From Endurance to Dressage
Here in central California, we don't usually get much of a winter. Our winter is what most people call autumn. It's typically chilly and damp with about 4 days of rain spread over 4 months. Our annual rainfall averages around 7 inches. My parents got 6 inches in the week I visited - they live in northern California along the coast.
According to our local meteorologist, Miles Muzio, December "was the 3rd wettest on record (going back to 1889) with 2.60" having fallen on 10 different days. That is a full inch and a half above normal." Stop laughing! I know it sounds paltry when compared to the rest of the world, but we're drowning in puddles over here. With rain comes mud, and since my boys - who live in large sandy paddocks, want to stand next to each other all day long, they're slogging through hoof deep mud.
Since there is no way I am picking out that grossness, I've resorted to hosing off legs before I pick out hooves. I think I've only done that a handful of times in the ten years I've been boarding in this neighborhood. Right now, it's my daily routine - hose, pick hooves, repeat for horse number 2. It takes an extra few minutes, but it saves me from getting my hands and breeches all muddy.
Besides the mud, Izzy is also being plagued by ploppy poop. The kind that the Gastro Elm had been helping firm up. Since about October, his poop has varied from formless to a few balls nestled in goop. After struggling with the same issue last year, I put him on Gastro Elm and things cleared up immediately. This fall/winter, the problem is much less severe, but still there. A year ago in December, I also treated Izzy with a week's worth of psyllium.
If you don't live anywhere with sandy soil, you might not have ever used psyllium. Since my horses don't like to eat off the ground, I rarely use it either. Psyllium husks are high in fiber and are believed to help remove sand from the gut. Psyllium can also help heal inflammatory bowel disease or other lesions in the colon. Because of these effects, psyllium is often a useful addition to the diet for horses with chronic diarrhea.
I didn't notice much difference last year after using the psyllium because I also started the Gastro Elm. I know for sure that the Gastro Elm helped because Izzy gained a ton of weight in the first month he was on it. I never thought to attribute any of the improvement to the psyllium. That's the trouble with trying several things at the same time; it's difficult to tell which one did the trick.
When the chiropractor came out last week, I mentioned the ploppy poop. Later that evening, CC called and asked how long it had been since I had given Izzy a course of psyllium. First of all, it was really thoughtful of him to call me to offer some advice. Second, I realized an entire year had passed since the last psyllium dose. The next day I stopped by the feed store.
So far, Izzy has had three of the seven day's worth. While the Gastro Elm certainly works, I have to wonder if the use of the psyllium should be something I include throughout the year. I glanced over at his various poop piles, and I did see plenty that were well formed, but it's hard to tell with all of the mud. I'll have a better idea of how well the psyllium worked by this weekend.
Let's hope for lots of solid poop balls.
Both of my horses live turned out in large sandy paddocks. They have enough room to play and gallop but not enough room to get up any real speed. Because of this, I never have to turn them out. I do let both of them out in the yard - one at a time, to graze and to give them a change of scenery.
On Wednesday, Izzy got a wild hair and galloped through the trees leaping and bucking like his butt was on fire. I could feel the ground shake beneath my feet. It was the first time in all the years I've owned him that his size scared me a little. If he let that energy out while I were riding, I think I'd poop my pants. After one particularly furious buck, I put him back in his paddock. I didn't need him hurting himself by crashing into the lounge furniture or a parked car.
Then I let Speedy out. It must have been one of those days because my old man put on a show of his own. After a gallop under the trees, he pranced past me in the loveliest passage. Of course I couldn't get my phone out fast enough, but I did catch the tail end of his woohoo moment. Dude looks pretty sound to me. Adrenaline and joy will do that.
Happy New Year!
There was no snow involved here, so of course there wasn't a snowman, but we did have a frost. Finally! For those of you who live where there is winter, you're probably wishing for a warm sunny day. Maybe we can work out a trade.
Up until Tuesday, we've been stuck in fall here in Central California. And by fall I mean "cool summer." We've now seen three rainy days, and you can believe we celebrated them all. The first was in mid-October, the second in early December, and the third was two days ago. That storm brought a fair amount of snow to our mountains. From my house, I can see that the snow level almost hit the valley floor.
Over the weekend, as a precursor to this recent storm which our meteorologist called an atmospheric river, it was cold; we had lows in the 30s, and at the ranch, it might have even been in the high 20s. That's cold enough to kill off a lot of fly eggs and larvae. Then Tuesday's storm hit, bringing nearly an inch of rain here in Bakersfield (don't laugh, it was a lot for here) and a hefty amount of snow and frigid air.
And to the flies I say, Take that, you little boogers.
We are in the midst of a fly season that. Will. Not. End. I am STILL using fly spray. It was in the mid 70s all last week. We've had some brisk mornings, but not enough to kill off our flies.
A week or two ago the ranch owner bought a bunch of new fly traps and hung them around the barn and people spaces. They were immediately covered with flies. The fly traps are disgusting, but our brand of flies are what we like to call "sticky flies." They land on you, and no matter how hard you twitch or shake, they don't fly off. Sticky flies. I love that we're using sticky traps; serves the little boogers right.
Speedy's eyes are still running because the flies will not leave his face alone. Izzy, too, is annoyed. His eyes don't run, but when I get there, there will be at least 30 flies crawling all over his face. He shakes the flies off for a moment, but the second he's still, the flies come right back to what they were doing - irritating the hell out of him.
The ranch owner employs Fly Predators, and they do work, but right now, nothing is helping. Thankfully the mornings are cool and dark comes early - I can't believe I am saying that. The flies only torment the horses for a few hours in the afternoon, but that's a few hours too many in DECEMBER.
I can't believe I am wishing for rain and cold and maybe a frost, but I am.
I know it's hot where you live, but it can't be hotter than it is here. We're on our 60th or so day of hundred degree temperatures. Our last heat wave, defined as three or more consecutive days of 99 or above, lasted 28 days. And I don't think any of those days were as cool as 99.
This weather isn't a surprise; back-to-school always means blistering hot afternoons. After being able to ride in the mornings all summer long, returning to the classroom means that I almost can't ride after school. Since I've been working 12 hour days, it all comes together imperfectly anyway. It's too hot to ride, and I am too tired to ride. The best I've been able to do these last three weeks is check on the horses every other day and ride on the weekends.
Yesterday, it was too hot to even change my clothes. Since I go to the barn straight from work, I change clothes at the barn. My choices are to change in the tack room or change in the back seat of my truck. Usually, it's cooler in my truck than the tack room. Just the thought of struggling into breeches while I was only slightly sweaty exhausted me, so I simply didn't. I slipped out of my gold sandals and shoved my bare feet into a pair of muck boots.
I scrubbed both boys' water troughs, gave them their daily buckets, and promised to be back in a day or two. It was awkward tipping over Izzy's swimming pool of a trough in a skirt, but I got the job done without getting too dirty. The next five days are predicted to be in the low to mid-90s, so I am crossing my fingers that I can leave work on time and get a ride or two in before the three-day weekend.
My barn clothes are packed and ready in my back seat. Hopefully I get to use them!
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
2022 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 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