From Endurance to Dressage
I recently wrote about the dust control product that the ranch owner uses. I dismantled the dressage court last Monday, and on Tuesday the footing was leveled, and then the ArenaKleen was applied. On Wednesday, I took Speedy to the vet, so Thursday was my first chance to take the dust-free dirt for a spin. Before riding though, the ranch owner and I replaced the dressage court.
I am just going to say right now that a little geometry really helps with your "geometry," if you know what I am saying. When I first started laying out a court, this was at the barn where I was last, I mapped out a space that was 20 meters wide and however long the arena was. Back in those days, the best I could get was around 45 meters in length, maybe. I didn't bother with the letters. Then, I moved to the ranch where I am now, and since the arena was roughly the size and shape of a dressage court, and I mean roughly, I piled my poles off to the side and rode the arena as is.
Once I made the move to Second Level, it was strongly suggested that I get my head out of my butt and create a freaking rectangle as my geometry sucked. I dusted off my meter tape, dragged the poles back in, fumbled with my t-squares, and built a half-assed 20 by 50-meter dressage court. And to make it look good, I added letters that were mostly in the right places. The problem was getting the dang thing "square," and I don't mean that I turned the rectangle into a square. What I mean is that I simply could not get four right angles, even with the t-squares. Without four right angles, I had a parallelogram instead of a rectangle.
Then a month or so ago, the ranch owner volunteered to help me set up the court after we'd dragged it smooth. Oh, hallelujah, but did that ever help. With her sighting by eye and directing me to the left or right, we started to get things a little straighter. After once again dismantling things so we could treat the footing with the ArenaKleen, the ranch owner and I set aside a morning to rebuild the court together. Knowing I was going to have help, I decided we would do it the right way. I pulled out my little map of the court and sat down at my computer to calculate the hypotenuse of a triangle with a 20-meter side A and a 50-meter side B.
We started by measuring out the 20-meter short end at A. Then the ranch owner held the tape in the corner, and I walked down the long side keeping the tape as straight as I could. We then measured out the other short side. As I looked at my calculations for the diagonal line, I realized that something was off, so we both whipped out our phones to recalculate. The ranch owner is a legit scientist, so she used a scientific calculator while I asked Google to do it for me. In the end, we both came up with a hypotenuse that was correct, 53.85 meters or 176.68 feet. For a 60-meter court, the hypotenuse would be 63.25 meters or 207.5 feet. Double check my math.
Having an accurate measurement for the diagonal line cut our work time by more than half. Instead of trying to line things up by sight, we walked back and forth with the meter tape a few times, and suddenly, the dressage court was an actual rectangle with four right angles. Once we were happy with our four corners, we dropped the letters in place and placed the poles down the line. We found another eight poles, so it took a bit of extra time to figure out how to maximize their placement, but when we were finished, the whole thing felt so much straighter, and the added poles created sides that were much more visible.
After taking a break in the shade, I saddled Izzy up for a ride. With the newly treated footing, it felt like we were riding on wet sand. There was absolutely no dust, and the footing had a slightly spongy feel. With the added poles and the newly correct corners, I started feeling like an actual Bronze Medalist. It was glorious.
So, Euclid, Pythagorus, thank you. Little did you all know you would have such a profound impact on the dressage world.
I've written about the ranch's dust control product several times already. You can read those posts here, here, and here. But for those who haven't seen this product before, I thought I'd share again.
Yesterday, the ranch owners reapplied the ArenaKleen. While it's a long-lasting product, it does need to be freshened up eventually. The last application gave us two full years before a small amount of dust started to form.
While it's definitely not cheap, if you live in a drought-ridden state like California, it might be cheaper than a water bill. Here at the ranch, there's a well which means we use a lot of electricity pumping water to irrigate a couple of pastures as well as to control the dust in the sandy lots where the horses live, my two in particular. Watering an arena would both take up a lot of time and add a lot more more work for the well pump. With the ArenaKleen, we never have to water the arena which helps conserve water, something the ranch owners care about.
With the ArenaKleen applied, we have no dust. Zero. And no, I am not exaggerating. Over the past month, some dust has started to come up, but it's hanging very low, and hasn't been a problem. Once the dust started to form though, the ranch owner placed an order for the new containers. I don't blame her for stretching the product for as long as she can.
Once the product is sprayed on, it can be ridden on pretty much immediately. The way I understand it, the liquid encapsulates the grains of sand, weighing them down so that they don't float up into the air. The footing in our arena is a base of sand with DG on the top. I like it, but it's definitely a bit firmer than some of the fancier arenas in which I've ridden. It's rock free, level, and of course, there is no dust.
In the four years that I've been at the ranch, I've not experienced a single negative issue with the product. I ride in it every day and have never experienced a respiratory issue (and I do have asthma). My horses have not been bothered by it either. I only rarely use the arena for turn out - my boys live in large sandy lots so they don't need it, but when the horses have been free to roll, they've never developed any skin reactions. Although, I wouldn't turn them out on it the first few days after it has been applied as it does requires some time to cure.
I would not recommend the product for stalls or places where horses live and eat. The HMIS Hazard Ratings that are labeled on each container show it to be a non-hazardous product, but I would do more research before letting a horse live on it all day. Eating and sleeping on it might cause some irritation.
For riding, this stuff is the bomb. Before moving to this ranch, I spent so many years watering arenas myself. Here in California where I live, our summers are really hot and long, and we generally go for six to eight months without any rain. It's hard to keep an arena free of dust even for an hour's ride. I am so grateful to have landed at such a great facility.
I can't wait to put the dressage court back together and test out our newly freshened up, dustless arena!
I've written about our resident bunny a few different times. She came to us a year ago this spring. Reggie, the ranch handyman, found her abandoned in an apartment complex and brought her to live at the ranch. We thought the rabbit was a he, but we've since had her sexed. She's a she, and I somehow like her better for it. She's proven herself to be quite an independent and resourceful young gal.
In the sixteen months that she's been with us, she's changed quite a bit. She's gotten much larger, and she's grown bolder and also a bit more leery - which is a good thing. A few months ago, I found her three-legged lame. She hates to be picked up, and I every time I do it, our trust balance drops to nearly empty, but it just had to be done. I was so worried that she had suffered a fatal injury and was suffering.
I cautiously scooped her up - she kicked and clawed at me pretty ferociously, but after a moment she went still. I carefully felt all four legs as well as her body. There was no blood nor any other obvious wounds. Whatever had happened to her, a bum leg seemed to be the extent of her injuries. I gently put her back down knowing that she wasn't going to let me touch her again for a quite some time, if ever.
It took a while, but she healed up nicely and eventually forgave me. It doesn't hurt that she's highly food motivated. She comes out to see me on most days, darting between my feet waiting for me to hand her a pile of pellets. Initially, I fed her Speedy's senior feed (no molasses), but since discarding that, she now gets his rice bran pellets. In the beginning, she lived under the pallets in the hay barn and seemed to prefer the alfalfa to anything else. Now, she has made a new home (video below) and seems to prefer the grasses and weeds that grow nearby.
She's quite industrious. She has carved out an extensive system of tunnels all by herself. When she's not working, I've peeked down into her burrow and was surprised to discover that she has several tunnels. We've watched her both claw the dirt loose and use her teeth to loosen it. Then she either kicks it out with her feet, or more interestingly, she pushes it out with her chest.
We've seen her range quite far from her burrow which worries me to no end. Where she lives now, she has plenty of cover to protect her from predators, namely snakes, hawks, owls, and coyotes. When she wanders farther away, there's very little to protect her should a hawk spot her. In fact, sometimes we see her cooling her belly under one of the trucks. If we're sitting in our Equestrian Lounge, she'll pop over to see what we're doing, but she's extremely wary of strangers. She seems to understand that she's pretty vulnerable, but she does trust the ranch owner and myself, at least enough to beg goodies.
Wild rabbits, Lepus sylvaticus, typically live only one to two years while domestic rabbits, like Oryctolagus cuniculus, can live eight to fourteen years. (source - I know virtually nothing about rabbits.) Since our bunny doesn't live in a hutch, she probably won't survive as long as her breeding would suggest, but we think she's pretty happy none-the-less. If too many days go by without seeing her, I get really anxious and worry that she's been preyed upon, but then she reappears.
She has quality shelter, access to plentiful food and water, and the larger predators don't tend to come too close to the barn. We hope she's with us for many more years.
I love the idea of Independence Day, it's a meaningful day in our nation's history, maybe even the most meaningful. What I don't like is the rampant use of illegal fireworks in the celebration of that significance. I am sure you've already seen plenty of news reports showing the brightly lit skyline of Los Angeles as Angelenos defied Governor Newsom's recent order to essentially sit out this 4th of July. "Counties with mandatory closures should consider canceling Fourth of July fireworks shows, the governor said, and Californians should not gather with people they do not live with." - source
On the one hand, I was happy to see so many people take a stand for what they feel is their right, but on the other hand, I was frustrated by how dangerous illegal fireworks are and worried about the safety of my animals. We went to a barbecue during the afternoon, making sure to be home before 6:00, well before the evening's festivities began.
Even though we live just outside of town, Tobias can still hear or sense the distant fireworks. They terrify him. Loud movies do the same thing, but thunderstorms and fireworks send him over the edge. We know this, so our vet has prescribed Ace for those times when we know the noise is going to be prolonged. At about 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, Tobias got his sleepy pill. While he was still worried about the racket, at least his body didn't break down in uncontrollable tremors once the booming began. Thankfully, Yellow Dog doesn't care one whit about loud noises; neither does Izzy.
Giving Tobias a little Ace to help him cope with the stress of the 4th of July is a lot easier than managing Speedy's stress. Last year, the neighbors across the river threw a loud party, which resulted in Speedy's heels blistering as he ran around in terror. (You can read that four part series here.) When we saw the gigantic water slide go up this June, the ranch owner and I discussed at great length how to keep Speedy calm for 2020's bash.
Speedy was actually moved to his current dry lot as a result of last year's 4th of July debacle, and he's been much, much happier overall. We decided to keep him where he is and dose him with Dormosedan just before dark in the hopes of keeping him calm once the explosions began.
After dosing Tobias with a bit of Ace, my husband stayed home to keep an eye on both him and Yellow Dog who is still recovering from a sprained ankle. I headed out to the ranch just before 8:00 p.m. To my utter amazement, the party across the river was over. I heard the last of the guests leaving and the property owners doing some clean up. It looked like all our planning and worry might have been for naught.
All of the horses were munching quietly on their hay, so I gave both of my horses their daily bucket of feed and freshened up the water troughs. I grabbed Speedy's halter and the tube of Dormosedan and sat down in our equestrian lounge to wait. Just as the sky darkened, the first of the fireworks started. Instead of coming from directly across the river as anticipated, a massive boom came from the property a half mile to the north.
I quickly put Speedy's halter on and started soothing him. He was tense, but nothing like he had been the year before. Knowing that the Dormosedan can take a while to work, I held it in my hands contemplating whether to give it to him or not. He just wasn't that upset. I decided to wait a bit longer to see how loud things were going to get. The year before, I wasn't there when things started. This time, I was right there with him.
It was really heartwarming to see how much Speedy trusted me. He was worried, but as long as I stood by him with a hand on his neck or back, he seemed willing to trust that I would keep him safe. As the booms and blasts continued to build, his tension actually began to subside. He nibbled on his hay, confident that I would take care of him. When a blast was particularly loud or close, his head would shoot up and he would stare intently, but he never spun away from me or even spooked.
To the west of us, in town, the explosions and booms continued unabated for more than an hour. I have never heard so many fireworks go off for such an extended period of time. While I couldn't see the lights from where we were, after watching the videos of LA's skyline, I know East Bakersfield looked the same. The explosions closer to the barn died down within an hour, but those in the city wouldn't let up. Speedy was wary, but not terrified. I decided not to use the Dormosedan as a drugged horse comes with its own problems and management issues. Since my presence seemed enough to keep him quiet, I thought it was healthier for him to spend the night without the drugs.
Just before 10:00 p.m. the distant booms and explosions began to die down. Speedy seemed less concerned with where I was and actually began to look sleepy. I put my stuff away keeping an eye on him the whole while; the full moon was a great help. As I drove back into town, I was shocked at how many fireworks were still filling the sky. As I drove up Fairfax into town, I was stunned to see the air heavily laden with smoke. I rolled the window down and was assaulted by the acrid smell that filled the air. Having lived in that neighborhood for years up until fairly recently, I was stunned by the thick haze of smoke.
As I headed back east toward our neighborhood, the number of fireworks began to dwindle. My own neighborhood was quiet. Both dogs greeted me happily, but Tobias insisted on sleeping right next to my side of the bed. He was still sleepy the next day, but at least his anxiety had been controlled. I drove back out to the ranch on Sunday morning to find a sleepy gray horse. I gave Speedy a thorough grooming, checking for any injuries. I hopped up on him bareback with a halter and rode him around the neighborhood. He started out feeling pretty lethargic, but as we made the turn for home, he perked up considerably marching forward with purpose.
All in all, my animals did well considering it was the perfect storm of a night - Independence day falling on a Saturday night with the energy of a full moon fueling the social unrest in which we find ourselves living.
I find that I enjoy July 5th a whole lot better than the 4th.
Through last fall, the ranch was actually my third home, but thankfully, we finally sold our cabin. As it is, I now officially have everything but a kitchen sink out at the ranch. When and if I ever have to leave, I'll need a moving van or three to get everything out.
Not only do I have a lot of stuff/junk, it's spread around the ranch from north to south and east to west. I have at least a dozen poles up in the arena, not to mention another dozen letter markers. Yes, I know they're just water jugs, but it wouldn't be polite to just abandon them. Behind the barn, I have several feed/water troughs, and behind the round pen is stored my horse trailer.
Of course I also have a table and chairs and some other accessories in our newly constructed Equestrian Lounge. Now that we have a new set at our house, I am not sure I'd want to take the table and chairs, but you never know where you might end up.
Then there's the mountain of stuff living in our combination feed/tack room. No matter how hard I try to limit what lives out there, I end up failing. It seems that I add something new each day. Sometimes it's a piece of tack, more often more grooming equipment, or occasionally some device designed to make my life seem easier.
Yes, all of that is mine. In my defense however, I have two horses, and I do most of my own doctoring and feeding. I also travel with my horses. Of course, most of what I need for traveling already lives in the trailer - the grooming supplies, buckets, lunge line, spare halter, whip, and a boatload of other stuff. The only things I actually take from the feed/tack room are my saddle and bridle, shampooing bucket, and the muck bucket/cart combo.
Last week, the ranch owner dove in and cleaned the heck out of the other side of the feed/tack room in preparation for a new boarder, DG. DG has been riding one of the ranch's horses for the better part of a year, but she recently asked if she could bring her aging, less-than-sound mare out to the ranch to live. Room had to be carved out in the feed/tack room. When I saw an opening, I quickly loaded up an old wicker table and my refrigerator and promptly filled in the "hole."
DG has already added some equine medications that are temperature sensitive, and of course I shoved in some beverages. This is the cleanest it will probably ever be. Like I said, the only thing I am missing is a kitchen sink.
Our ranch owner is probably regretting that she ever gave me a key to the place.
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. We're currently showing Third Level for the 2020 show season. 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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
7/26 TMC (*)
8/8 - 9 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/30 TMC (*)
9/20 TMC (*)
10/11 TMC (*)
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS WC (***)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read