From Endurance to Dressage
We're finally back in town, and boy, has a lot happened over the past two weeks. First ...
It's no secret that I am a very frustrated Californian. Don't get me wrong; California is spectacular - our mountains, beaches, forests, and even our deserts are simply breathtaking. Our climate is perfect, and it's hard to find fresher produce, fruit, and nuts. But, and it's a big one. Our political climate is horrific. Our governor has gone crazy as have most of the legislators. I am aching to join the thousands of others fleeing the Golden State. Since we can't relocate quite yet, we decided to at least go on vacation.
Before deciding where to go, we looked at all fifty states - we worried about being denied re-entry if we left the country, and then we looked at how "open" each state was. Tennessee checked all of our boxes. The state is completely open, and all of the things we wanted to do welcomed visitors and spectators.
While I've heard about southern hospitality, I've never actually been on the receiving end of it. Whether the fine folks in Nashville actually wanted us there or not will forever remain their secret because Tennesseeans are the friendliest people in America. I have never felt so welcomed in my life. Even though it wasn't actually anyone's fault, anytime there was a delay or a product was sold out, we were given the most genuine apologies I have ever heard. The people of Nashville clearly wanted us to think well of their city and state, and they went out of their way to make us feel at home. It was so refreshing.
The truth is, there wasn't a single thing that I disliked about Nashville. Every time I turned around I found something else to admire or appreciate. At one point, I told my husband that everything about Nashville was just right. Nothing was too big, too small, too pretentious, or too overwhelming. It was as though the city was truly meant to be lived in like a comfortable pair of sneakers. Some places are meant to be looked at like a fancy piece of glass kept in a curio cabinet. You wouldn't ever use it, it's just nice to look at. Not Nashville. I even enjoyed the weather, hot and sticky as it was.
While we were in Nashville, we did most of the things that one should do while there. I am sure we missed a few attractions, but we made up for them by doing unexpected things. We had a hilarious time at the Ryman Auditorium sitting in all of the seats blocked by the pillars used to hold up the balcony. It felt a little sacrilegious to poke fun at the Mother Church of Country Music, but we figured a little goofing off had to have been done there long before us. While the acoustics may be fabulous, not all of the seats are equal.
All joking aside, the Ryman is definitely a must-see while in Nashville. The video shown before you go into the auditorium itself tells the Ryman's story and left both of us feeling a bit awed by the history that place has been home to. I can see why the place is called the Mother Church.
We also went to the Friday night performance at the Grand Ole Opry, another fantastic experience. Among other performers, we saw and heard Tommy Emmanuel who is arguably the world's best guitar player.
We visited the Johnny Cash Museum ... It was small, a bit over-priced, but still interesting.
We toured the Corsair Distillery whose home is in the Marathon Motor Works building which also happens to be the home of the Tennessee store of Antique Archeology (American Pickers). When we heard the store is really just a glorified gift shop, we skipped it. After the tour at the distillery, we also did some tasting. Who knew I liked Tennessee whiskey?
Unlike anything in California, many of the state museums are free to the public. We walked right into the capitol building and even had a peek into the Governor's office. The doors to the House of Representatives and Senate were wide open. No one hassled us or assumed we were intent on bringing down the building. We walked around peering at what interested us and never once were we made to feel like we were breaking any laws. California should take a page from Tennessee's play book.
On Sunday, we took a drive to Lebanon to watch our first in-person NASCAR race. We're dedicated fans, but we had never actually been to see a race in person. It was loud, but we knew that. The 40-minute drive to the track ended up taking 3½ hours due to traffic. While it was a bit disappointing, we still made it in time for the green flag to drop. It was also about a billion degrees with 80% humidity, but we enjoyed ourselves even so.
On our last full day in Nashville, we braved some pretty extreme heat (high 90s with 80% humidity). We walked back to the Capitol building to explore the Mall. It was one of the most beautiful city parks I've seen. Everywhere we looked there was something new to see. Each county had a large "seal" laid into the sidewalk describing it and showing its place on the map of Tennessee.
At the end of the park, we came to a large circle of towers. After walking around them for a few minutes trying to figure out what they were, we heard bells begin to chime. We looked up at the towers only to discover that they were actually bell towers. The towers surround the Court of 3 Stars which represents Eastern, Middle and Western Tennessee.
There is a bell for each of the Volunteer State’s 95 counties. Each quarter hour, the carillon plays a portion of the Tennessee Waltz. At the top of every hour, the 50-tower carillon plays the entire song. A 96th bell on the capitol grounds rings an answer symbolizing the government answering the call of the people. After hearing the bells ring at 10:45, we decided to wander around the park waiting to hear them play their full song. It was a very powerful experience.
We love to travel and have been to many countries and US states. While I haven't been to all 50 US states, I think that Tennessee is my favorite. In many ways it reminded me of our nation's capital. Like DC, Nashville has filled every nook and cranny with symbols of its history. Their willingness to wear their heart on their sleeve made me love the place even more. As we sat eating dinner on our last evening there, I asked my husband if he could see himself living in Tennessee. He didn't say yes, but he didn't say no either.
Tennessee, thank you for a fabulous time. We will be back.
Good-bye, California, and hello Tennessee. Yep, we're off to the Volunteer state this morning. We have a house sitter to take care of our two dogs, and both horses have been safely tucked into the barn at STC Dressage for the next week and a half; they got there on Monday.
We have tickets to a NASCAR race as well as to the Grand Ole Opry. We'll do all of the things that there are to do in Nashville. We chose Tennessee because it's one of the many states that is no longer in lockdown. We're sick of California's governor's "policies", so we decided to go somewhere with a healthier "climate."
See you sometime next week!
I am back! Sorry for the sudden radio silence. I knew we were going north to visit my dad and stepmom, but I just didn't get around to saying so. And then by time we were back, all sorts of other craziness happened, so I just decided to wait until today to start telling those stories. Here's the first one.
My dad and stepmom live in southern Humboldt County which is a solid 500 miles from Bakersfield. It took us nine hours to get there and ten to get back home. We took the dogs with us, so there were a lot of potty stops.
Humboldt County is very rural, especially where my parents live. Heading south from Humboldt County, the nearest stop light is more than an hour away. Heading north, it's a forty-five minute drive to find a stoplight. There are no stoplights if you go west, and the nearest one to the east is over a mountain range and several hours away.
It had been more than a decade since we'd been to my dad and stepmom's house - long story, so it was fun to see all of the things they've done. My dad is very handy; with some help, he built the house. He felled all of the trees to open up the building site, and he's carved out more and more space over the years.
He has since planted beautiful trees, an orchard, and several gardens. There's a fish pond with a swinging bench, bird feeders, and a beautiful stone wall.
Below the house my dad built a small barn for the chickens and his goats. Since they live in a rainforest, things grow like crazy. He uses the goats to keep the brush under control, and they do a pretty good job of keeping the undergrowth from taking over. On the days that they don't graze on the property, my dad feeds them hay with peanuts in the shell as treats. They LOVE peanuts.
The goats live with a bunch of chickens, and of course they have an excellent watch dog in Rusty, a Heeler mix. Rusty keeps the wild turkeys back as they too have repeatedly tried to take over.
The house is a split level, so on one side it is two stories high, but on the other, the west side, it's three stories. The bottom story houses a garage, root cellar, and my dad's game room. He has a dart board, TV, and a very fancy pool table. While my stepmom is a good sport, she doesn't enjoy being down there as much as my dad does, so to have two new players - my husband and me, was a real treat.
We spent one whole afternoon laughing our butts off as we went head to head in a mini pool tournament. My dad and husband made a team while my stepmom and I banded together. It would seem like an unfair match up, but the boys played according to one set of rules while my stepmom and I were allowed to play slop pool. We won three out of four games, so we held our own. Not that I wanted to lose, boy, do I hate losing, but when we did, we were having so much fun that it didn't really matter.
We had a great visit, and it was certainly over-due. My dad is already asking that we come back for Christmas. If we all lived even just a bit closer, making the drive would be easier, but as it is, I don't think we'll make it back in 2020. If anyone has a plane they'd like to rent out, my parents would be super appreciative. Until then, our next visit will more than likely have to wait until 2021.
More on the rest of the week tomorrow...
As soon as school lets out this afternoon, my husband and I are making the drive to San Fransisco. On a regular day, the drive is a bit hectic. We're really going for crazy though as we'll be entering the Bay Area at about 5:30, the worst time for traffic. And to really sweeten the pot, we're rolling into the city on the Friday evening before Christmas.
We're going to visit with my dad who has had to take care of some personal issues this past month. While the circumstances aren't great, we're excited about the visit. My dad has already created a list of things that he'd like to see. As have we ...
Since I drive Newt, a monster to park even in Bakersfield, and my husband drives a Raptor, not that much smaller, we're planning to park at our hotel, which has limited parking, so fingers crossed. From there, we plan to Uber across the city and walk most of the day. We'll then Uber back as I am not hiking the 8 miles back across the peninsula.
I've been to San Fransisco many times, but it's been a while. It's a beautiful city with more things to do that can be done in two days. I'm looking forward to spending the time with my dad, visiting places we last saw together when I was just a kid. Enjoy your own weekend!
No matter where we travel, I am always on the lookout for a chance to interact with horses. Even my husband has gotten good at spotting foreign ponies for me. This trip was no exception.
We started our visit to Canada with a four-night stay in Quebec City. On the first morning of our visit, I heard that familiar clip clop of hooves on asphalt and the search was on. I am not sure who spotted the carriages first, my husband or me, but a tour of the old city was the first thing we did.
Before we even made it into the carriage though, I met one of the many vets who supervise the horses that pull the carriages. She explained that she examines each horse for wounds or injuries and monitors the number of hours that they work. Veterinarians patrol the carriage routes checking the horses multiple times throughout the day.
The workday for the horses is strictly regulated. They don't work if it's too hot, too cold, or if they have any wounds or are thought to be ill. The driver explained that horses can be sent back to the stable for the slightest nick or wobbly shoe. He went on to say that the carriage horses in Quebec are the most scrutinized in all of Canada.
I am not sure if we just landed a good guide or if ours was particularly friendly because I had horses - we had chatted a bit before our tour began, but we had a very interesting tour of the old city. Throughout our stay, we noticed that most of the drivers were pretty quiet during the ride while the passengers wore an expression of boredom.
It could have also been that we're curious travelers and were very interested in the history of Quebec City. Our driver seemed more than happy to show off his corner of the world, and we were an appreciative audience.
We left Quebec City by train and headed to Montréal for five more nights. The carriages in old Montréal were even more abundant, and my husband asked if I needed another tour. I am sure I would have enjoyed it, but I declined. The city just didn't have the same relaxed vibe that was found in Quebec City.
By about the third day in Montréal, we were tired of the noise and traffic and decided to spend the morning hiking around Parc du Mont-Royal, a 500 acre park within the city. From Chalet du Mont-Royal, we admired the view of downtown Montréal and then followed the trail to the 98-foot-high cross that sits at the top of Mont-Royal.
As we strolled through the forest, we came upon several large manure piles which my husband found strange since all of the carriage horses had worn bags to catch the manure. We wondered if the carriages could be found in the park or if trail riding was allowed. Within a short time, I heard the clip clop of a horse approaching.
To my delight, it turned out to be a female officer who was happy to stop for a chat. Her English was limited - French is the primary language of the province of Quebec, but with a shared love of horses, we were able to communicate just fine.
She explained that her job was to patrol the park, helping tourists who were lost or in some kind of distress. She also watches out for criminal activity. When I asked about a partner, she explained that he was on vacation so she was riding her own assigned horse as well as her partner's to keep him exercised. Unlike the carriage horses, the mounted officers ride in the heat and cold, adding studs to the shoes when it's icy and rump rugs to keep the horses warm.
We had a great time in Quebec and found our Canadian neighbors to be friendly and very welcoming. We're already talking about next summer's vacation. Not sure where we'll go, but I bet they have horses!
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
2022 Pending …
2021 Completed …
10/24-25 SCEC (***)
11/7-11/8 SB (***)
4/10-11 SCEC (***)
5/16-17 El Sueño (***)
6/26-27 SCEC (***)
7/17-18 El Sueño (***)
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
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