From Endurance to Dressage
Today is a day to celebrate. The winter solstice is upon us which means that beginning tomorrow, we will begin accruing daylight instead of losing it. Today, we will have only 9 hours and 48 minutes of daylight. By Saturday, we will have one additional minute, and the following Saturday, another minute more. By the middle of January, we'll have 10 hours and 3 minutes of daylight. And by January 31, we'll have 10 hours and 29 minutes. That day, the sun won't set until 4:54 p.m. in my latitude.
It seems a small thing, but for someone struggling to find joy, daylight is a balm that soothes the soul. While Saturday's weather was so gloomy and cold, we did enjoy an hour of bright sunshine right in the middle of the day. My husband told me that while golfing on the north side of town, the sun never broke through for him. I was so grateful for that brief hour of sunshine that I spent it chatting with the ranch owner with the sun shining full on my face.
I am more fortunate than most. Beginning Friday at noon, I have two weeks off which means that I can be at the barn much earlier in the day, and if it is cloudy or foggy, the sky will still be brighter than it would be at 3:30 when I would normally arrive. When I go back to work on January 9th, we will have 9 hours and 58 minutes of daylight, 10 full minutes more than today. It's not much, but it's a start. Each day we will gain a minute or more which will make the days not only feel longer, but less rushed.
Even if it is just by a minute.
California is not known for brutally cold winters. We barely have winter as it is. Fall is not usually much of a spectacle here either. It was 79 degrees on Thanksgiving day here in the Central Valley. It's hard to wear boots and sweaters when you're sweating.
Even so, we are finally seeing some colors in the trees, and the late afternoons have been filled with golden sunlight. I stopped and admired the view as I left the ranch yesterday.
I still haven't worn a jacket, and you probably have snow. That's California!
The ranch where my two boys live is not a public boarding facility. It's a small ranch owned by two geologists, one of whom happens to be as horse crazy as the rest of us. Over the past two decades she has invited a few different friends to board their horses with her. Usually, they stay a short while and then move on; I've stuck around. I've been at the ranch for more than six years now, and before that, I was at a property across the street for five years. This neighborhood has been home for a long while.
Not much happens at the ranch, but when it does, it's big news. There is another woman who keeps her mare at the ranch. She also rides one of the ranch mares. Last year, she hurt her knee pretty seriously which kept her out of the saddle all summer. As she has slowly gotten back to riding, she realized that she needed a bigger mounting block; one she could also use for dismounting. Her husband listened to what she wanted, built it for her, and finally delivered it last week.
Since we both happened to be at the barn at the same time - that rarely happens, she saddled up Sarah, and I threw my riding halter on Speedy. I haven't been on Speedy in a few months, so he was particularly happy to see that halter. Deb climbed aboard Sarah, and then I took my turn with her new mounting block. For everyday schooling rides, I get on at the arena with our 3-step, polyethylene block, but Deb likes to get on down by the tack room. For trail riding, this mounting block is awesome because it's the perfect height for swinging a leg over bareback Speedy.
All of our horses are quite well broke, but for somebody fractious or prone to shenanigans, I would probably stick to a solid-sided mounting block as a spooky horse could easily stick a leg through the open sides of this mounting block. But for Deb's mare and even Speedy, this mounting block works great.
It had been quite some time since my last ride around the neighborhood, so Deb showed me a new gate to avoid as well as a corner of the neighborhood that I hadn't felt we had permission to ride in. She gets out more than I do and discovered that riding in the nearby orchard is fine with the owner. He's the gentleman who owns the old golf course where I like to let Izzy gallop when he needs to let off some steam.
We circled the golf course and then rode through the cherry orchard. We came out near the river so we walked down to peer down through the water. As we rode along the edge of the river bank, a flock of Canada Geese stayed just in front of us. Neither of us wanted to rush them, but as they don't waddle as fast as the horses walk, we knew that eventually they would take flight. They did of course, but only half of them. Speedy spooked to the left, but I managed to squeeze tight and hang on. I was riding bareback with only a halter, so there was a lot of laughing. Of course, just as I got re-seated, the second half of the honkers flew out into the river which sent Speedy spooking to the left again. I laughed harder the second time and still managed to keep my seat.
The week off I enjoyed last week lent itself to doing things just for the fun of it - first, riding Izzy in a western saddle at CC's cattle ranch and later, hacking bareback with a friend. I didn't ride with a learning intention in mind, and Speedy got to enjoy 30 minutes with a buddy.
I didn't realize how much I needed to get out of the dressage court.
I am probably in the minority when it comes to feelings of loathing in regards to DST, but here goes: thank goodness time is back on track. For those of you who work a nine to five job, I understand how you detest regular time, but for those of us who get to work at the butt crack of dawn, or earlier, this weekend's return to standard time is a welcome reprieve from hours and hours of darkness.
You see, I leave for work between 5:30 and 5:45 a.m. I like to pull into the parking lot by 6:10 to be seated at my desk by 6:15. This gives me an (unpaid) hour in which to do the work I don't have time for during my work day. That means I spend the first two and a half hours of my day in the dark. It's depressing, and it hurts like hell.
With this weekend's time change, I will still wake up in the dark and drive in the dark, but at least the sun will start to make an appearance shortly after I get to work. And while I do feel for all of you nine to fivers out there, I hope you can appreciate my relief at no longer spending a good portion of my morning in the dark. While many of you have now lost your already diminishing light in the afternoon, I can still eke out a ride if I hurry. I leave work at 2:45 p.m. - 2:35 if no one is looking, which means I can be at the barn by 3:15. If I hurry, I can be tacked up by 3:45. That gives me just enough time for a quick 30 minute ride before the sun drops behind the trees at 4:30.
For the darkest days of winter, I chunk up the days, focusing on those where i can ride for more than 30 minutes. I get this Friday off - thank you to every Veteran out there for your service, and I get the week of November 21st off for Thanksgiving. Then I'll work for four dark weeks, rushing every afternoon to get some kind of a ride done during the week, but I get the two weeks after Christmas off which means I can again ride in the middle of day. By the time I return to work on January 9th, the sun will have already reached its most southern point here in the northern hemisphere, and the daylight will have had nearly three weeks to begin increasing.
Through the rest of January and February, daylight hours will begin gaining rapidly, slightly more than a minute per day. By the end of February, the sun will set just before 6:00 p.m. which gives me plenty of time for an afternoon ride. On March 12, the date for Daylight Saving Time to begin anew in 2023, the return of pitch black mornings will return as we once again alter time.
Sadly, for me anyway, the U.S. Senate passed the Sunshine Protection Act of 2021, which would abolish clock changes in favor of permanent daylight saving time. So far, the U.S. House hasn't discussed it, nor has it been presented to the President for his signature. I can only pray that the House sees reason and lets the Act dry up and blow away.
Until then, I am going to relish my morning sunshine. Sorry, not sorry.
I am back on a daily riding schedule. That's both a good thing and a bad thing. With a horse like Izzy, there's a fine line between just right and too much. He needs plenty of work to keep his energy level down and his brain busy, but depending on the kind of work, he also needs days off so that I don't over-face him. Right now, the kind of work I am doing is a bit corrective, so I decided to give him Wednesday and Thursday off. He had been worked for at least five consecutive days, so I knew he was due for a rest day.
I am really happy with how he's been working this past few weeks - we got a clean left to right flying change earlier this week, but I was beginning to feel some low level anxiety building. I also saw a few scattered sloppy poop piles. Those two things told me to back off just a bit. I worked late on Wednesday so both horses got a day of complete rest, not that Speedy needed it.
Yesterday, as always, I changed out of my work clothes whilst using my back seat as a changing room. I park right next to Izzy's sandy pasture, so he sees me kicking off shoes and doing other gymnastic work as I struggle into breeches and boots. He usually comes shambling over to say hello and beg for treats. He didn't do that yesterday. Instead he kept himself parked in his shady corner, lazily swishing his tail at a few flies. I made the quick decision to play with both horses instead of riding. I turned Speedy loose out in the big yard, and closed Izzy up in the grassy turnout in front of Speedy's paddock.
Speedy knows how to live. He immediately set to mowing the grass down as though he were being paid by the mouthful. He also took the opportunity to hang out with me and tell me about his day. Not Izzy. Despite having lots of perfectly nice grass underfoot, he sidled up next to his gal pal and spent a solid half an hour licking the hose, chewing the rake, and rubbing his face and neck on the fence. I can't take that boy anywhere.
While the boys enjoyed themselves, I parked myself in the grass and swiped through TikTok. I don't do much on social media, but a few minutes spent laughing at absolutely nothing always changes my outlook. Speedy is not a fan of TikTok, so he eventually ditched me in favor of checking out what might be be available at Izzy's place. He scrounged around in the feeder, checked out Izzy's roll spot, and then blasted past me when he realized I was about to kick him out.
Getting both horses back into their respective paddocks is always what I imagine herding cats must be like. Each horse is certain the other is getting something better. Eventually, Speedy was back where he belonged with his lunch bucket, but not before chasing Izzy out with pinned ears and a swishing tail. To my surprise, Izzy actually skedaddled, certain that Speedy meant it. It seems as though the pecking order has shifted. With some poking and prodding, I finally got Izzy heading towards his own paddock and his bucket of lunch. He is familiar enough with the routine that he now tucks himself in as long as I get him pointed in the right direction.
Sometimes, it becomes necessary to re-examine one's priorities. A day off seemed more valuable than another day of work.
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%: