From Endurance to Dressage
Not My Favorite Holiday
I love the idea of Independence Day, it's a meaningful day in our nation's history, maybe even the most meaningful. What I don't like is the rampant use of illegal fireworks in the celebration of that significance. I am sure you've already seen plenty of news reports showing the brightly lit skyline of Los Angeles as Angelenos defied Governor Newsom's recent order to essentially sit out this 4th of July. "Counties with mandatory closures should consider canceling Fourth of July fireworks shows, the governor said, and Californians should not gather with people they do not live with." - source
On the one hand, I was happy to see so many people take a stand for what they feel is their right, but on the other hand, I was frustrated by how dangerous illegal fireworks are and worried about the safety of my animals. We went to a barbecue during the afternoon, making sure to be home before 6:00, well before the evening's festivities began.
Even though we live just outside of town, Tobias can still hear or sense the distant fireworks. They terrify him. Loud movies do the same thing, but thunderstorms and fireworks send him over the edge. We know this, so our vet has prescribed Ace for those times when we know the noise is going to be prolonged. At about 8:00 p.m. on Saturday evening, Tobias got his sleepy pill. While he was still worried about the racket, at least his body didn't break down in uncontrollable tremors once the booming began. Thankfully, Yellow Dog doesn't care one whit about loud noises; neither does Izzy.
Giving Tobias a little Ace to help him cope with the stress of the 4th of July is a lot easier than managing Speedy's stress. Last year, the neighbors across the river threw a loud party, which resulted in Speedy's heels blistering as he ran around in terror. (You can read that four part series here.) When we saw the gigantic water slide go up this June, the ranch owner and I discussed at great length how to keep Speedy calm for 2020's bash.
Speedy was actually moved to his current dry lot as a result of last year's 4th of July debacle, and he's been much, much happier overall. We decided to keep him where he is and dose him with Dormosedan just before dark in the hopes of keeping him calm once the explosions began.
After dosing Tobias with a bit of Ace, my husband stayed home to keep an eye on both him and Yellow Dog who is still recovering from a sprained ankle. I headed out to the ranch just before 8:00 p.m. To my utter amazement, the party across the river was over. I heard the last of the guests leaving and the property owners doing some clean up. It looked like all our planning and worry might have been for naught.
All of the horses were munching quietly on their hay, so I gave both of my horses their daily bucket of feed and freshened up the water troughs. I grabbed Speedy's halter and the tube of Dormosedan and sat down in our equestrian lounge to wait. Just as the sky darkened, the first of the fireworks started. Instead of coming from directly across the river as anticipated, a massive boom came from the property a half mile to the north.
I quickly put Speedy's halter on and started soothing him. He was tense, but nothing like he had been the year before. Knowing that the Dormosedan can take a while to work, I held it in my hands contemplating whether to give it to him or not. He just wasn't that upset. I decided to wait a bit longer to see how loud things were going to get. The year before, I wasn't there when things started. This time, I was right there with him.
It was really heartwarming to see how much Speedy trusted me. He was worried, but as long as I stood by him with a hand on his neck or back, he seemed willing to trust that I would keep him safe. As the booms and blasts continued to build, his tension actually began to subside. He nibbled on his hay, confident that I would take care of him. When a blast was particularly loud or close, his head would shoot up and he would stare intently, but he never spun away from me or even spooked.
To the west of us, in town, the explosions and booms continued unabated for more than an hour. I have never heard so many fireworks go off for such an extended period of time. While I couldn't see the lights from where we were, after watching the videos of LA's skyline, I know East Bakersfield looked the same. The explosions closer to the barn died down within an hour, but those in the city wouldn't let up. Speedy was wary, but not terrified. I decided not to use the Dormosedan as a drugged horse comes with its own problems and management issues. Since my presence seemed enough to keep him quiet, I thought it was healthier for him to spend the night without the drugs.
Just before 10:00 p.m. the distant booms and explosions began to die down. Speedy seemed less concerned with where I was and actually began to look sleepy. I put my stuff away keeping an eye on him the whole while; the full moon was a great help. As I drove back into town, I was shocked at how many fireworks were still filling the sky. As I drove up Fairfax into town, I was stunned to see the air heavily laden with smoke. I rolled the window down and was assaulted by the acrid smell that filled the air. Having lived in that neighborhood for years up until fairly recently, I was stunned by the thick haze of smoke.
As I headed back east toward our neighborhood, the number of fireworks began to dwindle. My own neighborhood was quiet. Both dogs greeted me happily, but Tobias insisted on sleeping right next to my side of the bed. He was still sleepy the next day, but at least his anxiety had been controlled. I drove back out to the ranch on Sunday morning to find a sleepy gray horse. I gave Speedy a thorough grooming, checking for any injuries. I hopped up on him bareback with a halter and rode him around the neighborhood. He started out feeling pretty lethargic, but as we made the turn for home, he perked up considerably marching forward with purpose.
All in all, my animals did well considering it was the perfect storm of a night - Independence day falling on a Saturday night with the energy of a full moon fueling the social unrest in which we find ourselves living.
I find that I enjoy July 5th a whole lot better than the 4th.
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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%: