From Endurance to Dressage
My Dressage Court Needs a Facelift
My dressage court is looking a little ratty. My footing is great. My arena rails are great. What's not so great are my letters. Last June, I built a dressage court with wooden rails and water bottles serving as my letters. It worked great!
Lately, I've noticed that none of my jugs have letters. Many of my jugs have lost their lids, and others have sprung leaks. It's a really cheap DIY project, and normally, I would have replaced the jugs with fresh ones long before now. Except ...
Somehow, I don't think it would be very much appreciated if I waltzed into my local Target and walked out with 12 gallons of bottled water. I think they call that hoarding. Besides that, there's probably a 2 bottle limit. I think it's going to be a while before I get new bottles.
I did not think it was possible, but I am approaching burnout when it comes to all media. I now know why people take a break from Facebook. Some of it is self-inflicted like my daily check of the CDC and the WHO websites. Those are the only forms of "news" I trust right now. The rest of it comes across as hyperbole which makes it difficult to filter out the nuggets of truth hidden amongst all of the noise.
The rest of it, the virtual interactions, have become part of my job. While I use a lot of websites and apps in my role as a teacher, those interactions are offset by the face to face time I spend with my kiddos. Now that we aren't meeting face to face, my face to screen time now dominates my day. I am not a fan.
One issue is that my hours are no longer typical school hours. Parents and kids message me when they can, and for most, that's not from 7:20 - 2:50, my contracted work hours (or in my case, from 6:00 a.m. when I typically arrive at school). Since I am not physically at school from 6:00 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. - I go to the barn in the mid-morning, eat lunch whenever I feel like it, and run an errand if need be (like getting diesel), I feel obligated to respond to a parent or student message no matter the day or time. On Saturday, I answered a number of messages. I did the same thing on Sunday.
Many of my students' parents are essential workers - we live in America's garden after all, so they're still at work. The time they have to communicate with me is in the evening and on weekends. I feel that it's my duty to respond, especially since there is no question that my situation leaves me nothing to complain about. I can still ride my horses, I am getting paid, my husband is getting paid, I get to sleep in, and I live outside of town, so social distancing is super easy.
So what does my day look like? Well the first thing I usually do is open my MacBook and write a blog post. After that I check my two personal email accounts and maybe spend a few minutes checking in with friends and family on Facebook. From there, it's game on.
Depending what my tasks are for the day, I then open my work-assigned Chromebook to check my Google Mail account for school. By the second or third day, I realized that waiting to check those message until morning was way too hard, so I added my school email to my phone. I never really understood the need for individual mailboxes before; now I do. I simply can't keep all of the message straight, and the important ones were getting lost in the shuffle. With a school account on my phone, I can now sort through those messages throughout the day no matter where I am.
I am also attending Zoom meetings. Many of you have probably been using Zoom for a while, but in teaching, especially for the little guys, face to face interactions are much more effective. Right now, we're doing staff meetings and grade level PLC meetings on Zoom. I am toying with the idea of having a class meeting via Zoom, but I'll only risk that if I get desperate. Eleven year olds can be unpredictable.
The email messages lead me to my ParentSquare messages. If you haven't used ParentSquare, think of it as Facebook for a school or district. It's actually an amazing app that is really saving our butts during distance learning. It can be a bit overwhelming though. I get message from my district, my school site, and individual people. I also create posts which then generate even more messages in the form of responses. In ParentSquare, I can relay updates to families as well as let them know when I have assigned work in the Google Classroom.
The Google Classroom is where I assign and correct student work. The Google Classroom also has a comment/chat feature which I had turned off all year. Real life chatting is rampant as it is; I didn't need to add virtual chatting as well. Since I can't call on raised hands to answer questions, nor can we hold classroom discussions, I have turned that feature back on which means I have an entire new level of messaging that I need to both monitor and respond to. Plus, kids can ask me questions about their assignments.
I am also assigning work in Next Gen Math which means I creat the assignments and then check back to see who has completed them and monitor how they did.
This week, since all the kids are picking up their laptops* from school, I am also assigning 20 minutes a day on Lexia Core 5. It's a leveled program that allows kids to practice a variety of reading skills, but the teacher uses the interface to find out where kids are stuck and offers intervention.
* I'll be at work on Wednesday and Thursday from 8:30 - 11:30 to distribute laptops, and on Thursday, I'll then drive to another school to hand out meals from 11:00 - 12:30. I will definitely appreciate the break from staring at my screen.
Once the kids have their laptops, I'll also be assigning and checking their Accelerated Reader quizzes. Depending how long distance learning continues, right now we're scheduled to return to school in early May, there are even more apps and websites that I can use. Last week and this week, I assigned work in BrainPop.
Work isn't the only place I am juggling apps and websites. I am also still running our CDS chapter's Facebook page and website. We had a show scheduled for late April, but after USEF extended the ban on showing, we cancelled that show and are in the midst of rescheduling for October.
I've decided I am just too busy to monitor yet another message source. So for now, I am closing comments on my blog. You can still comment of course, but you'll have to do it on Facebook. I share my blog posts there each morning, and the posts are always public. So if you have something you want to share, or you just need to tell me what a terrible person I am, find me on Facebook.
The Cabin Room
Today, I am heading to the vet, but thank goodness it's not for one of my horses. It's also not an emergency, but the horse is a senior citizen with some soundness issues. The friend doesn't have a trailer, and the vet she sees is out of town.
Not the best time to be doing that, but we have a plan. Lots of hand sanitizer, Clorox wipes, and social distancing will be involved. She's the only one going into the vet office; I'll hang out in the truck. If you're going to be going anywhere right now, a medical facility where the focus is on minimizing exposure to germs is your best bet.
In the meantime, I wanted to share another household acquisition. A few weeks ago, I showed you the Dog Room. And yes, we really call it that. We also have a Cabin Room.
When we bought this house more than three years ago, even we were intimated by its size. There are five bedrooms, but only two of us. It was, and still is, way too much house, but we liked the location a lot, and that's the one thing that you can't change. Location. While the house is finally furnished, we're still working on the details. After finding a better dresser for the Dog Room, I started looking a lot closer at the bare wall in the Cabin Room.
The decor probably does look out of place and a little ... thematic? I get it, but there's a reason. A few months ago, we finally sold our cabin. This is the furniture that was up there. It looked very appropriate in our little A-frame of a mountain place. It seemed really silly to toss out perfectly nice furniture, and besides, we had a lot of fun up there. So, we decided to keep most of the bedroom furniture. That's why it's called the Cabin Room.
We had one big wall though that didn't have a thing on it. It hasn't bothered me too much because the whole house is a slow work in progress. For Valentine's day, I bought my husband a large wall canvas of a photo that he had taken of a train utilizing the Tehachapi Loop. If you have a minute, you should read about it. It's kind of famous in the train world. Anyway, we replaced a print that was sort of ho-hum with the canvas. Like I said, the house is a work in progress.
Since he liked that print so well, I started paying attention to what he was posting on Facebook. He's been having fun with his new iPhone's camera, so when I saw a series of pictures that I really liked, I ordered three more canvases using his photos. Last night, we hung them in the Cabin Room.
They're not super "cabin-y", but they're colorful and very personal. The one in the middle with Tobias is hilarious if you look at really closely. He has a huge grin on his face, and in the distance, you can see Yellow Dog madly trying to catch up.
I did tell my husband that the next canvas, or canvases, that I order, will have horses in them. Good thing this house has plenty of wall space.
Use the Energy
What with all that's happening in the world right now, I am having trouble remembering what day it is. So when I say I had a lesson a week or so ago, it might have been two weeks or three days ago. I am not sure. A few weeks before that, I had a lesson, and in that one, we worked on getting Speedy's hind end very active. When we started this most recent lesson, my first question was how to use that new hind end energy.
Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, nearly clapped her hands in excitement. I think she'd thought I'd never ask. Right away, she had me get Speedy going. When I had trouble knowing how much to get him going or what get him going even looked like, she use the word excited. Get him excited. Oh, okay.
It sounded easy, but it wasn't. I just wasn't really feeling what she was asking me to do. Basically, she wanted me to build up the energy in his hind legs without letting it leak out through his front end. Then, we took that energy and used it in the shoulder in and half pass. When he felt too quick or heavy in the front end, she wanted me to use the half halt to tell his front end to slow down so that his hind end could catch up. When I kept him "short" front to back, he could carry and push more effectively from behind.
The videos have excellent sound, so you can hear Chemaine explaining it better than I can. And because I am nothing if not honest, you can see my struggle for yourself. We have some really pretty moments here, but some of them are not so pretty.
At the end of the second video, we got some really nice medium trot. Speedy loves that movement and tries his heart out. This is probably some of the longest reach he's ever given me. I have never been able to capture a photo of him with so much extension. When I first looked at the image below, I thought his hind end was not nearly engaged enough, so I did a little drawing.
The two yellow lines are exact matches. I drew a yellow line on his front leg first. Then I copied it and pasted it to the hind leg without making any changes in the length or angle of the line. I did the same thing with the purple lines. The lines show that his legs are moving nearly parallel with one another. The outside hind (yellow) could use a little more angle in his hocks, but otherwise, he's pretty even.
Here's another shot a stride or two later.
This year's show season may be not what we all had hoped for, but I just figure that I am using this time to get better and better. By the time we can show again, we'll have no problem getting the scores we need.
There's always a silver lining.
It actually should be called therapy for boredom. Or maybe just convenience. When you spend a lot of hours in front of the computer, which is what I've been doing lately, it's easy to check out that sale ad that just popped into your inbox. I am usually too busy to click on a BOGO sale which works out just fine for my budget.
So when I saw a BOGO sale from Dover last week, I actually paused before hitting delete. I had a few minutes so I thought why not check it out. In my defense, I had already been thinking of freshening up my supply of breeches. Right now, I am rotating between three pairs of these (which I love), two pair of these (I also like these a lot), this pair (very cute but not great in the summer), and these (which show EVERYTHING which makes me feel naked). It sounds like a lot of choices, but they all serve their own purpose: when it's hot as holy hell, when it's cold, when I am taking a lesson where people might see me, when I need to get dirty, etc.
I don't order from Dover very often. But lately, they've made ordering a bit sweeter. Shipping is getting cheaper (it's free right now on everything), and sized items come with free return shipping. So when I saw that the breeches I had already been eyeballing in the Spring 2020 catalogue had a BOGO deal, I threw some things in my cart.
I always liked SmartPak's Pipers - I had at least four pair, but I HATED, HATED, HATED how they fit. No matter what size I bought - my size, a size up, a size down, the boogers always sagged. I finally gave up. There are two pair in that photo above. When I saw the Wellesley Breeches, made by Dover, I was intrigued. They're similarly styled, although not quite as colorful. I thought they were worth a try.
I have to say, these are now at the top of my rotation. The fit is spot on. There is no sag, and they're surprisingly long enough. They sort of feel like pajama bottoms. Breeches will never be as comfortable as tights, but these are pretty close. There are pockets, but they're not great. The rear pockets are cute but ineffective for my purposes, and my cell phone barely fits in a front pocket, and only while I am standing. That's really the only negative I would give these breeches. In fact, I like them so much that I have a second pair sitting in my cart. I just need to hit buy.
The other pair I bought, the Stride Full Seat Tech Tights, are hands down the most comfortable athletic feeling tights I've ever owned. Don't get me wrong, I love my Horze HyPer Flex Full Seat Tights, but these are even better. I worried that all that contrast stitching might rub, but it doesn't. What it does do is hide some of my curvier parts. And those pockets? HUGE and deep enough to hold my phone with no fear of it being lost or dropped.
I also have a pair of these sitting in my cart. I am trying so hard to hit buy. But if I do that, I really might start to feel like I am hoarding. I don't need two more pair, but once I find something I like, I try to buy it in twos. For the sake of my checking account, I am going to let them sit there for a day or two.
And Dover, if you're listening, please quit reminding me that they're there!
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%: