From Endurance to Dressage
I am saying this with both fingers crossed; it looks like we might get to start showing in June. Last week, instead of extending the ban on showing, USEF released a Tool Kit for show managers. It's a lengthy read with lots of embedded links and a few things that made me wrinkle my nose in disgust/frustration/aggravation?, but at least we are headed in the right direction.
My own chapter of CDS has five shows on hold, two of which we've already rescheduled for the fall. We haven't heard anything from CDS yet as to how many of USEF's rules we need to adhere to, especially since a lot of the rules just don't make sense for teeny tiny shows like ours.
Like this one, Create an Emergency Response Plan specific to a COVID-19 incident or outbreak that includes local medical resources and addresses outbreak protocols including medical evaluation, isolation and quarantine, and reporting. I am sorry, but how is an "outbreak" going to occur at a horse show, and how in holy f--- would we KNOW that an outbreak has occurred? Will people become infected immediately and begin foaming at the mouth? I certainly hope not, but I've seen a lot of movies where that happens.
Here's even more: Require a facemask or face covering for all staff, officials, volunteers, service providers and participants when not mounted on a horse. My one problem with this is what do I do as a competitor if I must lead my horse to a mounting block that is not positioned at my trailer or my stall? Do I wear the mask until I mount and then lower it so it can then serve as my stock tie? If I don't wish it to serve as my stock tie, do I shove it in a pocket? If I don't have a pocket, do I drop it on the ground? I won't have a groom or family member with me, so I won't have anyone "safe" to hand it to, and why would anyone want to touch it anyway? So I guess I am back to dropping it on the ground.
Need more? How about these three:
1. Prohibit the public, spectators, and non-essential personnel such as guests from being on the competition grounds until further notice. What about our small summer show series that's held at an equestrian center? How do we prohibit paying boarders from coming to the barn? I am not sure how we can kick them out for spectating or grooming or riding their own horses. We already can't prohibit them from using the warm up arena during the show. Now USEF wants us to prohibit them from showing up at their barn, the one they're paying to use. We can "prohibit" all we want, but we have no way of enforcing this rule.
2. Organize horse arrivals and departures to limit contact between people. I already get to a show a little before my scheduled ride time and leave when I am done. Are we now going to wait in a line on the side of a road as each person unloads her horses and stuff so that we're doing things in isolation? Funny how 400 people can be in Costco, but 20 ladies can't show up at the show grounds throughout the day.
3. Arrange judges’ and other officials’ areas to comply with social distancing requirements. I can't wait to see how they work this one out. I guess the judge can just shout out her scores and comments to her scribe. Maybe they'll buy walkie-talkies.
I get it. There need to be some guidelines, but USEF likes to offer solutions that are one-sized fits all. SafeSport showed us that. COVID-19 is only reinforcing how USEF likes to deal with problems. They want a solution that can be applied to everyone and at every show. But seriously, some of USEF's requirements are going to be really hard to police, especially since events like ours are held at equestrian centers with their own clients. Our shows, whether it's our little one-star CDS shows or our "bigger" three-star CDS/USDF/USEF shows are already lightly attended. Because our venues tend to be fairly spread out and wide open, we'll be practicing social distancing without even trying. As much as I want the world to reopen and get back to work, I am not sure USEF has thought this through all the way.
My friend Jen, who is the show manager for close to a dozen CDS/USDF/USEF shows each year, sent me an entry for the Summer Dressage II show at El Sueno in mid-June. I filled it out over the weekend. I want to go, I am planning on going, but I am just not sure how much fun it's going to be. And showing is, after all, supposed to be fun.
This past month or so has shown how divided we are as a nation. We have lost the ability to even pretend to listen or respond in a respectful manner. I know that many of you think I am cold hearted without any hint of sensitivity to the issues facing us. I would argue that the complete opposite is true. My heart is breaking for the millions and millions and millions of Americans who are today without jobs. Some of those people are in my own family. Yes, I care that 80,000 have died, but far more than half of them were elderly with preexisting conditions, many of whom would have no doubt died from something else this year.
Yes, that sucks. It really does, but I don't see a huge uproar about flu deaths or about deaths due to gun violence or suicide (more than 48,000 Americans took their own lives in 2018). Did you know that 655,381 other Americans died of heart disease in 2018? How many of those deaths would have been prevented if people hadn't smoked or had exercised or eaten better? Why are we not upset about that? (source)
Bakersfield is California's 9th largest city by population, and Kern County ranks as the 11th largest county by population (3rd largest by area). Out of all of those many, many people - nearly 900,000 here in Kern County, 15 people have died from COVID-19. FIFTEEN. And for that, my county now has a jobless rate of more than 15% as of April. California's population is nearly 40,000,000. Forty million. Do you know how many have died? 2,678.
Do I want to go to a dressage show without having to wear a mask? Yes, I do, but not because I am selfish. It's because I am desperate to see my city, my county, and my state get people back to work. I want kids to go back to school, and I want us to think about what we have lost and given away for 15 people.
In my mind, It hasn't been worth it.
On Monday, I was tasked with the job of closing down my classroom for the rest of the year. The governor had already said we were done for the year, and my district's superintendent had said we were finished, but until things were actually dismantled, there was still a chance we'd go back.
Since we're still concerned with social distancing, closing down our classrooms took two weeks. One fourth of the staff came last Monday and Tuesday while another quarter went last Wednesday and Thursday. A handful of other teachers and myself cleaned up our rooms on Monday and Tuesday while the final quarter of the staff had yesterday and today to pack up everything.
Our primary task was to gather and bag all student belongings so that the kids can pick everything up one day next week. I've never before cleaned my room by myself. It's actually a task I love to do in the final weeks of school because my kiddos and I do it together, planning for next year as w go. It's a job they love. Tossing out the old and worn is very cathartic and gives the kids a sense of closure. They also love to clean up the reusables, like scissors and caddies, in preparation for the class coming up behind them. It gives the kids a sense of power and responsibility.
I always select and then train my most responsible kids for a long list of jobs. Some kids are in charge of stripping the bulletin boards while others reorganize the cupboards. My most responsible kids get to clean out my desk and teacher supplies. Once trained, I let my little managers select their own "staff" who they then direct to complete whichever tasks they want to delegate.
While I love the "free labor," what I most enjoy about it is how careful and industrious the kids are. They love stripping down the room, and they do a really good job - better than the job I did. I just tossed stuff in the cupboards without my usual process of evaluating its condition for future use. The truth is, my heart just wasn't in it.
We worked so hard this year only to have the carpet yanked out from under our feet. In January/February, my district was brutally hit with a ransomware attack. For nearly a month we were without internet, laptops, or technology of any kind. Just about the time we found ourselves recovering from that, COVID-19 reared its ugly head. After all of our hard work, we never got to complete state testing. I was really looking forward to seeing how much my kiddos had learned this year. Now, all of our work feels as though it were for nought.
It's frustrating because the fourth quarter is when we get to celebrate after working so hard. We do state reports which include oral reports and building state floats out of shoeboxes for our "stately parade," a fifth grade tradition. We won't get to play in our fifth grade softball tournament, another tradition the kids look forward to. We're going to miss out on Game Day and our Chip Chow Down, one of my all time favorite days. Every student brings a family-sized bag of chips and we CHOW DOWN while playing Hedbanz, Clue, and other board games. There's nothing like wearing a whale on your forehead as you plunge your arm into a massive bag of Lay's potato chips.
We're also missing Open House, an evening where families come and see all of the projects their kids have worked on all year. Our carnival was also cancelled as was Battle of the Books, a county-wide competition that my team was really looking forward to. All in all, it just sucks. Yes, we're still "Distance Learning" while having Zoom meetings and working on things in the Google Classroom, but it's not even remotely as rewarding as finishing the year with friends and favorite teachers.
When my kiddos come to pick up their stuff next week, I won't even be able to hug them and wish them a happy summer. I'll wave from behind my barricade and smile under my face mask. If I am this disappointed, how must they feel?
I sure hope all of this was worth it.
We have followed the social distancing rules to the letter. We wear a mask when we go out which has been limited to the grocery store, bank, pharmacy, and gas station. Same thing for going to work, the feed store, and the post office. We keep six feet apart. I haven't touched another human being besides my husband since mid-March. I may not agree with every decision that's being made, but we're doing our part to limit our social interactions.
So this past weekend, when Wendy and I found that our schedules had finally lined up, we decided to get together for a trail ride. We knew it would be easy to maintain social distance while still interacting safely. I also invited my friend Edyta to come and ride Speedy. It was the most fun I have had in a really long time.
My friend Wendy lives on the other side of the Tehachapi Mountains in Rosamond, a small town on the very western edge of the Mojave Desert. She brought her mare, Beanie, who was an absolute rockstar of a three-year old.
Edyta is an old friend who has ridden all of her life but who now finds herself horseless as she raises her two girls. When I asked her if she wanted to join us, she was hesitant about riding Speedy. She's known him since his endurance days and has heard plenty about his shenanigans. I laughed and told her that he's only difficult for me. She agreed that it would be fun and met us at the park.
Because it's a trail I like and know well, we repeated the same loop I had done a few days before. Beanie is only three and Edyta hadn't ridden in nearly two years, so I wanted the trail to be fun and easy for everyone, and that included Izzy. This time I remembered to start my activity app as we headed out, but then I forgot to turn it off until we were well into lunch - sheesh. The mileage, at nearly eight miles, was actually a wee bit farther than I had thought.
We averaged four miles an hour more or less - mostly because we stopped a lot, but the last nine tenths of a mile really lowered our average as I had forgotten to end the workout. The whole loop took us a little less than two and a half hours. I think we spent that long eating lunch in the shade.
Our mile split times times weren't helped by the numerous places we stopped to take pictures. It was such a perfect day though that all of us wanted to take photos, especially once we got to my favorite lookout point over Lake Ming. I have a million shots of that view from between Izzy's ears, but this time, Edyta got a shot of his whole body!
Throughout the ride, we laughed, told stories, and just generally took a few hours to relax and let go of all of the stress and anxiety that is plaguing all of us. When we got back to the trailers, we hosed the horses off, made sure they had hay and water, and then we dragged out some chairs and the cooler.
We feasted on pasta salads, guacamole and chips, salami and cheese, flavored mineral water, and some delicious custom made desserts that Edyta thoughtfully brought with her. (We sat at a distance from one another, used Clorox wipes, plastic silverware, paper plates, and avoided touching anything that someone else might touch.)
For many people, including myself, the social distancing is causing its own set of mental and health issues. Connecting with friends face-to-face really helped me feel more balanced and centered. I missed the goodbye hugs that we would have given each other under other circumstances, but we made sure to give air hugs.
Of all the societal norms that may be abandoned when this passes, I sure hope that hugs amongst friends isn't one of them.
California is well known for its fantastic climate. Of course, we're also a huge state so different parts of the state experience different weather. In general, the coast is pleasant all year long, the mountains see snow in the winter but have mild summers, and the central valley has mild winters and blazing hot summers. I don't mind because it means I can ride about 360 days out of the year.
When it rains here in Bakersfield, it lasts a few hours and then moves on. Our annual average is 6.47 inches. For the year. As in all 12 months. Last year, we got a total of 4.43 inches. In 2013-2014, we had 2.41 inches. Some of you get that in a few hours.
Over the past 4 days, we've had 2.2 inches of rain; a full third of our annual rainfall and just slightly less than what fell in all of 2013/2014. I don't think anyone's complaining though. When you live in a land that exists in perpetual drought that's also regularly on fire, any drop of precipitation is much appreciated.
Yesterday morning, I kept a close eye on the radar, certain that the clouds would dissipate quickly letting me make my daily barn run. Not only did the clouds not disappear, but they got thicker and heavier. Since there's no time like the present, I let both dogs jump in the truck, and we headed out in a downpour.
The ranch owner would have let me know if there had been a problem, but I hate to make her slog around checking on everybody. I needed to exchange Speedy's medium weight blanket for his heavier one anyway. I was glad I did because it continued to rain for the rest of the day and into this morning.
Izzy's side was no better. Both dogs thought the whole things was fabulous. That's labs for you though, and both of ours are confirmed water dogs. My husband laughed at me when I told him I had brought the dogs with me. My truck now smells of eau de wet dog, a very pricey fragrance.
Our black lab was much more sensible. He kept to the grass and out of the horses pens, a rule about which Yellow Dog conveniently forgot.
Even though Izzy's blanket is looking a bit worse for wear and is held together with carabiners and spare parts, I tossed it on him. By about 7:30 p.m., the ranch owner called and asked if it was okay to pull it off. For the second time in a row, he had managed to get out of the leg straps and had it hanging off his body in a way that only Houdini could have accomplished. We both agreed that safe and wet was better than dry and tangled. He hates wearing the thing anyway. No wonder that blanket has seen better days.
By the time I was finished, the tanker trucks had succeed in pumping a good portion of the water off the road. The river and canal run parallel to the road, so when the ground can't absorb the water quickly enough, they siphon the water off the road and dump it in the canal. Things are still pretty wet this morning with showers predicted through this afternoon. I think I'll wait until later in the day to make my daily barn trek. For the next ten days, we have sunny skies forecasted with temperatures in the mid-70s.
I think we can deal with that.
No, not that kind, although I plan to get in a good schooling ride or two today. No, this is just another school-related post. I have horse stuff to write about - like the awesome lesson I had earlier this week, but right now, elementary school is really on my mind.
Yesterday, my district declared that our school campuses will remain closed for the duration of this academic school year. I am hugely disappointed and desperately worried about my kiddos, but it is what it is.
On Wednesday and Thursday, I worked with a few other teachers, office staff, and our custodial crew to distribute Chromebooks to those families that needed a device. Parents formed lines out on the basketball courts to complete paperwork, and then they lined up at the entrance to our cafeteria. Their child's teacher's name and the student's laptop number were called out. Then one of us scurried to that teacher's Charger On Wheels (COW) where we located the correct laptop. The custodians disinfected the laptop, we added a charging cable, and all of it was stuffed into a plastic bag for distribution.
We took each assembled kit to our librarian who recorded the Chromebook's ID number, and then the laptop was handed out to the family over a barricade located at a different door. We essentially had a "place your order" window and a separate "pick up" window. The whole thing worked quite smoothly while helping everyone maintain appropriate social distance.
I have to say, except for one complete idiot, it was a really rewarding experience. At least a third of my own students made an appearance, so it was great to see them and have them see me. While I don't know every student at our school, I know enough of them that my cheery wave and hidden smile brought out a shy smile from them as well.
After handing out Chromebooks, I zipped on over to one of our Junior High Schools to hand out meal packs. Our kitchen chefs and bakers are doing an awe-inspiring job of feeding thousands and thousands and thousands of kids each day; we're serving meals at ten of our schools. I helped hand out lunches last week, but that was on a much smaller scale. At the school where I worked on Thursday, the kitchen staff - with help from some of the custodians, prepped and bagged more than 2,000 meals which were ready to hand out by 11:00 a.m. Besides myself, two other of my school's teachers showed up to distribute them.
The kitchen crew rolled out tray after tray of meals which included that day's lunch paired with the next morning's breakfast. At the top of the drive through lane, one of the kitchen staff recorded the child head count while Mrs. G., one of our 4th grade teachers, yelled out the number of meals needed. It was then up to Ms. C., one of our 6th grade teachers, or me to grab the number of meal bags needed and hand them through the window. Every single carload of kids got a cheery hello and a have a great day! as they passed through the meal line.
At the end of an hour and a half, Ms. C. and I had collectively handed out more than a thousand meal packs through more car windows than I could count. Some families came though needing a single meal pack, but many needed up to five or seven!
By 1:00, I was wiped out. I had handed our Chromebooks and meals for more than 4 straight hours. It was a good tired though. Then I went home and answered tons of questions in the Google Classroom, answered another half dozen parent questions in ParentSquare, and then talked to several more students on the phone.
I love my job, but I am really glad Spring Break starts today at 12:37!
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. We're currently showing Third Level for the 2020 show season. 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 schooling and showing at the lower levels. He is a 2008, 16'3 hand warmblood gelding. His Rheinland Pfalz-saar International (RPSI) name is Imperioso.
CDS Sapphire Rider Award
Third Level: 63.514%
Third Level: 62.105%
2020 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2020 Pending …
10/11 A. Newcomb (c)
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
2020 Completed …
10/26-27/19 SCEC (***)
6/20-21/20 SCEC (***)
6/29 Ulf Wadeborn (c)
7/11-12 SLO-CDS (***)
7/27 Breen-Gurley (c)
8/30 Breen-Gurley (c)
9/20 Caveletti Clinic (c)
2020 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
2 Scores/1 Judge:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
3rd Level Qualifying Modified for 2020
3 Scores/2 Judges:
Score 1: 60.405% Atkins
Score 2: 62.432% Atkins
Score 3: 61.750% Johnson
Stuff I Read