From Endurance to Dressage
I've always been a voracious reader; I don't even remember learning to read. It just feels like I always could. By the time I was twelve, I was reading adult fiction. Stephen King's novels were my favorite. My stepmom still teases me about always having a book in my hand, and there was usually a second one in case I finished the first one. If you're reading this, you're probably a reader, too.
I've never tracked how many books a year I read, but I knew it was at least 30, and probably more. This past March, as COVID-19 was really picking up speed, I realized I had a little extra time on my hands and found myself reading more often than normal. I did a quick count of how many books I had read since the first of January and realized that I was reading more than a book a week. I decided to see if I could read 52 books in a year. Last night, I finished number 52. Since I can't remember exactly where I started, I know it's more than 52, but I wanted to err on the conservative side.
I am a very eclectic reader. I typically don't read a lot of contemporary fiction, but as I scrolled through my Kindle library, I realized that this year I've read more current fiction than normal. In other years, I find myself reading a lot from the twentieth century, particularly the first half of the century. While I have two favorite books of all time, To Kill a Mockingbird and Watership Down, my favorite book is usually the one I am reading right now.
In no particular order, here are ten books from this year that I think are worth reading.
There are many others that I'd like to share. I read two more of Charles Martin's books, he's always wonderful. I reread George Orwell's Animal Farm, which should also scare the hell out of you, as well as Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar. The Haunting of Hill House, which is nothing like the Netflix telling, is worth a read as is another by Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle. I could go on. There are just more good books than there are years in which to read them.
It might sound strange, and I don't understand it myself, but to "celebrate" having reached a goal, 52 books in a year, I started Truman Capote's In Cold Blood last night. Having been written in the mid-twentieth century, it falls solidly in my wheelhouse. It's such a well known book that reading it feels like a privilege, hence the feeling of having earned it as a reward.
If you feel like sharing, let me know what some of your favorites from this year are.
While Speedy is semi-retired, he's not retired from life. He still enjoys working and playing. When I rode him last night though, I found myself wondering how much work should I be asking for? If he's no longer going to compete, should I still ask for some collection? Should we still play around with the medium gaits? How about the extended gaits?
I rode him in the double bridle as I have since learning about his fusing left hock, but this was the first time that he really resisted sitting. I wasn't asking for a lot, just some feeling of lightness. With "T" riding him weekly (not lately as she just got married and is till out of state), I want to make sure he stays fairly well tuned up for her sake.
Since he's sound, I want him to stay that way, but I also want to keep him fit and strong. Sitting around and "babying" his joints is a surefire way to reduce his ability to articulate those joints. But what's the perfect amount of work? For the first half of the ride, he just would not get off his forehand. When I started thinking in terms of a low level horse, one working at Training Level with an eye toward First, I decided that Speedy could do a little more. I tapped him with the whip.
He bucked. I tapped again, and suddenly I had a much more forward horse who started using his hind end. I played around with canter/trot transitions and had to encourage him to actually trot, not walk in the downward transition. Speedy was so prepared to sit that he was giving me walk transitions instead of a trot. We also did some flying changes as he really enjoys them.
By that point, he was pretty sweaty, but he was also fired up and really moving well. I came to two conclusions. The first was that I don't think he needs to work in the double bridle anymore. He was fussy in it, and seemed a little grouchy at being made to work. When T rides him in his old snaffle bridle, he looks much happier and more willing to work than I felt he did with me in the double.
The second thing I realized is that I am going to have to commit to riding him at least once a week to ensure that he stays fit enough for T to ride, especially if she can't make it out more than once a week. Dressage is hard, even at Training Level. If he's going to do low level work, once a week is not enough to keep him fit. And if he's not fit enough, he's more likely to sustain an injury. In all the years I've owned him, he's never suffered a riding injury, and I don't want one now. He needs to stay fit which means a bit more riding.
Ultimately, I just want him to be happy. For now, he wants to be ridden. At what level, I just don't know. It's hard to know if he resists because it's hard or because it hurts. Speedy's never been one to beg for more challenging work. He's always been the type to do just enough to stay out of trouble. It's going to be a challenge to recognize when he's saying that's too much versus I don't want to. I thinking he's got a few more years of being able to put in a solid work day.
He just might need some convincing.
Going to the feed store is sort of a love/hate thing for me. The feed store closest to me, Fred C. Gilbert's, is generally not on the way too or from the barn. They're also not open on Sundays, and they don't open until 9:00 a.m. on Saturday. All of which means that if I do go on Saturday morning, I get to the ranch later than usual which shoves my whole day back a bit. Hate.
That's really the full extent of the hate part of the love/hate thing. Outside of not being directly on the way to the ranch, I love everything about my local feed store. Their customer service is excellent, and they generally carry what I need, or at least something close to it. When I walked in on Saturday, they had a new bin of dog toys that I could not resist. Yellow Dog thinks her new starfish is super fun.
The thing I most love about going to the feed store is the feeling of satisfaction I get once everything is unloaded and put away. I have some OCD tendencies, some of which are actually healthy. Like I can't put fresh, new feed bags onto an unswept floor. Buying new feed gives me a legitimate reason to drag stuff out and give the floor a good sweeping.
Once the floor is swept clean of dead bugs, spilled feed, and plain old dirt, I carefully line up each new feed bag. And again, my OCD tendencies force me to do some irrational things. Like the bags cannot be upside down, and they must all face the same direction. That's not weird, right?
Once the bins are nearly empty, I pour the old feed into a smaller bucket, and then dump the new feed into the empty bin. I can pour two bags of rice bran into my bin on the left, but the other only holds one bag of beet pulp at a time. Whatever old feed I've poured into the small bucket gets poured back into the bin on top of the new feed so that it gets used first. Everyone does it that way, don't they?
Once the floor is swept and all of the feed bags and buckets are back where they go, I get an immense feeling of satisfaction. Filling a barn with hay gives an even bigger sense of completion, but this is a good feeling too. I hate making the detour to get to the feed store, but I love having a month or two worth of feed lined up, ready to go.
So yes, while I hate the drive, getting feed is mostly a love relationship.
On Sunday, Amelia Newcomb is coming to the ranch for a one-day clinic. I am hosting on behalf of my California Dressage Society chapter, the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of which I am the vice chairperson. Our CDS chapter is based in Tehachapi, a small mountain community to the east, but it also serves the entire county, including Bakersfield.
You might know Amelia through her YouTube channel which is the first place I look when I want to see how something should be ridden. One of my favorite videos of hers is How to Ride Third Level Test 3. Her YouTube channel is packed full of videos ranging from how to keep your stirrup in the canter to rider work out videos.
With COVID-19 still running amok here in the Golden State, we have found that trainers who are usually busy showing and training are suddenly more available than usual. Imagine my surprise when I reached out to Amelia just a few weeks ago and found out that she was available for a one-day clinic! During a normal season, she no doubt would have had her schedule jam packed for months. It also helps that she's less than two hours away which means she can drive here and head back home on the same day without needing to overnight in someone's home (mine) or a hotel.
The ranch owner and I recently dismantled the dressage court and dragged it smooth, so neither of us wants to do it again before Sunday. Dragging is easy since Reggie does it, but rebuilding the court is rather tedious, and neither of us really has time to do it in the next two days. Even though I replaced the labels on my dressage letters over the summer, they were looking pretty sad this week, so that was the one job I made time for.
The hardest part of redoing the letters is buying 12 bottles of water. It doesn't help when you can't count. Last week I paid for twelve bottles, but when I unloaded them into the garage, I realized that I had only bought ten. It was my mistake completely; I told the cashier I had twelve on the cart, but I obviously can only count to ten. I didn't care about the lost $1.50; I was more annoyed at myself for miscounting. Over the weekend, I had to go back to the store and buy two more.
With packing tape in hand, I covered a few bottles at a time in between teaching, cooking dinner, and walking the dogs. By yesterday afternoon, all twelve bottles were ready to be loaded up and hauled out to the ranch on Saturday. I may not get the arena dragged, but I will straighten my rails/poles and replace all of the old letters.
If you're local and want to watch Amelia teach, reach out to me for directions. I'm the first rider to go at 8:15. Amelia will be teaching through the early afternoon, and auditors are free. Come join us!
It's tough to be so well loved, especially when it's by a gnat. Or midges. Or no-see-ums. Officially they're called Ceratopogonidae, and they think Izzy is a buffet of yumminess. Poor Guy. According to Wikipedia, there are more than 5,000 species of the little buggers, and they cover the planet from south of the arctic to north of Antarctica. Their bites are painful and can cause intensely itchy lesions. Izzy will vouch for that last bit.
Last summer, Izzy rubbed out a bit of his tail and nearly all of his mane. I knew he was itchy, but with fly spray and frequent showers, he made it through the buggy season with his skin pretty well intact. This year, he's been a hot mess. I've tried no less than a dozen products, many of which claim to be cure-alls for Seasonal Recurrent Dermatitis (SSRD), colloquially known as both summer itch and sweet itch. In short, the itchiness is a medical condition in horses caused by an allergic response to the bites of midges. Or as I like to call them, little bastards.
When I took Izzy to see Dr. Tolley for his fall vaccinations, we formulated a plan to deal with the itchy skin medically instead of just topically. I've already mentioned this, but Dr. Tolley gave Izzy a shot of dexamethasone, a steroid that treats inflammation. I also took home a jar of Triamcinolone acetonide, another corticosteroid used topically to treat various skin conditions. On Monday, I drove back out to pick up a bottle of prednisolone tablets, a corticosteroid that decreases inflammatory or immune responses.
None of these drugs are particularly cheap, especially the prednisolone. In fact when I calculated the cost of Izzy's new allergy pills, I gulped in dismay. A bottle of 500 pills costs $115 which sounds really cheap until you consider how many pills a day he'll be getting. Here's Dr. Tolley's plan beginning on Monday going through December 1:
Next spring is when I'll start to feel the pinch. By then, we hope to start him on 16 pills every other day from April 1 though December 1. That works out to approximately 240 a pills a month ($55) for eight months ($441). I need a new envelope.
The good news is that one of the steroids Dr. Tolley gave is working. Or more likely, some combination of two of them is giving Izzy some relief. Last night, all of his itchy spots were smooth with no raw skin showing. His forehead looked nearly healed, and his shoulders had new hair coming in. I wish I had thought to take a picture because he's nearly black now. His yellow coat has quickly been replaced by his black winter coat. That, too, usually fades by February, but for the month of November, he's normally quite dark.
I know he will feel so much better after just a few more days, and the cool weekend that's in store will help even more. I wish they made a Zyrtec or Claritin for horses where one pill a night did the trick. Fortunately, the pills dissolve completely in his beat pulp, and he wolfs them down without batting an eye.
Now I need to start shopping the online pharmacies to see if I can knock a few dollars off each bottle. Every little bit helps.
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 Second Level. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read