From Endurance to Dressage
Coats Are Waived
After getting both Speedy and Izzy blanketed and prepared for Friday night's massive storm, I slept well knowing both boys were warm and safe.
I texted the ranch owner to let her know my boys were blanketed and added that I was worried whether Izzy would keep his on or not.
She called the next morning while she was feeding to say that both horses were still dressed but that all of the paddocks had a lot of water. I told her I'd be coming out a few hours later to pull blankets.
I got to the ranch at about noon. From my truck, I first noticed the newly formed lakes everywhere, and then I saw that Izzy's blanket had been pulled already. I didn't see it hanging anywhere which made me wonder where it might be.
Oh my garbanzo beans; you big jerk! I waded out to the far side of the paddock to see if the blanket was salvageable. Izzy waded in after me.
I stared at Izzy's BRAND NEW blanket as it laying shivering in the mud.
It's a waterproof blanket, but only if the outside is on the outside. It had rained again between the time I spoke with the ranch owner and the time I made it out there. Izzy must have gotten it off shortly after our chat.
It was so heavy that I could barely heave it over the fence. Since it was already soaking wet, I sprayed it off so that it would dry cleanly. Miraculously, it was all in one piece. Mostly.
I know who won't be wearing a coat for the rest of the winter.
All Dressed Up
When it comes to the Great Blanket Debate, I fall right in the middle. Some horses need to be blanketed, some don't. And frankly, it's none of my business if you choose to blanket your horse or not. Why anyone cares about someone else's blanketed horse is beyond me. I can only think of one exception: years ago, when I kept my horses at boarding barn, there was a woman who kept a nylon sheet on her horse in the dead of summer because she thought by forcing him to sweat, it would keep her horse "cooler." Every day, I would pull the sheet off the poor, sweat-soaked horse and rinse the crusted salt off the sheet. I would hang it dry, fold it, and put it away for her. The next day, the sheet would be back on the horse. Holy hell.
Besides that one instance, I pay no mind to what another horse is wearing. As I drove out to the barn on Friday afternoon, I decided it was time for blankets. Our local meteorologist was predicting a storm unlike anything we've seen in at least a generation. Not only were we going to get inundated with record rainfall, but the temperature was predicted to drop to near freezing with howling wind. Both of my boys have a roof, but nothing to block the wind.
That's usually not a problem as we rarely get the perfect storm of wet, windy, and low temperatures. Two of the them yes, but never all three at once. If it's wet, it's usually in the 50s. If it's blowing, again warmer temperatures. If it's freezing, it's almost guaranteed to be calm and still. My horses aren't clipped, so they stay plenty warm throughout the winter.
With such severe weather on the way, I knew my boys would appreciate being warm. It was the first time that Izzy has worn a blanket in at least two years, maybe three. Speedy wore his maybe once last winter. It had been so long that Izzy had worn a blanket that I couldn't even remember what it looked like. I keep both winter blankets in a storage bag. When I pulled Izzy's out, it still had the tags on it. He tore his last one up with his teeth, so this one is the replacement.
While I blanketed, I checked the weather repeatedly. The wind was gusting, but It was still 60 degrees. My weather app kept insisting the rain was coming, but it was a hard call to make. For Izzy, standing around in a full winter blanket in 60 degree temperature would have been uncomfortable for him. I trust our meteorologist though, so the blankets stayed on. Late that night, I heard the rain and was happy I had decided to blanket.
Our annual rainfall hovers right around six inches per year. On Friday night, we received over two inches in about eight hours. Besides being wet, it was also cold enough for some parts of town to see a light dusting of snow. When I got up the next morning and saw how much it had rained, I was grateful that I had thought to put their blanket on. Izzy hated wearing it, but I know that deep down he appreciated it.
Getting it on him took some trust rebuilding as he was pretty sure I was trying to do something nefarious. Once he realized that there was a game involved he stood rock solid as I adjusted the buckles and straps. Once the blanket was on, it was game on! These selfies are hilarious. Check out how our expressions are nearly matched. LOL
Maybe I ought to blanket more often. It was a load of fun!
Help! I Wrecked My House
I am an HGTV fan. Sometimes, I hit record, move on to something else, and then come back just to watch the big reveal. Those shows give me a sense of empowerment, especially since so many of them feature women who can swing a hammer. I am pretty handy myself, so when I saw what Izzy had done to his fence, I figured I could fix it myself.
Since this paddock was built for Dollar the stallion, the fence stands close to six feet tall. It's also lined with no climb wire all the way around. Dollar lived there for at least a decade, so the fence has started to show some wear and tear. Izzy is not helping.
Izzy recently started pawing at the bottom of the fence when I am in the tack room or hanging out cleaning tack. He craves constant attention, and he quickly realized that pawing at the fence makes all sorts of entertaining noises, including me yelling at him to QUIT IT!
He has pawed at it so much that it came loose which provided him with even more fun. Over the long weekend, I bought a heavy duty staple gun, and asked Reggie, who works at the ranch, for help tidying up the fence. I cleared away about half of the dirt and leaves with a stick and rake before Reggie told me it would be faster for him to use the leaf blower, a shovel, and the tractor.
I always hate to ask him to do jobs for me, but he always seems happy to help. And really, it is his job to take care of those kinds of projects, but I hate to heap more work on him. I always jump in as his assistant, but I am not sure if he finds that helpful or not. While I rode, which kept Izzy out of the way, Reggie dug out the rest of the dirt and set to work reattaching the fence. He quickly abandoned my stable gun in favor of much heavier duty nails.
Once I was done riding, I kept Reggie company and jumped in when I could. I am particularly good at opening and closing the gate. Once the fence was reattached at the bottom, Reggie used the tractor to bank the dirt back against the bottom of the fence as well as pack it down. The dirt provides a bit of a barrier to the fence.
By the time Reggie had finished, the fence was securely fastened, but as we were putting Izzy away, Reggie spotted another section of the fence near the gate that he thought needed more repair. He promised to take care of it after lunch. I thanked him and let him know that whenever he got to it, it would be much appreciated. He did, and it was.
Maybe we can get a show on HGTV: Palatial Paddocks, My Barn is a Wreck, or The Mess that Horses Make. I'd watch any of them.
Back to the Gastro Elm
Since we started Izzy on the new grass hay, he has been struggling a bit. At first, his poop got pretty funky, but only off and on. Then there was that lesson where I knew he wasn't feeling his best. It took about two weeks for the loose poop to disappear, but over the weekend, I could tell that he was just a bit off. He was more whoa than go which is not his normal MO.
On Monday, when he was still acting lethargic, it occurred to me that while his poop was once again looking great, his tummy might be a bit sour. The last time we went through this type of thing was actually two years ago in February. Whether the time of year has anything to do with it or not, I don't know, but I have started Izzy on the Gastro Elm again. It worked wonders for him in the past - until I overdid it.
He got the first dose on Monday, and with just one dose, he felt like he was back to normal. I still gave him another dose, but I have now learned that the Gastro Elm can be too much of a good thing, especially for Izzy. With that in mind, I am only going to give him just another couple of doses and then wait to see what he does.
We have some pretty dramatic weather on the way for the next few days, so I don't know whether I'll have a lesson or not. I am not even sure I'll get to ride him. If I don't get to ride, I'll view it as an opportunity to let his tummy settle back down. If I do get to ride, I'll be able to judge how he feels.
This time, I am searching for the Goldilocks effect, a just right amount.
M.A.R.E - Week 6
It's hard to believe, but last Wednesday I finished my first six-week session as a volunteer at M.A.R.E. When I first reached out to MARE's director, I committed to one session with an eye to a longer commitment. So far, I am finding the experience to be very rewarding. Tonight begins my second six-week session.
My volunteer schedule is 3:30 - 6:00 p.m., but most weeks I arrive just a few minutes after 3:00. I like to be there early not only because I hate to be late, but it gives me a chance to see what my assignment is for the day. Also, there is usually an extra job waiting for me. Last week, the only thing on the schedule for me was to be the horse handler at 5:00. I was disappointed, but I quickly found something to do. I grabbed the blower and realized that the barn aisle looked much messier than normal.
Before I could finish that task, Trainer 1 (T1) asked if I could weigh hay for dinner and breakfast. Every single hay meal is carefully weighed. There is a board above the scale that indicates the number of pounds of each type of hay, alfalfa or grass, that each horse is to receive. Hay is usually weighed earlier in the day, so I was happy to see the process so that in the future, I will be able to do it alone if needed. There are currently nine horses living at MARE; Paco moved on to a different job at a different facility. With eighteen buckets to fill, the job takes a while. Morey the mini is the smallest horse on the property, and Knightly, who stands over 18 hands, is the largest.
Just before finishing weighing the hay, I was asked to fill in as horse handler for the four o'clock lessons as the barn captain had to leave early. I quickly saddled Cricket the Haflinger, this time remembering how to place the pad and surcingle both. When the lesson was finished, I remembered to put Cricket away before cleaning tack, but by the time I came back to do it, another volunteer had already taken care of it.
The lesson with Cricket involved weaving around cones and stepping into a box made from poles on the ground. The students threw bean bags and asked the horses to whoa right where the bean bag landed. Again, I remembered to wait for the student to ask for the whoa before halting Cricket. I quickly discovered that Cricket is not the docile pony I thought her to be. As I began leading her around the cones, I realized that Cricket doesn't bend unless Cricket wants to. I had a moment of panic when I realized that Cricket was completely ignoring me and we were not going to weave around anything.
Not wanting to unseat my rider with too firm a correction, I growled at Cricket and shoved an elbow into her neck and told her in a very LOUD whisper, MOVE IT SISTER! It took two or three hard shoves, but Cricket eventually got the message. I later let T1 know that I had a bit of trouble, but she laughed it off saying that Cricket tests all of the new volunteers.
Because the 5:00 student will be switching trainers and days, both trainers handled that lesson which left me without a job. I needn't have worried. T1 asked if I would do the morning grain buckets. Of course I said yes, but I needed a quick tutorial. Similar to the hay, each horse's grain is meticulously measured out. The recipe for each horse's morning grain bucket is displayed on a large board which means anyone who understands the code can fill the buckets.
While both trainers worked with pony Haven and her rider, I set to work filling all of the grain buckets. As I worked, the barn got very quiet, and before long, I realized I was the last volunteer. With all of the buckets filled, I walked to the arena and watched the remainder of the lesson. Near the end, T2 served as a side walker, and T1 was the horse handler. Suddenly, peals of laughter floated across the arena as T1 trotted off with Haven in hand. If that little girl's joyous laughter could have been bottled, someone would be very rich indeed. I couldn't help smiling; her laughter was infectious.
At the end of the lesson, T1 handed Haven over to me to be untacked and put away. After a quick groom, I dressed her in her blanket, and then put Sadie's blanket and hock covers on her. While the two trainers finished their debrief, I schlepped all of the poles out of the arena and stacked them next to the barn. As I finished, both trainers joined me in returning the cones, and then it was time to feed. All but two of the horses sleep in the barn. The two biggies, Reina and Knightly, get turned out into two of the big pastures at night. I had already been shown how to open their gates for the night, so that was one task I already knew how to do.
By the time the last horse had been fed and all of the doors and lights checked and closed, it was past six o'clock. I was dirty and tired, but as I waved goodbye, we called out to each other, see you next week!
I'll be at it again tonight.
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%: