From Endurance to Dressage
While it might seem like what I write is all me, me, me, my favorite posts to write are about other people. If you've been following along for any length of time, you can probably think of at least one post that was about someone else. A week or so back, I wrote about joining my friend, MC on a trail ride. Marci happened to see the post and gave me permission to use her real name.
Knowing that I would appreciate it, she recently sent me a photo of the cover of the July issue of AERC's monthly magazine, EnduranceNews. Guess who happens to be on the cover? Yep, Marci and Gem. How cool is that?
It's a little hard to read, but in the lower left, the caption reads, "Marci Cunningham and WP Aur Mystic Gem at the 2022 Huasna Ride in the Pacific Southwest Region." Isn't this a great shot?
Rubbing shoulders with a Who's Who, that's how I roll.
If we're friends on Facebook, you'll have already seen photos of my recent field trip out to CC's ranch to watch my friend Lisa work her mare Ruby. Lisa and Ruby joined us for a trail ride last month. CC is Izzy's chiropractor, and as we found out on that trail ride, Lisa trains with CC. The horse world is very small.
CC's ranch is smack dab in the middle of the town of Caliente, a long forgotten town along the track of the Union Pacific Railroad. Caliente's history is pretty interesting as it sprang up with the arrival of the railroad in 1875. CC generously spent time explaining the loop pictured above. The Tehachapi Loop, considered an engineering feat when it was begun in 1874, is just a few miles to the east. People from all over the world come to visit these few miles of the Union Pacific Railroad because of its unique construction, and there it sits in CC's backyard. I couldn't quit watching the trains circle around. It was utterly mesmerizing.
CC and his family have been working cattle in the Caliente region for more than a generation. His daughter now has her own herd that she manages.
While CC still shows his own and client horses, he's really all about running the ranch and doing it on well bred horses. Later in the morning he rode a two year old that was more broke than any of my horses.
Watching everyone working gave me a sense of what life must have been like before cell phones, social media, and the internet. These people still have a deep connection with the land, something urban dwellers could use more of.
I thoroughly enjoyed my morning spent in Caliente. Of course, it's not hard to talk me into doing something if horses are involved. But truthfully, I think all of us need to step outside of our comfort zones to see how other people live and work. It is no surprise that much of what these riders do is very similar to what we do in dressage. They want supple, forward thinking horses. Horses that can rock back on their haunches with riders giving aids so subtle they aren't easy to see. Their clothes and tack are very different, but horses are horses. They all walk, trot, and canter no matter what their saddles look like.
I definitely want to go back, but next time, I am going to ask if I can give it a try!
I've been an elementary school teacher for 28 years, and I've looked forward to my summer "break" each year. I put quotes around the word break because while I don't officially report to my job site for the next seven and a half weeks, I have already put that much time in during the school year.
My summer break works out to 280 hours: seven hours a day - what I am paid for, spread over eight weeks. When I divide those hours up by the 180 days that kids are in school, it works out to 1.5 hours per day. I arrive a little more than an hour early almost every day. I work through my unpaid lunch EVERY day, and there are many days, particularly in the fall, when I work 12 to 14 hour days. So at the absolute least, 180 of those 280 summer "break" hours are just the lunch periods I worked.
Back when I was just starting out, the last day of school left me giddy with excitement. More and more I find that I don't feel that sense of lightness for several weeks after school ends. Last summer, it took me a full month before that heavy filing in my chest let loose. Due to some weird scheduling, we had to work yesterday, a Monday. I spent the first hour or so in a meeting, and then the rest of the day was spent moving all of my crap from one school to a different school.
Knowing how much stuff I have accumulated in my career, I thought it best to move it all in one clean sweep. While Newt, my truck, has a long bed, I knew it wasn't long enough. On Sunday, I swept out the back of my trailer and hooked it up so it would be ready to take to school on Monday.
The custodians at the school I was leaving are awesome. They knew I was coming and had the gates to the playground standing wide open. Driving a truck and trailer on the basketball court was pretty fun. I almost made a big goof though. As I was circling around the playground to get closer to my building, I drove near a basketball hoop. As I looked at the next basketball hoop, I realized that my trailer is taller than my truck. I stopped really quickly and got out to eyeball how low the net was hanging compared to the top of my trailer and its vent windows. I did some quick calculations and decided I could make it, but only just barely. Taking out the basketball hoop would have been pretty embarrassing.
After several hours of packing and giving away as much stuff as I could, I finally got it all loaded. As it turns out, putting stuff in a horse trailer is a lot easier than loading it UP into the bed of a truck. Of course I forgot to take pictures, but I filled about three fourths of the floor of the trailer, much of it stacked two boxes high.
This year's position as the district's 5th Grade Virtual Academy teacher was supposed to be a temporary placement, but since I enjoyed it, I opted to make it a permanent move which is why I had to leave my old school. For this past school year, I made it work without having all of my stuff. But since I'll be doing this for at least one more year, I needed to move everything out of the old school into my office at the new school.
Fortunately, I was able to pull right up to the door of the small building where my office is located. I walked everything from the trailer, up the ramp, through the common area, and into my room. I had everything unloaded and stashed within a half an hour. Sometime in late July, while still on "break", I'll return to unpack and reconfigure my office.
'Cause you know, I have to start working off next summer's hours.
Teaching is an extremely rewarding job, but occasionally it makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs. Fortunately that doesn't happen very often. School is just about finished for the year - the students' last day is Friday, so last week, my fifth grade team put on a full-day, celebratory event to wrap up our study of US History. Even though it was 100 degrees, I had the most fun I've had in a long while.
We call it Pioneer Day. To start with, all of the kids dressed up like early pioneers - jeans and suspenders with straw hats for the boys, calico dresses and bonnets for the girls. The kids were divided up in "families," and each family designed and built a covered wagon. Since my kiddos are virtual, I built one of the wagons. And yes, that is my muck-bucket cart. I bought wood-paneled contact paper and wrapped a cardboard box in it. Like most of the kids, I used pool noodles for the cover's ribs. I wired on a lariat and stuffed a feed bag full of alfalfa hay. I strung clothespins with baling twine and hung an Oregon or Bust sign on the opposite side. My girls loved it!
To start off the festivities, all of the "families" gathered out on the playground as our "guide" got us organized. Each family was given a map with the directions from Missouri to the Oregon Territory (a neighborhood map marked with the rivers and passes we would journey through and across). And then, one by one, each family got into line, forming a wagon train that stretched at least a hundred yards in length. We went out through the front gate of the school and proceeded through the neighborhood. Lots of the neighbors came out to wave and encourage us as we passed by. Along the way, we stopped at the park where each family was given a chance card. Many families "lost" members to snake bite, cholera, or wagon failure.
Since each wagon was home-built and decorated, there were quite a few mechanical failures. Many wagons lost wheels or simply fell apart. Since we had played a version of the game, "The Oregon Trail," the kids took the mishaps in stride and even proudly bragged about their calamities.
Once we got back to school, we parked all of the wagons out in the grass and spread blankets to sit on. The music teacher lead the kids in Home on the Range type singing and followed it up with square dancing. Right about that time, four of my little darlings decided they weren't having fun, so I was forced to quell their little revolt. That was an eyeball gouging moment that made me miss out on the singing and dancing. Ah, well.
For the final two hours, we set up stations around the field where the kids participated in weaving, crossing a river (a wading pool filled with ice and water), and even a trading post. Since "western" activities were well within my wheel house, I provided a game of horseshoes made from actual horse shoes. A very good friend removed the old nails, sanded off the rust, and then primed them. I finished them off with a coat of red and blue paint.
But of course, that wasn't the end of my contribution. As a grade level team, we tried to get district-approval to bring Speedy for the day, but that was a hard no. Instead, I improvised by hauling two straw bales, a bunch of bits, a halter and bridle, buckets of feed, saddle pads, and a western saddle to school. At my horse-inspired station, we talked about how the pioneers would have fed their oxen, mules, and horses, and then at the end, everyone got to climb in the saddle for a photo shoot.
I truly love my job, but the best moments are when I get to bring my love of horses to the kids. So many of today's kiddos have no connection with rural living, so showing them a part of life with which they have no experience serves to enrich their education. I actually had a few kids, boys no less, who asked if the bits had been in a horse's mouth. When I said of course, they dropped the bits with a disgusted look on their faces and wiped their hands on their britches. I laughed.
Kids are so funny.
You know, I used to be the first person to defend California. When people complained about the hot weather, I used to say, yeah, but we can ride all winter. When people complained about our forest fires, I would say, at least it's not a blizzard or a hurricane. It's too expensive, yeah, but it's beautiful. You know what? I am DONE defending this state, and the instant my husband gets as tired of the excessive taxation, regulations, and capricious laws as I am, we're out of here.
So what's got my panties all in a wad this month? Too many thing to cover in this space, so I'll keep it down to two. The first has to do with California State Senator Shannon Grove's SB287 which would have created equity in the laws for drivers towing horse trailers used for recreational purposes. The law would have created the same driver’s license requirements for those who haul horse trailers as for those who tow recreational vehicles by allowing for gooseneck hitches instead of specifically requiring fifth-wheel hitches. Right now, I need a Commercial Driver's License because my trailer weighs more than 10,000 pounds, but if I hauled an RV travel trailer of the same weight, I wouldn't.
The bill passed the Senate 38 - 0. According to Senator Grove, "Despite the overwhelming support and speed with which the bill advanced through the legislative process, in the final hours of the bill passing through the Assembly Appropriations Committee, amendments were forced upon the bill to delay implementation until 2027." Yes, you read that correctly. 2 0 2 7.
The Assembly Appropriations Committee voted to delay implementation of the law for SIX YEARS to allow for "programming updates." I can't even begin to list the reasons why I am so incredibly disgusted by California's lawmakers. I'll start with this example: In an effort to alleviate the suffering of those Californian's who lost their jobs due to COVID, there are estimates that TWENTY BILLION dollars in unemployment benefits have been paid out to, wait for it, INCARCERATED inmates at jails and prisons across California who couldn't "find work." That money poured into the bank accounts of MURDERERS, RAPISTS, THIEVES, and PEDOPHILES. Okay, maybe some of them were just thugs and drug dealers. (Source, Source, Source).
California's law makers approved those unemployment expenditures within WEEKS of our economy's shut down. Now, that same legislative body needs SIX YEARS to figure out how to change the language on the DMV booklet and written test to include drivers who haul a horse trailer (instead of an RV) that weighs less 15,000 pounds. How stupid do they think we are? On the plus side, maybe I'll get arrested for driving without a correct license, and then I too can draw millions in unemployment benefits.
Sheesh. But wait, there was a second issue, and not surprisingly, it too has to do with California's DMV. A week or so ago I was complaining about the high cost of registering our vehicles in this money-hungry state. After paying 57 bucks for the smog test, I went home and tried to pay the $780 for the license plate sticker online. The smog results are submitted to the DMV automatically, and as soon as the test is done, you get a piece of paper that says pass or fail. As I tried to give California the requisite 780 bucks, I was DENIED because the DMV did not have proof of my smog test. Oh, California you disappoint me on so many levels.
I remember being told in that past that it takes some time for the test to register with the DMV, so I gave it a few days before I tried again. Once again, I entered my truck's license plate number and the last five numbers of my truck's VIN and waited until the DMV system located my truck. I didn't know for sure that the state had received my smog test, but since I was finally able to put the renewal in my virtual cart, I figured they had.
I pulled out my credit card - might as well get $780 worth of points, and prepared to pay. After I clicked pay with credit, I read the fine print. To pay instantly with a debit or credit card, wait for this one ... California charges an additional 16%! I'll admit it; I might have exploded with a few MOTHER FORKLIFTS! You have got to be kidding me, California. In a state with arguably the highest taxes of anywhere - you tax us for EVERYTHING, you now want to TAX MY TAX PAYMENT????
There are 49 other states, and at this moment, they all look better than 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 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
*** SCEC 10/15-16/22
2022 Completed …
(*) Tehachapi 5/22/22
(*) Tehachapi 7/24/22
(***) Tehachapi 8/28/22
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 62.115%