From Endurance to Dressage
Bits and Pieces from Last Week
I had the best spring break. Last week flew by, but it was only because I did so many things. Now that I have found my joy - I lost it last November, it seems like fun is around every corner. I did a lot of riding of course, but I made time for some non-horsey activities as well.
One of the not-so-fun-but-you-have-to things was getting Newt serviced. I went in for an oil change and walked out nearly $500 poorer. Some of the charges made no sense at all, and I wish that I would have asked about them before I drove off. I paid $45.15 for a full service oil change. I paid $22 for a "special filter charge" and another $82.80 for the oil. Why not just charge me for an OIL CHANGE?
On top of that, I paid $140.95 for a fuel filter and $20 for the fuel filter service. Of what use would the fuel filter be without the installation of said filter? Just charge me what it costs, please. I also spent $95.95 for a Rear Differential Service and an additional $12.95 for the Differential Modifier. Again, shouldn't that all come together?
And finally, I paid $76.95 for an air filter. The one in my house costs $15.00 and lasts for six months. I also paid a Hazards Material Charge, two separate environmental fees (you suck, California!), and $28.02 in tax. These diesel trucks are actually money pits on wheels.
Remember how I said the Kern River was going to flood our lower pasture? Well, it did, and there's a strong likelihood that it will get higher once the weather gets hot. Our fingers are crossed that we have a slow rise in temperature because if it gets hot all at once like it often does, the snow in the Sierras is going to melt fast and overwhelm California's rivers. If that happens, the inflow to the Isabella reservoir will exceed the rate of outflow and the excess water will pour over the overflow spillway wreaking all kinds of havoc.
As it looks right now, the lower pastures will probably be flooded continuously until the fall. We can hope the heat is mild this summer, but I can't remember the last time we had a "mild" summer. We typically experience more than 30 days of triple digit temperatures, and on a hot year, we will see double that. Fingers are crossed that this is an unusual year in the best sense.
While we are experiencing a bit of flooding below the Isabella Reservoir, the Upper Kern is filled bank to bank and hurtling down from the mountains. The river guides up in Kernville are chomping at the bit, stoked for some of the best river rafting in the country. The flip side is that very soon we will have too much water for safe river rafting.
On a whim, I took my husband white water river rafting over the weekend for his birthday. I had no idea we might have picked one of the best weekends of the year. The water was nearly double in flow from just a week ago, but just shy of peeking in terms of ability to raft.
It was an awesome trip! Despite being middle aged, we're still fit enough to get a little wild. The next morning though we assessed the damage. During one particularly hairy part, I took a hard hit to my thigh that hurt like heck, and my husband's left paddling arm was a bit sore, but other than that, we came out of the adventure in one piece.
With April nearly half over already, we are gearing up for nicer weather and our next vacation. Once May arrives, I'll have just another month of school before summer vacation. I am not counting the days yet, but I am counting the weeks.
Seven weeks to go ...
I don't write about my husband very often. Occasionally I mention him, but it's more in terms of we instead of he. My husband is a pretty private guy. His Facebook feed consists mostly of "shares" and photos from the hikes he takes with the dogs. He doesn't do selfies or posts about how he feels. Today is his birthday though, and I want to make sure that for today at least, he knows how loved and cherished he is.
We met way back in 1990 when I was 19 years old and he was 21. We've been married almost 29 years. I don't think he quite knew what he was getting into when he said I do. I can be a force of nature, and not in a good way. Think tornado, heat wave, or never ending rain. Through it all, he weathers my storms, supporting me through all of the crazy. We've all seen those horse memes warning men about what being with a horse girl is like. My husband has seen all of my crazy, and no matter how weird (or expensive) it gets, he rolls his eyes and shrugs.
My husband is not a "horse husband." He doesn't come to shows. He doesn't schlepp buckets, haul hay, or hold my coat. He doesn't hold the reins, hook up the trailer, or check my ride time. While he has done all of those things at least once, they're not part of his daily life like they are mine. There is a lot that he does do though. He never says no. He hugs me when I cry. He includes my horses in his list of who makes up our family. The dogs are part of that list, too. If there is a horse thing to do or a horse in a pasture on the side of the road, we do it or he points it out. While not a rider, he's ridden horses in Belize, he's ridden a Clydesdale, we've done carriage rides in Italy and Canada, and he's taken me to numerous horse racing events including the Breeders' Cup (three times). He has even dropped me off and waited so that I could go riding in Scotland and Portugal.
I am not sure if my personality would do well with a "real" horse husband. I like my independence. I like feeling empowered. I can do it myself. The truth is that it's easy to feel so strong when I know that I have such a great man supporting me and waiting to step in when I can't do it. When my trailer has a flat tire. When I desperately need help at a show. When I can't go to the vet alone because of what I am going to hear. My husband is always there for me, supporting me emotionally, financially, or just giving me that metaphorical kick in the ass that I need to get the test ridden or the miles completed.
I rarely consider how hard it must be for him to see me drive off on my own. I would be worried sick if it were him hauling horses up and down the state alone. Camping in parking lots and pastures. Riding a half ton of unpredictability on mountainous trails and show grounds teeming with a bunch of other crazies. Even though he has rushed me to the emergency room more times than any husband should have to, he still wishes me luck and reminds me to have fun.
So today, in honor of my husband's birthday, I won't ask him to listen to yet another lesson debrief, I won't ask him to stop by the feed store, and I sure as heck won't ask him if we can swing by the barn on the way to anywhere. Instead, I'll wish him a very happy birthday, take him to dinner, and ply him with sweets. I'm taking him somewhere on Saturday to do something completely non-horsey, and I'll even let him listen to golf on the radio without feeling the need to listen yet again to what an abscess is or what my thoughts are on this summer's show schedule.
Happy birthday, Sean. I hope I give you even just a fraction of what you so generously give to me. Love you!
Kern River Running
Over the past month, I've written more times about the tiny little Kern River than I have in the entire 12 years I've been blogging. I've seen some of the rivers back east, and ours are nothing like those, but when you're used to a mere trickle, a creek really, seeing millions of gallons pouring off the Southern Sierra Nevada Mountains gets your attention.
On Sunday, with my boys recuperating from their annual vet visit, we decided to head up to Lake Isabella and into the small town of Kernville, the one that recently made the news when the river more than overflowed its banks. Before arriving in Kernville, we first pulled over to check out the dam and the height of the water level. You've all seen reservoirs that were low. Before this winter's rain, Lake Isabella was a swamp with some funky hillocks poking out of the murky water. No more. The lake is currently at 65% of capacity with a mountain of snowmelt headed our way.
Without seeing what it looked like just six months ago, it's hard to appreciate just how much it has filled already. Right now, the lake is holding 193% of average. Normally, there are sand dunes and dirt roads that criss-cross the shoreline. All of that is currently underwater. The lake now reaches the grass line, and even that is slowing being covered up by the rising lake level.
When we arrived in Kernville, we took the dogs down to the park to see the devastation that was caused by the wall of water that poured through the river's channel. Surprisingly, much of the damage has already been repaired. Some of the slabs that form the large sidewalk that follows the river have already been replaced, but many of them lay scattered like cards from a deck.
We ate lunch at a restaurant that sits high above the river with floor to ceiling windows. As we watched, a pair or rafts came hurtling by with all aboard paddling fiercely as they tumbled through the river's rapids. Many people come from all over southern California to raft the Kern River in its wet years. Rafting season has already begun.
As the river exits the dam, it flows through a narrow canyon as it plummets to the valley floor. We pulled off the road a few times to stare in awe at the sheer volume of water hurtling westward. The sound of the water rushing towards the valley was a roar that made it impossible to talk. We live just a handful of miles from the canyon's mouth, so as you exit the canyon, you can see our neighborhood perched on the bluff to the west. It's hard to believe that so much power is just minutes from our quiet neighborhood.
Just before leaving the canyon, my husband hiked down to the water to get a closer look at the cascading white water. I stayed up on the road where it was a bit calmer. If the water roared where I was, it was deafening standing on the boulder's edge.
Men, you just can't take them anywhere!
I've been a volunteer at MARE for just over two months. I volunteer every Wednesday afternoon from 3:00 until 6:00, unless we finish sooner. If we're friends on Facebook, you probably already saw that I shared a post from M.A.R.E. in which they're asking for donations for an unexpectedly large vet bill for one of the horses, Smoothie. I know for a fact that at least two of you donated, and for that I am truly humbled and grateful. Horse people are the best people.
From MARE's website:
M.A.R.E. is a 501(c)3 that provides equine-assisted therapies and activities for children, adults & veterans living with special needs and disabilities.
During my two months at MARE, I have seen only happy and healthy horses and ponies. Each horse's daily life is well documented including the hay and supplements he eats, the little nicks and bumps that he might acquire, and even the number of minutes he works each day. The horses and ponies are well loved, and the attention to their care is evidence of how valuable these horses and ponies are to the lives of the children and veterans who ride them.
Smoothie, a lovely palomino gelding, recently sustained an injury that turned out to be worse than first believed. On Wednesday, he returned from an equine facility up north where he received treatment for the injury. MARE's staff remains hopeful that he will heal sufficiently to return to work, but as horse owners know, that doesn't always happen.
MARE is a non-profit organization that relies on grants and donations. While the organization is determined to ensure long-term financial stability, that can only happen through the generosity of its donors. Smoothie's vet bills are piling up, and he could use some financial love right about now. If you've been looking for a way to find some joy, something I struggled with this past fall, you might find that donating even a small amount might just be the best bargain you find all month.
If you visit MARE's Facebook page, you'll see a link to donate. You can also go directly to MARE's website and donate from that page. If you donate from the webpage, be sure to leave a note letting the staff know that your donation is for Smoothie's vet bill. Of course, you can also just make a donation that isn't necessarily specific to Smoothie's care. Any donations MARE receives are very much appreciated.
Thank you for permitting me this entreaty. I try not to ask much of my readers. Just being able to chat with you every day is asking enough of your time, but if you have a few dollars to spare, the MARE staff would appreciate it. So would I, not that that matters.
Riding Warehouse agreed to show MARE some love by offering my readers the chance to win a small gift card for anyone who checks out MARE's website and Facebook pages, or to those who might make a donation. Liking the Riding Warehouse's Facebook page would also be appreciated. Using this link, fill out a Google Form letting me know you've seen MARE's pages. Your name will go in a drawing twice just for visiting their website and Facebook page. A small donation to MARE earns a third entry in the drawing. I'll do the drawing on Friday, March 17th sometime in the early evening. If you win, I'll email a code for Riding Warehouse's gift card.
Thanks for supporting horses everywhere!
Let's Ride Dressage
On Saturday, my friend Jen and I attended the California Dressage Society's New Test Symposium. I should add that neither Jen nor I were really interested in the changes to the tests because I am not really "showing," and Jen has a young mare that she's not showing yet either. That being said, it was a great event for people who are showing.
The symposium was the Saturday portion of the three-day annual meeting. The keynote speaker was Michael Osinki, who is on the USDF National Test Change committee. The rest of the panel was made up of Hilda Gurney - two time Olympian and USEF "S" judge, Melissa Cresswick, USEF "S" judge, and Janet Curtis, also a USEF "S" judge. The demonstration riders were local professionals including Amelia Newcomb riding Kensington at Fourth Level and Natasha at Grand Prix.
What was most interesting about the symposium was that while one of the judges described the movement, another judge scored the movements aloud with the comments that would have been written on the test. In this way, we could hear the expectation of the test while also hearing the score at the same time. I expected a lot of 7.0s and 8.0s, of which there were plenty - these are professionals after all, but there were also 6.0s, spooks, and misses. When that happened, the judge simply asked the rider to circle and show the movement again. There were even moments when the judge would coach the rider through the movement several times until it was shown to the judge's satisfaction.
Since the Equidome is so large, numerous vendors were set up on the midlevel. There was also a refreshment table with muffins and other snacks. The Annual meeting is also an opportunity for each chapter to put together baskets which are then auctioned off. Some of them were spectacular, particularly my own chapter's. Sorry about the lack of photos, but I was too busy being in the moment. I did place a bid, but we left early and I didn't get a message so I am pretty sure I didn't win.
With the symposium going on and horses and riders dressaging, Jen and I used the time to catch up on each other's lives. In between the chatting - quietly and away from the crowds, a particularly fancy horse, or a botched movement, would catch our eye and we would tune in. We also spotted old friends and chatted with them about their latest projects or successes. While the event was very educational and well presented, I didn't feel too guilty about not tuning in. Being with friends, having lunch, and shopping for stuff I wasn't going to buy did more for my happiness than watching shoulder-in, renvers, and expressive changes ever could.
Being immersed in the horse world with friends was a pretty fulfilling way to spend a Saturday.
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%: