From Endurance to Dressage
There are several things that make a horse girl's heart sing. A full hay barn is one of them. Am I right, ladies? Of course I am. Our hay barn isn't quite full, but it will be when the hay guy comes through later this week.
We currently have eight horses at the ranch which is almost half of what we used to have. Over the seven years I've been there, we've lost at least six. Three were senior citizens who had to be euthanized. There was also a fourth who now lives next door, a fifth who came and went with his owner (who was an employee who moved to Texas), and the sixth, the pony, who now lives with his owner down the road. Back when there were fourteen horses, we went through a lot more hay than we do now.
A week or so ago, the hay man brought two squeezes of grass hay. On his next visit he'll bring three squeezes of alfalfa. The hay barn can easily hold eight full squeezes, but by squeezing the squeezes, ten would fit without any trouble. Two alfalfa stacks will slide in where the tractor is hanging out, and the third will go in on the right side of the tractor in front of the other existing stacks of alfalfa. That gives us three total squeezes of grass (left side of barn) and five squeezes of alfalfa. We'll use the oldest hay first.
At the left end of the barn, behind the squeeze of grass hay, the ranch owner left an empty space for our mini-fridge (which is covered to shade it from direct sunlight), tools, and feed cart. That space normally gets filled in, but without the need for quite as much hay, she was able to leave space between each stack which makes working in the hay barn a bit easier.
I don't source or buy the hay, but it still gives me a vicarious sense of satisfaction to see the barn filling up. I feel that way about anyone's hay barn. Even when it's not my barn, an empty hay barn gives me a panicky feeling. It makes me want to knock on doors and ask if someone is in need of a loan of a few bales.
I'm sure you know the feeling ...
Izzy lives turned out on (just under) a quarter acre. It's a dry sandy lot with excellent drainage. It can get wet and muddy, but it's rare. Since it's so big, and since Izzy poops wherever he happens to be standing at the time, I don't use a fork and cart to pick up the poop. Instead, Reggie uses the tractor to mash and spread.
Since it is so dry here in Central California - we live in a state of perpetual drought, soil loss is a real concern, especially in the horse pens. Scooping poop means sand also gets scooped, and over time, the cement where posts are installed can begin to show.
Manure dries out within hours here, and if the horses walk through it at all - as both of mine do, it begins to crumble and break apart naturally. When my boys have lived in small outdoor runs or typical pens, I cleaned the poop at least once a day, twice if I could. Now, I let Reggie take care of it with the tractor.
The tractor was out of service for a week or so, so the manure piles had grown larger than I like, but fortunately, the tractor is back on duty. Reggie was able to take care of Izzy's paddock on Monday. And since the ranch owner had acquired some loads of dirt for flood control, Reggie added fresh dirt along the fence line and other places where Izzy likes to dig. He was able to do all of this while I was out riding.
If you live somewhere wet and green, manure doesn't really dry out and fall apart like ours does. In those situations it can be a breeding ground for flies, mould, and stink. And of course horses in stalls - whether here or someplace cooler, need their manure removed frequently. I would definitely be picking up daily under any of those conditions. Living somewhere so dry and hot has its advantages.
Hurray for hot and dry weather? You take whatever wins you can!
Izzy seems to have recovered from his little stone bruise. Fortunately, it happened during the hottest days that we've had this summer. I guess it's even luckier that I am not doing any showing right now. If your horse is going to be a little off, it's best it happens when it's hotter than Hades and nothing exciting is planned.
Izzy only had one real day off during his recovery period. I saddled him up and rode him for 15 minutes or so each day except for one just to check his soundness. He was always sound at the walk, and even at the trot it was something I heard more than actually saw. I only rode him long enough to make sure the lameness was fading. By Monday, I actually did a bit of canter work because he got so sassy. Nobody's truly sore if he tries to let his inner dragon come out to play.
Since it was so hot here - I think we hit 109℉ two days in a row, I did more piddling around than actual riding. On Saturday, I went to the feed store and grabbed a few bags of beet pulp and a pile of fly traps for the ranch owner. Thank goodness she hates flies as much as the rest of us. She releases fly predators on schedule and hangs fly traps and fly sticky paper everywhere. She's strategic about it though so that the liquid traps are on the outskirts so we don't have to smell them. The sticky paper traps are near the horses but not anywhere they can touch them. I can just see Izzy walking around with sticky fly paper stuck to his nose.
Speaking of fly protection, guess who has actually worn a fly mask for several days in a row without ripping it to shreds? Yep. Big Brown Horse. I can't guarantee it will be on today, but so far it has been too hot to play around with the fly mask, so it is doing its job. He ruined a brand new one at the end of spring, so this is his last chance for the year. If he destroys this one, he's out of luck. I bought him a Kensington Fly Mask which seems to be holding up well.
After our quick ride on Monday I tackled the rubber mats in my pampering station. I don't have a true wash rack, but the ranch owner let me use some discarded mats to create a grooming/washing station along one of the fence lines. I keep a basket filled with grooming/shampooing tools hanging on the fence, and I keep a Blocker Tie Ring attached so that I can safely wash. With such a long and wet winter, the mats had become covered in mud, and grass had grown up and around all of the corners making it a muddy mess every time I hosed off a horse.
Reggie, who works on the property, helped me clean things up. I held the mats up while he used the shovel to dig out the roots and weeds that had grown under and between the mats. After hosing off the mud, I once again have a clean place for hosing off my horses.
The rest of the week should be a lot cooler, so hopefully I can get back to regular riding.
Yesterday was the 4th of July. It's a holiday that I both love and hate. While I am angry and frustrated about many things that are happening in this country, I love the ideals upon which this nation was founded. I may hate living in California right now, but I will always be a proud American. The 4th of July celebrates the day that our Founding Fathers took the reins and declared the thirteen colonies free and independent states. They could no longer tolerate the abuses of a tyrannical king. I firmly believe in, and support, the ideals that were put forth in our nation's Declaration of Independence.
To celebrate Independence Day, my husband and I loaded up the dogs and drove to Kernville to check out the roaring Kern River and the Isabella Reservoir. The threat of flooding is largely past us as weeks of cooler than normal weather slowed the snow melt of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The current inflow and outflow at the dam are nearly equal, and the reservoir is currently at about 88% capacity. I don't think anyone alive has ever seen it that full.
On the drive to Kernville, we stopped to let the dogs run around and swim, I also kept asking my husband to stop so that I could take pictures. For drought weary Californians, the sight of so much water is jaw dropping. The lake is so high that the shoreline is only a fraction of what it typically is. In some places, the lake has risen to cover access roads and campsites. Besides admiring the view, we also stopped in at the Kern River Brewery for lunch, something my husband does nearly weekly.
In the afternoon, I laid by the pool while my husband watched something on TV. For dinner, we celebrated with grilled hot dogs and a bottle of Croatian wine. Fun fact: It is said that the Republic of Ragusa (Croatia) was the first (or one of the first) country to recognize American Independence. After the dogs had their dinner, we gave Tobi his annual dose of Ace and kept on an eye on him as he gradually conked out. My husband suggested we give Yellow Dog a dose as well, but I didn't remember her being nervous about the fireworks. I was wrong. At 9:00, just as the fireworks really got going, my husband talked me into giving her a dose of Ace as well. She didn't melt down like Tobi does, but I was up until after 11:00 as she panted and tried to crawl in my lap.
That is the part of the 4th of July that I hate. I understand that fireworks are a traditional way to remember the hard fought battles during the war for our independence, but it is sure a difficult night for anyone who has horses, dogs, or cats. The ranch owner texted me last night to let me know that Speedy was running around but not panicked. I am sure he'll be tired this morning. While not one to race around in a panic, Izzy no doubt internalized the stress of the noise as well. Both boys will get some TLC this morning. I hope all of your furry friends made it through the evening safely.
Fireworks are the part of the 4th that I hate. I can't wait until they're banned.
Thank You, Lord, for the men and women who gave their lives for the freedom of the republic in which we live today. Help me to be as bold and brave as they were when it is my turn to protect this land.
- Patriot's Prayer
And, Lord? If it is not too much to ask, will you wrap your arms around our pets tonight? Comfort and shelter them from the noise that comes during our time of celebration.
- Animal Lover's Prayer
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%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: