From Endurance to Dressage
When most people hear the word California, they think of L.A., the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Hollywood sign. Here in California, we think of those things too. I can't speak for every Californian out there, but I love this state, I and am proud of its amazing diversity. Our geography, our weather, and especially our people make this a truly unique and very special place to live.
If you live in California, you already know that the Dodgers and our beaches only make up a small part of our state's culture and economy. The reality is that California is a major player in the production of the world's food. We grow and produce nearly everything that can be grown and consumed. Our agricultural products range from pistachios and almonds to vegetables you might not have heard of to milk and dairy products.
Which brings me to today's post. While not equine related, there was a truck and trailer involved as well as four hooves.
Kern County is the absolute center of California's agricultural region. If it's grown or raised for food consumption, it probably came from Kern County. As such, our farmers do a lot of outreach to educate the public.
On Friday, the Dairy Council of California sent its Mobile Dairy Classroom to our campus for a farm-to-school assembly. Yes, that is a cow on our basketball court. The Mobile Dairy Classroom brings a live cow to schools to give kids who live in the city a chance to see what lives next door. The kids loved it.
Our presenter was very kid savvy and kept the presentation at a level that really engaged the kids. One of the first things she explained was that our visiting heifer would probably feel the need to "relieve" herself. Since it was important not to scare the cow, we would all applaud politely if said cow needed to use the restroom. And of course, the cow needed to pee early on in the presentation. It was hysterical to see all of our kiddos clapping politely as the cow let go a long stream of urine. I was relived it was only a number one as a "cow pie" might have earned a standing ovation.
As the kids listened, the presenter explained the cow's anatomy pointing out how it correlated to our own. She explained why cows wear ear tags, how much they eat and drink, and of course she discussed milking the cow. To everyone's delight, she milked several streams of milk out onto the ground. The kids thought that was the coolest thing they'd ever seen.
We're in the midst of fair season too. The Great Kern County Fair is always September's must do event. Bakersfield's population is right around 380,000. Last year's fair attendance was over 416,000. Everyone goes. Many of the kids in our school raise animals to show at the fair. One of my student's dad was a cupcake judge. Another friend, an artist, won numerous awards for her gourd paintings. While there this weekend, I also spotted photographs submitted by a former student and others by a friend.
For being one of California's largest cities, we rank ninth in population, we're still just a small town at heart. Agriculture and rural living are uniquely integrated into our urban city center. Cows in the classroom are part of our every day lives. I think it's a great way to live.
Speedy and I got a late start to the 2019 show season. He was recovering from a long list of ailments - double leg sutures, a lost tooth, multiple abscesses due to his Cushing's diagnosis, and then the first two shows that were on our list got cancelled. Just when we hitting our stride, he abscessed right before our big Regional Adult Amateur Competition in August. It was a short show season to say the least.
We started the season at Third Level, missing 60% scores by mere points. Over the past two months however, our hard work has really started to show some results. Our canter has a lot more jump to it and our flying changes are confirmed. They're still a bit exuberant at times, but we can now get three changes across a very short diagonal.
Normally, my show clothes would now be in storage and we would be looking ahead to next year. Since we're only now starting to be a solid Third Level team, I can't hang up my show coat just yet. Instead, we're doing a two-day USDF-rated show in late October. Please, Universe, let this one work out.
With Speedy's winter vet bill finally paid for, I once again have some "extra" money that I don't feel guilty about spending on a show entry. Although half a grand plus another buck and a quarter for gas is still a lot of money to spend, especially since memberships will be due shortly.
While entries don't close until the 12th, stabling is limited and awarded on a first-come, first-served basis. Fortunately, I know the show manager quite well, but I try not to abuse our friendship with slow pokey entries.
My fingers are crossed that Speedy stays sound and healthy for this show and the one after that.
I don't think anyone can ever be completely debt free. Not if you live in California anyway. Our home mortgage is enough to keep us in debt until we're very, very old. I also have another year or so to pay on my car. No, the debt that I am referring to is Speedy's winter vet bill.
I could have paid it off sooner, but I would have had to miss out on the summer show season. Even my husband agreed that the small finance charge was worth it if it meant being able to show. It could have also been that he simply didn't want to live with a wife who had to stay home all summer instead of showing. He's a smart man.
I know the last payment amount and last statement balance don't make sense, but that's because I like to annoy the credit card company by sending multiple payments over the month. It makes bookkeeping on my side easier. Who cares how much work I make for them? They're getting paid for it, believe me.
It's the red circle on the left side that's important. For someone who never carries a credit card balance, this past year has been very stressful. Every time I got one of Speedy's vet bills taken care of, he'd injure something new. Or Izzy needed something. Or they both needed dentals. And then they needed vaccinations. It was freaking NEVER ENDING. And now I have a clean slate.
It's okay to have hopes and dreams, but for me, I've found that it's better if I don't say them out loud. The Universe is easily offended and quick to remind me that I am not in charge. Making a list of what I "want" is a quick way to ensure that things will quickly go to hell in a hand basket.
This is the time of year that I always start planning next year's show schedule, next year's goals, next year's budget. Invariably though, October is the month where crap starts falling apart. It's usually Speedy who suffers some malady or other, and if not him, then me. And of course, the big brown horse isn't invincible either.
So do I plan and budget and enjoy our progress, or do I sit back patiently and let things unfold how they will? Too much sitting back though doesn't get things done. On the other hand, when I've tempted Fate, I find that I am sidelined which also means not get anything done.
As hard as it is to rein in my exuberance, I am keeping a lid on things for now. Yes, I've got big plans, but something is telling me to be patient this fall and let things sort themselves out.
It's hard to be patient though when you want something, even if all you want is a few good scores. Slow down, Sweaney. All in good time.
Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage, pointed out (in the nicest way possible) that setting out some cones (at the very least) would help my geometry thereby improving my scores. Taking his advice to heart, I've maintained a rudimentary dressage court ever since.
When I first laid it out, I measured it as accurately as possible, but I figured a few missing meters here or there wouldn't really matter. Boy was I wrong. Our arena is plenty wide enough for a dressage court, but it's a bit short. I can fit a 20m by 50m court which is close to full-sized, but those extra 10 meters have to come off somewhere.
I took out a meter between each letter and a bit more than 2 meters from the last letters making the distance from the last letter to the corner pretty short. What I didn't realize was that at Third Level, a lot of movements are either set up or begun at those corner letters. By making the corners "shorter," I made it really hard to do the movements.
Reggie, the ranch's fixer of all the things, dragged the arena a month or so ago, but we didn't move my poles and letters. He just got close enough, but it left a funny ridge. Eventually, the footing finally got so wonky that I asked if we could empty the arena and drag it again. To my delight, Reggie and the ranch owner both dragged everything out so Reggie could do a thorough drag. They left me to reassemble everything. Since I couldn't do the cavaletti clinic and was already at the barn at 6:00 a.m., I used the morning to set my court back up while Speedy enjoyed his breakfast.
Knowing that I needed my measurements to be a bit more exact, I carefully measured out the short side at A, being very careful to place A at exactly 10 meters. I then stretched my meter tape all the way to C, making sure that I used all 50 meters in length. I double checked that A and C were still at the 10 meter mark before I found a spot for B and E.
With B and E resting at 25 meters instead of 30, I then measured out the distances for the rest of the letters. I needed to lose 10 meters somewhere, so this time I took 1 meter out in the M/H and F/K sections and 2 meters out between the rest of the letters, the opposite of what I had done the first time.
By the time I was finished, I must have walked or jogged ten miles. I stretched my meter tape back and forth and up and down that court at least a dozen times. In the end, it looked much better than the first time I did it. I rode Speedy that same day and was super pleased with the adjustments that I had made in the placing of the letters. The court "rode" much more accurately, and the smooth footing didn't hurt either.
I don't know if it was the smooth footing, the better laid out court, or just because Speedy is amazing, but we had an excellent ride that morning. My little endurance turned dressage pony has really developed into a solid mid-level dressage horse.
Now we just all need to stay sound and healthy!
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%: