From Endurance to Dressage
With Speedy on the disabled list, the what ifs start running amok. And once those things escape their cages, corralling them can be a serious endeavor. It starts with what if this is worse than it looks? That leads to what if it takes forever to heal? And then of course that becomes what if it doesn't heal? And naturally, everyone's favorite, what if he dies? always makes its appearance. Right now, I am wrestling with what if that was our last show season? Jerk.
A few posts ago I mentioned something about having a lot invested in Speedy. I wasn't talking about money. I have no idea what he's "worth" - if anything. No, what I meant was he and I have spent well over a decade fostering a relationship that meets both our needs. He knows that he can trust me with his life, and on my side of the equation, I know that this horse will show up and do his best for me every single time. That's not an easy thing to find. Or to let go of.
A week or so ago my California Dressage Society (CDS) plate arrived. When I opened it, I took a moment to savor it, but then I left it on my desk, mostly forgotten with all the drama surrounding Speedy's multiple leg injuries. Over the weekend, I had time to study it and was reminded of what a topsy turvy season we had in 2018.
I started the season feeling woefully ill prepared for Second Level. I was coping with severe migraines, Speedy didn't have a reliable simple change, and my sitting trot was anything but sitting. Even so, I entered show after show, and we pushed through it. By the season's end, we had earned our USDF Second Level Rider Performance Award, we were Second Level Champions within my CDS Chapter, and we took home a blue neck ribbon for the CDS Regional Adult Amateur Competition in the Second Level Elite division.
As I attached the newest plate to my plaque, I paused to look over the six seasons already represented. Not one single one of those seasons was easy. In fact, almost every one of them came after some sort of injury and layup. Year after year I've had to beat down the what if this is our last season? bully. And each year, Speedy has emerged better than the year before.
If Speedy is a bit accident prone, he's also shown himself to be a great rebounder. The dude loves having a job and is always ready to come back fighting. We're definitely on the bench for now, but we'll be back in the game soon. Speedy might not know we're aiming for a Third Level plate, but I do. And whatever I set out to achieve, Speedy is always right there with me, ready and willing.
Here's to that next plate!
You know how you get all of those If you could choose one thing, what would it be lists on Facebook? The list usually includes things like choose $100,000 cash, have a dream house, or be taller. If I could really have any of those pie-in-the-sky dreams, I'd wish to be able to eat anything I wanted without ever gaining weight. Losing weight sucks. It's hard, and it's forever.
Last June, my husband and I were having a heart to heart. We were both discussing the other's health risks. There were things I wanted him to work on to ensure that he's with me for decades to come. He pointed out that he had a similar concern; my weight.
Every woman on the planet knows when she is four pounds heavier than she ought to be. She doesn't need it pointed out. So when she's 40 pounds past what she ought to weigh, it's on her mind every time she zips up her pants or reaches down to tie her shoes.
So when my husband ever so gently pointed out that my weight was likely to cause future health problems, I felt my temper rise. But then I paused, realizing that he was absolutely right. I was overweight, and I wasn't doing anything but gaining. In fact, I had tossed out all of my smaller clothes and was rapidly filling my closet with items that gave me room to grow.
Before the words were completely out of his mouth, I decided to do something about it. I got on the scale for the first time in a long while. In case you haven't noticed, I'm what you might call vertically challenged. I am only 5'3," so 5 or 10 pounds on my lighter frame look like 25 on a taller person. The scale read somewhere over 160 pounds. I was horrified.
One thing that was frustrating for me was that there wasn't anything that I could just give up and immediately start losing. I don't drink coffee or sodas, I haven't eaten fast food in nearly 20 years, and I cook from scratch. We don't microwave meals or eat food from the freezer section of the grocery store. I am also really active. I don't go to the gym, but I teach PE every day, and I ride nearly seven days a week.
And? I was still a chunky monkey. Eating healthy food and being active wasn't enough. I knew how much I wanted to weigh, but I knew there was no chance I'd ever get there. Instead I set a realistic goal. My very first goal was to get back to 159 pounds. It took about three weeks.
I got completely honest with myself. Yes, I was eating healthy, but I was eating a LOT of healthy. Instead of three eggs for breakfast, I reduced it to 1. Instead of a loaded sandwich with potato salad on the side, I bought low calorie bread and ate an apple on the side. I got used to being hungry.
On average, I lost 1 to 2 pounds per week. I increased the number and variety of vegetables I cooked. I started having vegetables for breakfast. When we ate out, I chose a lot of vegetarian options and fruit or vegies on the side instead of fries or other starches. And once I hit 149 pounds, it was on!
I ate nothing sweet, no deserts or breads (other than my 45 calorie diet bread), and my portions got a lot smaller. I didn't stop eating though. I ate (and still eat) a hard boiled egg and a yogurt for weekday breakfasts. I eat a measured out baggie of nuts during the morning recess. Lunch is typically a sandwich with an apple. In the afternoons, I scrounge for grape tomatoes, baby carrots, a hunk of last night's protein, or fruit. I eat a regular dinner, but it's a lot smaller than it used to be, and half of my plate is filled with vegetables.
Throughout the fall, 139 pounds became my goal. I never thought I'd be able to lose 20 pounds, yet I did. Losing 30 pounds suddenly seemed possible. The holidays were tough, but I slogged through and even continued to lose weight. I constantly reminded myself of how great being thin would feel. Eventually, my goal was to weigh 129 pounds by my birthday which was on January 3rd.
I met that goal, but it took making some lifestyle changes. The biggest one was that I quit drinking alcohol in late June. It's not that I ever drank to excess, but I had a few glasses of wine every single day, or margaritas, or some hard ciders, or a lemon drop. Initially, I stopped drinking to see if it would hep eliminate the migraines. It didn't, but I realized how many calories I could save each day by drinking water or herbal tea instead.
It put a bit of a damper on our social life as well. People go out for drinks and food. That's just what adults do. Suddenly, I was the one ordering water and a plate of Brussels sprouts. Actually, the Crispy Glazed Brussels Sprouts at Eureka Burger are only 190 calories, and they are to die for! We no longer went wine tasting or to the wine events at local restaurants.
The one thing I gave myself permission to eat almost as much of as I wanted were the juicy fruits. At first it was watermelon and grapes. Later it was peaches and nectarines. Through the winter it's been apples, pears, and oranges. When I am hungry, I allow myself to indulge in fruits, even if it's two apples at a time.
I have one final goal, and I am only 3 pounds away. I want to hit 123 so that I can fluctuate up to 125. I know when we go out on the weekend or go to a party, I am going to gain a pound or two. My husband constantly reminds me that it's okay to indulge every once in a while. Having a range has helped me in the past, and I know it will help me feel better about that occasional sweet or greasy snack.
I am sure that both of my horses appreciate carrying almost 40 pounds less than they were packing last summer. I know it has helped my riding as well. My stamina has returned, and my balance is better. I have way more energy, I sleep better, and I am much fitter.
Dieting and weight loss have to be a personal goal. Don't lose weight for someone else. You'll only grow resentful, and you won't be able to keep it off. While my husband might have planted the seed, I really wanted to lose the weight for myself.
I've just finished my second herbal tea of the day. As I head back to the kitchen to make another cup, wish me luck as I pass those deliciously tempting lemon/raspberry cheesecake bars my husband made. He's not on a diet. That's okay. He's still getting sautéd zoodles for dinner.
More than one person has asked me how Speedy hurt himself in the first place. The short answer is that I only know how he hurt front leg number 2; I saw hunks of hair and flesh at the bottom of the gate as he was whirling back and forth in a fit of stupidity. So yeah, mark that particular mystery as solved.
The other two? Well, I am guessing that he also hurt leg number 1 in the same way. Even though we looked very carefully, we couldn't find blood or hair anywhere, so really, we're just guessing. As for the hind leg, who knows? Cutting the front of a hind leg is kind of hard to do. He would almost have had to back into something, kick through it, and then rake his leg as he pulled it back through. Horses, they're more talented than we give them credit for.
Speedy's a great horse. For me. He's not perfect though. As much as I adore his can and will do attitude at shows, managing him at home is not always so easy. Maybe we ought to just go on the road full time. It would certainly solve a few problems.
Horses need companions. They need to have a herd, even if it's just a herd of horse and chicken, horse and goat, or horse and blue barrel. As long as there is someone else, most horses are pretty happy. I've tried to always keep my horses where they had some type of companionship
Speedy is a bit of an enigma though. Depriving him of a friend is about the only way to keep him happy (and healthy). When we first moved to the ranch a few years ago, he and Willy lived together. When Speedy was out, Willy was in. In the mornings, Speedy came in while Willy went out. Things worked mostly well. Even though they always had a fence between them, Speedy was constantly sporting chew marks or gashes earned from playing with Willy. They were confirmed frenemies. Willy moved out a month or so ago.
Without the need to share the turnout anymore, Speedy got upgraded to full time turn out. His gate was left open, and he had full access to the dry pasture. That meant he also had full access to the hottie who lives next door. She's a lovely chestnut mare who uses her feminine wiles to keep everyone in her vicinity on their toes. You should see her haughty little hair flip, and when she really wants to drive the boys wild, she'll nap buck naked in the middle of her field without caring who sees her. Hussy.
Unfortunately, Speedy loves her just a little too much. When Willy lived with him, Speedy had to share Red Mare. Now that Willy's out of the picture, Speedy has her all to himself. Unfortunately, she became too much of a good thing and became all Speedy could think about. He took up residence at the gate so that he could be nearer to her while she went about her business. Stalker.
While being a stalker in real life is gross and creepy, it wouldn't have meant much in the equine world except that Speedy became a bit obsessed about being near Red Mare. And if he couldn't be near her, no one else was going to be permitted to either. Enter new equine ranch member. I haven't yet taken his picture, but Rocky is a nice enough fellow. He just had the misfortune of being placed next to Red Mare.
Speedy's response to that was an emphatic hell no! While the whirling and pacing had been irritating before, this newer, angrier pacing was self-destructive. I had hoped that Speedy would get over the fact that someone new could now visit with Red Mare, but it was not to be.
Speedy's infatuation with Red Mare quickly turned to obsession. He spent so much time frantically pacing that fence fence line that he carved out a trench over a foot deep. Reggie filled it in and packed it back down, but Speedy wasn't deterred. As soon as Reggie was finished, Speedy was back at it.
The gate, along with all of the perimeter fencing, is covered in no-climb wire to keep dogs, raccoons, and other wildlife out. The wire on Speedy's gate used to touch the ground, but with all of his frantic pacing, he has carved out a small section just big enough for me to slide my boot under. This is where he tore open his leg.
I do not know how he managed to get his leg under it enough to cut it how he did, but I do know that's how he cut at least the second leg. For now, Speedy is confined to his paddock. At 24 x 20, It's not small, but he could be living on a much larger piece of dirt.
Once Speedy's legs have both completely healed, we'll go back to our original formula. He'll be turned out only at night. That seemed to work the best. There's less movement by the other horses, and the ranch is quiet. Reggie also covered the rough edges at the bottom of the gate with a garden hose. It might look odd close up, but it was a clever fix. The hose was sliced lengthwise and then "sewn" to the bottom of the gate with the bailing twine. Speedy's not a pawer or chewer, so it should hold up well.
Speedy's become more and more relaxed back in his paddock - it was Willy's but we chose that one so he is closer to the rest of the horses. Over the past week, his face has lost its pinched, cranky look, and his eye is much softer.
I think he's relieved at not having to be The Boss. The truth is that Speedy is much more of a lover than a fighter, so this arrangement is suiting him just fine. Let's hope this more relaxed version of Speedy sticks around.
Today is Speedy's last day of being on antibiotics. We're both relieved. In case you haven't picked up on it by now, Speedy is a bit of a drama queen, "a person who habitually responds to situations in a melodramatic way." He's also a diva, "a self-important person who is temperamental and difficult to please (typically used of a woman)."
So picture trying to jam 10, jumbo sized pills down the throat of a dramatic diva. You can see it, right? It's not easy. The only good thing I've got going for me is that Speedy is ... no offense meant here, Buddy - short. What I haven't had going for me is that I am giving those pills in the near dark, in freezing cold temperatures, while it's raining. Oh, and I am trying to stay clean enough to go straight to work.
When Drs. Tolley and Gonzalez explained that I'd be dosing Speedy with 10 SMZ tablets twice daily for a week, both eyebrows shot straight up. Mine, not theirs. Doubt and skepticism were plastered all over my face. Speedy doesn't do pills. Especially when they're a plural. You would not believe the rigmarole we go through to give him his Prascend tablet each day. I say "we" as though I am giving it when in reality it's the ranch owner who doses him each morning. Same thing.
After Speedy had refused every yummy treat that you could hide a pill in, I finally just opened his mouth and shoved the Prascend in. With no treat. How D'Ya like them apples, Speedy G? Turns out, Speedy G prefers to take it like a man. From that morning on, Ranch Owner now just pets him for a few moments and then opens his mouth and slides the pill in. Speedy acts offended of course, but he gets to make his point, and we get to make ours.
That approach wasn't going to work for these bad boys. They're large, and did I mention that there are 10 of them? Dr. Gonzalez showed me how they do it. He gave me a catheter syringe with the applicator tip cut off. He then instructed me to drop the 10 pills into the tube and cover them with water.
If you've already been down this road, you'll know that those pills dissolve fast. But since I was doing this task in the cold and dark, I decided to bring a thermos of hot water. If you haven't tried it yet, hot water dissolves those pills on contact.
Dr. Gonzalez next recommended a few drops of Karo Syrup, but I like molasses for this type of thing. Besides that, I long ago trained Speedy to eat molasses shoved in his mouth.
I went out on a "limb" here for the next part. Instead of letting the molasses ride around on the top, I grabbed a twig from the ground and appointed it my official stirrer. I gently mixed the molasses into the pill goop until it was a lovely caramel color.
