From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy loves to wear a fly mask. Left to his own devices, he'd wear it indefinitely. Izzy, on the other hand, thinks fly masks are stupid, and no one should ever be allowed to have one on their head. That means his own head as well as Speedy's. If Speedy's fly mask lasts 15 minutes after I am gone, I'd be shocked. For the past year or two - ever since Speedy moved next door to Izzy, I've bought a new fly mask for Speedy only to find it torn to pieces within a few days. This year, I gave up.
Bakersfield is notorious for having three days of spring before summer slams into us broadside. We started last week wearing sweaters, but by week's end, we were well into the 90s. Sudden heat like that is a boon to the flies who came out with both barrels. When I got to the barn on Tuesday, Speedy had yucky goop dripping from each swollen eye. He looked downright miserable. Of course he fought me over the soothing saline solution, so instead of that, he got his eyes rinsed with the hose. Sorry, not sorry.
After the one day with the hose, I have't needed to rinse so dramatically. By Wednesday the worst of the swelling and goop had disappeared so I slathered on Swat instead. What's interesting is that I rarely need to put any fly spray on Speedy. The flies just don't pester him. I do have to watch his belly though as the fiies will eat him bloody down there. A morning swipe of Swat on his belly usually keeps that under control.
Izzy needs to be doused with fly spray multiple times a day. When I show up at the barn, Izzy will have hundreds of flies buzzing around his face while Speedy will stand serenely, free of flies. Hopefully this week's reaction was a one-off and not his new normal. Just to be on the safe side, I'll do another spray with the hose - no matter how much he hates it, and apply more Swat.
Shoo fly, don't bother Speedy!
For such a short month, February really packed a punch. As I was finishing up at the ranch yesterday, I looked at my calendar and was shocked to see how full it was. What with Izzy's two week long abscess and giving lessons, I was out there a lot.
I don't have "planned" barn days; every day is barn day. I wake up each morning knowing that I am going out to the ranch unless I know I have an appointment. My husband doesn't ask if I am going, but when. Even though it's my routine to be at the ranch every day, life does happen which means I am usually out there only 25 days out of 30. In February, there were only two days that I wasn't out there - once to celebrate Valentine's Day and again for a meeting with CDS.
During the month, I dealt with Izzy's abscess and the aftermath of the abscess. After eleven days of doing nothing but standing around, he came out of the gate rearin' to go. When he's like that, my notations tend to read braced, spicy, energetic, and so on. It wasn't until the last week of the month that I was able to actually work on anything. Once I was able to dispel all that pent-up energy, we got back to having productive rides. We've been schooling simple changes and flying changes like crazy.
As far as lessons go, I didn't have any, but I did give six of them, and I rode Speedy once myself. Even just being worked once or twice a week is keeping him pretty fit. He does live turned out which also helps, but for Saturday's lesson, he was a bit spicy himself. I am hoping that I can get at least two lessons this month, especially since since we're doing a show at the end of the month. I have a feeling March will come in like a lion, but with any luck, it will go out like a lamb.
That would suit me perfectly!
My friend Wendy lives in Rosamond, a small town in the Mojave Desert. Rosamond is a short 133 miles to Death Valley and an even closer 75 miles to Bakersfield. Back when I was still endurance racing, we did a lot of winter riding out in the desert. California may have some political and economic issues, but for many of us, the access to forests, mountains, deserts, and beaches makes up for a lot. And from Bakersfield, all of those places are within a two-hour drive.
Wendy has been to Bakersfield three times over the past six months to see me, so I thought it was high time I drove out to see her. With my truck and trailer again road worthy, I pulled out for the Mojave Desert on New Year's Day. It's an hour and a half to Rosamond, and the drive is actually quite pretty. From Bakersfield, you head east through the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains, dropping down into the Mojave Desert. Interestingly, the Mojave Desert receives less than 2 inches of rain a year and is generally between 2,000 and 5,000 feet in elevation which is why it is often referred to as high desert.
Between Bakersfield and the desert lies the Tehachapi Pass, a high wind area. If you've seen the wind turbines outside of the San Francisco Bay Area near Livermore, you'll know how stunningly impressive these windmills are. The Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm is one of the first large-scale wind farms installed in the U.S., with more than 4,700 wind turbines. One of the best ways to see the turbines is to take the Tehachapi-Willow Springs Road that runs between Tehachapi and Rosamond which is the route I took. Until fairly recently, the wind turbines of the Bay Area, Tehachapi, and Palm Springs were the largest in the world.
Just before 10:00 a.m., I pulled into the ranch where Wendy keeps Beanie and Bloo. Since Speedy loves to travel, I had brought him for Wendy's friend (and ranch owner) to ride. Jane is an experienced rider and was happy to hop aboard Speedy knowing that she was doing me a great favor. They got along famously, and Jane was quite delighted by Speedy's friendliness and pleasant attitude. If she only knew!
We headed out into the desert on a loop that took about two hours. Of course, with so many interesting things to stop and see, we might have been out there longer. One of the first places of interest, besides the abandoned gold mine - the desert is rich in minerals, was the Exotic Feline Breeding Compound's Feline Conservation Center - "The Cat House." Wendy had told me about the place before, so I was eager to glimpse one of the tigers.
While we didn't get to see one of the tigers, Wendy shared a video of the tigers enjoying donated Christmas trees. If you visit this link and scroll down to the bottom, you can see the video. Wendy said that when the tigers are out and about in their enclosure, the horses don't even bat an eye. They just walk on past. I guess I'll have to go back for another look.
As we rode further out into the desert, the Joshua Trees caught my eye. If you've ever traveled through the deserts of California, you've probably seen them from the highway, and maybe you've even gotten out for a closer look. They're quite beautiful and much larger than you'd think; some grow to more than forty feet in height.
Joshua Trees grow all over the desert, but most people probably think of them all growing in Joshua Tree National Park. The JTNP is about 150 miles southeast of Rosamond, but you can see the trees throughout the deserts of California, particularly to the north. Neither Wendy nor Jane thought it odd or weird to want a photo of the "trees." The sky was brilliant blue and the mountains in the background had snow from the day before, all of which created a beautiful picture of a part of California that not everyone gets to enjoy.
After our ride, I tied my boys to the trailer, hung a hay bag, made a beet pulp/bran mash lunch, and filled a bucket of water. With all of the horses resting in the sunshine, we headed to Jane's patio for a delicious lunch and two hours of laughter. Wendy enjoys a good meal just as much as I do. By mid-afternoon, I glanced at my watch and realized I had better hit the road. I managed to get the horses back to the ranch and the trailer unhitched before it was completely dark, but by the time I arrived home, it was well past sunset.
The next day, my husband and I took the dogs hiking. I think I have a great idea for our next trail ride, and I am pretty sure Wendy and Beanie will be up for it.
We're officially into winter here in the northern hemisphere, but somebody forgot to tell California. For those of us in the Central Valley, we're enjoying a very lovely (and lengthy) autumn.
#1 - Fall Colors at the Ranch
#2 Rainless November - Fingers Crossed for December
It's been so dry that I left five bags of feed in Newt's bed overnight without worrying about them getting rained on. I felt like tempting Fate was worth the risk of a soaking, especially if it had rained.
#3 Hairy Horses
Since I don't blanket my horses - we're lucky if we get six inches of rain a year, they get pretty hairy about now. I finally dragged out my clippers to trim up both boys' bridle paths. I only intended to do Izzy's, but then Speedy strolled past, so I asked if he wouldn't mind standing still for just a moment. You know your horse is broke when you can trim his bridle path without the use of a lead rope.
#4 Cold and Foggy Mornings
On Sunday, I dismantled the dressage court so that Reggie could both get rid of the huge collection of leaves that had accumulated along the poles of the dressage court and smooth out the enormous groove that had developed along the rail. Yesterday, the ranch owner and I set it back up. The fog was so dense when we started that it was difficult to see from A to C. By the time I saddled up an hour and a half later, the sun was brilliant and warm, but that's California for you. Nothing but blue skies.
#5 A Fall Colored Horse
Izzy's ever changing coat is well known. He's almost a buckskin in summer, nearly black in early fall, but by winter, he's the color of autumn.
These first few days of my Christmas break have been sorely needed. I wish everyone could take a few days to just let the mind and body rest without worrying about the world and its troubles. While we are eager that "this" too shall pass, I try to remember that there continue to be beautiful moments happening all around me if I just remember to look up and see them.
I hate this time of year. Most equestrians probably do. And really, I have it better than most, so I feel bad even complaining about it. It's not the holiday part that I dislike, it's the short daylight hours. Man, it's killing me right now.
The Monday after Thanksgiving, my district brought all teachers back to work at their school sites. I wasn't happy about it. I'll admit, I had really started to enjoy working from home. Not having to rush out of the house in the dark was really nice. I also saved so much time by not having to get dressed, pack a lunch, pack my barn gear, and drive 30 minutes each way. All of that allowed me about two hours more to get my job done. Like most salaried employees, there is never a "done," so those extra two hours helped me feel a lot less frazzled. My frazzled meter is really high right now.
My pre-COVID contracted hours used to be 7:20 a.m to 2:50 p.m. I never followed that schedule though as the job simply can't be done in that time frame. I normally get to work around 6:00 a.m. and work through lunch. An early arrival allows me to get most things done which means I can leave on time and be at the barn by about 3:15.
With our students still working from home, my hours have been changed to 7:45 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. While I should still get to work by 6:00 a.m., I just can't force myself to do it. Instead, I roll in around 7:15, and try to leave a few minutes early. If traffic is light, and if I hurry, I can have Izzy saddled by 4:00 p.m.
We don't have arena lights which means riding much more than 30 minutes puts me really close to finishing up in the dark. After I ride, I clean and fill water troughs and put both boys' buckets together. Once everything is cleaned up and put away, it's after 5:00 p.m. and dark. By the time I get home, shower, and get dinner going, I am ready for bed.
We have one more week before our two-week Christmas break. Like I said, I have it better than most. After that, I just have to make it through mid-January. By February, the sun won't set until 5:30 which gives me a lot more time.
First World problems or just people-who-like-the-outdoors problems?
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 …
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
5/23 TMC (*)
6/12-13 SB (***) OR
6/19-20 El Sueño (***)
6/27 TMC (*)
7/3-4 Burbank (***) OR
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
7/25 TMC (*)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/29 TMC (*)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 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