From Endurance to Dressage
My horses share a very large, sandy field that is crossed fenced so that each has his own half. I wouldn't mind removing the fence and giving them a larger area to run and play, but their dietary needs require them to be fed separately.
A few weeks ago, the ranch owners erected a cover for one of the newest horses at the ranch, Sarah. My boys don't have a rain shelter. Izzy's side of the field has a HUGE Sycamore that provides wonderful shade in the summer and some protection from the rain in winter. Speedy has a line of Cottonwoods that give him shade, but they don't do much to protect him from the rain.
The first few years that Speedy lived at the ranch, he lived in a size-able, covered pen that opened into a large field. He was turned out at night, but his gate was left open so he could come and go. When we moved him to Izzy's field, I knew there wasn't as much shelter from the rain, so I blanketed him on those days that were particularly wet. It also "helps" that here in Bakersfield we only average around 6 inches of rain per year. Shelter from the summer sun is far more important than shelter from the occasional rainy day.
When I saw the shelter going up in Sarah's field, I asked if maybe Speedy could get one, too. Once Sarah's was done, the ranch owners very graciously began acquiring the materials for a rain shelter for both Speedy and Izzy. Last week, all of the framing was finished.
Since both of my boys are massive pests, a perimeter fence was temporarily installed to protect the work crew from my nosy ponies. And of course, the fence also protects said nosy ponies from maiming themselves on the ladders and other work equipment left while the construction continues.
The ranch owner told me that the structure is 16 by 16 feet. Since the shelter straddles the cross fence evenly, each horse will have a rain shelter that measure 8 by 16 feet. That's plenty for getting out of the rain. I really like that the shelter is being built to be shared because I often find my boys standing companionably in the sun during the hottest part of the day. They would rather stand together than head to their shady corners alone. I am certain I will find them hanging out together this summer in their shade shelter. The roof is still un-attached, but the whole thing should be finished soon.
Home make-overs always take longer than you would want.
Izzy's new winter blanket arrived on Thursday afternoon, and even though it was 90 degrees, I tossed it on him to check the fit. He wasn't thrilled with adding another coat on top of his winter coat.
When I unpacked the blanket, I was more than satisfied. It was exactly what I was looking for: a heavy weight blanket that wasn't heavy. It's light and fluffy and feels sturdy. The inside is slick and smooth, and both the drop and tail flap are substantial enough to cover the big brown horse. All of the straps and buckles are in good working order, and the fit is overall nice and roomy. For under $60, the blanket was more than worth its cost.
Of course, it's still in the 90s here in Central California, although we are expected to see some morning temperatures drift down into the upper 40s this week. Our highs will still be in the upper 70s and low 80s though. We are giddy at the mere thought of rain, even though none is on the horizon. Our fingers are crossed we see some sort of precipitation by November, but that might be just wishful thinking.
California excels at mild winters and blazing hot summers.
I don't generally blanket my horses. Our winters are mild, and we get an average of about six inches of rain. Over the past two years though I have needed to blanket Speedy on the rainiest nights. Whether it's his age - 16, or the PPID (Cushing's Disease), he hasn't been able to keep himself warm enough in the rain. Last winter, all of Speedy's blankets fell apart, literally. While they all appeared to be in excellent shape, once they were exposed to the elements, they just disintegrated. Speedy got a new one, and it's ready for this winter.
Izzy's blanket was much newer and had only been used a handful of times. The problem was that I had purchased that blanket for another horse, and it was about an inch and a half too small for the big brown horse. It was wearable, but it didn't hang as nicely as I would have liked. It wasn't much of an issue as Izzy wears a blanket even fewer times a year than Speedy. On the days that Speedy stands shivering, steam pours off Izzy's back.
Izzy does occasionally get cold though, especially if we get a winter storm that's wet and windy, a rarity around here. His hand-me-down blanket did not survive last winter. It started with a small tear here, and ended with a ginormous rip there. After duct taping it and tying buckles back on, I finally tossed it in the dumpster. It had served its purpose.
I knew that if I waited and watched long enough this fall, blanket discounts would start to appear. I don't blanket Izzy often, but I want to have one on hand if I feel he needs it.Yesterday morning, Dover sent me a very enticing email. As they say, patience is a virtue. I am not sure how long the sale is going to last, but Dover is offering 20% off Dover brand horse clothing with code CMXBLANKETS, and shipping is free with a $35 purchase. I don't love or hate the Dover brands, so I decided to see if there might be a too good to pass up blanket deal.
Izzy doesn't need a fancy pants, super luxury blanket. He and I both know that whatever I buy is bound to show some hard wear by spring, no matter how few times he wears it. I was searching for something that was heavy weight, waterproof, had front snaps, a tail guard, leg straps, and crossed surcingles. Oh, and it needed to be cheap, like under $100. I found a deal that seemed too good to be true. And if it weren't from Dover, a company I trust to make it right, I would have doubted that I was getting what I ordered.
I ordered it, especially when they actually had a size 82 in stock. I only hope it's big enough since blanket sizes are a lot like ladies' pants sizes - an 8 in one brand doesn't fit like an 8 in another. This 82 might swallow Izzy, or leave him tugging at the collar. For the price though, it was worth the risk. Once I entered the 20% discount code, the cost of the blanket dropped to $55.99, nearly half of what I was hoping to pay. I feel like I should have a second one to keep as a back up.
With no rain predicted for the rest of this month, and probably not much in the months to come, the blanket may not even get used this year. For California's sake, I hope it does. Even if it means I need to buy a replacement because Izzy has mangled this one with so much use, it will be worth it.
Come on, rain, we're waiting!
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!
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.
National Rider Awards
State Rider Awards
State Horse Awards
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 …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
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