From Endurance to Dressage
I teach kids in elementary school, but I also enjoy teaching in general. It's just who I am as a person. If I can help someone understand something, my day is made. The one exception has been at the barn. Being at the barn is my sanctuary. It's my way of getting away from the job. Even though I love to teach, I do need a break.
I've done a lot of different boarding situations, but most of them have involved boarding at a private home where there are few, if any, other boarders. I prefer it that way. I've only had to board at a "facility" a few times, and even then I searched out the smallest mom and pop places I could find. Being with other boarders invariably led to can you help me? type situations. Someone always needed me to look at a wound, give injections, haul their horse to the vet, or offer tack fitting solutions. I rarely said no, but it made it hard to decompress after a difficult work day.
So imagine my surprise at discovering that giving a riding lesson is actually a rewarding experience. I think I might be learning more than my student! Again, she's not compensating me in any way, so my adult amateur status is not at risk. T came out for another lesson over the weekend, and while I am pretty sure she enjoyed herself, I know I did.
I don't know that I would feel as invested if she were riding her own horse, but since she's riding Speedy, she has my full attention. The first time T rode, we worked on getting Speedy soft and round and controlling the tempo of the trot and canter. T has enough of a foundation that she knows her posting diagonals and the general cues. For T's second lesson, we schooled the transitions, particularly walk to trot to walk. We also did some trot to canter to trot.
T is an excellent student and clearly wants to know everything there is to know. During the week, she had a chance to ride at the western barn where she does chores in exchange for rides and even attempted to get some softness from a less-than-cooperative trail horse. I showed her how to do carrot stretches from the saddle, explaining that vertical flexion is hard to get if there is no lateral flexion. I am pretty sure she'll asking that trail horse for a lot of nose to knee stretches.
As for me, I started out by parroting my own trainer, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables. I've ridden with her for so many years that I hear her running commentary as I ride. I just started repeating it to T. As the lesson progressed though, I realized that I wasn't just repeating what I'd heard. I could actually see that my teaching was having an effect, and my teaching was coming from what I actually know. When T was able to implement what I asked for, I could see it translated through Speedy's movement. It was a very revelatory moment.
All these years when Chemaine has shouted out, There! Did you feel it? Sometimes I can say that I do, but more often then not, it takes me a day or two, a month, or even a year to finally feel what she sees. I found myself doing the same thing with T. Yes! Did you feel that? Most of the time T said yes, but I told her to be honest because I know from my own experience that feeling it can be truly difficult as you're trying to coordinate your aids and put it all together. Sometimes the feel is just so subtle that it can be easy to miss amongst all of the other stuff your body is trying to do.
Even though I've ridden with Chemaine for so many years, there has always been the worry that her Good riding; yes!; now that's what I'm talking about! enthusiasms were just to keep me from feeling dejected. After giving two lessons and using that same feedback (and some of my own), I now know that those validations are genuine. Even with my own fifth grade students I look for even the tiniest reason to give positive feedback, and it's never fake. Being the "trainer" has given me a peek behind that curtain.
For my own dressage education, I sure hope T keeps coming back.
To all of you who normally work at home, how do you do it? To all the moms and dads out there, please know that I am working overtime to meet your kiddo's needs. Oh, and to you, COVID-19, you suck!
My school district gave us the choice to work from home or teach in an empty classroom. I am so glad I chose to work from home as my school site's internet has been a complete and total wreck this week. Even with a vastly reduced population - no kids and far fewer teachers, our district-provided internet has been crashing repeatedly. In the spirit of gratitude though, at least my internet works?
I am not sure what I expected when I asked to work from home, but I am pretty sure I am working more hours from home than I would have had I gone in to school. Although that might not be true. I might have still come home and worked. There is just more to do than there are hours in the day. Besides learning a new online learning system, my district purchased not one, but two new curricula, History-Social Studies and Science. To say I am feeling stressed and overwhelmed is an understatement.
