From Endurance to Dressage
By now, you all know I am a teacher, and if you didn't know that, teaching elementary school is what I do to finance my real life - owning and riding horses. While I've taught every grade from kindergarten through sixth, I've been teaching fifth graders the longest; I think this is my twelfth year. I love to learn myself, so I am always looking for ways to make learning fun while still being rigorous.
Science in particular really floats my boat. A few years ago, the science standards - what we teach at each grade level, were revised. We now follow the Next Generation Science Standards, NGSS. NGSS were adopted and introduced before we even had a curriculum with which to teach. Loving science as much as I do, I dug deep and wrote my own digital textbook which I used for at least three years.
This year, just in time for the pandemic, my district purchased a brand new curriculum, Amplify. To my utter delight, it is organized exactly the way my self-created version of the standards were, but it's better. Each of the four units comes with a digital platform and its own investigation notebook. The lessons are very hands on and include clever simulations that the kids can run on their computers. During each of the four units, the students take on the role of specialists in a particular field - Water Resource Engineers, Astronomers, Food Scientists, and Ecologists.
In the unit that we're just finishing up, Modeling Matter, we took on the role of Food Scientists in order to help a faux company design a better salad dressing, one in which the dressing didn't settle and leave sediment at the bottom of the bottle, think Italian dressing. During the unit, we learned about molecules, attraction, and this week, emulsifiers.
For each of the three units I've taught so far, we've done a lot of investigations in our kitchens, mine and theirs. I send parents a message letting them know what "ingredients" we'll need to perform the demonstrations. I set up my iPad so the kids can see my demonstration, and I run the Google Meet (similar to Zoom) from a laptop. We always joke that it feels as though we're doing a cooking show on the Food Network. The kids can see the lesson that I share from my computer while also being able to watch the hands on part through my iPad. Not all of the kids have families who will provide the necessary ingredients, but we do our best.
After using an emulsifier to show that oil and water can be "forced" to remain mixed, we also talked about soluble ingredients. We played around with finding ingredients that dissolve because our task as food scientists was to create a dressing that didn't leave a sediment. That got me thinking about the GastroElm that I give Izzy each day. I love to learn myself, so I brought some home to add to our science lesson.
During yesterday's science lesson, done in my kitchen, I showed the kids what happens when we add water to the GastroElm. We watched to see if it would dissolve or not. When a liquid or a solid dissolve or remain mixed without separating, we know that their molecules are attracted to each other. The kids were super excited to see the GastroElm form a thick gel right in front of their eyes! It was clear that the molecules of the solid (the GastroElm) were indeed attracted to the molecules of the water. At that moment, my entire class was dreaming of becoming scientists!
Once the lesson was over, the kids started asking if they could see my horses and the ranch where they live. Really? No need to ask twice. I am already planning a remote, remote broadcast from the ranch. All I need to do is create a hotspot with my phone, and I can teach from the ranch with the horses in the background.
I think that is science any kid would love. Teachers too, especially this one!
I've talked about this before, but I can't really earn "over-time" pay. That's one of the bad things about being a salaried professional. My district gives me a flat salary no matter how many hours I work. That seems great if you think oh, good, I'll knock off early today, but it never happens. It's far more common for me to be lesson planning and grading papers at 6:00 a.m. and answering emails until 8:00 p.m. I think salaried is just another way to say a slave to the job.
I have found creative ways to earn a little extra money at work though. Except for this year, my biggest money-maker has been to run the lunch time detention. The pay is horrible, it's a lot less than my salaried rate, but since I work through lunch anyway, at least I get paid something for it. With distance learning in effect for probably the entire school year, there is obviously no detention, so that money-making scheme is out the window. Instead, I have finally earned enough university units that they can no longer be applied to my salary earning potential which means my district is now paying me for "seat time" if I continue to take continuing education courses.
A few years ago, my district created its own in-house university, pbvU. We have three sessions a year in which courses directly related to our curricula and programs are offered. For each course, teachers spend seven hours in class (nights and weekends) and eight hours doing coursework. Each pbvU course is equivalent to a one-unit accredited university level class. Over the summer, I took two courses in Distance Learning Instruction - which basically taught me how to be more effective at teaching remotely. I am now a "certified" distance learning instructor. Whatever. I just needed the cash.
Along with those two certifications, my school-site principal asked if I would attend another training before school started. In that one, we got an overview of the district's chosen distance learning platform, Canvas. I was paid for the three-hour training with the understanding that I would serve as a resource for not only my grade level team, but any other staff member that needed support. Again, sure, whatever, how much are you paying me?
While the courses are usually quite helpful and relevant, they're also a huge time commitment. You don't get credit unless you complete all of the requirements. So I could do the seat time, but if I don't finish the course work, I don't get paid. I've taken ten units over the past two years along with working full time, riding, taking lessons, and showing. I won't be taking another one for a while.
I got paid for the first course and the extra training on Thursday which is how I'm paying for Speedy's next box of Prascend which I'll order in December. I get paid for the other course next month which is how I bought a Pivo.
What?! I know! More about that tomorrow ...
At lunchtime yesterday, I got Izzy's Horse Coat Color results back from UC Davis's Veterinary Genetics Laboratory. To no one's surprise, it came back as N/N for the cream dilution gene. There's no code anywhere on the page, so I am not exactly sure what N/N stands for in scientific terms, but I think it means nope, not today. Fortunately, the fine folks over at VGL provided an interpretation: No copies of Cream dilution detected.
Like I said, I am not surprised, but it was a fun experiment. For now, that means Izzy is just a brown horse who fades in the sun, or he has some mineral deficiencies. Like I said before, I am not too worried about that.
Given how quick and relatively cheap the whole process was, it makes me want to send Speedy's hair in for some analysis. There are all kinds of boxes you can check off, and grays have a lot of things going on. During my coat color research,I read an interesting thing that said grays are born black and blacks are born gray. I bought Speedy as a three-year old, and he was definitely very dark.
Horse coat colors are a rabbit hole down which you can spend a lot of time!
A week or so ago I wrote about Izzy's dramatically changing coat color. In that post I posited that he might have the cream dilution gene. Several people wrote to me privately expressing their doubts about that theory. Instead of a genetic cause, it was suggested, and not for the first time, that Izzy might have some mineral deficiencies, specifically copper and zinc. So it seems that there are three possible explanations.
First, it just might be how he is. He's dark in the winter and fades in the summer. Gray horses undergo coat color changes all the time. What do they say about Occam's razor? The simplest explanation is most likely the right one. But not always.
Second, he might have the cream dilution gene. In Izzy's pedigree, neither the Thoroughbred side nor the Oldenburg/Anglo-Arabian side recognize the color "buckskin." Instead, the Jockey Club recognizes Thoroughbreds as being either bay, black, chestnut, dark bay/brown, gray/roan, palomino (which carries two copies of the cream gene) or white. The Oldenburg Registry of North America recognizes brown, black, chestnut, gray, and bay horses. My research, limited as it was, says that on a black or dark bay/brown horse, the cream dilution gene can produce a buckskin, a sooty black, or simply a lighter brown horse with black points. In other words, without a genetic test, you can't tell just by "looking."
That leaves the third option; Izzy might have a copper and zinc deficiency. Again, my research consisted of skimming articles found by doing a Google search. What I saw was that zinc deficiencies are rare. Over consumption on the other hand can decrease copper absorption. Some of the processes that copper is required for are energy production, iron metabolism, connective tissue formation, central nervous system function, and melanin production. Coat color is determined by the presence and proportion of melanin pigments.
Most of the articles I read warned against supplementing just with copper and zinc as that combination can negatively interact with other minerals in the body. Instead, it was recommended that horses with suspected copper and zinc deficiencies be fed a commercially fortified feed or a good mineral supplement. I've done both (Platinum Performance and Horse Guard) over the years for long stretches of time, but Izzy's coat still changes colors. He either doesn't have a zinc and copper deficiency, or, the supplements weren't enough to overcome the deficiency.
I am not worried about a copper and zinc deficiency, and it doesn't matter whether Izzy does or doesn't have the cream dilution gene, but I decided to find out for sure. UC Davis has a Veterinary Genetics Lab that is "open" to the public. They offer a long list of genetic tests, most of which seemed quite cheap. You can check for just about anything. For $25, I will know definitively if Izzy has the cream dilution gene or not.
Earlier this week, I pulled the requisite mane hairs, ensuring that the root bulbs were attached. I taped them to the form as directed and dropped the whole thing in Monday's mail. The results should be back in a week or two. Either way, I know I should put both horses back on the Horse Guard Vitamin and Mineral Supplement. It won't hurt, and it probably helps their overall health.
Every time I try to keep things simple, I add in yet another thing.
Over the past two or three years, Izzy's coat color has done some really weird things. I've been doing a small bit of research/reading, and I think I know why. First, take a look at these photos.
This horse really does not know what color he is! A few years ago, he started to really lighten in the middle of summer. By fall, his winter coat would grow in almost black. By late spring, his golden coat would reappear. Now, along with that yellow-gold color, he's getting black spots. I decided to do some research, and I discovered several interesting things.
For a long while, I just thought the lightening of his coat was due to bleaching out from sweat and sun. The changing coat became really noticeable when I moved to the ranch which is why I assumed the changes were do to the sun. At the last barn where we boarded, Izzy had a lot of deep shade, and he used it. Here at the ranch, there's plenty of shade, but it's not near Speedy, so most of the time, he and Speedy play with one another across the fence, so they spend a lot of time in the sun.
Instead of his color being an effect of the sun, I think Izzy might have the cream dilution gene. On a bay horse, a single dilute of the gene will create a buckskin. A double dilute on a bay will create a Perlino. According to The Equinest, "This gene has a lightening effect on the hair and is responsible for a hugely varied scope of colors. The most obvious effect is on chestnut and bay animals, a single dose changes their coats to a golden or tan color." That sounds exactly like Izzy's color.
According to Wikipedia - not the world's authority of course, but it's good for general background, "cream dilutions may have seasonal color variation between winter and summer coats." The same Wikipedia article went on to say, "Buckskin is [...] produced by the action of one cream gene on a bay coat. All red hairs in the base coat are diluted to gold. The black areas, such as the mane, tail and legs, are generally unaffected." That too, describes Izzy perfectly.
Of course, without doing an actually DNA test, I can't know for sure whether he carries the creme dilution gene or not. It seems likely though. If it is the creme dilution gene that changes his coat to such a light color every summer, it's odd that it doesn't affect his winter coat. Although in truth, that coat tends more toward black which isn't nearly as affected by the gene as are the red hairs.
Besides the golden summer coat, I've also been seeing another marking that is somewhat newer. Both sides of Izzy's neck and shoulders are covered in black spots. Initially, I thought the dark areas were scars, but this summer, he has way too many of them to be scars. In the photo above, they look like freckles. In the photo below, they look like the edges of dapples, or even veins.
Montoya, the last mare I owned had little white spots that moved around on her body as she aged. I always attributed them to birdcatcher spots, named after an Irish Thoroughbred stallion who displayed those same white flecks. I reasoned that there might be a black version of the spots, and I was right. They are named after the Thoroughbred stallion, Bend Or, who was thought to be out of a TB mare named Rogue Rose.
I did a quick search on All Breed Pedigree's site and found that through Izzy's dam, he does indeed trace back to Bend Or. It was a fairly easy search. I knew it was likely that Izzy's dam, Banjo Rose was a descendent of Rogue Rose, Bend Or's dam. If you search the line, it goes like this (d - dam/s stud): Imperioso (barn name Izzy) - Banjo Rose (d) - Tororose (d) - Sun Rose (d) - Suntime (d) - Sun Helmet (d) - Hyperion (s) -Gainsborough (s) - Rosedrop (d) - Rosaline (d) - Rosalys (d) - Bend Or (s) - Rogue Rose (d).
I find it is interesting that the mares all carried names related to roses or the sun while the stallions' names were all over the place. I am not a pedigree geek and don't care a whole lot, but if those spots on Izzy's neck and chest are Bend Or spots, I know where they came from. Izzy's name, Imperioso, was derived from his sire's line. They all have names that begin with the letter I - Imperioso, Inbegriff, Ideal, Inschallah, Israel, and then the names switch to the letter F for a two generations and then are once again all over the place.
I call him Big Brown Horse, but lately, that moniker makes no sense. He's big, but not necessarily brown. By about October, he'll be nice and dark and look almost like a big black horse. If you know more about equine colors and have some specific answers for me, I'd love to hear from you. There's an email button at the top of the page.
For now, he's definitely a horse of a different color.
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 …
8/7-8 SCEC (***)
10/30-31 SCEC (***)
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 (***)
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