From Endurance to Dressage
I recently wrote about Your Dressage in a post titled, Hey, USDF, Looking Good! As it turns out, Speedy and I made an appearance this week on the site with an article about our journey from Endurance to Dressage. You can read it by clicking the Achievement tab or here.
We've received a fair amount of feedback on the article, all of it very positive. The one thing that has surprised me though is how inspiring readers felt it was. I never feel that I am "inspiring" anyone, especially since I feel like we represent riders of the struggle bus. Struggle Bus Riders Unite! If there was one thing that I could hope other riders might take away from our story, it would be this: with hard work and a bit of luck, any rider can be successful. Speedy and I are the poster children for average. I am an average rider, my horse is an average horse, and neither of us is particularly talented. And yet, we achieved an accomplishment that fewer than 10,000 riders have been able to do in nearly 50 years of the the medals being available.
So whatever your goal is, whether in dressage or some other discipline, don't let yourself be discourage or intimidated by the competition. You do you! Set big goals, but it's also important to set mini goals that will serve to motivate and inspire you to reach for greater things. Don't be afraid of failure. Failure shows you where you need to improve which ultimately leads to success. If I can do it, ANYONE can.
And if you do check out USDF's Your Dressage, take a look at their Weekly Poll; the answers are always interesting. I voted twice this week since I have two horses, and I am looking forward to reading the results.
Have a great weekend!
Last week, I developed another eye infection. I am rather prone to them but with good eye-hygiene, yes, that's a thing, I've kept them at bay for the last few years. For this particular round, I followed all of my doctor's recommendations - fish oil supplements, hot compresses, moisturizing drops, and daily washing with baby shampoo.The affected eye was getting better, but then I got another one in the same eye. Well that just wasn't going to stand, so Monday morning I headed out to Accelerated Urgent Care to have it looked at.
After a quick exam where we tried to maintain social distancing - he was masked, gloved, and smocked to the neck, he prescribed antibiotics and drops for the eye. Great. Even though the weather was unseasonably wet, I headed straight to the barn from the clinic in hopes that the weather would let up. It didn't.
I changed into breeches, determined to get a ride in. As I was carrying my grooming bucket out to Speedy's small field, the drops got bigger and more frequent. It wasn't exactly RAINING, but I was already in a funk because of some COVID-19 punches to my life. I stopped in my tracks, did a u-turn, and put my grooming bucket away.
Sometimes, it's okay to just walk away. Neither of my horses was upset about getting a day off.
I am certain that every profession has its share of jargon and acronyms, but educators have to reign supreme in that contest. We have a name or list of letters for everything. Most of the time, the letters just get rearranged - English as a Second Language (ESL) became English Language Development (ELD) which then became English Language Learners (ELL). Student Study Teams (SST) became Student Success Teams (SST) - the letters never even changed. Often times ideas just get rebranded. I've been a teacher for so many decades that what I learned in college just keeps getting recycled and spit out as something new.
Occasionally, a new buzzword will actually resonate and convey an idea that maybe didn't already have a name. One word we've been using in recent years is Backward Mapping. In backward mapping, we look at what we want our students to achieve, and then we plan the steps necessary to achieve that goal. Backward mapping is always applied to the entire year, but we also use it for specific units, like those lasting for several weeks. We also use the idea in a single lesson: I want my kiddos to understand the Order of Operations, so what do I need to teach today to make that happen?
This is related to horses and riding, I swear. While it's not only applicable to dressage, it's certainly a core process in developing a dressage horse. Think about the Pyramid of Training: we know what we ultimately want - a horse that can do the movements at the Grand Prix. In order to achieve piaffe, passage, and one-tempis, we know we must first start with the basics.
I've been spending so much time in the half passes lately that I had left the flying changes alone. Speedy's changes are confirmed. He can do them. He knows the aid, and he knows when he should and should not change the lead. But since I hadn't done them in a while, I decided to throw some in the other day. The right to left change was still there, but the left to right change was really sticky.
For our next ride, I did some backward mapping. My sole goal for the ride was to clean up the change from left to right. I called Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, for some quick advice, but she was in the middle of a lesson. Instead of hearing what she might suggest, I thought about what she would probably have told me to do: get him on your new outside rein.
Changing the rein means getting more bend to the right, something Speedy and I have struggled with since the very beginning. So that was "the lesson" that I intended to teach that day. My "test" to see if he had learned what I taught was a flying change from left to right. But what could I do to achieve a more supple bend to the right?
Actually, it was all pretty simple. I started with flexing left to right at the walk. We then moved on to shoulder in, walk pirouettes, and half passes that were super collected and bent. By the time I asked for the flying change, Speedy was dying to give it to me. The lesson took all of twenty minutes, and I got a crisp, correct change the first time I asked.
Backward mapping as it was meant to be used - developing dressage horses!
"Be a light." - Thomas Rhett
I read a Facebook comment from someone the other day that really struck me. This particular person is not someone I consider a friend or even someone with whom I am friendly, so her comment was even more appreciated than if someone else had said it. While she said more, her final sentence was this, "So I'm not ready to lecture anyone on this."
She was talking about COVID-19 of course, but specifically about whether or not we should leave our houses to ride our horses, ride our bikes, take a drive, and so on. Those words struck me as one of the most respectful things I've heard yet.
Yesterday, I heard Thomas Rhett's song, Be a Light, and it felt like he was singing about the situation we're in today. Right now, our world feels as though it's being ripped apart. We're shouting and screaming at one another with the absolute certainty that we're in the right. Our media source is right. Our political voice is right. Everyone else is not only wrong, but stupid, and their choices are threatening our very lives.
Before calling someone an asshole, sociopath, or a covidiot, can we first stop and consider, just for a moment, that that person feels like they're making the best choice they can for their own situation? None of us know why someone is making the choices they're making. Would it be possible to give them the benefit of the doubt? While they aren't behaving in the same way you or I would, does that make them wrong and us right? Surely someone else sees our choices as wrong and theirs as right.
The last stanza of Rhett's song speaks a truth that's hard to deny.
Yeah, it's hard to live in color
When you just see black and white
In a world full of hate, be a light.
Here's the song if you haven't heard it yet. The lyrics follow.
Be a Light
In a time full of war, be peace
Yeah. In a world full of hate, be a light.
I have rarely done this, but I have edited the final paragraph in an attempt to say what I meant to say ...
These are certainly sad and trying times for sure. This certainly isn't the world's first pandemic though. Wikipedia gives that honor to the plague of Athens which in the 400s BC killed 75,000 - 100,000. In the 1520 Smallpox Epidemic, nearly 8 million died in Mexico. The Italian Plague of 1629 killed 280,000. And of course, there was the Black Death in the 1300s which killed 75 - 200 million Europeans, as much as 60% of the population. Don't they wish they would have had a Twitter account.
Before last week, no one in Kern County was paying much attention to the Corona Virus except on Facebook. We though the toilet paper debacle was quite hilarious. In all honesty, I think we thought it was a greatly exaggerated joke. Turns out it wasn't. On Saturday, there was no TP at my local Albertsons.
It was only when LA Unified closed its door that I began to worry. LA Unified serves 600,000 students. When they shut their doors, people listen. San Diego Unified, the second largest school district in California, followed soon after; they serve more than 121,000 students. My own district, which serves pre-K through 8th grade, provides education to more than 18,000 students. Bakersfield's only high school district, the Kern High School District, provides education to more than 40,000 students.
As district after district closed their doors, the Kern High School District waited until the Governor essentially made it mandatory. Whatever Kern High does, the elementary schools follow suit. I was glad that we were the last of the 25 largest districts in the state to close our doors. Today is our first day of closure.
In times of crisis, stability keeps us sane. Following regular routines helps us to feel safe. As districts began closing their school's campuses before the virus had even reached their communities, I worried about our kids. Knowing that a closure was imminent, I started having round table discussions with my kiddos. We pushed our tables to the side and formed a talking circle.
For that first circle, I told them what our topic was, COVID-19, and I handed out a talking stick. It's really a plush pony that's easy to toss around the circle. I asked kids to share what they had heard, read on social media, or seen with their own eyes. That first day, the circle was 32 strong.
After talking, I asked each of my kids to visit the website Information Is Beautiful. If you haven't seen it yet, check it out, it is the most non-alarming thing you'll see on the internet today. Their COVID-19 #CoronaVirus Infographic Datapack is the best visual representation of the disease that I've seen.
The next day, we again met for a talking circle. Our circle was much smaller with only 21 of us. Again, we shared what we knew and had heard. We talked about our plans for a lengthy school closure and what that meant for their education. We also dug through the WHO website. We focused on two areas, the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) Situation Dashboard and the Myth Busters page.
In my own classroom, we finished each day by using Clorox wipes to clean our table tops and frequently touched surfaces like door handles and light switches. This is a practice we've done since the first day of school. My classroom also has a wall mounted hand sanitizer unit that the kids use whenever they want.
My talk circle on Tuesday was much smaller. There were only 17 of us. Again we talked about the craziness we were seeing. We revisited the Information Is Beautiful website, the WHO website, and the CDC website. We also found out that there was at least one confirmed case of Corona Virus in Kern County. That individual was visiting from the San Fransisco Bay Area. That information tipped the scales for my district. Tuesday was both my kiddos' and my last day until at least April 14th.
In preparation for a closure that involves 13 school days, my district quickly assembled packets and supplies to be sent home with each student at the end of the day. Fortunately, most districts around California already have a spring break scheduled during this time, so the number of missed school days will be fewer than what a 4-week closure makes it sound. For students who were absent, their packets were labeled and placed in bins in front of the school. Parents were messaged and asked to come pick them up.
Besides providing packets of grade appropriate schoolwork for each child, my district is also providing portable breakfast and lunch packs for any child under the age of 18. Between the hours of 11:00 am and 1:00 p.m. Monday through Friday, a meal pack will be available at most of our schools in the drive through for any child in the car. The meal packs are being offered free of charge, Meals must be consumed off site to discourage large gatherings.
As a teacher, I feel strongly that it is my job to present the facts to my students. When I teach reading, I look for texts that don't have a hidden agenda, and when they do, we talk about it. For history, I strive to present both sides of an event. Just a week or so ago we discussed why the patriots of the American Revolution are viewed as heroes rather than the traitors they might have been had the colonists lost the war. In science, I present data that is known and accepted by the scientific community. And when it contradicts what religion says, we talk about that too, respectfully.
So when the world looked to be falling apart right in front of our eyes, my students and I examined the data from what seems like the most reliable sources available. Does the Corona Virus merit the social media attention, social distancing, and societal shut down that we're seeing? I let my students decide for themselves.
As for me, I fear this is really just political maneuvering by both the Democrats and the Republicans. Is the shutdown of businesses both large and small truly necessary? Is it worth the cost? People die every day from a a lot of other preventable causes, and no one is screaming about them. Look at how many people will die today of Tuberculosis. Already in 2020, there have been 8,247 known American deaths caused by gun violence (source). Out of 7.7 billion people worldwide, only 7,873 have lost their lives to COVID-19, fewer than the more than 8,000 American who have died from gun violence. Why are we not angry about those deaths? Is it simply because those deaths, the ones from Tuberculosis and gun violence, aren't part of our every day experiences? And yet, long after COVID-19 fades away, those deaths will continue to rise higher and higher, year after year.
Do I think pandemics in general are fake or contrived? Absolutely not, but I do worry that this one might cause us to become jaded toward the next one. A more deadly one. One like Smallpox but more contagious with a higher death rate.
I guess only time will tell.
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 …
7/26 TMC (*)
8/8 - 9 RAAC (Q) (***)
8/30 TMC (*)
9/20 TMC (*)
10/11 TMC (*)
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 WC (***)
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