From Endurance to Dressage
I am going back to work today. Well, I was there yesterday but only to set up my dismantled office. Five laptops, an extra screen, a small clock, iPad, a document camera, a web camera, a handful of mice, two surge protectors, and a USB hub all require a schematic, an engineer, and a technology team. None of which I did or had, of course, but it's done and ready for this morning.
On Tuesday evening, I stripped down my home office. Earlier in the year I had had the brilliant idea of using a silver Sharpie to label each device's electrical cord. I am so grateful I did because over the course of the year I've added more and more devices, and once you start unplugging stuff, it can be really hard to remember which plugs and cords go with which device.
Last week I took most of my teacher's editions and any other books that I wouldn't need for this week back to school. Yesterday morning, I loaded all of the laptops and gadgets into a rolling crate and the rest of my books and supplies went in another crate. All of that went to school yesterday.
I am certainly glad to have my office back. I can now quit doing my banking and blogging at the kitchen counter. I've spent so much time in my office teaching that anytime I could get away from the cameras, I took it. My dogs aren't going to be very happy about my return to school, and I am certainly going to miss my "mullet" attire - school shirt on top, yoga pants and slippers on the bottom. It's time though. Kids need to be back in school.
I am not particularly happy about the revised school schedule though, and I fear that California's governor is going to drag this thing out indefinitely. California has no exit plan. No strategy for living mask free. Our elected leaders don't really want a future free of fear and isolation. They say they do, but there is no plan to make that happen.
In the beginning, we were asked to help "flatten the curve." Do our part to "save lives." Instead of two weeks, Californians have spent an entire year living ever more isolated lives. Many have been forced out of their jobs. Kids are only just now returning to school, more than a year after the "two-week" shutdown.
In Kern County, there have been a mere 658 resident deaths out of a population of over 900,000 people. Of those deaths, 67% were 65 and older, a population whose continued life expectancy is already low under normal circumstances. We already know that those elderly patients who died during this pandemic were already dealing with serious health complications. There is a strong likelihood that they would have succumbed to their illnesses even without COVID-19.
As I asked more than a year ago, was all of this worth it? I think you already know how I feel.
Back to the future ... ten of my students will come to school from 8:00 - 11:00, four days a week. The other twenty-one will continue with distance learning from 12:00 - 3:00 on those same fours days. On Wednesdays, all thirty-one of my students will log in for one hour as we do a quick reading lesson. They will have the rest of the day to work independently. Since I have no preparation periods or office hours during the day, the students' independent day is the day I've been given to lesson plan, grade work, build my online links, and work with my grade level team.
When I asked my students to do a Jamboard showing me how they feel about returning to school (here's mine), some were excited, but most were worried, discouraged, and lonely. They want to be back in school on a regular schedule. They want recess, lunch, assemblies, and the opportunity to actually walk in and out of a library. They want to interact face to face with their peers and me. While I am so angry on behalf of all of those Americans who have lost their jobs, it is kids who I think have suffered the most. My heart breaks for all that they've missed out on or simply lost.
I am hoping that when mid-August rolls around, we can truly get back to a normal future.
A few months back, a friend sent me the Winter 2020 issue of Practical Horseman because of the article pictured below. She thought it might resonate with me, which it did. I think most of us have thought most of the things Lindsey Paulsen wrote about. I know I nodded my head in agreement paragraph after paragraph.
My start in the world of horses wasn't quite like hers - she was an 8-year-old who went to watch a dressage schooling show where a trainer demonstrated the movements from the Grand Prix. Those few minutes she spent watching the horse and rider dance around the ring were enough to seal her fate. She knew what she aspired to be, and in her own words she states, "I have longed to be that strong, poised woman on the floating horse, and chasing the idea of her has largely served me well - it's given my life purpose and direction."
My own start was similar, if not so precise. I don't actually remember a time before horses. My grandma and grandpa leased a farm on several acres where my grandma boarded horses and gave lessons. Three of my uncles were farriers, so I really don't remember the first time I was put on a horse. I was just born with the bug. The desire to own a horse and ride whenever I wanted to was a huge part of what made me who I was. I was never not dreaming about horses.
At the end of her article, Paulsen reflects on being that little eight-year-old girl: "But I am learning that it's good for us to pause every now and then to tap on the shoulder of that little girl peering into the arena. I bet she'd turn around and look at you with her eyes wide. She'd smile and tell you she wants to be just like you." Boy, did that hit a nerve. I struggle with never feeling satisfied, never feeling good enough, never having achieved enough.
If I were to tap my eight-year-old self on the shoulder, I know she would be amazed by her future self. She would feel great excitement at what she would someday achieve, and it would never ever cross her mind that it wasn't enough or that I wasn't good enough, quite the opposite. So why then have I so often struggled with feeling like happiness will be found at the next level or at earning the next award?
Earning a Bronze medal has really helped me gain some perspective. I thought for sure that once having earned it, the burden of always needing to improve would be lifted. It did the opposite thing. Instead, I felt even more pressure to succeed. That added pressure was what finally helped me look for the happiness in today's accomplishments. I will continue to be goal oriented; that isn't going to change, but I am beginning to feel a greater sense of satisfaction in the day to day progress.
Izzy and I had a very disappointing ride on Saturday - the neighbor must be breeding a mare because the screams coming from behind the hedge on Saturday morning were very distracting for both Izzy and me. Neither of us could concentrate. I started fresh on Sunday morning, and we had a much better ride. While I tried to beat myself up on Saturday night for my poor riding skills, my eight-year-old self popped up and gushed about how great I rode my very flashy horse. "So what if he's not perfect?" she'd say. "He's amazing, and you're so lucky to have him AND Speedy!"
She was right of course, and I am lucky indeed. If I really could go back and tap that little girl on the shoulder, I'd tell her that she is going to achieve some great things, have many crazy adventures, and do far more than she ever dreamed was even possible. When I look at myself through my eight-year-old self's eyes, I realize that I have got it going on!
I think we sometimes need less experience in order to appreciate life. Either that, or a time machine.
On Friday, February 19th, my blog celebrated its 10th anniversary. Wow, where does the time go? In some ways, it feels as though I've been writing about my dressage hits and misses forever. At the same time, it seems like I am still just a dressage newbie tootling around the arena. I used to publish a new post seven days a week, but after a few years, I decided Monday through Friday was enough. My platform doesn't give me a count, but I estimate that I've posted in excess of 3,500 posts.
I've never gone back to reread from start to finish; it would take too long. Occasionally, I'll search for an old post, and when I do, I have to laugh at myself. I always sound so cheerful, so enthusiastic. Of course, there are the times I sound sad and frustrated too, but there are far fewer of those posts. I'm a Pollyanna at heart; I can't help but look for the silver lining.
From the very beginning, I vowed to be honest. In general, I am not the sort of person that toots my own horn. Sure, I share my successes, it would be unhealthy not to, but I tend to write more about the train wrecks; they're more interesting to write about. The truth is, there's not nearly so much to be learned from winning whereas the opportunities to learn from failure are many.
While I wrote about a variety of things in those first few weeks, by early March I was already critiquing my own riding and striving to get better. I had been riding all my life, but I had never had formal lessons. Staying on was what I was good at. I could ride 100 miles in less than 24 hours, but I didn't know my posting diagonals nor did I know how to pick up "the correct" lead. I knew from the start that whatever Speedy was doing wrong was because of me. Evaluating my riding was a theme I would continue to explore for the next ten years.
Right from the beginning I connected with a lot of other riders who felt like I did. We weren't beautiful riders, but that's all we saw in magazines, television, and movies. I figured that if I honestly documented my journey by showing the bad photos and voiced my "dumb" questions, someone out there was going to learn something without all of us needing to be embarrassed. I took one for the team so to speak.
While I didn't get many public comments on the blog itself, readers regularly emailed me instead. I loved getting those messages from people who thanked me for showing what it's really like to struggle. I still do. Of course, I also got public comments from people who thought (and still think) that I am a tone deaf idiot. Last year I had to finally close the comments. I felt that if someone took the time to reach out to me, I felt an obligation to respond. Eventually, I just couldn't keep up with the conversations.
Of course, this all coincided with COVID-19. One thing I have learned this year is that my viewpoint is not that of the majority of Americans. The things I hold dear and sacrosanct are not the same things that the rest of the world values. I am a registered Libertarian, and the platform of that political party is one I stand behind 100%. The basics are these:
Throughout the ten years that I have been blogging, I have been criticized numerous times for my beliefs. When it comes to how I spend my money, or how I don't spend my money, I've been characterized as cold and heartless. When I've spoken about COVID and schools, I was called tone deaf and insensitive. I think someone even called me a psychopath. For what? For questioning the choices that our government has made on our behalf?
There was a lot more in the middle ...
Choosing to write so publicly about my life and my life choices is of course an invitation to evaluate, judge, and critique those choices. I get it. I welcome it. Not everyone is going to agree with me, and you shouldn't. I insist that my own students think critically for themselves. I give them opportunities each day to participate in the conversation with the only rule being that we treat each other respectfully. I start the conversation, but I only manage it without voicing my own opinions unless it's to say good thinking to a student or to challenge her to clarify her thinking.
This little piece of the internet is a place I love to visit. I enjoy writing about my dressage journey, stuff to buy, my four legged family members, books, travel, and sometimes even what is happening in the world. Just as much, I value having YOU to talk to. As I write, I picture YOU on the other side of my screen. What will you think about what I've written? What is your experience? Is it different from mine? Will you respond? Sometimes you answer, most times you don't, but each day I still look forward to what you might have to say, even when we disagree.
So, here's to the next ten years. Will they bring world peace? Probably not. Is there a USDF Silver Medal in my future? Fingers crossed. I hope you'll keep reading and maybe even comment now and then, but if not, that's okay too. I'll keep writing even if it's just to my mom(s) and dad.
A few little things (again) ...
Thing #1 - Izzy has started shedding in earnest. I posted a photo the other day of a brush laden with hair, but last night, my stiffest Haas brush, the Schimmel, the one with coconut fibers that I rarely use on him because it's so stiff, came away packed with brown hair. It's getting so covered with hair that I have to scrub it off on the wire fence before continuing. Brush, brush, scrub it on the fence. Brush, brush, scrub it on the fence. This wouldn't be such a problem except that it's February 2 - oh, hello, Groundhog. What's the word? Hopefully my horse is getting naked for a reason. Which brings me to thing #2.
Thing #2 - It was 75 degrees when I rode yesterday. No, I am not exaggerating. What makes it so startling is that California just had a massive series of storms that dumped snow in the Sierras. I heard reports of up to 15 feet of new snow. The snow level was so low that I could see it out my back window. And remember, I live in the valley at 400 feet in elevation. The snow level in California is typically closer to 4,000 feet. I can still see the snow even though it was in the mid 70s yesterday. We all know California can be weird, so I guess I shouldn't be surprised.
Thing #3 - I rode without a helmet on Sunday. Not intentionally of course, and it didn't last long thanks to a brilliant, eye-piercing sun. A year or so ago, I actually made it through an entire ride before realizing I had forgotten my helmet. As soon I realized my head was bare, I jumped off and walked back to the barn. On Sunday, we were still just walking, and I kept squinting from the glare. I knew something was off, but I couldn't quite figure it out. And then suddenly, it dawned on me that I could see the sky above me.
Holy hell. I've been a staunch supporter of helmets since the mid 1990s. That is only the second time that I've forgotten to wear one. Of course I jumped off and led Izzy back to the tack room, but all the while I wondered if early dementia was knocking at my door. I am 50 after all. Which brings me to thing #4.
Thing #4 - The helmet that I ordered on January 14th, the burgundy Ovation, still isn't here. With COVID and all the craziness in the world, I try to be especially patient, but after two weeks of complete radio silence, I finally called the store I ordered from (not sharing their name because it might not be their fault). Customer service wasn't particularly helpful. Their answer to my query was that it hadn't arrived from Ovation, but it was probably in "today's" shipment. After putting me on hold, it was determined that nope, it wasn't. Okay, I said, should I call back in a week or so? Yes, was the answer.
A day or two later, I got a shipping email. That seemed awfully coincidental. What if I hadn't called to inquire? Would my order still be hanging out in Ovation's warehouse? The shipping info indicated that February 1 was the expected delivery date. It is February 2, and it still hasn't arrived, nor has the shipping info been updated since yesterday afternoon. As annoying as it is to have to wait, I am pretty sure it will arrive today. Bloomington is just two hours away. I don't mind waiting if I get at least some kind of update. I am not sure I'll order from that company again though.
Happy Groundhog Day!
Life has been verging on the out of control lately as I find myself working ridiculously long hours. You would think that working from home would make life easier. Sure, I can get a load of laundry done, and I can pee without having my neighbor come over to watch my class, but the work that distance learning requires is wearing me out.
Life must go on though, and I refuse to let this pandemic change every aspect of my life. No matter how tired I am, I make it to the barn anyway to ride or take care of what needs to be done. So, here are a few interesting updates.
Update #1 Pivo Pod
After a few initial adjustments, my Pivo has tracked me pretty much perfectly. When Chemaine Hurtado, owner and trainer at Symphony Dressage Stables, comes down for a lesson, she no longer has to be videographer and trainer both. That part has been working great for several months. The trouble I was having was that my iPhone 7 Plus's battery would be drained by the end of the lesson.
I know I mentioned this already, and I shared my plan, but the first time I tried, my solution didn't work. My husband replaced my last solar charger when mine was stolen in November. The first time I connected my solar charger to my phone while using the Pivo, it didn't charge. I later discovered that unlike my first charger, you have to turn this one on. Doh! When I tried the whole set up again this weekend, I turned the darn thing on, and what do you know? It worked! At the end of the lesson, my phone was still at 100%. You gotta love smart technology.
Update #2 Gastro Elm
I now know with absolute certainty that the GastroElm is working. After giving it daily for almost two weeks, I missed a day at the barn. The very next day, Izzy's poop was once again ploppy, and the day after that, his belly was sensitive to grooming.
On one hand, I am thrilled that it is working. On the other, it's frustrating that the ulcer hasn't healed. I am hoping that if I persist with the activated dose, his tummy will eventually heal over. I had planned to just sprinkle the powder straight into his lunch, but since his stomach is till not quite right, I'll continue activating the GastroElm before top dressing his feed.
On the day his tummy was sensitive, I also syringed a dose before riding. I really like that about this product. You can dose them several times a day as needed for more instant "relief." I know UlcerGard (and GastroGard) should be the better choice, but honestly, I got quicker results with the Gastro Elm.
Update #3 Shedding
It always catches me off-guard how early in the year that Izzy starts to shed. The first hairs started to let loose over the weekend. I know the shedding is connected to daylight hours, but winter only just arrived here in California's Central Valley. We had our first heavy rain of the season. Before Sunday's rain, it had only rained about 0.2". Even with this week's heavy rain, we're still under 2 inches for the year!
Speedy of course won't start shedding until March or so, and then he'll continue shedding all summer. It could be just his age, but it's much more likely that his PPID (Cushing's Disease) is affecting his coat. Each year his coat gets a little longer, and he takes longer to lose it.
Focusing on all of the little things like solar power, ploppy poop, and shedding hair forces me to step away from my job even if just for an hour or two. My brain and emotional health say thank you.
Sometimes, it's the little things that are important.
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 Second Level. 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%
2021 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
(Q) Must Qualify
2021 Pending …
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/14-15 RAAC (Q) (***)
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
2021 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
2nd Level Qualifying
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%:
Score 1: 60.610% Bhathal
2nd Level Qualifying
5 Scores/4 Judges/61%:
Stuff I Read