Wish us luck!
It's no secret that my main goal for this summer show season is to earn my USDF Bronze Medal. For those of you that don't show dressage, the Bronze Medal marks a pretty important milestone for riders. To earn one, you need two scores of 60% or greater from two different judges at First, Second, and Third Levels. It's hard to do, and for most riders, it takes a long time to do, if it even ever happens.
We were so close at the June show. I missed my first score by just a few points. The very next weekend, after fixing some geometry issues, we earned a 62% and a 63% at a CDS-rated show. While the scores counted for a lot of other California Dressage Society (CDS) awards, they didn't count towards the medal, BUT it proves that we're right there.
We're leaving this morning for a 2-day, USDF/USEF/CDS-rated show at El Sueno Equestrian Center. With four tests over the weekend, I have four chances to earn a qualifying score. Since my scores need to come from two different judges, only one score can count. Do I want it? Yes, desperately. I can get it, I know I can. But if we don't, there's always a next show.
There's a lot to be said for the power of positive self talk. This weekend, I am going to do a lot of positive visualization and a lot of positive verbal affirmation. Speedy is a rockstar, I am a good rider, and we're ready!
Wish us luck!
I left the barn at 11:00 p.m. Friday night, only to roll back in at 7:30 a.m. the next morning. I hadn't received a text from the ranch owner so I knew that nothing was wrong, but I needed to check Speedy myself. At first glance, he looked relaxed, if a bit thin.
I left him to his breakfast and saddled up Izzy. Even he was a bit distracted by Speedy being in Pixie and Archie's dry lot. There was a fair amount of hollering at first, but eventually all of the horses settled down when they realized we were just going to the arena and no further.
After riding Izzy, I pulled Speedy out for a good going over making sure I hadn't missed anything. The night before, I had hosed him off, but it was too dark to see anything other than a gaping wound (of which he didn't have). In the light of day, I noticed that his pasterns looked crusty and scabby.
I now know why he was so sore the day before. The rubs weren't there on Friday, and he didn't wear the bell boots on Friday night, the night of the earthquake. I think the rubs just took a day before popping out. I filled a bucket with clean water and iodine prep solution. I grabbed a clean towel and a variety of ointments and skin topicals. Three of his four pasterns bore rub marks from the bell boots, the very items I used to protect him. They ranged in severity from very slight on the front pastern, to obviously painful in the back.
We have a two-day USDF show this weekend, so I have been babysitting those rubs like crazy. The front one is no longer a concern, and one of the back ones looks pretty decent. The other one? It's a mess. He's sound, but it can't feel good. I am scrubbing them clean each day and coating them with coconut oil and adding a layer of Scarlex for good measure.
he ranch owner and I had a long chat about Speedy. He's lost three pasture pals since last fall. First, Pixie was moved over to live with Archie, and then Willy was sold. Speedy's latest pasture mate, Rocky, only stayed a month or so before moving up to the mountains. Frankly, he's been quite stressed out by the loss of his companions.
We decided that Speedy might be happier if we moved him into half of Izzy's dry lot pasture. Izzy's field is crossed fenced with an open gate that allows him access to both sides. Both areas have their own access gate, lots of trees for shelter, and for Speedy, two mares live directly in front of the half that is now his. I dragged all of Speedy's particulars to his new home: his feed bucket, salt block, a water trough, and a tub for his hay. I am hoping this will keep him from feeling so isolated. And so far, the pacing and whirling have disappeared. Even when I take Izzy out he's not concerned.
I've resisted putting my boys so close together out of fear that Speedy will grow too attached to Izzy and really freak out when I separate them. Jokes on me, I guess. The weird thing was that as soon as they were side by side, all three of us took a deep, relaxing breath. My sense of symmetry and balance was satisfied, and both boys looked instantly at peace.
In summation, Operation Bubble Wrap was an epic failure. The only good thing that came out of it all was that Speedy now lives right next door to Izzy which makes things a little more convenient for me. Here's to hoping this is a long term fix for Speedy's anxiety. He could really use some quiet time.
And that's that.
So where were we? Oh, yes, Kern County had just been rocked by one of the biggest earthquakes in recent memory, and the neighbors were busy shooting off illegal fireworks the day after the 4th of July.
I've lived in California my whole life excluding being born in Alaska - my dad was in the army and stationed at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks, and living abroad my senior year of high school. Earthquakes are just a thing. No one worries about them, and in fact, they generate a lot of excited buzz when one happens.
This one, this earthquake? It was HUGE. Unless you live in a cave, you've probably seen the video clips of water sloshing out of pools (ours looked like Fatty McFatso had just done a ginormous cannonball), cracked roads, and fires burning. We didn't just feel it, we braced ourselves against the wall and waited ... and waited ... and waited some more for the earth to stop heaving and rolling.
We knew it was a big quake. A few weeks ago, we felt a 3.4 quake with an epicenter immediately below us. That was weird. I was riding Izzy during the 6.4 quake that happened on July 4th and didn't feel a thing. This one though, we felt it, and since we felt it in Bakersfield, 80 miles from Ridgecrest, we knew it had to be colossal. We were right.
About 30 minutes after Friday night's earthquake, I got a call from the ranch owner telling me that Speedy was in trouble. I threw on a pair of boots and hustled out there. Before I even made it to his paddock, I stopped by the feed room for a tube of Dormosedan that I'd been saving for an emergency.
The ranch owner had Speedy's halter in hand, but she hadn't been able to get close to him. I couldn't blame her. It was pitch black, and Speedy was simply terrified. Whether the earthquake had started the panic attack or not, the fireworks coming from across the river were driving it. Speedy bolted past me without even glancing my direction. Little by little I was able to affect his direction of flight until he suddenly noticed me. I quickly threw my arms around him and slid the halter on.
He body was dripping a sticky, foamy sweat, his eyes were rolling about frantically, and the veins stood out in his neck. We moved him away from his paddock to the hay barn where I quickly shoved the syringe of Dormosedan under his tongue. It's a sublingual sedative that takes about 40 minutes to work.
We pushed Speedy to the back side of the barn where two of the ranch's senior citizens live. Speedy is great friends with Pixie and immediately let some of his tension go when he saw her. I grabbed a hose and started spraying him off hoping to cool him down as well as distract him. I tossed him a flake of hay and stood chatting with the ranch owner as Speedy's terror slowly dissipated.
The ranch owner moved Pixie and Archie to the grass pasture immediately adjacent to their dry lot so that Speedy could spend the night near them and away from the fireworks. The Dormosedan began to work much more quickly that I had expected, so within a half an hour, Speedy's head was hanging.
By that time, the ranch owner had headed back to the house, and I was left to sit with my sedated snowflake. I eventually worried about how heavily sedated he appeared to be. I didn't want him to fall over, so I ran back to the feed room and grabbed my stethoscope. Public Service Announcement: if you don't yet have one, get yourself one and practice using it. Every few minutes I took Speedy's pulse. He clocked in at a slightly elevated 44 beats per minute (32 - 36 bpm is the normal resting rate for most equines). Once he found some hay scraps, it jumped to 52 bpm which actually made me feel better because it only spiked a few extra beats.
Dormosedan lasts anywhere from 1 - 3 hours. After about 90 minutes, Speedy began perking up enough to wander around, sniffing out hay. I had tossed most of it to Pixie and Archie (sedated horses really shouldn't eat or drink), but there was a pile up near the fence in front of which Speedy settled himself. By that time, it was 11:00 p.m., I felt it was safe to leave him. The fireworks had passed, he had taken a long drink of water, peed, rolled, and was now hungry.
I went to bed hoping that Saturday morning would bring an end to Operation Bubble Wrap. It did not. To be continued yet again ...
To my complete relief, the neighbors across the river didn't make a peep on the 4th of July. I was almost mad; I had done a lot of prepping to cover Speedy's body in "horse friendly" armor, all for nothing
Early the next morning, I pulled in to the barn to see Speedy pacing. He was not at all pleased about being kept in all night. I tried to explain to him that it was for his own safety, but it was all a bunch of yada, yada, yada, to him.
I pulled off his leg wraps, bell boots, and fly sheet. His body looked injury free, and I breathed a big sigh of relief. One of the tell-tale signs that he's been anxious over-night is that his coat will be crusty with dried sweat and dirt. So while I know he paced most of the night - the dirt in his paddock was all shoved out at the end, he hadn't worked himself up to a sweaty mess.
Knowing a long stretchy walk would do him good, I decided to tack him up and meander the neighborhood, something he always enjoys. From the first step, I knew something was amiss. His stride was short but evenly so on all four legs. He also acted like he'd been freshly trimmed. He minced forward, practically on his tippy toes.
I urged him down the driveway, keeping to the pebble-free cement and grassy shoulder. Knowing that he was clearly uncomfortable, I circled back to the ranch, aiming for every grassy path I could find. While on grass, he seemed fine. Knowing that he had paced and whirled most of the night, I chalked up his tender-footedness to having walked too many miles the night before.
I pulled Speedy's tack and sent him into the yard to graze while I rode Izzy. By the time I was finished, Speedy was standing in the grass half asleep with his lip drooping and his hind leg cocked. Knowing that he wasn't likely to cause much trouble, I decided to leave him turned out in the dry pasture rather than cooping him up yet again in his paddock. Since we had made it through the 4th of July relatively unscathed, I turned him loose with just a fly sheet and fly mask, no bell boots or leg wraps.
That would probably have been fine except that California chose that night to once again shake holy hell out of Kern County. As if that weren't enough, the neighbors across the river decided that fireworks post Independence Day paired nicely with a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. Speedy lost his marbles.
To be continued ...
Between the fireworks on the 4th and the continuing earthquakes, Speedy's last couple of days have been rather rough. He's okay, but he is definitely getting a few days off to recover.
If we're friends on Facebook, you already saw the machinations and launch of Operation Bubble Wrap (OBW). The 4th of July kind of sucks if you own horses and dogs. Everyone is okay - mostly, but it was a stressful holiday for team Speedy.
Speedy does not like the 4th of July. He does not like barbecues. He's also not too fond of New Year's Eve. Basically, he's a big party pooper.
Early last week, the ranch owner and I discussed how to get Speedy safely through the 4th of July holiday. We all know what he can do to himself on a day without explosions and flashing lights. The first thing that we always do when the activity level exceeds his threshold of acceptance is to restrict his movement.
Speedy lives in a large paddock during the day, but at night his gate is opened to allow him turnout when things are quiet and not likely to press his over-react button. When anything unusual happens, like when the neighbors throw a party, he gets locked in at night. I've found that while he's protesting the noise by hurtling his body through space, he can't pick up as much steam in his paddock.
Given that limiting his space to run wild hasn't eliminated his ability to rip himself to shreds, I decided to cover as much of his body as possible. On July 3rd, many people start their fireworks display, so I did a dress rehearsal. I wrapped only his front legs hoping that he would leave the bandages alone. I didn't want to do all four legs at once in case he freaked out because of leg wraps.
Then I started covering the rest of his body. He got his regular fly mask, and I covered him with a fly sheet that I had tried a few years ago. The first time he wore the flysheet HE. HATED. IT. which is why I never used it again. For this go-round, he acted as though he wears a flysheet daily. Win-win I figured.
I left him on July 3rd with my fingers crossed that Operation Bubble Wrap would work. To my surprise, everything was still in place on the 4th. The sheet was undamaged, the wraps were snug and clean, and the bell boots were firmly velcroed.
I took everything off, gave him a good grooming - he was ITCHY, and then rode him long enough to get him good and tired. I figured it couldn't hurt to wear him out a little. That alone can minimize his desire to run wildly. I gave him a bath, turned him out in the yard to graze while he dried, and then I reapplied everything, including the bell boots and wraps on his hind legs. Operation Bubble Wrap was launched, and I all could do was wait and see if it kept him safe.
To be continued ...
Season three starts tomorrow! I hate to get so excited about a show for 12-year-old girls, but I am. Don't judge. Many of you are probably looking forward to season 3 as well, am I right?!
If you haven't seen seasons one and two, go watch them. It's a really cute show and definitely worth either binge watching the whole show in one day, or for me, just watching a half hour each day. As for me, I can't wait to see what kind of trouble Zoe and her friends get into this summer. Enjoy your weekend!
Summer, or show season as it should really be called, is usually the most expensive season for me as a horse owner. Speedy's recent "winter of woe" however, wherein he managed to rack up thousands of dollars in vet bills, really challenged my bank account. I just can't get those bills paid off. I say that, but the reality is that I could pay them off if I would make other (better?) choices.
My husband has been pretty supportive of the "pay it later" plan, especially given that I spent $681 on shows and another $230 on lessons last month. Not doing those two things would have enabled me to take care of my outstanding vet bill. I would have been miserable though. Whoever says money can't buy happiness is either wrong or just stupid.
At the end of June, I had to order a new box of Prascend at $277.00. The box will last 160 days, so at least I won't have to reorder until the fall. The Prascend is to treat Speedy's Cushing's Disease. That charge is getting added in with the other pay it later bills.
As I was planning the rest of my summer budget, I decided that it would be okay to do two shows each month in July and August. That will end our show season though which means I can then get my vet bills and the Prascend paid for in September. That will be a relief.
If we don't get our two bronze medal scores, there isn't another show until October, so I am hopeful that I can still pay those other bills in September, or at least one of them. Once those are paid, I can once again start saving for next year's show season or another winter of woe, whichever comes first.
Horses. They're expensive, you know?
If I had to write a sale ad for Izzy this week, I might start off with Awesome trail horse, goes where you point him. No, I am not kidding.
As before, I met up on Saturday with my friend Marci at her house along with her Arab gelding Gem. As we first walked out, Izzy wanted to be a giraffe, but that really only lasted a few minutes. Once we were actually out on the trail, he was relaxed and happy no matter which direction we went.
For this outing, we decided to ride the trails that lie north of the river. Since Gem is now working at more of an endurance pace, which means a lot more trotting, I told Marci that we were good trotting the wider, level trails. I didn't want Gem to get too frustrated at having to wait for his much slower friend.
Gem already has a really efficient, ground-covering trot. Izzy doesn't. He had to work really hard to stay balanced without running on his forehand. When Gem would start to put some distance between us, Izzy would try to quicken his pace but hollow his back. Instead of doing that, I half halted to remind him to sit on his hind end, and then I asked him to push forward. We did some fairly long trot sets so Izzy got some excellent practice at lengthening his stride and using his back more effectively.
Izzy was foot perfect on the trails. Hard packed or sandy, he picked up his feet and was careful where he put them. We took a trail that was quite overgrown with low hanging branches, not a problem for shorter Gem, but definitely a problem for my big brown horse. I slid off the side and led Izzy under the limbs. Even though he had to duck, he never batted an eye. And when I finally found a small berm tall enough to use as a mounting block, Izzy stood patiently while I hopped back up in the saddle.
There was only one area where Izzy tried to exit stage right. As we passed through Rancho Rio, a neighboring stable, he gave an emphatic heck no! at the hissing, grinding pump that resides in the middle of the road. Having ridden other horses past, I should have remembered that it's a bit of a bug -a-boo for most horses the first few times they pass by, especially since it starts and stops intermittently.
I don't mind if my horses want to stop and do a safety check. I get it, stuff is scary. Whirling and slamming on the breaks exceeds what I call a safety check though. It also says that my horse has no confidence in my decision-making skills. I started carrying a long thin rope as a "whacker" for moments just like these. I grabbed the line and popped Izzy behind my leg until he shot past the offensive pump.
Stopping and checking in with me is allowed. Taking matters into your hands is not. When we passed by it later, I was quite pleased that he didn't even look at it. It might have helped that it was being quiet, but whatever, I'll take the win.
Other than that one moment, Izzy was quite the confident trail pony. we crossed the weir again, this time with him in the lead. He was tense, but he did it without too much urging. The bicycle bridges have also been a bit scary, but he crossed those again as well without issue. The second time, he even led.
My friend Marci has been an amazing resource. Even though she and Gem are now working at a beginning endurance pace, she's been willing to slow it down so that Izzy and I can join her. At least occasionally.
If we never get to show, at least I know Izzy can always be a trail horse. And we all know that doing different things with our horses gives them broader experience and challenges their minds and bodies in new and often refreshing ways.
And besides that, I think he actually enjoys going out on the trail!
There is nothing I like better than to brag on the cool things people are doing, especially if it is someone I know. Yeah, it's cool to share about my own great scores and ribbons, but it is so much more inspiring for ME when I get to see people I actually know being super successful.
To illustrate my point, do you all know about Lehua Custer? She was recently awarded the 2019 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize in the amount of $25,000. While we're not "friends," I do see her at shows and have chatted with her on a number of occasions. She's incredibly nice and deserves all of the success she's experiencing. Meeting people who are outstanding at what they do always inspires me to reach for more than what I think I can do.
Enter my friend Amy of Blue Canyon Ceramics Co. Amy is a geologist by trade, a mom by day, a barn owner by choice, and a horse girl bitten by the same bug that got all the rest of us. In addition to the ice business she and her significant other own and manage, Amy has also launched a new Etsy store, hopefully to be followed soon by a brick and mortar ceramics center.
I chose the word "center" because Amy eventually hopes to run a bit of a working school/supply store/pottery for sale shop here in Bakersfield. I have no doubt that it will be a great success.
Right now, Amy is working out of a small studio she had built just steps from her barn. She has a pottery wheel of course, as well as her own kiln. Her studio is filled with clays of different varieties, glazes, and products in all stages of completion.
Amy is currently experimenting with a variety of clay types - I love the speckled clay she's currently using, as well as with mixing her own glazes for truly custom pieces. Even her "cast-offs," the pieces she feels aren't nice enough to sell, were beautifully rendered and glazed.
Amy's Etsy store, Blue Canyon Ceramics Co, was just launched this year, but she's building her inventory daily. While she has items ready-made, her favorite pieces to do are custom orders. All she needs to create a beautiful piece is a "Can you make me a ... ?" Done!
Surprisingly, prices for her creations, custom or ready-made, run from as low as $20 to $40 for more detailed projects. Her pieces are dishwasher, microwave, and oven-safe. The serving pieces I brought home are too beautiful to put in the dishwasher though. In fact, I left them out on my counter top for several days just so that I could look at them and smile.
While we were talking, I asked Amy for some photos of her working at her wheel. When I realized she was going to actually make something, I quickly switched to video and watched as she created a lovely bowl large enough for pasta or salad or just something to catch your keys and make you smile. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it's fired and glazed. I have dibs on that one, Amy!
If you'd like to see more of Amy's work, you can visit her Etsy store, Blue Canyon Ceramics Co. Or, if you'd like something custom made for yourself or as a gift, simply give her call at 661-433-4472.
I am loving that horseshoe motif ...
Getting Izzy off the property more frequently has been one of my summer goals. Getting him to a show has been another. I am not doing so great with goal #2 - getting my Third Level scores with Speedy took precedence, but I have been kicking butt when it comes to taking Izzy places. On Friday, I texted my friend Amy - more about her tomorrow, and asked if I could bring Izzy over for a ride.
Izzy has been to her place for lessons a time or two, but it's been a long while. Amy is super cool and wouldn't mind if I brought him over on a weekly basis, but the problem is that it's a 45-minute drive each way. Bakersfield's summers are typically hotter than the sun, but it's been ridiculously mild here lately, so hauling Izzy across town has not been as likely to cause him (or me) to have heat stroke. So, I threw him in the trailer and off we went.
With the fantastic work that Izzy's been giving me at home and on the trail with my friend Marci, I had hoped that working in Amy's arena was going to be easy and tension free. Nope.
I watched a great video by Amelia Newcomb the other day. It was about avoiding negative self-talk. Lots of what she said resonated with me, but there was one idea in particular that I took with me to Amy's place. Amelia states that it's important NOT to worry about the things that are out of my control - traffic noise, airplanes flying overhead, the spooky corner, and so on. Amelia explains in her video that since those things are out of my control, I need to just ignore them.
I bring this up because Amy has built a large wall at the C end of her arena that blocks out the sudden movements of the goats and dogs that live on her neighbor's property. Both Speedy and Izzy HATE that wall. It is rather intimidating, but come on. It's just a wall, no different than the side of a barn. Izzy was having none. of. it.
I started off walking him at the A end of the arena and then slowly spiraled down to the wall walking towards it at an angle. I stopped, let him look at it, passed by it again and so on. After what seemed like more than enough time to get reacquainted with the wall, Izzy gave an emphatic thanks, but no thanks. I am outta here!
And so began 30 minutes of here is my leg, here is your bend, shake hands. I was sympathetic, but firm. Rearing, balking, bolting, flailing, or otherwise trying to flee the scene weren't to be tolerated. And all of this was at the walk. As I worked on directing his haunches and shoulders where I wanted them to go, I kept reminding myself that the wall simply did not matter. It was one of those things that is out of my control, so I ignored it, and rode my horse as though it wasn't there.
Eventually, Izzy realized that I was up there talking to him. He never gave a huge sigh of relief, but he allowed himself to be ridden. I kept the work to the A half of the arena, and he finally trotted and cantered without plowing through my aids. Mostly. I was actually quite pleased with the canter work. We kept it on a 20-meter circle, but I did lots of canter to trot to canter transitions that were fluid and soft.
When I felt that he was listening, I moved him back down to the wall and did some more work at the walk. He wasn't relaxed, but he agreed to walk down centerline tracking both left and right from G. And when I hopped off, we had to do a bit of in hand work when he decided to race me back to the barn, preferably way before me.
And then, because I wanted him to get the feeling of being in a stall/paddock that was not his own, I pulled his tack and popped him in an empty stall with an attached paddock and went to check out Amy's pottery studio. She's a very talented artist with a newly launched Etsy store that I want to share, but that will have to to wait until tomorrow. In the meantime, check out her store here.
Oh, and then Izzy went somewhere else the next day! Like I said, we're out and about!