From Endurance to Dressage
Scales, Shots, and Speculums
On Saturday afternoon, both of my boys saw Dr. Tolley at Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital for their annual check ups. I don't know why I like spending so much money for something so mundane, but going to the vet for vaccinations and dentals is one of my favorite spring activities.
Dr. Tolley makes the visit interesting; I always learn something new. For this visit, Kathryn, BLAH's office manager taught me about a Latin American musical instrument created from an equine or bovine jaw bone. It's classified as an idiophone. When the flesh is removed and the bone is clean, the teeth are loosened and make a buzzing sound when struck with a stick or the hand. Relevancy? you might ask. It's why horses don't exactly love their teeth worked on. They feel the buzzing at the top of their heads which is annoying. Again, I love going to BLAH.
If I take Speedy anywhere by himself, he is confident and happy and trusts me to come back if I leave him. If I bring another horse, all of that goes out the window, and I become a nobody. That meant Izzy had to go in a holding pen first so that Speedy didn't get left by himself. While Izzy will call and whinny for Speedy, he won't actively try to maim himself like Speedy will do. So, Izzy was put in a pen while I walked Speedy over to the scale. He usually weighs 950 exactly, but for this visit he clocked in at 968. Not sure where he's putting it, but I was happy to see the higher number as he looks a little thin to me.
Dr. Tolley Gave Speedy a thorough exam. The one thing he always comments on is a weird shape in Speedy's left eye. There are a few black dots that always cause Dr. Tolley to pause, so he urged me to keep my own eye on it as uveitis can be painful and dangerous to the health of an equine eye. According to Dr. Tolley, Speedy looks good, his weight is good, and his teeth were in great shape for a horse who will be 19 in three weeks.
Even though Speedy's teeth looked great, Dr. Tolley couldn't resist "cleaning" them up just a little bit. Once he was finished, I grabbed the ever present bucket with cotton and soap and gave Speedy's sheath a good cleaning. Dr. Tolley can do it of course, but I always beat him to it. My boys are pretty good about letting me get up in there, but it's a lot easier when they've dropped all the way. While I finished with Speedy's man parts, Dr. Tolley gave Speedy his vaccinations. And with Speedy drunk off his butt - those afternoon cocktails work quickly, we led him over to Izzy's catch pen and swapped horses. As Izzy walked out, Speedy didn't even look his way. A drunk horse is a quiet horse.
Izzy is much better behaved than Speedy, but Dr. Tolley gave him a cocktail as well. Before doing so however, we weighed him on the outside scale, and for the first time in more than eight years. Izzy topped the 1,400 mark. He weighed in at a solid 1,410, sixty pounds more than usual. Dr. Tolley was really impressed with Izzy's overall condition. He felt that Izzy finally had a body condition score of 5. Izzy's a pretty big horse at 16'3," but he's not easy to keep weight on. He eats a massive amount of grass hay along with a bucket of beet pulp and rice bran each day, but grass hay is just not the type of hay to feed a horse who could use more weight. If we give him alfalfa or any other fat supplement, his energy level skyrockets, which is something I don't need.
Izzy's teeth were also in pretty good shape, not quite as nice as Speedy's but he's also a few years younger. As I had done with Speedy, I also cleaned Izzy's sheath, he lets me pick off junk every time I tack up, so there wasn't much to be cleaned off. Once I was finished, Dr. Tolley vaccinated him, and that was it. Kathryn took Izzy over to wait in the pen next to Speedy while I followed Dr. Tolley back to the office to pay my bill. I also bought an extra tube of Dormosedan Gel to keep on hand and got certificates of vaccination for each horse. The entire staff at Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital is simply the best. I am always treated like a friend and never just a walking checkbook. The doctors, vet techs, and office staff all care a great deal about their clients - both equine and human.
And by the way, BLAH is offering a 25% discount on dentals through the end of the month. You still have time to take advantage of the discount!
Sock it to Me
OMG. The list of things I love is long: breeches, belts, vests, technical riding shirts, ... SOCKS! Socks are easy to love because they are relatively cheap and they always help out a shopping cart that needs just a few more dollars to qualify for free shipping. I can't tell you how many times I have spent $20 in socks to avoid paying $7.95 in shipping. Admit, you've done the same, am I right?
My two favorites are Over the Calf Peddies by Noble Outfitters and C4s. These two brands wear the longest, they stay up, and they're thin enough to wear with tall boots. Despite loving socks, a year or so ago I had to put the kibosh on buying more. I had a draw full of tall socks AND a pile of brand new socks that I had yet to even wear. To get control of my sock pile, I decided that when I saw a hole in the toe or heel of a current pair, then and only then, could I open a new pair, but I also had to throw out a pair. And wouldn't you know it, my old pairs suddenly turned into kevlar. I could not wear the darn things out.
Over the past couple of months, I have finally thrown out a couple of pairs and have been able to open a new pair here and there. This weekend, I started looking at my available sock choices and realized that half of them are looking pretty threadbare with holes imminent. I fell off the proverbial wagon and opened a new pair of C4s without throwing out an old pair first. In my defense, I was doing laundry and didn't have a lot to choose from. As my back stock of socks quickly becomes everyday socks, I think I may need to start ordering socks again. Unfortunately, the C4 socks are available on Amazon which means free shipping. On a single pair of socks.
Uh-oh, I might be in trouble!
It's official: I may never ride again. Here in California's Central Valley, we are "enjoying" the 14th wettest rain year since the late 1880s, and more is on the way. Our lower lying areas are facing pretty severe flooding, including flooding from many of the levees that are designed to keep water in, not out. The river is bank to bank. I fully expect to see it at the bottom of the pasture fence this afternoon. It poured yesterday afternoon and into the evening.
I've already cancelled my Saturday lesson, and even more rain is predicted next week. I promise not to complain about this summer's heat.
No, really, I mean it!
Is That Broken?
Raise your hand if you've had your foot stomped on by a horse, any horse. I see you. Raise your hand if you've lost toenails from said foot stomping. I see you, too. Raise your hand if your pedicurist gives you an odd look every time they strip your old nail polish because your toenail is either half gone or because your nail bed is still purple eight months later. You, too? Sucks, doesn't it?
Over the weekend, my husband was grumbling about sore feet. He made me look at his "swollen" and discolored toes. I laughed about it and told him that with age comes some wear and tear. I kicked off my slippers to show him how purple my toenails are. One in particular. As I lined up both feet to compare one to the other, I shrieked in horror! One of my toes, especially the one on the right foot, the foot that Izzy stomped on several times this past summer and fall, was protruding at an odd angle.
Last summer and fall, Izzy stomped on my foot several times over a few months. One hit was so hard that the right side of my foot was numb for many months. For most of the fall, my foot was swollen and of course black and blue. It hurt like hell each time he did it. I never bothered to go to the doctor because I could still move my toes. And besides, what could the doctor do for a toe?
Now, as I compare my left foot to the right, it is quite obvious that that middle toe is NQR - not quite right. To prove to my husband that we all have things wrong with our feet, I gave my bent toes a big wiggle and said, see? No big deal. The next morning, my right foot was sore and aching. Sheesh!
Now that I have looked more closely at the right foot, I am inclined to admit that that toe, or even more than the single toe, has been broken. Maybe more than once. Maybe more than twice.
You know, I think I am due for a pedicure!
M.A.R.E. - Week 10
I have enjoyed volunteering at MARE, and have even signed up for extra hours to help with an Easter Camp during my Spring Break. I am somewhat regretting that moment of generosity. The time slot is four hours long, and MARE is a 40-minute drive from my house. I am sort of hoping that they get too many volunteers, and as a result, won't need me.
Last week, I did a terrible job of taking photos. The problem is that volunteers are supposed to leave their devices in the lockers because a distracted volunteer is a bad volunteer. I have been able to get away with keeping my phone in my pocket because I am discreet about using it, and both trainers know that I understand the rules. I don't check it for messages, and I know that any photos I do take must NOT contain any children.
For this visit, my tenth, I left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth. My policy, especially here in this space, has been if I don't have anything nice to say, I don't say it. I don't throw people under the bus. I don't attack anyone. I don't share photos of people doing dumb or abusive things. I tend to stay in my lane and write about what I am learning. I plan to stick to that philosophy, but in this case, what I learned doesn't necessarily reflect well on MARE.
On a typical Wednesday, there are two trainers, a barn captain, and one to three volunteers. Occasionally, like the last several weeks, the volunteer coordinator has also been on hand. This equates to four commanding officers and a couple of privates. With more generals than soldiers, the chain of command gets pretty confusing. You can probably guess where this is going.
When a volunteer arrives, she signs in, gets her name tag from the drawer, and then checks the board for her assignment. I typically arrive a few minutes after three even though the next lesson doesn't begin until four. That means I have half an hour or so for another task. This past week, I noticed that Trainer 1 wasn't there, but the volunteer coordinator was. Initially, I was to be the four o'clock horse handler for Haven. Trainer 2 told me there had been a change, and the volunteer coordinator was to be the horse handler so I was to be the off-side, side walker. A different volunteer was to be the near side, side-walker. Okey-doke.
I really don't care which job I have, so I saluted metaphorically, and dove back into the bin of bridles I had been cleaning for the past few weeks. A few minutes later, I was told that while I was the side-walker, the volunteer coordinator had some paperwork to do, so I was asked to tack up Haven which is the horse handler's job. Again, no problem.
As I was heading out to get Haven from the pasture, I saw that another volunteer already had Haven in the crossties. I gave some sort of startled exclamation, something along the lines of, oh, I must have misunderstood. The volunteer gave a similar exclamation, oh, I wasn't paying attention. I volunteered to bring in George for her, but she quickly handed me Haven's lead rope and ran off to retrieve George herself, Again, no big deal as I am just boots on the ground.
As we finished tacking up, George's handler asked which way we were to exit the barn to get to the arena. I pointed to my right and said we go that way. T2 popped around the corner and asked us to circle around the other way. I inferred that the route change had to do with the lake that was at the end of the arena. Since no one had come to relieve me of Haven, I continued in the role of horse handler and went where I was directed with the second volunteer following.
Almost immediately, the volunteer coordinator came rushing out and told us we were going the wrong way. I explained that T2 had asked us to use the drier route, but the volunteer coordinator insisted we turn around and proceed along the normal path. We both turned our horses around which put the other volunteer in the lead. I was wearing my tall muck boots, but she was wearing running shoes. The path in the opposite direction was covered with mud and water. She stopped, which I took to mean that she wasn't going to be able to lead George through without soaking her feet, so I moved to pass her on the right.
Suddenly, the volunteer coordinator gave a sharp warning about keeping two horse lengths between each horse. I tried to explain the situation, but she wouldn't hear it. She took the lead rope from me and proceeded to get both horses through the mud and water. I didn't stick around to watch. I surrendered, said no problem, and went back into the barn. I am not in charge, and I am not about to argue with anyone who is.
I was pretty annoyed by the whole situation. The path we were taking was wide enough for leading ponies, but not necessarily wide enough for turning and reorganizing. Had we proceeded forward as directed, we would have stayed on drier ground and arrived at the mounting ramp, albeit from the opposite direction. There was plenty of space at the ramp to circle around and bring the horses up to the ramp heading in the correct direction.
Since I wasn't the horse handler for the lesson, I shrugged it off and went out front to wait for my rider. As the side walker, my job was to fit her with a helmet and escort her to the ramp. Meanwhile, the volunteer coordinator waited with Haven off to the side of the ramp. I sat down at the picnic table and waited. As the minutes ticked by, it was clear that the student wasn't coming. After 15 minutes, T2 told the volunteer coordinator that it was a quarter after so Haven could be untacked.
After filling Smoothie's hay net as asked by T2, I asked the volunteer coordinator if she wanted me to untack Haven so that she could finish her office duties. I might have been feeling a bit pushed around already, but even so, I think her curt refusal of my help was personal. Again, I shrugged my shoulders and went back out front to sit.
Once the lesson was over, the horses were untacked and put away in the barn. I asked T2 if I should hang Smoothie's hay net, and she thanked me for filling it and said please do. As I went into his stall to hang the net, the volunteer coordinator asked if I knew how to hang a hay net. If I could have raised a single eye brow, I would have. There was a loop hanging down with a snap on it. Almost anyone with half a brain could put two and two together. I politely responded that I was good.
And then, the real drama started. Smoothie has been under the vet's care for an injury sustained a few weeks ago. T1 normally administers his meds, but since she wasn't there, T2 asked the volunteer coordinator to follow T1's instructions for the administration of the pills. Knightly also needs meds, so T2 asked the volunteer coordinator to ready those as well. Suddenly, there was a boatload of estrogen in the barn aisle. The volunteer coordinator didn't like T1's system for administering the medication and wanted to do it her way. T2 said that's what T1 wanted so that was the way it should be done.
As for me, I stepped out of anyone's line of site and let them work it out amongst themselves. Frankly, I wanted to just unpin my name tag and get the heck out of there. It was fairly easy to see that there doesn't exist a clear chain of command. The facility has an executive director, a volunteer coordinator, two trainers, barn captains for each shift, and a lot of volunteers. I think there might also be someone responsible for day-to-day financials. I imagine that this type of power struggle is pretty common in volunteer-based organizations. Everyone thinks she has the best way for things to be done.
As a volunteer who was only doing what she was told, I found the experience a little off-putting. In-house bickering is bound to happen, but the clients shouldn't see it, and neither should the volunteers. I am hoping things are a little more settled this afternoon.
If not, my schedule for Spring Break might just open up.
About the Writer and Rider
I am a lifelong rider.
I began endurance riding in 1996 where I ultimately completed five, one-day 100 mile races, the 200-mile Death Valley Encounter, and numerous other 50, 65, and 75 mile races. I began showing dressage in 2010.
Welcome to my dressage journey.
About Speedy G
Speedy went from endurance horse to dressage horse. After helping me earn a USDF Bronze medal in the summer of 2020, he is now semi-retired. Speedy is a 2004, 15'1 hand, purebred Arabian gelding. His Arabian Horse Registry name is G Ima Starr FA.
Izzy was started as a four-year old and then spent the next 18 months in pasture growing up. I bought him as a six-year old, and together, we are showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: