From Endurance to Dressage
I tried to write a year in review thing, but I just couldn't organize it. I either had too much to say or not enough. Maybe for tomorrow ...
Instead, or until another day, this post is about my 2011 show season. Frankly, it was all over the map, and I mean that both literally and figuratively. I drove as far north as Clovis (two and a half hours) and as far south and west as Ventura County, another two and a half hours. I drove east to Tehachapi (an hour or so), and I was even able to stay right here in Bakersfield. I did one Ride-a-Test, two schooling shows, five 1-star shows, and two triple-rated shows. I did my best to get out of my comfort zone by hitting different venues and riding my tests with no reader. I started the year at Introductory B and finished the season at Training Level, Test One. At the final show of the year, I was encouraged by CDS's president to ditch the Intro classes and work through Training Level to First Level by summer. It was a great, first complete show season.
I thought long and hard, twelve months long in fact, about what to count as an expense for the season. In my first post on this topic, I was going to list only show-specific costs. I decided to expand the list by including the actual costs of attending the show as well as the lessons. I couldn't have shown without the lessons so they have to count. I am excluding the purchase of my new saddle and the purchase price of Sydney. I use the saddle daily and it wasn't purchased exclusively for showing. I simply needed a better piece of equipment much like gloves, girths, or half chaps. I also can't count Sydney as he wasn't purchased exclusively for showing either. There is also the fact that he didn't even show this year, unless you count the Ride-a-Test I did with him.
There were many other expenses I incurred over this year, but I am not counting them since they happen whether you show or not. I spent a small fortune on truck and trailer maintenance, board, feed, bedding, farrier work, chiropractic work, vet bills, and Adequan. Those things are just the cost of horse ownership.
So, what did it cost for an adult amateur owner to train and show her own horse in 2011?
Drum roll please ... $2,834.
Show premiums were $789. I spent approximately $546.35 on gas to and from shows. My show tack/grooming expenses came to $178.65 My membership fees to USEF were $55 and to CDS/USDF were $70. I took thirty-three lessons which cost $1,195. Here's a show by show breakdown:
Total for Show # 1 (schooling in Ojai) ... $250.76
$65.00 - Show premium for two tests
$110 - gas
$68.76 - Tekna bridle (it's my every day bridle, but I also use it for shows)
$7.00 - lunch
Total for Show # 2 (Triple-Rated in Bakersfield) ... $191.89
$82.00 - Show premium for two tests
$0 - gas: since the show is only minutes from the barn, I am not counting gas expenses. I have driven MUCH farther for lessons.
$24.95 - EQ Body Wash: this is the best stuff. Had to have it.
$84.94 - Roma Sheepskin Show Pad - used exclusively for showing.
$0 - lunch: I brought some Gatorade and snacks from the 'fridge. I didn't even eat them at the show. I waited until I got home!
Total for Show #3 (1 Star-Rated in Tehachapi) ... $136.00
$87 - Show Premium for two tests
$49 - Gas
$0 - lunch: I just brought some stuff from the 'fridge
Total for Show #4 (schooling in Moorpark) ... $187.83
$70 - Show premium for two tests
$117.83 - Gas
$0 - lunch: I really just like to eat whatever's in the 'fridge!
Total for Show #5 (1 Star-Rated in Tehachapi) ... $136.00
$87 - Show Premium for two tests
$49 - Gas
$0 - lunch: more stuff from the 'fridge
Total for Show #6 (1 Star-Rated in Tehachapi) ... $129.00
$87 - Show Premium for two tests
$42 - Gas
$0 - lunch: more stuff from the 'fridge
Total for Show #7 (1Star-Rated in Tehachapi) ... $146
$87 - Show Premium for two tests
$50 - Gas
$9 - chips and deli sandwiches for Taz's mom and myself
Total for Show #8 (the Ride-a-Test) ... $37.58
$25 - Fee for two tests
$12.58 - Gas
$0 - lunch: I made a peanut butter sandwich to eat once I was back at the barn
Total for Show #9 (3 Star-Rated in Clovis) ... $226.14
$122 - Show Premium for Two Tests
$101.14 - Gas
$3.00 - show snack, I packed a lunch
Total for Show #10 (1 Star-Rated in Bakersfield) ... $171.80
$77 - Show Premium for Two Tests
$14.80 - Gas
$80 - Clinic with Peggy Klump (Show Judge/Clinician)
Is $2,800 a lot? I think so. I mean it's a mortgage payment. And when I add this amount to what I spend on daily upkeep, it becomes a much larger number. Showing is not as cheap as I thought it would be. I feel as though I got my money's worth though, and I am looking forward to the 2012 show season.
Does anyone feel like sharing their expenses? I have a feeling my costs were fairly cheap since I didn't do very many triple-rated shows. I'd like to know what the "average" adult amateur spends ....
I went riding yesterday, but it was aboard four wheels instead of four hooves. We took a few days this week to head to our cabin. It's not fancy, but it is removed from the hustle and bustle of daily life. We have no phone or cell service. There's no cable or satellite TV. Instead, we read, play games, eat, hike, and ride the quads.
Truth be told, we haven't ridden the quads very much over the last year. A trip to Europe ate up some of our vacation time and a summer remodel made visiting a bit rougher than I like. A leaky water line was the next hold up. It seems, at last, that everything is shipshape once again. We started up the bikes on the first day, but just puttered around the "neighborhood" working on yet another water issue. The next day, a knock on our door by a friendly neighbor asking if we'd like to go for a ride, got hubby and I into our riding gear and out on the trail. It felt good to be back in the "saddle."
Surprisingly, trail riding quads is a very similar experience to trail riding horseback. At least it is for us. Maybe that's because I make them similar. Hubby and I are very safety conscious. We ride with proper fitting boots, gloves, and helmets. We ride in a buddy system - no one ever goes out alone. We ride only as fast as the slowest person can mange ... that would be me. We always pack water bottles, a snack, maps, and ID. We stay on the marked trail and keep alert for oncoming vehicles and wildlife. I am particularly worried about mountain lions and bears!
Our ride with Neighbor Jim turned out to be quite fun. He had two friends with him so our trail ride really was like an equine trail ride. We rode in a long line of riders, each person keeping a safe distance from the rider in front. At wide spots in the trail, the lead rider stopped to allow everyone to catch up and to make sure that no one had been left behind or had had trouble. The front rider rotated into the line to allow another rider the opportunity to lead.
We ride on designated Off Highway Vehicle trails that have been established for that specific purpose. The trails wander through dense forest and climb to over 8,000 feet. We splashed through snow fed puddles, plowed through deep snow drifts, and climbed over granite rock outcroppings (my least favorite!). As we neared the top of the mountain, my gas gauge, low to begin with, began to point scarily to the E. I showed Hubby, the gear-head in this family, who quickly decided that we had to turn back.
The group we were riding with agreed that we had ridden far enough and devised a safe strategy for getting me home. Neighbor Jim pointed out that I should never be in the back for fear that I would quietly run out of gas while the others rode merrily on ahead. We agreed to return on the trails toward home as they are far quicker than just staying on the road. The trails do cross the road several times, which is downhill all the way back to the cabin, but we decided to save that option only if absolutely necessary.
Fortunately, we didn't need to use the road, and all five of us made it back safely. After removing our helmets and kicking the dirt off our boots, we simply pulled the keys and left the quads where they had stopped. No grooming, watering, or feeding needed! Now we just need to remember to bring a couple of gallons of gas with us on our next trip! Click photos for larger view.
This post definitely counts as part of the Barn Life in California series. I thought I'd share a little bit about hay. I should start off by saying that I am not an expert on hay types and have never done any research on hay, but I am a typical horse owner in California which makes me qualified to report on what the typical owner might do. And by typical, I mean the kind of owner who wants their hay to be cheap and easy to get. There was a time when I fed oat hay, but it was a pain to find as it is only cut once or twice a year around here, and storing a full year's supply of hay was difficult. So which hay is relatively cheap and easy to get in California? That would be alfalfa.
What is alfalfa hay anyway? "Alfalfa is a flowering plant in the pea family Fabaceae cultivated as an important forage crop in the US, Canada, and many other countries. It is known as lucerne in the UK, France, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand, and known as lucerne grass in south Asia. It superficially resembles clover, with clusters of small purple flowers." Thank you, Wikipedia.
Random Internet Photo
Here in California, alfalfa can be harvested many times a year. We buy our bales in long, rectangular cubes. Each bale weighs about 100 pounds and will feed one horse for approximately five days. Currently, alfalfa is selling for around $20 per bale. Other hay types (oat, timothy, orchard grass, etc.) are selling for as low as $17.00 per bale.
As I was 'researching' this blog post, I stumbled on an interesting website that had a Myths page that seems pretty sensible. Check it out here. The first myth the author addresses is this:
"You should never give a horse straight alfalfa." Never say never. In California and the southwest United States, horses are routinely fed straight alfalfa as the only forage. In that region, alfalfa is cheap, plentiful, and the horses do quite well.
While some horses may not need alfalfa, others would truly benefit from receiving alfalfa. The difference lies in what nutrients alfalfa provides, and what the horse actually needs. Alfalfa contains more energy, protein and calcium than most grass hays, such as timothy, brome grass, orchard grass, etc. This nutrient profile makes it most suitable for young, growing horses and lactating mares, because they have high protein and mineral requirements. By comparison, alfalfa exceeds the protein requirements of idle horses and performance horses. That does not mean these horses cannot receive straight alfalfa. It just means alfalfa provides more protein than these classes of horses need. Alfalfa also tastes good, so it's useful when you've got a finicky eater or a horse with a poor appetite.
Since alfalfa provides more protein than our horses need, what should we do about it? Many owners cut the alfalfa by feeding alfalfa/oat cubes, but by and large, most owners in California feed alfalfa straight with no side effects. Can there be side effects? Yes. Are they that common? Well, no. Some horses develop enteroliths (large stones), others urinate more frequently as their bodies try to process the excess protein and calcium. See the Myths page above to find out the whys for the more frequent urination.
The truth is, most of California's horses eat straight alfalfa with no problems. Mine included. Here's how we do it. RM, barn owner, doesn't have a hay barn ... yet. With our mild climate, we only have to worry about infrequent rain storms. Tarp-covered hay is a common sight in California, and serves most people well. Our hay rests on pallets and sits in two parts: the smaller stack is what we feed from while the larger stack is more tightly covered. Click photos for larger view.
Bounder gets alfalfa/oat cubes at night instead of straight alfalfa, but he also gets alfalfa pellets at night. Bounder also gets morning supplements and several pounds of beet pulp. In addition to his hay, Bailey gets oats with some goodies thrown in for good health. Speedy G and Sydney get several pounds of beet pulp and rice bran to round out their daily hay ration. Does everyone feed like we do? Of course not, but I bet you'd find that many, many Californians follow a very similar feeding routine.
In all honesty, we could probably cut back a bit on the hay since our boys get other stuff to eat, but we all know that readily available forage is good for the brain, gut, and keeps our ponies warm during our cold nights and mornings.
Random Internet Photo
Christmas vacation and cabin plans made the day change a necessity, but it was no big deal as JL is on the same vacation schedule that I am. And oh, what a great lesson it was! Once again, Speedy and I were able to impress her. Don't get too excited. Impressing someone when you're climbing from the very bottom is not that difficult to do! If I do two things right, she's impressed!
This lesson was about two things: changes of direction which we absolutely nailed within about five minutes, and the trot to canter to trot transition. Not perfect, but much, much better than even a month ago. We've still got some work to do there. But first, the changes of direction.
We've been struggling with this for quite some time. Let me just say this: a change of direction is much more successful when you have steady contact! Since JL's arena is filled with jumps, I only ride the empty ovals at either end. For doing a change of direction, JL has me ride straight for the fence, changing my rein partway to the fence. Instead of running into the fence, I use it to help me make the turn. I ride along the fence, and circle back towards it where I change rein again and track the other direction. It's a figure eight with a fence on one side and open arena on the other side. It's almost like doing the change at E or B instead of X. Again, classical dressage in non-traditional ways!
While the changes were quite good, JL had me fine tune them just a bit. She had me think about almost trotting in place as I approached the fence. As I asked for the turn, I added a fair amount of outside rein to slow down the outside shoulder while moving Speedy sideways through the turn. We did about a dozen changes and moved on. We finally did something that didn't require an hour's worth of work. This exercise will definitely improve our score as we track right or left at C.
The canter work was fun, and gave me several serious AHA! moments. First we worked on soft and forward. Check, done! Then, like we've been doing from walk to trot, I shortened my reins, and squeezed him forward to the canter without throwing the reins away. This time, JL added another element. As Speedy moved into the canter, right away she called for an extension, forward, forward! What she wanted was for Speedy to really reach forward for the contact while at the same time thinking about lifting up. Think of an airplane during take-off. The engines are revving and lifting up the front end of the plane while at the same time taxiing forward. I've been letting Speedy drop his nose and head which lets him fall into the canter while at the same time freeing his revved-up hind end for bucks and kicks. It took Speedy a few attempts, but once he realized that I wanted him to leap up and forward into the canter, he got much quicker and straighter. He also seemed to enjoy the work far more than before.
It will be two weeks before Speedy sees JL again for a lesson. I am hoping that we can really nail the upward transition so that we can quickly improve our downward transition as well.
Technically this post should fall under my newest series of posts, California Barn Life, but it's not actually specific to California. Everyone cleans poop. Or, at least I think they do. Maybe we do it differently here in California. Our ridiculously dry weather (in the central valley anyway) removes any excuses like, it's too muddy to push the wheelbarrow. Or, my favorite one, I can't even find the poop in this mud! Yeah, since we don't have those excuses, it tends to get picked up.
I mentioned yesterday that I was assuming some of the barn chores for a few days. I'll admit it, I have gained a whole new level of respect for RM's daily efforts. Don't get me wrong. I have cleaned a lot of stalls in my time. It's not a very technical job, and most anyone can do it, but even so, RM has jumped quite a few notches up the impress me ladder. She does it every day! And she works full time.
Cleaning ones own stalls is easy, especially when there are only two that someone else cleans in the morning. Have I mentioned that I clean my own stalls each afternoon? I do. I clean whatever has accumulate since the morning clean-up which is usually not much. Well whoop-de-doo! Try doing four horses day after day!
Yep. Here we are on day two of four stalls a day and I am already complaining. Or, whining, which is a much better description. My fingers are sore, my abs hurt, my shoulder is stiff. One more day. How does RM do it every single day? My helmet is off to her.
We have four geldings in our barn, and each of them has a different style of living. I can't decided who makes the biggest mess: Bounder, Bailey, Speedy G, or Sydney.
Bounder, RM's horse, likes to go inside, and he's not very careful about where. And once it's there, he shuffles it around so it's everywhere and then buried, too. Not the easiest stall to clean.
Bailey's distant piles.
Bailey, the other boarded horse, likes to go outside, but he chooses to go as far outside as possible. And he doesn't like the piles to touch. It's like playing connect the dots when cleaning his stall.
In some ways, Speedy's stall is actually the easiest to clean. He goes outside along the fence line, and if you don't get to it quickly, it's pulverized into tiny pieces that can't be picked up. Darn!
What makes Speedy's stall difficult to clean is Speedy himself, and the two pits that he has carved at either end of his run. I refill the pits, but each day he digs them back out making pushing the wheelbarrow a bit like trying to cross the Grand Canyon. Speedy makes the job difficult because he won't get out of the way. He thinks he's helping, but he's not. He grabs the handle of the cart. He stands in the exact spot that you're trying to clean, even if just moments ago you were trying to clean a different spot. And if you inadvertently bump him with the handle of the pitchfork because he's standing on top of you, he acts as though you've aimed at him from some great distance before hurtling a spear at him! Move it, buddy!
Sydney's stall is probably the hardest to clean. He likes to do it all: inside piles scattered and buried in the bedding as well as distant piles left in random order.
Who is your designated poop cleaner? Is it you, or do you have a stall cleaner? Hubby asked if everyone cleans poop. He's trying to figure out why it needs to be done every single day, including Christmas day. I know many people in my area just leave it to dry and allow it to (eventually) find its way back into the sandy soil, but I find that a bit distasteful. And even though I am joking about how hard it is to clean, I actually enjoy the process and know the horses enjoy a poop-free place to sleep at night. So yep, stalls need to be cleaned every single day.
Thankfully, RM feels exactly the same way!
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%: