From Endurance to Dressage
Speedy is 17 years old today; he's been with me since he was 3. The older I get, the faster time seems fly. I was in my 30s when Speedy joined my family in 2007, and unbelievably, I am now 50. When I bought Speedy, I planned to have him for a long time, but I never pictured myself getting older. But that's how time works; Speedy and I are getting old together.
I don't know how many times that I've written a happy birthday post, but I do know the first one was in April 2011. For whatever reason, the media connected to that post has been lost, but the one from 2012 is still there. There doesn't seem to be one from 2013, but there is an early one for 2014. There is also one from 2015, a late one in 2016, another late one in 2017, but nothing for 2018 - I was dealing with a health issue that spring. I got back on track in 2019 and 2020, which brings us to today's birthday.
I've shared so much of Speedy's life here in this space that there really isn't anything that you don't already know about him. Some of you have been with us from the very beginning. Back in 2011 when I first started this space, we were just getting into dressage and leaving the endurance world behind. Since then, you've seen all of our ups and downs. There was never anything that I didn't share with you. You've seen our wins, our losses, our injuries, and our recoveries. Through it all, Speedy has led a very full and interesting life.
He started life with me as an endurance horse. He wasn't fast, but he took excellent care of both of us. He earned every single one of my USDF Bronze Medal scores, and now he's proving to be an excellent schoolmaster. I don't know what else his future might hold, but I am hoping it means more of whatever.
While I hope that Speedy lives out the rest of his days with me, I have always known that he might choose another girl. If he does, the only thing I'll be able to do is honor his wishes. I hope that doesn't happen though.
Happy birthday, Speedy G. You are the most special of heart horses, and I don't know how I got so lucky.
Aren't they all? I like to say that if your weekend/vacation isn't good or busy, you aren't doing it right. Long ago, I learned that weekends are precious and as such, should never be wasted.
One of the first jobs for the weekend was installing a screen between Speedy's and Izzy's feeders. My boys would probably be very happy living together in one very large pasture, but since their nutritional needs are not the same, they have to live with a fence dividing the field in half. Speedy easily lives on a few flakes of alfalfa a day (with a small amount of beet pulp and rice bran). Izzy goes bonkers on alfalfa which means he lives on mountains of grass hay and a HUGE amount of beet pulp and rice bran (with a bunch of other stuff thrown in).
The problem is that when the new cover was built, the cross fence was replaced with one that made it easier for the horses to stick through heads through. Izzy's feeder was mounted in the corner to keep his hay dry when it rained which meant Speedy happily munched on Izzy's grass hay. Izzy didn't mind as he helped himself to Speedy's alfalfa. My boys never received the memo about their individual dietary restrictions. Eventually, we had no idea who was eating what except that Izzy's energy level spiked horribly last week which suggested he was getting too much alfalfa.
The welded mesh panel that we used is great because it's extremely sturdy and fairly safe. I say "fairly" because the ends can be very sharp. We cut off the excess and filed it down smooth, but there is still that corner piece at the top that I am not thrilled with. Unfortunately, I can't cut the top piece off because the next "row" of squares would be lower than the fence which would leave a gap that I would not be happy with either.
I would love to cut everything that is above the top rail and everything beyond the center support pole, but I don't have access to the kind of tools I would need. I will probably just wrap the corner piece with some duct tape until I come up with a better solution (or the right tools). The corner is not sharp, but it is a corner, and corners have a way of causing all sorts of expensive damage. For now, the panel is working the way it was intended, and everyone is getting the correct hay.
On Thursday afternoon, my mom called from Oregon and said she was on her way. I wasn't expecting her, so it was a lovely surprise. My husband had a tee time to golf, so I was secretly pleased that I got to spend the day alone with my mom. She loves coming to the ranch with me, so after stopping by one of her favorite local stores for their brand of balsamic vinegar, we drove out to the ranch where she sat in the shade watching me ride. I am not sure why that was fun for her, but she swore it was.
After riding, we fed both boys their lunch, and freshened up their waters. Later, mom and I stopped by the local grill for fish and chips, and then we made the trip downtown to Rosemary's Family Creamery. One of us had a small bowl of strawberry ice cream while the other enjoyed a delicious tin roof sundae with vanilla ice cream and chocolate fudge, both made on the premises. The whole thing was served with a small cup of toasted, salted peanuts. Let's just say one of us left Rosemary's with a tiny bit of a belly ache.
My mom left on Saturday morning - she wanted to be home in time to visit her church's Easter service, so I was able to make another trip to Moorpark for a lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. More on that in the next day or two, but my friend Valerie agreed to have her lesson immediately after mine so that I could watch at least one lesson.
Valerie is bringing along a somewhat new-to-her-horse (she's had him about 5 months) who has some tension issues of his own. Listening to Sean's coaching while watching Valerie ride Cinco really helped me understand what Sean had been telling me. Every trainer has their own way of explaining things, so I very much appreciated the opportunity to watch and listen.
On Sunday, I packed in yet another chore. More on that tomorrow.
Yesterday, I took a lesson with Sean Cunningham, owner and trainer at STC Dressage. I was a little nervous about it. While I appreciate constructive criticism, I work best when I am coached by positive feedback. Yes, I need to know what I am doing wrong, but I really need to know what I am doing right. I was putting myself in Sean's hands with fingers crossed.
Riding with a new trainer is a lot like a job interview except that you both know you have the job already. Agreeing to take on a new rider carries risks. What if she turns out to be a pain in the butt? Can you fire her for being annoying?
Deciding to ride with a new trainer is equally risky. What if he's mean? What if he makes you cry? What if he thinks you're an incompetent idiot? I wanted to make a good impression. I cleaned all of my tack the day before, and Izzy was clean and shiny. We were prepared to dazzle and look like a team someone would want to coach.
In Izzy's mind, we were somewhere different, and the impression he made was the last thing he cared about. And that's how Izzy ruined any chance of us making a good impression. A good story though, we've got that covered.
Yep. At the end of the lesson, as we chatted about some final thoughts, Izzy gave two great shakes of his head, and his bridle flew off. And then he looked directly at Pivo as if to gauge my future expression. He never moved a muscle. I hopped off to retrieve my shiny, clean bridle from the dirt, and stared at him in disbelief. He looked so proud of himself!
I checked my bridle, sure that something must have broken, but no. It was in perfect shape. Valerie and Sean both laughed, and we were all grateful that Izzy hadn't spooked and bolted with his bridle dangling between his legs.
I am certain we made an impression, I am just not sure which one it was.
While I rarely write about them, I do have friends, and to no one's surprise, they all have horses. I am not sure if I even have any non-horsey friends. If they don't have horses right this minute, they used to or they want to.
Three of my friends are particularly special because they're badasses. There is nothing that I admire more than powerful women. It's an idea that I regularly try to instill in the young ladies in my classroom. Powerful girls and women aren't victims, they know how to say NO, they know how to say YES, and they aren't intimidated by men, adversity, or challenges.
Too many women behave as though it's unladylike to have an iron core. I think the opposite is true. Wonder Woman is the sexiest thing out there, and frankly, I think our gender could use a few more badass women.
My first badass friend is CK-P. We met at a clinic a number of years ago. I can't remember the details, but I think she recognized my name because of my blog. A friend of hers, more on that in a minute, was a blogger and possibly shared something I had written. However it worked out, CK-P and I hit it off and have been friends ever since.
As you can see, CK-P is in law enforcement. If you ever meet her in person, packing a pistol and a badge would be the last thing you would expect of her. She loves pink, lipstick, and high fashion. She's gorgeous, glamorous, and has a smile that dazzles. I am not sure if it's part of her job description, but she also helps rescue stray dogs that she finds on her route.
Her husband is in the military and is frequently deployed. Their dog, Nitro, is a retired bomb sniffing soldier. And as if all that isn't enough to make her a badass, she's also a kick-ass eventer and USDF Bronze Medalist. Word to the wise, she's located in Southern California, so watch your step. I adore her and am glad to call her friend.
My second badass friend is WM. She exudes badassery from every pore. This lady has no fear, whether it's in the saddle or not. She works on a military base although I don't think I am at liberty to say which one. She speaks to Generals on a daily basis, and thinks nothing of it. Besides being an amazing horsewoman, she literally dragged herself into a top level job on the base by sheer grit and determination. She digs deep, gets the job done, and has the commas in her bank account to prove it.
WM has two horses, both of them yellow. She's not just into barrels and gymkhanas though, she also takes dressage lessons and has a show history. We've done some great trail rides together and have something planned in late April. This lady is just so much fun to be around, and I am grateful to call her friend.
I've actually known SBB longer than W or C, but we've yet to meet in person. She and I met over the blogosphere like so many other horse friends have done. I started following her blog posts back when she still lived in California. She ultimately moved to another state, but not before sending one of her horses to live with CK-P. I don't know anything about their friendship or how the horse thing happened, but I met CK-P because of her friendship with SBB. It is a really small world!
What makes SBB such a badass is her decision to get fit. I am sure she felt like so many of us - I am carrying too much weight, I need to start taking better care of myself, I need more exercise. The difference is, she actually did it. She gets on her treadmill every day and cranks out mile after mile. I don't know if she was a runner at an earlier stage in her life, but she is now. Just a few weeks ago she decided to run a half marathon. Um, I don't know about you, but running an occasional 5K and a one-time Morro Bay 6-miler from the rock to the pier were my claim to running fame. A half marathon is a long freaking way.
SBB's goal is to run two marathons this year. Two. Not just one, but TWO. When I start feeling lazy or bad about the way I look, SBB motivates me to get up, hop on my own treadmill for a few minutes, or at least jog from one chore to the next while I am at the ranch. And in case you're wondering, she also works full time, takes care of horse property, and runs her own Etsy shop, ORHomesteadCrafts. I am in awe of this lady and can't wait to someday meet her in person.
I have other amazing friends - Jen, who took her horse Paolo from birth to the FEI level where she earned her USDF Silver Medal. Chemaine Hurtado, who is one of very few riders in the country who hold all three USDF medals as well as all three Freestyle Bars. Valerie, who owns a pony that she couldn't find tack to fit, so she launched her own online shop, The Dressage Pony Store. There are more, many more.
I don't think I have a single wishy-washy, girlie-girl friend. I admire women who, excuse the expression, get shit done. As a result, those are the kind of people that fill my phone's contact list.
Thank you, ladies, for being such an inspiration to the rest of us!
By now, you all know I am a teacher, and if you didn't know that, teaching elementary school is what I do to finance my real life - owning and riding horses. While I've taught every grade from kindergarten through sixth, I've been teaching fifth graders the longest; I think this is my twelfth year. I love to learn myself, so I am always looking for ways to make learning fun while still being rigorous.
Science in particular really floats my boat. A few years ago, the science standards - what we teach at each grade level, were revised. We now follow the Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS. NGSS were adopted and introduced before we even had a curriculum with which to teach. Loving science as much as I do, I dug deep and wrote my own digital textbook which I used for at least three years.
This year, just in time for the pandemic, my district purchased a brand new curriculum, Amplify. To my utter delight, it is organized exactly the way my self-created version of the standards were, but it's better. Each of the four units comes with a digital platform and its own investigation notebook. The lessons are very hands on and include clever simulations that the kids can run on their computers. During each of the four units, the students take on the role of specialists in a particular field - Water Resource Engineers, Astronomers, Food Scientists, and Ecologists.
In the unit that we're just finishing up, Modeling Matter, we took on the role of Food Scientists in order to help a faux company design a better salad dressing, one in which the dressing didn't settle and leave sediment at the bottom of the bottle, think Italian dressing. During the unit, we learned about molecules, attraction, and this week, emulsifiers.
For each of the three units I've taught so far, we've done a lot of investigations in our kitchens, mine and theirs. I send parents a message letting them know what "ingredients" we'll need to perform the demonstrations. I set up my iPad so the kids can see my demonstration, and I run the Google Meet (similar to Zoom) from a laptop. We always joke that it feels as though we're doing a cooking show on the Food Network. The kids can see the lesson that I share from my computer while also being able to watch the hands on part through my iPad. Not all of the kids have families who will provide the necessary ingredients, but we do our best.
After using an emulsifier to show that oil and water can be "forced" to remain mixed, we also talked about soluble ingredients. We played around with finding ingredients that dissolve because our task as food scientists was to create a dressing that didn't leave a sediment. That got me thinking about the GastroElm that I give Izzy each day. I love to learn myself, so I brought some home to add to our science lesson.
During yesterday's science lesson, done in my kitchen, I showed the kids what happens when we add water to the GastroElm. We watched to see if it would dissolve or not. When a liquid or a solid dissolve or remain mixed without separating, we know that their molecules are attracted to each other. The kids were super excited to see the GastroElm form a thick gel right in front of their eyes! It was clear that the molecules of the solid (the GastroElm) were indeed attracted to the molecules of the water. At that moment, my entire class was dreaming of becoming scientists!
Once the lesson was over, the kids started asking if they could see my horses and the ranch where they live. Really? No need to ask twice. I am already planning a remote, remote broadcast from the ranch. All I need to do is create a hotspot with my phone, and I can teach from the ranch with the horses in the background.
I think that is science any kid would love. Teachers too, especially this one!
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