From Endurance to Dressage
I am not one to do year in review posts. Not anymore, anyway. Way back when I first started blogging, I did a few. Frankly, they're just too much work. I do feel a need to bid adieu to the old though as we welcome in the new. With that, I decided to choose my three favorite (equine) things about 2019.
#1 My Health
In 2018, the migraines that I had battled since childhood reached unmanageable levels. At one point, I had a migraine for 6 straight weeks. It became so severe that while at the doctor's office, my neurologist had me admitted to and treated in the ER. Shortly after that episode, I decided to lose weight. By the end of 2018, I had lost 40 pounds, and the neurologist was getting the migraines under control.
In 2019, I kept most of the weight off; I think I've gained back 5 pounds over the holidays, and the migraines are now mostly controlled with medication. I take two daily prescriptions, and once a month I give myself an injection of a third medication. I still have the occasional headache, but they're easily treated.
It has been so much easier to ride with that weight gone, and my head is clear. For so long I rode with a head throbbing in pain or fuzzy from medication. 2019 was the first year in a long while that I felt healthy while riding.
#2 Third level
I say this every time Speedy and I advance to a new level, but showing at Third Level was something I only secretly aspired to and certainly never thought we'd ever achieve. It's been a real thrill to take my well-bred, but not dressage-bred, Arabian up the levels by myself. Yes, I have had wonderful trainers and clinicians coaching me along the way, but I am the one who does the daily riding.
I say this because it proves that anyone can "dressage". You don't need to board at a fancy training barn - I certainly don't, and you don't need a big fancy warmblood - you all know Speedy's an Arabian. You don't even have to show at Third Level. I was having just as much fun as an Introductory Level rider. I always wanted to get better, of course, but for me, First Level was always the big goal. So to be where we are now at the end of 2019 only makes my heart swell with pride. I love this horse.
#3 Breaking 60%
If you've been reading my blog for more than 10 minutes, you know that scores are important to me. For me, they're proof of improvement. Scores below 60% say we're not there yet. Scores of 60% say we're getting close. Scores in the mid-60s say we have a chance to win.
I wouldn't be so happy about Third Level if we hadn't managed to earn a few scores of 60%. Three of them were earned at CDS only shows, but they're still important to me. Those scores helped me earn my annual "plate;" with those scores, Speedy will earn his Third Level Horse Award - we need one more score; those scores will qualify us for the Regional Adult Amateur Competition and the CDS Championship Show - we need a few more; and if we make it to Fourth Level, the scores will help us earn the CDS Sapphire Rider Award - I already have the Ruby Rider Award.
More importantly though, those scores are what we need to earn a USDF Bronze Medal, and we just need one more. We had to work really hard in 2019, but I am proud of what we were able to achieve. We're definitely still struggling at Third Level, but now I know we can break 60%.
Well, no, but I did limit myself to my favorite three things. I could really go on and on since 2019 was filled with great things. Speedy is much happier since we moved him to a new field. Izzy is definitely happier. I got a new truck. Izzy went to a few shows and even earned 60% himself. He now goes in a dressage legal bit 95% of the time. Without looking back at every post, I can still say 2019 was a good year. I had fun with my horses, and I think they had fun with me.
It's hard to ask for too much more than that.
Things have been impossibly hectic, yet when when I take a moment to ponder what to write, I realize nothing is going on. Which is not the truth or else I'd have spent the past week binging on Netflix. I didn't, ergo, plenty is going on.
#1 Speedy's Blanket
Speedy has worn a blanket more days and nights in this past month than in all the 12 years I've owned him put together. Since moving to his new field, there's no shed or roof to stand under when it rains. There are plenty of trees, which are awesome for our 9 months of summer, but naked trees don't offer much protection from the rain. None of the other horses seem to mind, especially Izzy. There are mornings when steam is pouring off of him. Even in the 50s he stands there damp and sweaty.
Speedy's a bit of a hot house flower this past year or so. We think it has something to do with his Cushing's Disease. Although, with his thick coat, you'd think he'd handle the cold better. Nope. So, on the nights when it's goin to rain, he wears a blanket. I don't know if he sleeps better, but I sure do. I did find it interesting that on Saturday night, when he went without a blanket, he didn't lay down to sleep. It was cold, but very dry and calm. The night before, which was warmer but wet, he was blanketed and laid out flat as a pancake. I could tell by the mud that covered his face, neck, belly, and thigh.
We only average around 6 inches of rain a year so he doesn't need to be blanketed very often, but we're having a wetter than usual winter. I don't worry about Izzy (yet), but I have found that I am much happier when Speedy is blanketed.
#2 Another Abscess ...
Before you panic, it's not Speedy's or even Izzy's foot this time. Thank goodness. Instead, it's the TB mare who lives at the ranch (she's standing next to Speedy in the photo above). Hers popped up literally as she was being groomed. One minute she was fine, the next, she walked off lame. Ten minutes after that she stood in a pen pointing her toe like a bird dog. The vet came out and tried to work on her, but she was in so much pain, he had to sedate her. He poulticed her hoof and directed the ranch owner to give it 48 hours and then see where she was.
By Sunday, she was much sounder and bearing weight. Since I am now the resident abscess expert, I pulled the old poultice off and got to work with my hoof testers and trusty knife. It looked as though the abscess had migrated from the bar to near the toe. I dug out some sole, particularly along the whiteline, and then repacked it with a Numotizine poultice. We'll have another look at it tomorrow, and then the farrier is scheduled to come on Wednesday. Since she was already much happier on Sunday, it looks like she'll heal quickly.
#3 San Fransisco
We went to San Fransisco a week or so ago, but I never got around to sharing. We did all of the things that were on our list, but then we managed to squeeze in a few extra things, one of which was the Legion of Honor, a fine arts museum. The collection includes some fabulous pieces by artists you would actually recognize.
While those works were quite fascinating, two others caught my eye because they were equine related. The first was the sculpture pictured above. I can't remember who the sculptor is, but what I liked was the draped rein. Yes, the horse's mouth is gaping, but his ears are pricked, and he looks to be in self-carriage.
Another piece that caught my eye was this painting. What's not to love? He's bridle-less for one thing, he has a mane and tail to die for, and he looks as though his canter pirouette is right there, waiting to be asked for.
#4 The Double Bridle
Speedy's not much of a talker, but since he hasn't chimed in, I'll speak for both of us when I say, LOVE IT! Don't get me wrong, we're still struggling with the half passes, damn those things, but I am finding that we are communicating better than ever. The double has given me a whole new feel. I can get him softer so much quicker, and I am finding it MUCH easier to push him from behind up to my hand.
With just a snaffle, adding leg often just had the effect of driving him onto his forehand. Now, I can ask him to come through from behind while LIFTING. It also helped that Chemaine did the "follow me with the whip" lesson. That helped both of us understand that he could drop his croup without launching forward. And finally ...
This is a horse blog and not a fashion or design blog which means you're not here for design tips. That's good because I don't have any. On the other hand, I can tell you a lot about garage doors. We've replaced at least four of them over the past 25 years.
Not too long ago, my garage door opener malfunctioned, lifting the door just high enough so that when looking out my rearview mirror, it appeared as though it had gone up as usual. It hadn't, and when I backed up, it scraped the roof of my car, ripping off my antenna and causing quite a lot of damage to my roof which had to be repaired and then repainted.
Much to my husband's relief, the garage door seemed okay. Last month it finally fell off the cable though and became inoperable. There must have been more damage than we originally thought. Fast forward to last week. After waiting for nearly two months for the door to be built and delivered, we finally have a brand new door that looks 10 bazillion times better than the old one. We've hated that peach door since we moved in, so maybe I hit it on purpose.
I did not hit it on purpose, but if I had known how much better a new door was going to look, I would have. This door was fun to pick out because I got to select not just the window design, but the color and the hardware (which you can't really see, but it includes the handles and the "hinges"). My design tip would be to spend the extra money on a custom door. It looks so much better.
I can only hope that this week is less hectic than last week was. I need a break!
Well, Christmas came. Christmas left. Did you get what you hoped for? If you're anything like me, your Christmas wish list probably had at least several equine related items. My list was small this year; very small. There was only one thing on it: the Haas Diva Horsehair and Lambswool Grooming Brush.
Since I am holding it in my hand, it's clear that Santa (aka as my husband) came through for me. It's as lovely as I knew it would be. I have two other Haas brushes, so I knew what kind of quality to expect.
While these brushes are a little more expensive than your no-name brand brushes, the Diva more than the others, the quality is worth it. They're well constructed and actually do what they say.
Having used the Fellglanzburste in both summer and winter, I can now say that these are brushes you can actually use year round. In the past, I've had my summer brushes and a separate set for winter. Now, my grooming tools are getting fewer and fewer. I use a human brush for manes and tails, a hoof pick, and my Tiger's Tongue for faces. I still have my grooming gloves for shedding season and my jelly scrubber for scraping off the mud, but after that, the Parcour or Fellglanzburste do the rest.
In hindsight, which only comes with experience, the Parcour (dark bristles) and the Fellglanzburste (white bristles) are essentially the same brush. They both have short, medium-stiff bristles. They're the same size, shape, and have the same handle. The only differences really are the color of the the bristles and the body. Even so, I like them both equally.
The Diva is very different from the other two brushes. I wanted it specifically for shows when Speedy's coat is at its thinnest. In the summer, when he's show clean, his coat is particularly fine and silky. The Diva will just help smooth and polish his already fine coat.
I've brushed the dog's face and my face, but it hasn't yet touched Speedy. He's a polar bear right now, so brushing him with this would only serve to get the brush dirty with Speedy looking exactly the same. No, I am saving it for this summer when he's shed out and looking glamorous.
Next up on my list is the Haas Schimmel Body Brush. Neither of my boys are fans of stiff brushes, so this would strictly be a dead of winter brush. Right now, both horses have super thick coats that are difficult to brush out when they're damp, particularly after riding.
I am also considering the Haas Fellburste Noir Grooming Brush to replace my very old finishing brush. It's at least 20 years old. The Fellburste has 2" long horsehair bristles which is nearly exactly like my old one. I am hoping this one might work a little better. That one should complete my set. Because really, how many brushes does a girl need?
Wait. Don't answer that.
This is the final Horses Are Expensive 3.0 report of the year, and I have to say good riddance to bad rubbish. The first year I did this, I learned a lot about my spending habits and how I could control them. The second year that I reported my equine expenses, I learned that the lessons learned in 2012 had stuck quite firmly. For this go round, I can't say that I learned a single thing.
At this stage in my life, I am an expert at budgeting and sticking to it. I sacrifice when required, I pay my bills, and when possible, I stick what's left into savings. With that, here's my last ever report on how expensive horses can be to keep in California.
Nothing dramatic happened in December, so my expenses were average. I took a few lessons, but the show I wanted to do got cancelled, but not before Speedy abscessed, so I wouldn't have been able to go anyway. With nothing standing out, I decided to compare my annual spending from 2018 to 2019 to see if I noticed any trends.
This report is far more interesting. Even though I switched my supplements from Platinum Performance to Horse Guard which cost 57% less, I still spent $3,551 more in 2019. Putting front shoes back on Izzy increased my farrier bill, and Blue Truck needed a few repairs. Other categories rose by small amounts, but two areas in particular stand out as money pits: Tack or Gear and Veterinary Costs. Apparently I indulged in some retail therapy while Speedy was recovering. Out of curiosity, I ran a report to show exactly what I bought that ran me $1,259.
For future reference, spending a little here and a little there will add up to a hefty sum. Given that my vet bill was 83% higher than the year before, I also ran that report.
The three grand wasn't from one big injury or illness. Instead, Speedy just kept needing things. He abscessed four times - I took care of the last two without the need for the vet. He sliced open both front legs. He knocked a tooth loose which we tried to save by wiring, but then it ultimately needed to be pulled anyway. Both horses needed their annual vaccinations, and both felt the need for body work off and on throughout the year. I am hoping for a cheaper 2020, but in the meantime, I need to get out to the vet to get my wall calendar. It's free, and it's a good one.
It's a good thing that I really like these guys because I could be living a fancier and cleaner life with a better padded retirement account without them.
Forget it. I'd just blow it all on therapy.
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%: