Uh-huh. That's like naming a horse Lucky.
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!
We don't have a very big dressage presence here in Bakersfield, and the truth is, I am not sure it would even take two hands to count the number of active riders showing dressage. So when a non-dressage equestrian group offers to put on a CDS-rated show, it should be something we support.
My local friends are eye-rolling now, I know. You see, this show has ... some history. It hasn't gone well the past few years, and local riders are skeptical that it won't be any different this year. In fact, it's going to be interesting to see if the show actually gets enough participants to put together a schedule. For the record, I am going.
Most everything about the show has been done well. They've offered High Point awards, raffles, and food. The facility had good parking, was centrally located, and while the footing wasn't the greatest, it was good enough for this former endurance rider.
So what's to complain about? Well, without beating a dead horse, some of the show day decisions have been questionable. One year, the show manager refused to return score sheets until the end of the show. Often times, classes were scheduled in what appeared to be in no particular order. On top of that, riders were permitted to ride out of order so that the class couldn't close until nearly the end of the show. Last year, ride times were confirmed the night before, but by the next morning, everyone's times had been switched around; mine by four hours! Other riders had been rescheduled to an earlier time and so were not even on the show grounds! In short it was a disaster.
This year, a new show manager has been brought in to replace the manager of the past few years. He's excited about the show and working hard to fix the glitches of the past. They've moved the show to a new venue, one that none of us has seen. They're still offering high point awards and no grounds fee. On top of that, they're providing a free BBQ for riders, trainers, and owners! That's a new one for me.
So local peeps ... what do you say? Let's give them another chance. If nothing else, it's a cheap show, and you'll get lunch out of the deal!
I hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend. Mine was not what I was hoping for. I woke up sick on Thursday morning and Friday morning and Saturday morning ... You get the idea. I didn't know my doctor ran a skeleton crew on Saturdays. I do now.
I am taking a short blogging break until I kick this thing to the curb. In the meantime, can someone sing me some Soft Kitty, Warm Kitty?
Be back soon.
By now, everyone across the country has heard about the devastation that last week's fires have caused here in California. The destruction to our cities, neighborhoods, farms, and vineyards is nearly unfathomable. While I feel a great deal of compassion for the folks outside of my city, it's easier for me to cope when I turn my attention to those in my own community.
Last week, I shared a post about the Jackson Stable Fire in Oildale. As of this weekend, that family has received an outpouring of public support for which they are extremely grateful. Unfortunately, the families affected by the Cottonwood fire haven't received as much support from the community.
Several of the affected families desperately need help. Their horses were being temporarily housed at the fairgrounds, but they have no hay, buckets, or other essentials. I heard that one man was still wearing the clothes that he had on during the fire. I don't know if there is an organized support system in place yet, but I suspect that a quick call (661-833-4900) to the Kern County Fairgrounds might yield some answers.
On Thursday, when I took Speedy to the vet to have his coronary band injury looked at (more about that tomorrow), I met the only horse (of more than twenty) who survived the Cottonwood Fire. He's a handsome gray stallion with a very friendly eye. Dr. Tolley was kind enough to share the story of what happened to him.
During the fire, which was fueled by high winds, the metal shade roof in the stallion's pen was knocked to the ground. Somehow, it sheltered him from the blaze that ultimately killed more than 20 other horses.
Even with something to block the flames, the stallion's muzzle was burned, but the rest of his body was kept safe. The barrier couldn't protect him against the smoke though. His lungs have severe damage from smoke inhalation, and as of Thursday afternoon, he was showing the early signs of pneumonia.
The family who owns this horse lost several others in the fire, including a mare in foal. I don't know what their financial situation is, but I know it's not solid enough to easily pay the quickly mounting vet bill. Given what I know of them, this bill is going to be very difficult for them to pay.
After I paid Speedy's bill, I slid my card back across the counter and asked if I might make a payment toward the stallion's expenses. The staff at BVH thanked me and made it clear that the stallion's owners would be grateful. Several others had already phoned in contributions earlier in the day.
As of Thursday, the total bill was hovering around $2,000, but given the developing pneumonia, it will likely get higher. If you feel like you'd like to help someone affected by California's recent wildfires, I think this family would really appreciate it.
Bakersfield Vet Hospital can be reached at 661-832-1150. Simply tell them you'd like to contribute to the bill of the stallion from the fire. They'll know which horse you mean.