From Endurance to Dressage
For many years, my life was horses, horses, and horses. The older I get, the more I appreciate doing things that have nothing to do with my over-sized, four-legged friends. While doing things with my husband doesn't always included our other four-legged friends - visiting Croatia for example, it usually does And boy, were they a big pain in the patootie!
On Sunday, my husband took me (and the dogs!) to Cambria for a two-night stay to celebrate our 29th anniversary. While I love both dogs, they're a lot to manage when we travel. They're constantly thirsty, they want out all the time, and they love to pee at four in the morning.
The motel was very pet friendly with all sorts of canine amenities - dog biscuits in the lobby, no carpet, enclosed patios, lots of grass, dog bowls, and so on. Even so, every time one wanted out, we had to snap on leashes, grab poop bags, and herd both dogs to the pet area.
When we weren't looking for a polite place to let them do their business, we drove up past San Simeon, home to Hearst Castle, to check out the elephant seals. The Piedras Blancas Rookery claims to be the only elephant seal rookery in the world that is easily accessible, free, and open to the public every day of the year. If you've never seen them before, they're pretty impressive. Elephant seal bulls can reach 16 feet in length and weigh up to 5,000 pounds.
For this visit - we've seen them many times, the seals were in a location that was really close to the fence which gave us a much closer look than we've ever had before. We could see their faces, their battle scars, and in one case, even a tag number that had been left on the seal's skin.
Besides watching the elephant seals, we ate some amazing seafood and watched two spectacular sunsets. If you've never seen the sun set in the Pacific Ocean, you should come out for a visit. It's a hard sight to beat.
The next night's sunset was even prettier.
We're already looking forward to next time.
There are three things I love most about traveling. The first is that it reminds me how blessed I am. We work hard, and we save for these trips, but I recognize that not everyone has the means to do the same thing. Second, we like to challenge ourselves to do a lot of things that we might not otherwise consider doing. We love a good adventure, and this trip did not disappoint. And last, being gone reminds us of how much we love coming home.
June 5 and 6
We flew to Dubrovnik, Croatia on Monday and made it to our rented house on Tuesday evening. It was a long day to say the least.
Our first day in Dubrovnik was all about sleeping in and doing a bit of exploring. I spent many days swimming in the Adriatic Sea.
On Thursday, we left Croatia by car for the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina. With a guide, we crossed the border safely to visit the Kravice Waterfalls and the fantastic city of Mostar. If you're anything like me, you probably know a little about southeastern Europe, but only in a general way. That part of the world has gone through so many changes that it's hard to keep up, but according to our guides ...
Croatia has been a "thing" since the Roman Empire when it was first called Dalmatia (as in the Dalmatian Coast). It has been its own kingdom and ruled by the Ottomans among many others. Croatians proudly say that they are excellent negotiators rather than soldiers. For centuries they negotiated with powerful countries for their freedom, particularly from their competitive neighbors, the Venetians. At the end of WWII, Croatia was combined with five other republics to form Yugoslavia. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Homeland Wars broke out, and after intense fighting - you might remember Kosovo and Belgrade, the different republics earned their independence from Serbia.
While Croatia has flourished due to its access to the Adriatic, the rest of the republics are still trying to recover from the Homeland Wars. Bosnia and Herzegovina are one country split by a deep religious divide.
On Friday, back in Croatia, we spent the day exploring the Lapad Peninsula - the newer side of Dubrovnik, where we were staying. This is funny because the house we rented was hundreds of years old and even had its own chapel built long before the house.
On Saturday, we tackled Velika Peak, 513 feet (171 m). That doesn't sound very high, but the climb was steep. As we climbed, we were certain we would have a great view from the top, but once we got there, we discovered it was a cell phone tower surrounded by trees and no view. Disappointing, but funny, too.
On Sunday, we again left Croatia and drove across the border into Montenegro. Again we were regaled by the history of the six republics that made up the former Yugoslavia. We stopped at a few different points of interest, but the two most fascinating were Our Lady of the Rocks Island and the walled city of Kotor.
The story of Our Lady of the Rocks Island is touching. After two fishermen noticed a strange light coming from a rock, they rowed out to discover an icon of the Virgin Mary. The fishermen tried to bring the rock ashore, but it kept washing out to sea. Returning fishermen began dropping rocks at the holy site in homage to Our Lady, and others began dropping rocks as well. Two centuries later, an entire island had formed. In the 1600s, a Baroque church was built.
The walled city of Kotor looks like Disneyland for adults. As soon as we walked into the city, we quickly found our way to the back so that we could climb the city walls to the Church of Our Lady of Health. We obviously have a thing about climbing. The view from the walls was stunning.
After a very busy day in Montenegro, we spent Monday back in Croatia lounging around. I made my way to the beach for a swim, but the highlight of the day was a very traditional dinner of Peka - meat cooked under "The Bell." The dish consists of meat and potatoes and other vegetables like carrots cooked in a dutch oven or under a bell shaped lid. Since it must be ordered hours in advance, Mara, the owner of the house we were staying, kindly made arrangements the previous day for us to eat. It was absolutely delicious!
On Tuesday, we headed to the Peljesac Peninsula for wine tasting and a visit to an oyster and mussel farm. We both felt like this particular excursion was the highlight of our trip. First of all, our guide Ivona was delightful. She treated us just like family who had come for a visit. We toured two wineries, one in particular was so beautiful, and afterwards we headed out to the oyster farm.
The Peljesac Peninsula creates a very sheltered bay with water that is closely guarded against pollution of any kind which is perfect for the farming of oysters and mussels. The farm we visited is family owned. We were ferried out to "fields" where a floating moorage of sorts was anchored. Once aboard, Peter, our oyster farmer, showed us the process for farming both oysters and mussels. Then he pulled out a bag of oysters from the sea, shucked them for us, and served them with lemon, wine, and some typical sweets. He also steamed a large pot of mussels that were divine!
After our day of wine and oysters, we moved to an apartment in the Old Town of Dubrovnik. On Wednesday morning, we got up early to walk the city walls and visit the fort. Dubrovnik's Old Town was the site for many of the scenes from Game of Thrones, particularly those of Kings Landing.
On Thursday morning, it rained. A lot. My husband wasn't feeling well, so I braved the weather on my own. It wasn't cold, but I was dripping wet from head to toe. I enjoyed the day on my own though as I was able to explore without really thinking about where I was walking.
Because of the rain, we had to make a few changes in our itinerary, so on Friday we rejoined our earlier guide Ivona for a wine and tapas tour in the Old City. It was like meeting up with an old friend for dinner. Ivona took care of all of the ordering so that when we sat down, food was delivered. Everything she had arranged was local or typical for the region. She also paired wines with each plate to give us a taste of Croatian wine and food. For the entire afternoon, we laughed and told stories just like old friends. This is one of the things I love about traveling - the opportunity to share cultures.
On Saturday, we met up with Ivo for an afternoon jet boat tour of some of the Elafiti Islands. If the Oyster farm was our favorite, this day was just behind it. Croatia is all about the sea, so to spend an afternoon on a boat with the wind in our face was perfection. Our guide took us to several sea caves to swim and explore, and then he asked what else we'd like to see. We stopped at a small island to explore a park, and then he found a private cove where we swam and enjoyed a chilled bottle of wine. Honestly, I felt like we were living the lifestyle of the rich and famous.
On our last full day in Dubrovnik, we spent the day swimming and eating one last great meal. Wine was also involved!
On Monday morning, we headed to the Dubrovnik airport for a very long, long day. We flew from Dubrovnik to Helsinki, Finland. After a couple of hours "enjoying" Helsinki - all airports look the same, we caught a flight to Seattle, Washington which took us over the north pole. In Seattle, the wheels fell off our bus as there was a problem with our last flight home. We ended up wandering around the airport until 5:45 a.m. where we caught an alternate flight back to Los Angeles. By the time we got home on Tuesday afternoon, we were both pretty trashed.
From Tuesday afternoon through Friday, I spent my time unpacking, doing laundry, going through the mail, and catching up with our dogs and horses. My husband went to work. We were both in bed every night by about 8:00. We had an extraordinary time in Croatia, but we're happy to be home.
Thanks for letting me share. Tomorrow ... back on schedule!
No, not a made up word. Zbogom is Croatian for goodbye. Another Croatian word that is handy to know is Molim - please, and of course hvala van ti - thank you. Why the sudden interest in Croatian? you ask. Well, by the time you read this, we will likely be heading to LAX for our flight to Dubrovnik, Croatia.
We have spent the past 10 months booking flights, arranging lodging, paying for tours, finding a house/dog sitter, and finding someone to look after my two horses. Today, we leave for 16 days of adventure. Most of our time will be spent in and around Dubrovnik, but we will cross the border to both Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina.
We've traveled a fair amount in the past 30 years, but this will be the farthest east we've been. I've been to Europe at least five times already, but until now, Italy was the farthest east we had traveled. We've been to Canada twice (east and west coasts), Central America (Costa Rica, Belize, & Guatemala), South America (Peru), Hawaii (twice), and as a foreign exchange student, I lived in the Canary Islands for a year. The Canary Islands lie just miles off the coast of Western Sahara in Africa.
It has been a few years since we left the U.S. - lockdowns due to COVID prevented any kind of real travel, so we're very excited about this trip. If we're friends on Facebook, I'll be posting photos and updates. For everyone else, I'll be back in a couple of weeks.
See you soon!
I had the best spring break. Last week flew by, but it was only because I did so many things. Now that I have found my joy - I lost it last November, it seems like fun is around every corner. I did a lot of riding of course, but I made time for some non-horsey activities as well.
One of the not-so-fun-but-you-have-to things was getting Newt serviced. I went in for an oil change and walked out nearly $500 poorer. Some of the charges made no sense at all, and I wish that I would have asked about them before I drove off. I paid $45.15 for a full service oil change. I paid $22 for a "special filter charge" and another $82.80 for the oil. Why not just charge me for an OIL CHANGE?
On top of that, I paid $140.95 for a fuel filter and $20 for the fuel filter service. Of what use would the fuel filter be without the installation of said filter? Just charge me what it costs, please. I also spent $95.95 for a Rear Differential Service and an additional $12.95 for the Differential Modifier. Again, shouldn't that all come together?
And finally, I paid $76.95 for an air filter. The one in my house costs $15.00 and lasts for six months. I also paid a Hazards Material Charge, two separate environmental fees (you suck, California!), and $28.02 in tax. These diesel trucks are actually money pits on wheels.
Remember how I said the Kern River was going to flood our lower pasture? Well, it did, and there's a strong likelihood that it will get higher once the weather gets hot. Our fingers are crossed that we have a slow rise in temperature because if it gets hot all at once like it often does, the snow in the Sierras is going to melt fast and overwhelm California's rivers. If that happens, the inflow to the Isabella reservoir will exceed the rate of outflow and the excess water will pour over the overflow spillway wreaking all kinds of havoc.
As it looks right now, the lower pastures will probably be flooded continuously until the fall. We can hope the heat is mild this summer, but I can't remember the last time we had a "mild" summer. We typically experience more than 30 days of triple digit temperatures, and on a hot year, we will see double that. Fingers are crossed that this is an unusual year in the best sense.
While we are experiencing a bit of flooding below the Isabella Reservoir, the Upper Kern is filled bank to bank and hurtling down from the mountains. The river guides up in Kernville are chomping at the bit, stoked for some of the best river rafting in the country. The flip side is that very soon we will have too much water for safe river rafting.
On a whim, I took my husband white water river rafting over the weekend for his birthday. I had no idea we might have picked one of the best weekends of the year. The water was nearly double in flow from just a week ago, but just shy of peeking in terms of ability to raft.
It was an awesome trip! Despite being middle aged, we're still fit enough to get a little wild. The next morning though we assessed the damage. During one particularly hairy part, I took a hard hit to my thigh that hurt like heck, and my husband's left paddling arm was a bit sore, but other than that, we came out of the adventure in one piece.
With April nearly half over already, we are gearing up for nicer weather and our next vacation. Once May arrives, I'll have just another month of school before summer vacation. I am not counting the days yet, but I am counting the weeks.
Seven weeks to go ...
If we're friends on Facebook, you'll have already seen and read most of today's post. For everyone else, this will be new. Over the New Year's weekend, my husband and I flew to northern California to visit with my dad and step mom. First of all, air travel between Kern County and Humboldt County isn't an easy endeavor.
Planes don't fly from Bakersfield to Eureka, the city in Humboldt County large enough to support an airport. To get from Bakersfield to Phillipsville, we have to drive two hours south to an airport in Burbank while my parents drive north a little more than hour to the airport in Arcata. In all, it's about the same amount of time whether we fly or drive, but by doing the flying/driving combo, we spend a lot less time cooped up in a car and more time standing around. The flight itself is less than two hours.
Many of you have probably heard about the the magnitude 6.2 earthquake that struck the Rio Dell/Scotia/Ferndale area on December 20. Phillipsville, the small town where my parents live, is just 36 miles to the south. That quake rocked their house pretty good. Rio Dell is halfway between the airport and their house, so on the way home, we detoured to visit Ferndale, which was our original plan, and then we passed through the small towns of Rio Dell and Scotia to see how much damage there was. My dad was born in Scotia. Fortunately, we didn't see any wreckage, but we know more than a few people lost their homes.
On Saturday morning, while my husband and dad were down in the garage level of the house shooting pool and my stepmom and I were on the top level of the house, another earthquake struck. This time with a magnitude of 5.3. This earthquake's epicenter was just 9 miles southeast of Rio Dell. I've been through plenty of earthquakes; most Californians are pretty familiar with the sensation. This one felt pretty strong though since we were on the third floor of the house. My dad and husband didn't get quite the sense of movement that we did upstairs, but we all agreed that it was loud. Unfortunately, the people in Rio Dell had yet another mess to deal with.
Besides experiencing the earthquake, we spent several days visiting with my parents and enjoying the beauty of the area. Not many kids grow up with giant redwood trees in their actual back yard. Despite the persistent rain, my dad, husband, and I crammed into the mule and drove down to the redwood grove just below our house. I hadn't been inside the grove in two decades. I spent every summer day there because it was always at least 20 degrees cooler under the canopy than it was anywhere else. Of course, I always had a horse with me back then.
Besides hiking through the grove, we also watched my dad's goats, Casper and Figgy. Dad uses the goats to keep the brush under control. Goats will eat most anything, so my dad turns them out twice a day to graze on the brush that threatens to consume the property. Rusty, the dog, stands guard over the decorative foliage as well as keeping the chickens in check. Rusty also runs off the wild turkeys and does general guard dog duty as needed.
We always enjoy visiting with my parents, but we only see them about once a year as it is a full day of travel just getting there. When we drive, we get to see all of California's varied landscapes. For this trip, we flew from Los Angeles's city skyline and landed in northern California's temperate rainforest. Unless you already knew that both are part of California, you'd swear you had landed thousands of miles away.
It's good to be home, but I wish we all lived closer.
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 the lower levels. 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%
2023 Show Season
(r) Ride-a-Test Clinic
2023 Show Schedule
2023 Completed …
2023 Qualifying Scores
Regional Adult Amateur Competition (RAAC)
Qualifying Training Level
3 Scores/2 Judges/60%: