From Endurance to Dressage
There is no feeling like a barn full of hay. Right now, that feeling of deep satisfaction is coming at a price. A STEEP price. Here in the Central Valley of California, alfalfa is selling for approximately $25 a bale at the feed store. The tricky thing with feed store bales though is that you buy by the bale, not by the pound.
Anyone who buys hay knows that there's more to the purchase than just the price. The adage, you get what you pay for applies just as readily to hay. Who cares if it is cheap if it ends up being old, dusty, moldy, or stemmy. Most horse owners are willing to pay more if the quality is good. Last week, the ranch had a few tons delivered - probably a year and a half's worth. I don't think the owner wanted quite that much, but she couldn't find enough neighbors willing to buy at least some of it, so she took an extra stack or two. Grass hay is also on its way, so the barn is going to be bulging from both ends.
The alfalfa that the ranch owner gets comes from the Imperial Valley; the grass comes from Oregon. The buyer she gets it from sells good quality at a competitive price because she buys the entire load. We all know the price of hay is going through the barn roof. This load ran $475 a ton with approximately 16 bales to the ton. So while these bales ran about $28 each, slightly higher than feed store bales, they are heavy. Each bale weighs around 119 pounds. They're almost too heavy for her and I to move around.
I'd love to know what your hay is costing you this year. Do you buy it by the bale or by the ton? Do you have round bales, two strand bales, or three strand bales like ours? Do you buy alfalfa, and if not, what are you feeding? Are cubes any cheaper?
Between hay and diesel costs, horses are getting more expensive by the minute.
If we're friends on Facebook, you'll have already seen photos of my recent field trip out to CC's ranch to watch my friend Lisa work her mare Ruby. Lisa and Ruby joined us for a trail ride last month. CC is Izzy's chiropractor, and as we found out on that trail ride, Lisa trains with CC. The horse world is very small.
CC's ranch is smack dab in the middle of the town of Caliente, a long forgotten town along the track of the Union Pacific Railroad. Caliente's history is pretty interesting as it sprang up with the arrival of the railroad in 1875. CC generously spent time explaining the loop pictured above. The Tehachapi Loop, considered an engineering feat when it was begun in 1874, is just a few miles to the east. People from all over the world come to visit these few miles of the Union Pacific Railroad because of its unique construction, and there it sits in CC's backyard. I couldn't quit watching the trains circle around. It was utterly mesmerizing.
CC and his family have been working cattle in the Caliente region for more than a generation. His daughter now has her own herd that she manages.
While CC still shows his own and client horses, he's really all about running the ranch and doing it on well bred horses. Later in the morning he rode a two year old that was more broke than any of my horses.
Watching everyone working gave me a sense of what life must have been like before cell phones, social media, and the internet. These people still have a deep connection with the land, something urban dwellers could use more of.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning spent in Caliente. Of course, it's not hard to talk me into doing something if horses are involved. But truthfully, I think all of us need to step outside of our comfort zones to see how other people live and work. It is no surprise that much of what these riders do is very similar to what we do in dressage. They want supple, forward thinking horses. Horses that can rock back on their haunches with riders giving aids so subtle they aren't easy to see. Their clothes and tack are very different, but horses are horses. They all walk, trot, and canter no matter what their saddles look like.
I definitely want to go back, but next time, I am going to ask if I can give it a try!
The main reason we moved Izzy into the stallion's pen and the stallion into Izzy's pen was to help Speedy deal with the flies. I'll get there; give me a minute. Even though we use fly predators, the ranch is situated on the Kern River which means we deal with a lot of insects other than flies; gnats are particularly troublesome. While bugs are a pain in the patootie, the real problem is that Izzy won't let Speedy wear a fly mask nor a fly sheet.
Izzy has more energy than the rest of the horses on the ranch combined. Living in a large pen and being ridden four to five times a week doesn't use it all up. Since Speedy was his immediate neighbor, anything on or around Speedy became a toy. Frankly, Izzy is kind of a pest. Now that he's living on nearly a quarter of an acre with no shared fences, he can no longer rip off Speedy's clothes, and he has a lot more room in which to do obnoxious stuff.
Now that Izzy isn't there to rip it off, Speedy has kept his fly mask on every day for more than a week. I take it off each day to clean it and put a bit of ointment in his eyes. I was also able to buy a new fly sheet, and Speedy has been pretty happy to wear it. I bought the TuffRider Comfy Plus Belly Band & Tail Flap Fly Sheet because of the belly band, but when it arrived, I was pleasantly surprised that it had three straps for the belly instead of just two.
While the belly band doesn't completely cover his sheath, it does offer a pretty fair amount of coverage. It will certainly make it more difficult for the flies to get up in his urethra. At least I hope so anyway. This particular fly sheet isn't fancy, but for the price - $39.95, it more than meets my expectations. It has two front buckle closures with an additional velcro closure, adjustable leg straps, a tail flap, and a soft lining at the shoulders to prevent rubbing. Will it last all year? Probably not - it already has a few teeth marks where Speedy has grabbed at it, but it was cheap enough that I won't mind buying another one.
Since I had my credit card out, I also bought two new Cashel Crusader Standard Fly Masks for my trailer. I always keep two in the trailer for hauling. Speedy's wearing an old one right now. If Izzy can prove that he won't destroy his cheapo fly mask, he'll get one of these, too. I like these because they're soft, and they provide more coverage than a lot of other fly masks. When you rip yours off and tear it into three pieces fifteen minutes after I've left, you no longer get to wear nice things, <cough> Izzy.
And since my credit card was still out, I also bought a fresh tub of electrolytes, Kentucky Performance Products Summer Games Electrolyte. These have served me well in the past. Last summer, I bought a pelleted electrolyte. Izzy ate them, and they were easy to feed, but I can't remember where I found them. I do like these though because they're powdered which makes it easy to adjust how much I feed.
Of course, all of my fly gear and the electrolytes came from the Riding Warehouse. If you're in need of some summer supplies, RW has some cool new products. If you're placing an order anytime soon, hit me up. I usually have a 15% discount code that I am happy to share.
Here's hoping the bugs are persuaded to avoid our no fly zone!
Well, really more like a new flat. He's in the same "building," just a different floor. I first moved to this neighborhood in 2011 with Speedy and a gelding that I no longer own. We started off at a neighbor's place which is just around the corner - Izzy joined us there in 2014. We moved out to the ranch six years ago. Since that time, Izzy has lived in the same sandy paddock. A few years ago, Speedy moved into half of Izzy's space which made Speedy much happier. Izzy was good either way.
My two boys get along just fine, but Speedy is needing some help that I can't give with the big brown horse living over the fence. Last summer, Speedy developed a nasty summer sore in his urethra and his eyes were a goopy mess all summer. Izzy just will not let Speedy wear a fly mask or sheet. My boys live in a 100 x 100 sandy pen that is cross fenced down the middle. Adjascent to my boys is an equally sized paddock where Dollar the stallion lives. Dollar is also in need of some more hands on care, so it was decided to move Dollar, who is in his 30s and no longer "study," into Izzy's pen and relocate Izzy into Dollar's larger space.
For Izzy, there are several benefits. Number one, he has twice as much room. It wasn't like his paddock was small before, but this space is really big. The second benefit is that since the fencing was designed for a young, virile stallion (Dollar has lived there a long time), there is no-climb fencing on the inside, and the top rail is extra tall. This means Izzy won't be able to stick his head through the bars to rub out his mane of which he has already managed to rub out a quarter. I don't think we'll be able to do much to keep him from rubbing out the the top of his tail, but at least he might keep what's left of his mane and forelock.
Before we made the switch, I rode Izzy hoping to take his edge off. Afterwards, I cleaned out Dollar's left-over, stemy alfalfa and fed it to the two horses on the opposite side of Izzy's new lot. Dollar lives mostly on senior feed. Then I dragged Izzy's breakfast over and swapped out the salt blocks. We left Izzy tied up and walked Dollar over to his new place with a cup of senior feed and rice bran as a house warming gift.
Dollar and Speedy have been friends for many years. During Speedy's walk-abouts, he visits with Dollar pretty regularly. There was a a single stallion squeal when we introduced them over the cross fence, and Speedy jogged up and down the fence line calling for Izzy for about two minutes, but that was the extent of their theatrics. Not one other horse on the property gave a hoot about Dollar moving to the next pen. Well, no one except for the big brown horse.
After we were sure that Speedy and Dollar were settled, I put Izzy in his new place. I hand walked him around the inside fence, showed him the water and his breakfast, and then did the walk again. I slipped off his halter, stood back, and watched him race around for the next several hours. There was very little hollering as both the old men happily stood at the end of their field keeping Izzy company. But that was not enough for the big brown horse. He was pissed. He charged, he bucked, he kicked, he stamped his big round feet. It was all part of a very dramatic hissy fit.
After a while, I put the halter back on him and hosed him off. There is a very convenient hose and faucet located at the entrance to his sandy lot. I also took him over to his automatic waterer and made sure he knew how it worked. I let him go again, and he raced around even more determined than before. Occasionally he would park himself in the shade - clearly he's not stupid, but then his feet would start all over again.
Fortunately, not one other horse on the ranch reacted so Izzy was alone in his shenanigans. When I finally left, Dollar and Speedy were munching on their lunch while the big brown horse ran laps.
Hopefully he's still big and brown this morning. I have a feeling that he's going to be very, very tired.
Since I didn't have a lesson on Saturday, I slept in. And since I wasn't going to ride, I piddled around the house, completed my mail-in ballot, and did some laundry. By the time I made it out to the barn, it was in the lows 80s with a clear blue sky. I decided that Speedy was due for some pampering.
With Speedy, baths and grooming are part of a love-hate relationship. He loves to be clean and enjoys the attention, but he hates getting wet. He wouldn't walk through a puddle if his feet were on fire. My bathing station is next to his girl Allie, but it didn't matter; he was miserable for the entire bath. Even though I hurried, he was eventually a shivering pile of pissed off pony. Speedy has too much class to bite or kick or shove me around. Instead, he throws disgusted looks over his shoulder and reminds me that I am lucky to be allowed in his presence.
When he was squeaky clean, we hung out on the lawn so that he could dry off. I thought I could flip through TikTok and relax, but Speedy needed to remind me that I had hurt his feelings. Instead of grazing politely, he turned into a fire breathing dragon and put on an Arabian show. He huffed and puffed and piaffed in circles until I finally walked over and grabbed Izzy to join us. That wasn't the best plan either because then I found that I had a fire cracker in one hand and a tank in the other. Guess which one was which.
By the time Speedy was dry, I was a sweaty, dirty mess. Fortunately, he had enough tact to not stop, drop, and roll as soon as I put him away. It helped that I had thrown him some lunch, but I am quite sure he enrolled a good sandy roll once I had driven away.
While I thought I would spend my Saturday differently, it was hard not to enjoy an afternoon with my best boy.
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%
2022 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2022 Show Schedule
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(*) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
2022 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2 Scores/1 Judges/60%: