From Endurance to Dressage
I had to wait a few days before I could wrote this post. I am no longer angry - I may have dropped more than a few F bombs, but I am frustrated, disappointed, and worried. Yet again, Speedy and I will be starting the show season later than planned. Before I tell you what happened, I'd like to share some photos from Sunday's lesson.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, braved a winter storm to come to Bakersfield to give lessons.
We worked on the regular stuff: getting Speedy in front of my leg, establishing a softer bend, and the medium trot.
I was giggling out loud at his medium trot. It's not quite an extended trot, but it was the most uphill trot he has offered, and boy was it fun to ride.
Twelve hours later, I got a text from the ranch owner letting me know Speedy had injured his leg. This photo came with the text.
I emailed the photo to my vet who urged me to bring Speedy to the vet hospital quickly. Without hesitation, I raced to the barn, loaded Speedy in the trailer and made the 40 minute drive to Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital. As mentioned earlier, I dropped F bombs the whole way.
I carefully unloaded Speedy and slowly walked him into the stocks so that Dr. Tolley could get a good look at what Speedy had done to himself. It wasn't pretty. I'll share the photo of what it looked like when the vet first examined it, but once Dr. Tolley started to pare away the damaged skin, the wound looked much, much worse.
Dr. Tolley quickly tranquilized Speedy, and then he went to work with his clippers (I bet they're not 20 years old - see? Not angry.) removing as much of Speedy's winter coat as he could. There was an injury to the hind leg that was actually deeper than it first appeared, but it was not serious. The more severe injury was to the front leg which had a large V-flap laceration.
Dr. Tolley explained that we could treat the larger wound in one of two ways. He could simply cut away the skin leaving an open wound that would need to be re-wrapped every other day until the gap could epithelialize. I had already done that with Izzy's wound, so no thanks. Option 2 was to try and stitch the skin back together. If that was at all possible, I wanted it done. Dr. Tolley also explained that while not advisable, one could simply clean it, and let it heal on its own. This treatment would take longer and leave plenty of scar tissue under the flap of skin. I told him that wasn't really an option I wanted to consider. He agreed.
As Dr. Tolley began working, he repeatedly injected the wound with lidocaine to block any nerve pain. Speedy was having none of it though as he consistently jerked his leg from Dr. Tolley. I could hear the frustration in Dr. Tolley's voice. I've been a client of his for 2 decades. In all that time, I had never seen him look anything but confidant. He finally gave a deep sigh and shook his head.
He told me that he should have knocked Speedy out completely. It was too late by that time, however as the drugs needed accomplish that couldn't be safely combined with the drugs that Speedy had already been given. By this point in the procedure, blood was pooling on the floor, and my nerves had had enough. I felt engulfed by fear and worry. Speedy's always been my pal, but at that moment, I realized how attached I am to the guy. I recognized that at nearly 15 years of age, Speedy was probably more than halfway through his life. Eventually, I will have to make some hard decisions.
I pride myself on how casually I handle vet visits. I never get anxious or worried. I approach these kinds of injuries with a very unperturbed, matter of fact attitude. After wards, I might fall apart, but never during. This time, with this injury, I felt myself losing it. For the first time ever, I had to leave the examine bay and stand outside.
I stood close enough to listen, but the conversation was very quiet and very tense. Without being aware of it, the team had positioned themselves in such a way as to keep Speedy calm and less reactive. Rudy had applied a twitch and everyone else, including Dr. Gonzalez, assisted with the surgical aspect of repairing Speedy's leg. My anxious presence wasn't helpful. I kept my distance.
By the time they had finished, I had myself under control. I am not sure why this particular visit left me feeling so terrified; Speedy is not going to die from a laceration to his leg. Maybe it's because I have so much invested in him. Not just financially; I have dreams and plans still to accomplish with him, and he deserves to be the one to help me get there.
When the sutures were done, Speedy was escorted to a stall where he could sober up. Dr. Tolley and I discussed Speedy's at-home treatment. He was given an antibiotic injection, but would need 10 SMZ antibiotic pills twice daily. He would also need the wound re-wrapped every other day with a pressure bandage - it's a good thing I am an expert.
One graphic photo below.
After discussing Speedy's Cushing's Disease diagnosis and my show plans for the year, I paid the bill and loaded Speedy up for the drive home. Once home, I turned him out as usual and went to ride Izzy. When I walked Izzy back to his paddock, I was met with a devastating scene.
To keep anyone from worrying, Speedy is okay, but I am simply too tired to tell the rest of the story today. Check back tomorrow to see what else happened.
This is definitely not a topic I've ever covered here before. Why would I; who wants to talk about clippers? When I first had that thought, I realized the answer was just about every other equestrian in the normal world. Clipper land is just not some place I visit very often which makes me the abnormal one. Weird, but true.
While I could body clip, or at least do a trace clip, to make winter grooming easier, I prefer not to. I don't blanket because our winter weather is just way too mild. We rarely get temperatures that are both wet and cold. On top of that, it only rains about 10 times a year. If I were to blanket, they would have to be removed every morning and replaced every afternoon. The ranch owner doesn't really want to do that, and neither do I. So, my boys grow winter coats and shed them when they're ready.
Over the weekend, I finally got tired of wrestling my bridles over the jungle of hair that was growing behind both of my boys' ears. Bridle paths, jaw hair, fetlocks, and protruding ear hairs are all that I actually clip. During show season, I keep their bridle paths, and all other above mentioned areas, neatly trimmed. A messy bridle path is more than a little obvious against a sleek, summer coat. During the middle of winter though, it almost disappears, or is at least unobtrusive, when viewed through Speedy's polar bear coat. The same goes for fetlocks and jaw hair.
A month or so ago, I finally bought a new pair of clipper blades, but I hadn't yet used them. See above. With a three-day weekend, I had enough "extra" time to pull out my clippers and replace the old blades. As I was cracking the blades out of their hard plastic casing, I stopped to wonder at how old my clippers were. Pretty old I realized.
I did some quick googling and found that yes, Oster does still make these clippers and they even come with the same accessories that came with mine nearly 20 years ago. I count the age of something based on where we lived when I bought the thing. We've lived here just over 2 years. We lived at our last house for 11 years, the one before that for 2, and the one before that for 6. Add it all up and take away a year or 2 because I don't remember exactly when I bought them at that first house. That means that I bought these clippers somewhere around '99 or 2000.
I am a little embarrassed to admit this, but I take terrible care of my clippers. I never clean them, unless you count blowing on the blades to remove stray hairs. I know there is a filter under the bottom cap that I have dusted off, but it's been years. I never oil anything, spray anything (except some cooling spray that is as old as the clippers), or get the blades sharpened. In fact, I use the blades until they literally cannot cut through a single hair. Gross, I know.
The only good thing I do for my clippers is to keep them in a storage bag. I also refrain from winding the cord around the clippers themselves. At this point, I am afraid to do anything other than replace the blades. I am pretty sure whatever dirt and hair are caked to the motor are what is holding everything together.
My clippers get stored at the bottom of my braiding box. Hey, that counts as another good thing I do to protect my clippers. As I dug through the pile of loose braiding bands and discarded candy wrappers (Speedy's not mine), I found an old pair of cordless clippers that never worked right. I realized that my braiding box was a jumbled up mess. I was inspired to do a thorough cleaning.
After attaching new blades and dumping everything out of my box and reorganizing it, I finally got to Speedy's bridle path; Izzy's too. And you know what? New, sharp blades actually cut straight through the hair! In one pass! Who knew?
Both boys started shedding in January. I can't decide if I want them to hurry up and shed the rest, or do I want them to slow down because February is turning out to be much colder and wetter than normal. Either way, I am now armed and ready to tackle this summer's bridle paths. And jaw hairs, old man ear hairs, and Speedy's fetlocks.
Anyone else out there living with old clippers and shaggy horses? We need to form a club.
Hay nets are ubiquitous. We use them in our trailers, show stalls, and regular stall. Anywhere there's a horse, a hay net of some type is bound to be nearby. I used Freedom Feeder hay nets for quite a while, for both horses. When I moved to the ranch, I tossed the nets I had left - they were pretty worn out anyway, and went with the feeding containers at the ranch.
I am thinking of going back to a Freedom Feeder for Izzy, if it's okay with the ranch owner since she's the one who feeds. Izzy eats primarily grass hay which would be easy to load. My hope would be that less would get shoved out of his feeder onto the ground. He scatters the grass hay as he looks for the tiny bit of alfalfa that he gets. He's also bit of a pig so he poops practically in his feeder which means the whole area gets a bit nasty.
I've had a hay net tied to the little trailer where I tack up, and both boys really enjoy grazing from it while they wait. I load the hay net with a flake of alfalfa for Izzy and grass hay for Speedy. Both horses have learned how to push the net around until the "flavor" they like is in front of them. This net is a little big though so it stretches nearly to the ground. The hay also gets wedge in so tightly that it makes eating a slower process than is ideal.
In an effort to make eating a bit easier, I untied the hay net and tossed it on the ground. Both horses took to it immediately. Speedy seems to appreciate munching while spending time with me - sometimes that much adoration can get annoying, but whatever. I've also found that Izzy is WAY more relaxed eating this way than when the net is hanging. I am sure it has something to do with the whole head down equals relaxation thing. And no worries about entanglement; I'm puttering close by so neither horse is actually unattended. I also hang the net back up when I am done.
And of course, nothing gets done without first getting Speedy's approval. Given his recent attitude - more on that in another post, he may be getting a Freedom Feeder, too. They keep us thinking all the time, don't they?
I had a funny "recall" moment the other day. I'll get to my point, but first ...
Endurance races were grueling, gritty, and hard-core affairs. If your horse crossed the finish line in last place hungrily looking for his hay bag, the day was a success. If the rider could make it to the awards dinner with only a few scratches and some seriously smelly clothes, the entire weekend was worth the multiple tanks of gas to get there. Endurance racing is an extreme sport for sure; it's raw, it's bone crushing, and it will wear you out. I loved it though.
When I first started showing dressage, I thought it was just a big party. White pants? A coat in the summer? Weird, but let's do this! Instead of being mounted for 10 - 20 hours, I rode for an hour. Maybe. Instead of looking for the ubiquitous neon pink trail ribbons, I watched for letters. I tried to get everyone I knew to come and show. It's fun. It's cheap. You'll love it. The most common "no" that I heard was My horse isn't ready.
Upon hearing the scores from my first show ever. The "trainer" I had just lessoned with warned me not to tell anyone that I had ridden with her. She predicted I'd earn a 36% and didn't want my scores to reflect on her. The joke was on her as we earned two scores of 63.5%. You can bet I didn't mention her name.
I wondered how a horse couldn't be ready. Can he walk, trot, and canter? Then he's ready. This was of course as I was making my way through Introductory Level and then Training Level. I honestly believed that any horse who was sound and could stay in the ring was ready. I still felt this way at First Level. So maybe a lengthening of stride wasn't there, but come on, it's just basic stuff.
And now I get it. Third Level. We're just not ready, and I don't see how we will get ready. There simply isn't enough time to get everything show ready by March or April. We have a chunk of the Third Level stuff good to go. I can get a nice bouncy collected trot. Speedy loves the medium trot even if he can't really show utmost ground cover. We have a show-worthy turn on the haunches, and the 10-meter stuff is pretty easy for him.
What we don't have is a reliable flying change, especially after being off for more than a month due to those two abscesses. The half pass isn't that great either. Unlike a trainer from eons ago, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, isn't (too) worried about me embarrassing her. It's really the other way around. I don't want to get out there and make her look bad.
I've made her promise not to let me show if I am going to go out there and look stupid. She always laughs, but I am dead serious. I don't want to end up on some YouTube video or on a COTH thread about riders who are idiots.
On the other hand, I refuse to succumb to the we're not ready excuse. I don't think I am ever going to feel ready for Third Level. I am going to have to settle for at least we're trying.
Besides that, we've already looked like idiots plenty of times. What's one more?
A day or so ago, I got this text from the ranch owner ...
Speedy can be a gigantic pain in the butt. He's a total diva, constantly demanding that each and every individual quirk become the world's priority. But then I get a message like this one, and my heart melts. For all of his bravado, Speedy is quite the tender heart.
I got to the ranch too late to ride yesterday afternoon; I had a doctor's appointment. Totally off topic, but after more than a year, the neurologist has just about eliminated my migraines. (If you're a new or casual visitor, I rode through last summer's show season with migraines so severe that I couldn't tell one lead from the other.) I recently started taking a monthly injection in an attempt to prevent ANY headaches from occurring. So far, I am down to just a few a month. This is a huge improvement over having a migraine nearly every day of the week.
Since I didn't have quite enough time to ride, I puttered around the barn instead. The first thing I did was grab Speedy and turn him loose out in the yard. He was thrilled to hang out with his girl as he grazed on all the new winter grass. She happily tagged along with him as he nibbled the grass along her fence line.
While Speedy visited with his lady friend, I swept out the feed room, unloaded my monthly supply of LMF Senior, and prepped both boys' evening buckets. I love to putter; it clears out the mental cobwebs. You all know what I mean. It's like cleaning stalls, each fork-full eliminates one more pile of mental garbage. The broom does the same thing.
Since Speedy has taken up residence at his gate, and I mean literally at the gate, his field has had a good soaking from the rain. The intermittent storms have been followed with bright sunshine that has encouraged some lovely new grass to sprout. Since Speedy hasn't left the gate in the past month, he had no idea what deliciousness was just steps away.
After feeding both boys, I walked out into Speedy's field knowing that he would follow me. In no time at all he noticed the grass and helped himself to a few mouthfuls. I don't know that he'll feel comfortable wandering down there on his own, but at least he knows the walk will be worth it.
We'll both be glad when the Red Mare moves back in. I think the ranch owner was right; Speedy seems a bit lonely. This is a three-day weekend for me, so I plan to spend as much time as I can letting him visit with his lady friend. Riding will help him feel better too.
Thank goodness for Fridays.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read