From Endurance to Dressage
Every day I remind myself that we need the rain, we need the rain, we need the rain. But honestly, I am a little over it. At this point I almost miss dust.
Just about the time the puddles begin to dry out, it rains again.
Besides the obvious benefits of rain, one bonus has been the proliferation of grasses and plants. California isn't called the "golden state" for nothing. We're not known for being covered in green. Within a month or so, the lush grasses will be prickly and filled with foxtails.
It has been 24 days since I have been able to ride the entire length of the arena. And as of yesterday, both the C and A ends have standing water. I had to cancel my Saturday lesson again.
Right now, the river is running very deep and wide. Most of the time, it can't be seen from the edge of the pastures, but last night, it was approaching the top of the bank. In another month or so, as the mountain snow begins to melt, the river will likely flood the lower pastures. When it does, we'll lose our trail which was just mowed yesterday.
Even more rain is predicted for Monday through Wednesday. I know we'll all be grateful to see our reservoirs refilled, and summer will feel less hot and dusty with replenished aquifers, but I am over it.
Thank you, California, for wearing green this St. Patty's Day, but let me at least ride my horse occasionally!
I try really hard to keep abreast of every USEF rule change because occasionally, one of them will actually apply to me. As an example, not too long ago, the rule regarding the baucher bit was changed. That's the bit that Speedy used before the double bridle, but it's the bit that he went back to in his semi-retirement. I haven't measured the hanging cheek piece to see if it falls within the legal limit because it doesn't matter now that he's not showing anymore.
The new rule that caught my eye was DR122.i. Beginning February 1st, your horse can now stop to pee or poop before you begin the test if the bell has already rung. I have had quite a few OMG hurry up! moments as one of my horses stopped to poop. It has always been after our first centerline though.
When I show, I always pass by the judge and scribe to bid them good day as well as report my number and which test I will be riding. I did that one time, and in that moment that I halted Speedy to greet the judge, he took that opportunity to stop, spread his hind legs wide, and leg go of the longest pee that he could muster. I think he even threw in a few grunts and extra squirts just for good measure. I was so embarrassed. And in that instance, the judge and scribe were seated on a low platform just barely off the ground. That meant they sat in front of his pee spot for the rest of the day; gross!
Both Speedy and Izzy have stopped in a test to poop. I wish the rule extended to include the time in the dressage court. Because really, what are you going to do? At this point in Izzy's life, he doesn't give a flying duck if I kick him on while he's pooping. He'll just stand there grunting at my kicks as he does his business. I can't say I blame him. I like to stop while I poop, too.
Pooping while moving is a difficult business; so is peeing.
M.A.R.E. - Week 9
Each week that I've volunteered at M.A.R.E., I've both learned a new job and something about myself. Last week, I was a horse handler in a group lesson. I was assigned to work with the same sweetie pie of a rider as the week before, but this time her mom would be the side walker while I took charge of pony Haven.
Like every other week, I arrived well ahead of the next lesson time which meant that I looked around for a job to do. Last week I wrote about becoming fearless. Most people who know me know that I am a no nonsense, get out of my way kind of girl. I am a problem solver by nature, and I love tackling a job. What I am not great at is mingling with a group of strangers. When I arrived at MARE, all of the volunteers were laughing hysterically at Trainer 1 who had just been "bucked off" Bucky the vaulting barrel horse. T1 greeted me with a laugh as I walked in, but right away my affective filter went up.
I made a joking comment but then immediately scurried into the tack room to find a job to do. While I scrubbed away at last week's stack of uncleaned bridles, I listened in as the trainers and volunteers continued to chat and enjoy themselves. It was uncomfortable to be on the "outside," but it would have been equally uncomfortable to join in, especially if I wasn't in on the joke. I am quite certain that hiding out the tack room made me appear unfriendly and aloof, but my fear of rejection is a real thing.
Now I know that that feeling comes from a fear of judgement: what will they think of me? Acknowledging it doesn't make it easier to face though. However, once I articulate a shortcoming, whether it is in my riding or my character, it becomes less challenging to face and eliminate, either through repetition - in the case of riding, or smiling and at least remaining in the same room.
I was relieved when the clock finally indicated it was time to bring in the horses for grooming and tacking up. I walked out into Haven's pasture, grateful to interact with someone with whom I had no fear of judgement. Haven happily walked beside me with her ears flicking my direction as I chatted with her about nothing important. Once we made it into the barn, my feeling of inadequacy disappeared as my body settled into the familiar tasks of grooming and tacking up.
With all three girls waiting, we brought the horses one by one over to the newly installed mounting ramp. Haven, sweet as she is to the kids, was not very sweet to me. Last week, I watched the horse handler take a firm hold of Haven's head when she got a bit testy. Now I know why. As I stood with her, she kept trying to nip me which meant I had to watch where my fingers, hands, and arms were. All the while, she kept stepping away from the ramp which made it difficult for my little charge to get on. T1 finally had me circle back around so that I could get Haven closer and straighter. Ponies, man, they're not easy!
Once Haven's girl was safely mounted with mom as side walker, Haven settled into her job. This was the first lesson that I participated in that had multiple riders. We played a version of red light, green light and did lots of weaving around poles and cones. Some of the patterns T2 had us do left me feeling like I needed a caller for this "dressage test" of a lesson. Between mom and me, we were able to mostly stay on course. A few times I lined Haven up behind the wrong white thing - T1 meant the white bucket, I parked Haven at the white barrel.
When the time was up, each kiddo was helped to dismount by the trainer, and the side walkers escorted them out of the arena. As soon as Haven's rider was safely on the ground, Haven began fidgeting and nipping at me again. She knew her work day was over, and she was eager to get back to her stall and dinner. All three horses were led back to the barn where they were untacked, groomed, and in Haven's case, blanketed.
My feeling of not fitting in returned, so I headed out to the arena alone to bring in the buckets and cones. As I walked into the barn, everyone was gathered around Smoothie, the horse who had been up north receiving care. Smoothie had been dropped off during the lesson. Smoothie is T1's favorite horse, so she is particularly invested in his recovery. Not wanting to interrupt the homecoming, I grabbed the blower and cleaned out the piles of hair from both crossties. I saw Smoothie's traveling bandages were in a pile so I rerolled the bandages and put them away. (Don't forget to fill out the form for a chance to win a Riding Warehouse gift card - if you tried before and weren't able to access it, I have updated the form's settings.)
By that time, the crowd had thinned and T1 excitedly invited me over to hear about Smoothie's recovery plan. She and I had talked about it earlier, so she knew I would be interested in what the plan was. She chatted enthusiastically, and it seemed that she enjoyed my company. We walked around the barn together as she prepared Smoothie's syringe of SMZ and bute. I find it quite easy to relax and open up one on one. Being in a group is much harder until I get to know everyone individually. It's something I need to work on.
MARE is a therapeutic riding center. I didn't realize that by volunteering, I might make use of the therapy. Something tells me the Divine has had a hand in things.
I Don't Hate My Position
After Saturday's don't want to attitude, Izzy came out a bit friskier on Sunday. It didn't hurt that the ranch owner was hand-walking her mare as we rode. Once she went out of sight, Izzy's girlfriend leaving alert went off which got his motor revving. I actually appreciated the opportunity to school through a bit of a tantrum.
Even though I haven't had a lesson in a while, I decided to video my ride to see where we stand after a very inconsistent past month or so. To my surprise, Izzy was looking pretty fancy pants, and I didn't completely hate my position. My rides on Speedy always felt great, but video told a different story. Riding Izzy feels like an 8 second bull ride, but the video always shows a pair that looks pretty well put together. I don't know if looks are deceiving or if my feel needs recalibrating. Probably both.
We had another deluge on Saturday night so the arena was even wetter than the day before. The top half stays pretty rideable, but with more water dumped on it, I had an even smaller part of the arena in which to ride than on Saturday. There's not a whole lot you can do on a 20-meter circle besides transitions, so that's what I worked on. With Izzy, lack of submission is always a recurring theme, so I schooled submissive 20-meter circles.
Most of the ride went pretty well, but Izzy did pull a couple of DUDE! moments. He definitely challenges me for most every single ride, and it does get old, but the longer I have him the quicker he gives it up. His biggest spook of the day came out of no where and left just as quickly.
This horse definitely sees dead people. The thing that cracks me up about his theatrical expressions is that my face never changes. I just sit through the shenanigans, pop him in when necessary, pat him nearly always, and then carry on. For his part, Izzy accepts the correction, checks in to make sure I am serious, and then gets back to work.
I haven't shared this before now, but we probably aren't doing any shows until late summer, if at all. My husband and I are going to Europe for two weeks in June which means I am saving every non-essential dollar to pay for our trip. And since Izzy isn't helping me earn any qualifying scores, I'd rather use my money for something a bit more fulfilling. In some ways it makes riding easier because I am not pushing for anything in particular. I'm just riding the horse I have today.
I love showing, but I love not being in debt even more. Riding at home for a few months is a good opportunity to continue chipping away at some of Izzy's fears. It's hard to be upset about not showing when the alternative is seeing the world. And besides, Izzy doesn't care whether we show or not.
We're pretty excited to get back to traveling. More details to come.
If you were to ask any Californian how they feel about the rain we've received this year, the answer would be this: Thank goodness because we need the rain, but it has been a royal pain in the butt! While most of the state is now "drought free" - we are never really drought free, it has come at a cost. The Kern River is flooding, and a lot of people are being affected.
A week ago California was buried under massive snow with frigid temperatures. This weekend we were hit with a monster warm front carrying an atmospheric river. Bakersfield lies below the Lake Isabella Dam, and so far, the release rate hasn't affected us. The river is swollen from the runoff below the dam, and it is running wide and deep, but at its worst, it will only flood the lower half of our pastures. Kernville is above the Isabella Reservoir. They haven't been as lucky. I have seen some interesting photos this past week. Because the river is icy cold, it is actually causing "steam" to appear as the exceptionally warm air just above the surface of the water is beginning to condense and form "clouds."
We live very near to the mouth of the canyon where the Kern River exits the mountains. We live on the south side of the river, and my horses live on the north side. The flooding won't affect us, but the rain does. Just about the time the footing dries out enough to ride, another wave of storms rolls through. First we had rain and mud, then Izzy had an abscess, then we had more rain and mud. Seventeen days had passed without me being able to ride. Finally, on Saturday, I was able to get in a "let me see how sound you are" type of ride.
It was in the high sixties with very humid weather, so even I wasn't exactly thrilled about working too hard. As it turns out, neither was my big brown horse. He was quite happy to walk and stretch down and even do a little trotting, but when I asked for a canter, he did everything but canter forward. He weaved, he bulged, he dodged, he quit, but cantering one circle was just beyond his ability. I eventually kicked him hard enough with my rubber boots to get one circle each way, but honestly, it would have been a lot easier on him had he just done the one canter circle when asked the first time. Nope. He has to make a big deal out of everything. He still hasn't figured out that my way is generally the easiest way.
Before tacking Izzy up, I turned Speedy out to enjoy the lush grass that is growing everywhere except the pastures and paddocks. Sometime during the week, before this most recent rainfall, Reggie worked the dirt in Speedy's paddock. The dirt under his shelter had been shored up so that any water would drain out. It was nice and dry under there which Speedy appreciated. He hates to step in the mud. Speedy and Dollar the stallion share a quarter acre with a fence down the middle. Their paddocks are the smallest of all of the horses' pastures which means everyone has somewhere dry to stand. Even with all of that space, Speedy still likes to get out.
The arena was mostly rideable on Saturday - a third was still too wet, but considering how much rain and snow California has received these past few months, I am grateful that my boys live somewhere where they can still get plenty of exercise and stay warm at the same time. We need the rain, but it is definitely a pain in the butt.
So says every other Californian.
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%: