From Endurance to Dressage
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?
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.
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 …
3/27-28 SCEC (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
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 (***)
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