If you're part of the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS, or you just want to be, give us a holler. It'll be fun!
I don't think I've mentioned this yet, but I somewhat reluctantly volunteered to serve on the board of my chapter of CDS, the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter (TMC). I've been a member since 2010, but since I live an hour away, I've never volunteered before. In all honestly, the team that has served until now has done an excellent job. I am not sure how welcome my help would have been anyway.
So here we are, a decade later, and as always happens, the core of the old board decided to retire. You know how it is though. When someone's been doing a really good job, it's hard to find people to step up to fill their shoes. After some deliberation, Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, stepped up and agreed to serve as the chapter Chairperson. She asked me to serve with her. Darn it.
At the chapter's annual awards banquet, Terry Quinn, the outgoing Chairperson, handed off a literal gavel to Chemaine and introduced the new board. Up until that moment, being chapter Vice-chair was really just words on a page. Once Terry formally introduced us to the membership though, my stomach gave a little flip flop. Stuff was about to get real.
Last night was our first official meeting. I am nothing if not dedicated, so as Vice-chair I've already logged in a few dozen hours. I started off by attending a Golden Empire Arabian Horse Society meeting in an attempt to join forces. We're hoping to put on a joint TMC/GEAHS show in the spring. So far, the folks at GEAHS are on board. Now we just need to get the venue lined up, the date established with CDS, and about a million other details ironed out.
Besides being the liaison between the two chapters, I also volunteered to redesign and manage the chapter's website. It's a job I like and actually feel that I can do well.
You're probably going to hear more about what it's like to actually work behind the scenes of a dressage organization. I love to show, and that won't change, but I felt like this was a good time to start giving back a little.
If you're part of the Tehachapi Mountain Chapter of CDS, or you just want to be, give us a holler. It'll be fun!
My husband is a fan of horse racing which is a good thing as I am a fan of horses. He and a few of bis buddies spend a lot of weekends "going to lunch" at a local sports bar that features live wagering on video. Once or twice a year, we like to head to Santa Anita to watch the races in person. It's a "horse" thing that he can easily talk me into doing.
This was our third time attending the Breeders' Cup. There is nothing quite like cheering for your horse with more than 50,000 other people.
Since we've been to this track many times, we knew that getting there early makes for a very long day. Ee actually rolled in a little late, catching the third race. There were twelve races being run on Sunday, but nine turned out to be plenty for us.
For most of the day, there were forty minutes between each race which allowed for plenty of time to place our bets, walk out to the paddocks, or grab a snack. We also took a lot of pictures. For the final race, there was an hour wait between race 11 and race 12.
I do not know if there is a track more beautiful than Santa Anita. We've been to Del Mar, which is also quite lovely, but nothing beats Santa Anita.
What I love about this track is how close you can get to the horses, the jockeys, the owners (I've walked right past Bob Baffert more times than I can count), and even the track itself.
While we had decent seats, we only sat in them once. The rest of the day we spent watching the races from different vantage points. My favorite spot to watch is right on the rail. You can't see much except for the front stretch, but when the horses run by, you can feel it in your toes.
We watched races from the rail at the top of the front stretch - away from the crowds, from the finish line - which was really crowded, and even from the grandstand which gives you a view of the whole track at once.
Next year's Breeders' Cup is at Keeneland in Kentucky, and in 2021. it's back at Del Mar. I am pretty we won't be making either of those trips. That's okay. It will be back at Santa Anita before too long.
Besides the Breeders' Cup, Santa Anita hosts the Santa Anita Derby which is just as much fun. But frankly, my favorite time to go is when nothing special is going on. The roar of the crowd is amazing, but the sound of hoofbeats in the silence is even better.
There is nothing I like better than to brag on the cool things people are doing, especially if it is someone I know. Yeah, it's cool to share about my own great scores and ribbons, but it is so much more inspiring for ME when I get to see people I actually know being super successful.
To illustrate my point, do you all know about Lehua Custer? She was recently awarded the 2019 Carol Lavell Advanced Dressage Prize in the amount of $25,000. While we're not "friends," I do see her at shows and have chatted with her on a number of occasions. She's incredibly nice and deserves all of the success she's experiencing. Meeting people who are outstanding at what they do always inspires me to reach for more than what I think I can do.
Enter my friend Amy of Blue Canyon Ceramics Co. Amy is a geologist by trade, a mom by day, a barn owner by choice, and a horse girl bitten by the same bug that got all the rest of us. In addition to the ice business she and her significant other own and manage, Amy has also launched a new Etsy store, hopefully to be followed soon by a brick and mortar ceramics center.
I chose the word "center" because Amy eventually hopes to run a bit of a working school/supply store/pottery for sale shop here in Bakersfield. I have no doubt that it will be a great success.
Right now, Amy is working out of a small studio she had built just steps from her barn. She has a pottery wheel of course, as well as her own kiln. Her studio is filled with clays of different varieties, glazes, and products in all stages of completion.
Amy is currently experimenting with a variety of clay types - I love the speckled clay she's currently using, as well as with mixing her own glazes for truly custom pieces. Even her "cast-offs," the pieces she feels aren't nice enough to sell, were beautifully rendered and glazed.
Amy's Etsy store, Blue Canyon Ceramics Co, was just launched this year, but she's building her inventory daily. While she has items ready-made, her favorite pieces to do are custom orders. All she needs to create a beautiful piece is a "Can you make me a ... ?" Done!
Surprisingly, prices for her creations, custom or ready-made, run from as low as $20 to $40 for more detailed projects. Her pieces are dishwasher, microwave, and oven-safe. The serving pieces I brought home are too beautiful to put in the dishwasher though. In fact, I left them out on my counter top for several days just so that I could look at them and smile.
While we were talking, I asked Amy for some photos of her working at her wheel. When I realized she was going to actually make something, I quickly switched to video and watched as she created a lovely bowl large enough for pasta or salad or just something to catch your keys and make you smile. I can't wait to see what it looks like when it's fired and glazed. I have dibs on that one, Amy!
If you'd like to see more of Amy's work, you can visit her Etsy store, Blue Canyon Ceramics Co. Or, if you'd like something custom made for yourself or as a gift, simply give her call at 661-433-4472.
I am loving that horseshoe motif ...
Boy, has Santa Anita Racetrack been mired in controversy these past few weeks. Even so, we went to the Derby on Saturday to celebrate my husband's 50th birthday. Protestors be damned.
The Santa Anita Derby has been run for more than 85 years. The derby's winner is guaranteed a spot in the Kentucky Derby which makes it a big draw for horses on the west coast. More than a few of the Kentucky Derby's winners have been horses that won at the Santa Anita Derby: Justify in 2018, California Chrome in 2014, I'll Have Another in 2012, even Affirmed in 1978. It might not be as glamorous an event as Kentucky's derby, but Santa Anita sure puts on a good show.
I've written about Santa Anita quite a few times; we try to go at least once a year. When we bought our Club House tickets in late winter, the controversy surrounding the track hadn't yet reached the crescendo that boiled over in mid-March. For a couple of minutes there, we wondered if the Derby was even going to be run. Thankfully, the Stronach Group made a bunch of quick changes, and the track reopened the weekend before the Derby.
What I love most about Santa Anita is how up close and personal you can get with the horses, jockeys, and trainers. At the end of the headline race, my husband and I were making our way to the betting windows to cash out our voucher when a groom darted past us carrying a leather lead and stud chain. For half a moment I wondered what he was doing in the grandstands.
Suddenly, Bob Baffert appeared in front of us doing the right left dance with my husband. Roadster had just pulled off a victory ensuring his place in the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. Baffert was leading the horse's owners down to the winner's circle. He was in a pretty big hurry so I wasn't able to ask for a selfie.
We already have tickets to this year's Breeders' Cup; it will be our third BC. With any luck, Roadster will back in the starting gate. I'l be sure to bet on him in November. Damn horse cost me $5 on Saturday when I bet on Baffert's other horse, Game Winner.
Uh-huh. That's like naming a horse Lucky.
Over the weekend I attended the California Dressage Society's (CDS) Annual Meeting. All members are welcome to attend Saturday's general session, but it's mostly chapter chairs that participate. When I found out that my chapter chair wasn't going, I asked if I could go as a representative. I got the go-ahead and headed to Anaheim as an official chapter representative.
I checked in alongside my friend, Jen, who is a chapter chair, and was made to feel welcome immediately. Even though CDS is the largest Group Member Organization (GMO) of the United States Dressage Association (USDF), the general meeting still had a small club vibe.
Kevin Reinig, the outgoing president, made numerous jokes during his report and even asked other members to step in to answer questions. The morning was long, and I could see how it might get boring to attend the meeting year after year, but I was fascinated. After the president's report, each committee chair shared their own bits of news, progress, or general state of things.
After a lunch break, which was excellent, we then reconvened for a roundtable discussion amongst regional chapter chairs. This part of the meeting was the most engaging as each chairperson shared their chapter's successes or obstacles. As a designated representative, I felt honored to share the wonderful things that my own chapter does. It was very gratifying to hear such positive feedback from the rest of the group.
What I enjoyed most about the day was the feeling of being so connected to the inner workings of the dressage world. Being a part of the CDS General Meeting felt like having a direct link to both USDF and US Equestrian. The people with whom I was rubbing elbows were the very same people that talk to USDF's people. And when CDS asks for something, USDF listens (usually).
Most of the time, we are content to school in our arenas, head to local shows, and collect our ribbons at the end of the day. We think of USDF and US Equestrian as these massive organizations that do whatever they want, whenever they want with no thought to our needs or desires. Being at this meeting helped me see that that is not entirely true. When we offer feedback to our GMOs, that feedback does make its way up the pipeline.
I can't say that I particularly want to serve my GMO in an official capacity, but filling in as a representative felt like giving back in at least some small way. I also offered to help another chapter in my region with a project they'd like to get started. The dressage community, at least here in California, seems to be pretty tightly knit with a genuine desire to work together. I like that, and I am proud to call myself a member.
The meeting was a lot like jury duty; I never actually want to get picked to serve, but once having done so, I'm left feeling like I've made the world a better place.
I try to keep things on topic here which usually means all things equine. Occasionally I wonder off though and share about a vacation we've taken, or I'll write about my dogs. I don't consider that to be too off topic though as horses and dogs just go together.
Last weekend, my husband and I headed over to Bakersfield's annual Via Arte, an Italian street painting festival. Bakersfield's event is always held at the Market Place, an upscale, outdoor shopping and entertainment center. A large section of the parking lot is cordoned off where artists, both local and visiting, transform the asphalt into works of art with chalk.
The school where I teach is one of the only schools in Bakersfield that employs a real life artist, as opposed to me with my rudimentary kindergarten ability to draw. My teaching credential says I am qualified to teach art to kids, but who are they kidding?
Thank goodness for Miss K. She's an amazing art teacher, and our students love her. Do you know who Miss Frizzle is? Ms. K dresses just like her except her dresses are art and holiday inspired and well, just better. Ms. K and her team enter a lot of chalk art festivals as professionals, no adult ammies here. As often as not, she'll report back having won the people's choice award or even best in show.
When we got to the festival, I dragged my husband past each artist's spot scanning the crowd for Ms. K. When I finally spotted her resting in the shade, I squealed in delight. She had done the BEST piece of art.
Ms. K explained that the original painting, done by Domenichino in 1602, was of Giulia Farnese, the pope's mistress. She is pictured with a unicorn which represents virginity. The painting is entitled, A young Lady and a Unicorn. Via Arte's theme for 2018 was Italian art. I think Ms. K and her team nailed it.
Ms. K always includes two secret images in her work, a Mickey Mouse and a goldfish. I found the goldfish pretty easily, but I needed help for Mickey. Check out the unicorn's hooves and the base of the mane. Did you find them?
Hey, not so far from equine related stuff after all.
Group trail rides at dude ranches are not my thing. There are a few exceptions of course. My husband and I booked a trail ride in Belize that took us to some Mayan ruins; that was fun. I also took a private trail ride in Scotland; again, fun times. There was also that weeklong, point to point ride I did in Ireland. That was more than fun. But generally, the nose to tail thing just doesn't float my boat.
Being six feet above the ground connected to tree trunk legs kind of changes your outlook on trail rides. Suddenly, nose to (bobbed) tail rides look like a lot of fun.
Over the weekend, my husband and I joined three other couples for a trail ride at the Covell Clydesdale Ranch in Cambria. We booked the trip more than a month ago, not really sure what it entailed. None of us were disappointed.
The Covell ranch covers approximately 2,000 acres of rolling hills above the tiny coastal village of Cambria. The ranch has approximately 50 head of cattle and nearly 70 Clydesdales. The horses range in age from yearlings to old timers living out their retirement years. The working string is currently made up of 10 Clydesdales, mares and geldings, but a few others are being trained to join the team.
After getting all of us checked in, Tara, the ranch owner's daughter, gave everyone a quick tutorial in how to ride the horses. Each Clydesdale is taught to drive, that is their original purpose after all, and they are ridden like driving horses. Tara showed everyone the technique of slide, grab, and pull. We were directed to slide one hand down the rein, grab it, and pull it straight back to ask the horse to turn. To stop, you have to slide both reins through one hand, and then pull straight back with a rein in each hand.
The horses do not work off of the rider's seat or legs which meant no leg yielding or steering with your seat. Turning was also a challenge as an open rein did nothing. It took some concentration to turn left and right, not to mention a lot of room, but once I got the feel for it, I was quite delighted with how responsive my girl was.
After a few minutes of practice, Eileen turned out to be very soft in the bridle and wiling to listen to the quietest of aids; not all dude horses are that sensitive. With only the slightest wiggle of my calves, she broke into an easy trot. To come back down to a walk, I simply picked up both reins. What a lovely mare she was!
In the nearly 30 years that we've been together, my husband has ridden maybe a half a dozen times. Considering that his actual saddle time is pretty limited, he's listened to me long enough that he's picked up a decent skill set. At well over 6 feet tall, it was fun to see him look small on a horse.
The horses were trained to stay more or less in line, but Tara said that we were welcome to ride side by side. Most of the horses were happiest following one after the other. We did do a few trot sets and were even given the go ahead to trot up the final climb to the top of the hill. I was pleasantly surprised with how smooth Eileen was. We were all in western saddles of course, but even so, I was able to do a tiny rising trot and never felt as though Eileen's gait was too big to stay with.
If you live anywhere within a hundred miles of California's central coast, you should look up the Covell Ranch. Tara has done a great job with her Clydesdales. They were all well trained, their feet looked great, and each horse looked healthy and happy in their work. You can find the Covell Clydesdales on Facebook and Instagram.
Donna is a local dressage rider. She's ridden a lot of horses over the years, earning her bronze medal along the way. This season, she's bringing along a young horse that she bought a couple of years ago. This year, they qualified for both RAAC and the CDS Championships at Second Level. I am pretty sure she'll be at Championships, so if you're going, look her up.
Donna is also a very accomplished musician who plays for the Bakersfield Symphony. She also performs outside of the Symphony doing local events and the occasional wedding. And if all of that wasn't enough, she teaches the violin and viola as well.
Last week, Donna shared the following video of her riding Hans while playing the violin. The video went viral on Facebook, making the local news as well. If you have trouble coordinating your aids (like I do), trying riding with something in your hands other than your reins!
So many people asked Donna questions about the ride that she explained why she had done it. Here's what she had to say.
This entire thing has been so funny to me, I should probably explain why I made this video. “Pop Goes the Weasel” is a song I have sung to my young horses for years to teach them cadence, and also to regulate my own seat to keep them steady. About six years ago I had the thought that I should try playing it on violin while I cantered my super broke show horse, Zena, but just never got around to it. (i.e. take the time out from training, bring the junker violin down from the cabin where it’s been for the last 10 years, clean my boots, etc.).
If you hurry up, there's still time to enter. Find the show premium here; it needs to be postmarked by March 7th. If you're still on the fence about the show, get off it, and come! The Golden Empire Arabian Horse Society is putting on a show unlike they've ever done. Wait until you see the facility!
Lowell Saunders, the show manager (contact him here), invited me to join the club as they toured the show venue and made final arrangements. How have the property owners kept this place such a secret?
The show venue is located just off Enos lane, a few miles south of 7th Standard Road. Parking will be along the edge of the gravel drive, but it's plenty wide enough and close to the arena and warm up area.
The club will also be sponsoring a barbecue lunch, free for competitors and trainers. The GEAHS group has always done excellent prizes as well as a silent auction. Expect them to bring those back for this year as well.
The arena is so large that it will contain not only the dressage court and judge's platform, but an "on deck" warm up area as well. Even though a reining show was going on during our visit, the footing still looked quite lovely for dressage. George, the man in charge of the footing, asked me to describe the kind of footing we would like and promised to get it perfect for us.
There is also a round pen for lunging and a dirt field that will be dragged and smoothed for the warm up. It's a large, fenced area that will more than meet our needs as a warm up ring. As a bonus, it is just steps away from the arena entrance.
The GEAHS Spring Open Dressage Show is CDS-rated, but if you're just starting out, don't let that stop you. The club is hoping to attract riders of all levels. They really just want riders to come and enjoy a day with horses in a beautiful facility.
The show is Sunday, March 18th. In order to prepare for the show, I am working with the venue's facilitator and Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, to (hopefully) put together a Ride-a-Test clinic for Saturday, the day before the show. Let me know if you'd like to participate.
The GEAHS is already planning next year's event at the Gardiner Ranch. So even if you're not quite ready to show this year, come on out to get a look at the facility. Then stay for lunch and enjoy Chemaine's fabulous freestyle!
Wait. What? Who? Yup, that's right, we have a "new" vet hospital in town. As of the beginning of this year, Bakersfield Vet Hospital (large animal) is no longer.
No need to panic though, Dr. Tolley has us covered. As of January first, Dr. Tolley, Dr. Gonzalez, and vet tech/office manager, Kathryn Kelly, have reincorporated as Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital.
For the next few months, they will still work out of the Wible station, and the phone number will remain the same.
Sometime in the early summer though, before the end of July, the team will be packing up and moving to a new-to-them facility.
Since Dr. Pipkin is retiring, the team of Bakersfield Large Animal Hospital will be taking over her facility and combining the two practices.
Moving a practice and creating a new hospital involves a lot more work than I imagined; Dr. Tolley listed at least 25 forms, licenses, or agencies that need to be dealt with before they pack their first box. While the team isn't necessarily enjoying that aspect of the move, Dr. Tolley is looking forward to the wide open spaces of the new facility. He's also looking forward to the quiet that they'll get. If you've been to the Wible station, you know what he's talking about.
If you're fond of the old BVH hospital, schedule an appointment quickly; the team won't be there much longer. I am looking forward to all of the changes they make with their new hospital and practice. You can bet I'll be tapping on the window chanting, open, open, open!