this trip three times this school year; once with Izzy and now twice with Speedy. I am amazed each time at how much my horses must trust me to so willingly load up in the dark only to be deposited in a somewhat unfamiliar place. I love them for trusting me.
Once I was back at BVH, I brought Speedy into the examining bay and pulled his bandages. Both Dr. Tolley and Dr. Gonzalez were quite pleased with my bandaging skills. I laughed and explained that I have been forced to become an expert. Once they saw how well the initial wound had healed, they were even more pleased.
Thankfully, Dr. Tolley agreed that we were past the bandaging phase and had arrived at the watch the hoof grow stage. There are a few things I need to keep an eye open for though as we wait. As the new hoof grows into the gap, it might grow at a faster rate than the hoof surrounding it which might force the hoof below the gouge to run out of room. This would create a bulge.
One way to relieve the pressure is to cut a piece out of the bottom of the hoof so that everything above it can settle downward. My farrier will be out in a few weeks so that is definitely something he will need to look at. It is also possible that Speedy will simply wear away or break off any hoof that protrudes below the bottom edge of the hoof wall.
Ultimately, we're waiting for about 2 centimeters of new hoof growth so that the gouged part of the hoof starts to come straight down. Dr. Tolley drew a a sketch to illustrate what it should look like over the next month or so. Once it reaches this stage, we'll decided whether it needs to be patched or doctored in any way.
I am hugely optimistic that we'll be back to work far quicker than I first worried. Right now, the wound is hard and clean and the coronary band is quickly leveling off. Just a few days ago, it still looked like it was shoved upward.
I can't wait to see what my farrier thinks.
By now, everyone across the country has heard about the devastation that last week's fires have caused here in California. The destruction to our cities, neighborhoods, farms, and vineyards is nearly unfathomable. While I feel a great deal of compassion for the folks outside of my city, it's easier for me to cope when I turn my attention to those in my own community.
Last week, I shared a post about the Jackson Stable Fire in Oildale. As of this weekend, that family has received an outpouring of public support for which they are extremely grateful. Unfortunately, the families affected by the Cottonwood fire haven't received as much support from the community.
Several of the affected families desperately need help. Their horses were being temporarily housed at the fairgrounds, but they have no hay, buckets, or other essentials. I heard that one man was still wearing the clothes that he had on during the fire. I don't know if there is an organized support system in place yet, but I suspect that a quick call (661-833-4900) to the Kern County Fairgrounds might yield some answers.
On Thursday, when I took Speedy to the vet to have his coronary band injury looked at (more about that tomorrow), I met the only horse (of more than twenty) who survived the Cottonwood Fire. He's a handsome gray stallion with a very friendly eye. Dr. Tolley was kind enough to share the story of what happened to him.
During the fire, which was fueled by high winds, the metal shade roof in the stallion's pen was knocked to the ground. Somehow, it sheltered him from the blaze that ultimately killed more than 20 other horses.
Even with something to block the flames, the stallion's muzzle was burned, but the rest of his body was kept safe. The barrier couldn't protect him against the smoke though. His lungs have severe damage from smoke inhalation, and as of Thursday afternoon, he was showing the early signs of pneumonia.
The family who owns this horse lost several others in the fire, including a mare in foal. I don't know what their financial situation is, but I know it's not solid enough to easily pay the quickly mounting vet bill. Given what I know of them, this bill is going to be very difficult for them to pay.
After I paid Speedy's bill, I slid my card back across the counter and asked if I might make a payment toward the stallion's expenses. The staff at BVH thanked me and made it clear that the stallion's owners would be grateful. Several others had already phoned in contributions earlier in the day.
As of Thursday, the total bill was hovering around $2,000, but given the developing pneumonia, it will likely get higher. If you feel like you'd like to help someone affected by California's recent wildfires, I think this family would really appreciate it.
Bakersfield Vet Hospital can be reached at 661-832-1150. Simply tell them you'd like to contribute to the bill of the stallion from the fire. They'll know which horse you mean.
There isn't a horse owner out there who doesn't appreciate a barn stacked to the rafters with freshly delivered hay. I don't have to buy hay anymore, but I still love the sight of a two story tower of the green stuff. Our last delivery of the year came last week.
There are currently nine horses at the ranch, including my two, but there are usually eleven. There is a TB mare who is out for training, but she should be back before winter. Another one belongs to the neighbor, so he's not a regular resident, but he does stay with us when the neighbor travels out of state.
As such, we have enough horses to warrant buying hay in bulk, but not so many that we have to do it all year long. This load of alfalfa will be the last until summer. We already had enough grass hay to last through the winter.
The latest load of alfalfa is some of the prettiest that I've ever seen. It is super fine with nary a coarse piece. In an attempt to plump Speedy up before winter, the ranch owner has already opened the new stuff to see if she can tempt Speedy into eating every morsel. He tends to turn his nose up at the stemmier pieces.
When the hay was delivered by our local procurer of baled green stuff, he shared that this particular hay came from the very same load that he just sold to the US Olympic team. We're trying to get our hands on the hay analysis that was required by the Olympic team. Ranch owner and I are both curious to see what it shows.
Thanks to the ranch owner, I know my boys are getting the absolute best hay that can be found this side of the Rockies. Now all that's left to do is ride them!
When I first saw Speedy's injury cleared of the crust and gunk, I was certain he'd be out for six months. Now, I am thinking he might get back to work a whole lot sooner.
Each time I changed the bandage over the past two weeks, the wound looked quieter. Right now, it has lost all of the dramatic swelling and no raw-looking tissue is left. The dark spot you see is not a scab; it's new hoof, and best of all, it's hardening. Speedy has continued to be sound, and other than being annoyed at not having a job to do, he's quite comfortable.
We're going to the vet for a check up today. I am hoping Dr. Tolley says I can quit wrapping it as everything is firm with no soft tissue showing. No biggie if not. It's an easy wrap job, and from experience, I know that if I stay the course, this will heal up before I know it.
While I am there, I want to talk about helping one of the families who was affected by Monday's dramatic fires. I've heard that 23 horses died in the Cottonwood fire, and only one survived. That one is owned by Martha and Manuel Carillo. The horse was treated by Dr. Gonzalez, but the owners are not in a financial position to pay the bill. I am hoping BVH will let me make a payment toward their bill.
While my own vet bills have piled up this year, I have been blessed with the means to pay them. It wouldn't hurt to help someone else do the same. If you're local and want to help, BVH can be reached at 661-203-6365.
On Sunday and Monday, high winds swept across California, igniting wildfires in several large communities including Santa Rosa (north of San Fransisco) and Anaheim Hills (Los Angeles). Two large fires also struck Bakersfield, both within an hour of each other.
The first began in the south of town, burning several homes, but more tragically, approximately 20 horses were also killed. The second fire occurred along the river in Oildale. At least 5 horses were killed in that blaze. Thanks to the quick thinking of several firefighters, many horses were let loose, ultimately saving their lives.
The fire in Oildale decimated an entire boarding facility, including the owners' home. A call has gone out to help this family get back on its feet. If you would like to help, here is how you can do that.
For the victims of the Jackson Fire
Several friends have asked if my own equine family is safe, so I wanted to assure you that yes, we are fine. This is a terrible tragedy, and every horse owner in town has hugged their own ponies, thankful that they are safe. A barn fire is an owner's worst nightmare.
I hate to even say this as the universe will no doubt see it as a challenge, but man, oh man has big brown horse been kicking some butt! And I mean that in a good way.
Since our last lesson a few weeks ago, he has really been trying hard. Actually, while that's certainly true, it would be better to say that I've been trying hard. I've been focusing on eliminating the "perch" from my seat and using bigger half halts with quicker releases. I couldn't be happier with the big guy.
He's been so good that I've been pulling out movements from First Level to challenge him. He's got a pretty mean leg yield when I remember to control the left shoulder when heading left and bump over the haunches when heading right.
He was so rideable this weekend that I did the single loop at the canter and then played around with a canter exercise that Chemaine Hurtado (owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables) showed me years ago for Speedy. It's a simple canter exercise where you canter off the rail and then back several times down the long side. Not going to lie; Izzy owned that exercise.
Our trot work is our weakest area as he still wants to travel with a retracted neck, but he's slowly getting steadier in the bridle. He does seem to enjoy the more collected movements more than he does the long and low stuff. He's kind of the opposite of Speedy.
Between the two of them, I've got the total package!