The whole thing actually looks and smells quite delicious. The pills turn into a marshmallowy texture and the molasses looks a lot like chocolate syrup. I am not sure why Speedy doesn't love it. I am tempted to have a taste myself. Once everything is well-mixed, the final step is getting it into his mouth. It's tough to get that whole tube in his mouth and depress the plunger while holding his head in place.
I've gotten pretty good at it (insert eye roll and deep sigh). It has become yet one more thing I'd rather not be competent at doing. Please, Speedy, no more stunts for a while. Okay?
Holy smokes, was I ever touched by all of your comments and prayers about Speedy's recent injury! Thank you for that. On Monday, I was so angry, at who I don't know, and frustrated that I knew if I had tried to write about it, I would have simply spewed fire and brimstone. While I am still very disappointed and quite worried - things don't always heal as smoothly as we would like, I am no longer angry. I've settled into my usual workmanlike attitude. I have a job to do, so I am just going to crank it out. WIth that ...
Yesterday we left off with Speedy sutured and bandaged. I was discouraged by the injury, but with a plan in place, I decided to just move forward. It was what it was, but this too would pass. I wanted to hang out at the barn for a while to make sure that Speedy was okay, so I saddled up Izzy.
I could hear Speedy calling as I rode, but that's pretty typical. He hates to be left behind. I worried a little bit that he might bang up his newly bandaged leg, but he had seemed quiet enough as I led Izzy away.
After our ride, I walked Izzy back toward his gate. My heart stopped. Blood was pouring down Speedy's other front leg, and hunks of hair were clinging to the bottom of the gate. Up until that point, we had been puzzled at how he had cut himself the first time. We had searched for any sign of hair or blood, but nothing was found. Now I knew. In addition, the first bandage was blood soaked and sagging. I was certain Speedy had ripped open the sutures.
I quickly pushed Izzy into his paddock, keeping his halter in hand for Speedy. As I tearfully placed the halter on Speedy, I frantically placed a call to the ranch owner. Speedy was dancing in hand, his marbles having been lost an hour earlier. I dragged him over to the hose and quickly began flushing the wound with cold water. I needed to see how deep it actually was.
My heart had already sunk so many times that morning that I simply quit thinking straight or logically. I had enough sense to snap a photo and send it to my vet, but from that point on, I was either sobbing while hyperventilating, or just sobbing. Just how much can one person take?
I called the vet again and was put straight through to the office manager. She urged me to take a breath and assured me that both vets would look at the photo immediately. I was still sobbing.
By this point the ranch owner had joined me and reassured me that it didn't look as bad as I feared. The bleeding quickly slowed to a trickle - which was probably mostly water by that point anyway. As I weeped incoherently into the phone, I handed it to her and she explained what we were seeing.
Both vets confirmed that it could be stapled closed if I wanted, or I could just as easily wrap it as I had the other one. Both wounds would heal in a similar time frame.
With the ranch owner's help, I slowly calmed down and carefully removed the first bandage. To my relief, there was no additional damage, just some seeping of blood. With Speedy protesting, I rewrapped that wound and then bandaged the new one. By the time we finished, Speedy had been stuffed full of candy, and now had three freshly bandaged legs.
On Wednesday, I removed all of the bandages in order of severity; I did the hind leg first. To my surprise, the wound had scabbed over and looked mostly healed. That leg was off my worry list.
The less-injured front leg looked remarkably better, prayer is a powerful thing. Even though the wound looked nearly knit together, I decided to re-bandage it anyway.
Feeling a bit encouraged by the progress of the first two wounds, I slowly unwrapped the final leg. Since I had stepped out of the treatment bay as the wound was being stitched, I didn't see it freshly sutured. I did see it flayed open however, so when I had a chance to closely exam Dr. Tolley's work, I was of course grossed out. After getting over my ew response, I closely examined the stitches and felt amazement at what he was able to repair.
Since Tuesday morning, I've been at the barn twice daily to give Speedy his antibiotics. If I was grateful for last weekend's three-day weekend, I am even more so this weekend. Driving out there twice a day has made this a long couple of days. I'll give Speedy the final dose of antibiotics on Monday afternoon.
I am also re-wrapping every other day. Today is a re-wrap day, so I am optimistic that things will have continued to improve. It might even be that the front leg without the stitches might be healed enough to stop bandaging. My fingers are crossed.
I am deeply disappointed, but my emotions are firmly in check. I haven't cried since Tuesday, and I am already moving on. Speedy's life is going to suck for a month or so, but then we'll be back at it.
Have a great weekend!
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. We're currently showing Third Level for the 2020 show season. 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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read