And it's not like it's just me. My students are also being challenged in ways none of us ever predicted. They too are trying to navigate the new online learning system. And lest we forget, my kiddos are TEN YEARS OLD. While my internet has proven capable of handling the workload, for many of them, they're dealing with slow and glitchy connectivity. In virtually every home, there are multiple siblings and at least one parent, all vying for the same bandwidth. Their daily experience has to be so frustrating.
For my own personal health, I am trying to establish a realistic and sustainable work-from-home schedule. What I've been doing is going to kill me. Right now, I do my blogging and social media check in from 6:00 - 7:00 a.m. while I have breakfast. I take my dogs out for a quick potty, and then I work until lunch time. During lunch, I take the dogs for a quick walk, and then I sit back down until 3:15. So far, I've forced myself to get up and drive out to the ranch for a ride, but it's hard to leave with work unfinished. After my ride, I've been coming home and working for another hour or two. This Wednesday, I worked until 8:30 p.m. That's just too long of a day especially since I can't take a mental health or sick day.
Speaking of sick days, we've been told that if we need one, we're somehow supposed to pass our classes off to another teacher. None of us know how that would work though as each teacher has her own Google Meet and Zoom codes and passwords. And if meetings are unstable with thirty-five participants, how would it be better with seventy? And yes, I know that thousands can attend Zoom conference calls, but the presenter isn't expected to take attendance by hand or call on participants by name. If (when?) I do need a sick day, I think I will literally just phone it in. There will be a quick pre-recorded video greeting, another video for the mid-day check, and I'll end the day with a see you tomorrow video.
To add insult to injury, I had to order a new office chair. Teachers are well known for being the only professionals who steal stuff from home to use at work. We're also probably one of the few professional groups who spend their salaries so they can work. Sometimes, it feels like I am working for free.
I have never been more grateful that it's Friday.
I get quite a few emails from people who just want to connect - I sincerely enjoy hearing from you, so please feel free to reach out and share your story or advice. I also get emails from local people who are either new to the area or new to horses. Sometimes those riders come out and meet my boys and other times I just direct them to what they need.
Recently, a young woman reached out to me asking about trainers, lesson barns, and places to board. I'll call her "T." T doesn't have her own horse, but she's got the bug. She's had some riding experience; her grandparents have horses in Montana and for a while, she rode on her college equestrian team. Lately, she's been riding at a western barn in exchange for doing barn chores.
While T has lots of dreams - she wants to someday event, do some dressage, work with a young horse, and maybe even find a mustang, she also seems like a realist. When you're young and just starting out, those things sometime cost more money than you have, and in T's case, they require more experience than she currently has under her belt. As luck would have it though, I currently own quite a solid little schoolmaster for someone wanting to try some low level dressage.
Immediately after the last show we did in mid-July, Speedy came up lame. When the chiropractor felt like it was a hock issue, my vet did hock injections. When Speedy was still lame, my vet referred us to a facility over on the coast where we had access to world class diagnostic equipment and doctors. Several very interesting x-rays later revealed a shocking discovery. Speedy's left hock was well on its way to fusing; he was diagnosed with arthritis. In all likelihood, his career as an aspiring upper-level competitor is over, but that doesn't mean he can't still work.
After meeting with T a week ago, I invited her out for a lesson this Saturday. No worries about my amateur status as I was very clear that the lessons had to be free. I've never felt qualified to offer lessons before, but I'll tell you, I really enjoyed myself, and I am pretty sure T did as well. I know Speedy thought the whole things was fabulous. He looked 100% sound and was a perfect gentleman. It was really fun to see him show off all the things I've taught him.
For now, we have a "standing" date for T to come out for a lesson once a week. I don't know how long this will last, sometimes people lose interest or get a better offer from somewhere else. For now, it's a great arrangement for Speedy because a weekly ride will keep him moving and working. And if T decides that she really likes Speedy, there's a chance she could come more than once a week.
Speedy is such a wonderful horse, and I am delighted to share him. He's not ready for complete retirement, so a ride or two a week allows him to still do his job without me asking quite so much of him. For Speedy's sake, I really hope this turns into a long lasting relationship.
And if not, Speedy's open for business!
A week or so ago I wrote about Izzy's dramatically changing coat color. In that post I posited that he might have the cream dilution gene. Several people wrote to me privately expressing their doubts about that theory. Instead of a genetic cause, it was suggested, and not for the first time, that Izzy might have some mineral deficiencies, specifically copper and zinc. So it seems that there are three possible explanations.
First, it just might be how he is. He's dark in the winter and fades in the summer. Gray horses undergo coat color changes all the time. What do they say about Occam's razor? The simplest explanation is most likely the right one. But not always.
Second, he might have the cream dilution gene. In Izzy's pedigree, neither the Thoroughbred side nor the Oldenburg/Anglo-Arabian side recognize the color "buckskin." Instead, the Jockey Club recognizes Thoroughbreds as being either bay, black, chestnut, dark bay/brown, gray/roan, palomino (which carries two copies of the cream gene) or white. The Oldenburg Registry of North America recognizes brown, black, chestnut, gray, and bay horses. My research, limited as it was, says that on a black or dark bay/brown horse, the cream dilution gene can produce a buckskin, a sooty black, or simply a lighter brown horse with black points. In other words, without a genetic test, you can't tell just by "looking."
That leaves the third option; Izzy might have a copper and zinc deficiency. Again, my research consisted of skimming articles found by doing a Google search. What I saw was that zinc deficiencies are rare. Over consumption on the other hand can decrease copper absorption. Some of the processes that copper is required for are energy production, iron metabolism, connective tissue formation, central nervous system function, and melanin production. Coat color is determined by the presence and proportion of melanin pigments.
Most of the articles I read warned against supplementing just with copper and zinc as that combination can negatively interact with other minerals in the body. Instead, it was recommended that horses with suspected copper and zinc deficiencies be fed a commercially fortified feed or a good mineral supplement. I've done both (Platinum Performance and Horse Guard) over the years for long stretches of time, but Izzy's coat still changes colors. He either doesn't have a zinc and copper deficiency, or, the supplements weren't enough to overcome the deficiency.
I am not worried about a copper and zinc deficiency, and it doesn't matter whether Izzy does or doesn't have the cream dilution gene, but I decided to find out for sure. UC Davis has a Veterinary Genetics Lab that is "open" to the public. They offer a long list of genetic tests, most of which seemed quite cheap. You can check for just about anything. For $25, I will know definitively if Izzy has the cream dilution gene or not.
Earlier this week, I pulled the requisite mane hairs, ensuring that the root bulbs were attached. I taped them to the form as directed and dropped the whole thing in Monday's mail. The results should be back in a week or two. Either way, I know I should put both horses back on the Horse Guard Vitamin and Mineral Supplement. It won't hurt, and it probably helps their overall health.
Every time I try to keep things simple, I add in yet another thing.
A week or two back I wrote about Izzy breaking his halter. Then I wrote about buying him a new one and having it modified to fit. Over the weekend, the halter plate that I ordered finally arrived. I am just as happy with it as I knew I would be.
I've ordered quite a few tags over the years, all from HalterTags.com. Most have been for halters, but I've also used the tags as identifiers for winter blankets. Last fall, I ordered tags as keychains when I bought my truck, Newt. I've ordered from Haltertags.com since 2011, and I have never once been disappointed. They engrave deeply, and it lasts. I still have the first tags I ever ordered.
When I bought Izzy's halter, the first thing I did was order a halter plate. When the halter arrived, I realized the leather was narrower than expected which meant the original halter plate was going to be too wide. I simply emailed the fine folks over at HalterTags.com and asked if they could send me a narrower plate than ordered, which they did with no trouble.
While HalterTags.com does very good work, they're not quick, but most engravers aren't. This order took exactly two weeks, which seemed quite reasonable.
While not a super expensive model, my hole puncher neatly punched through the leather. HalterTags.com always sends Chicago Screws, so with a drop of LocTite, I had this DIY project done in less than five minutes. I have to say that the cost of the halter plate was the most satisfying $9.70 that I've probably ever spent.
Now I sort of wish Speedy would break his halter so I could buy him a new halter plate. I'm kidding, Speedy. Yours is doing just fine.
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%: