From Endurance to Dressage
Teaching is an extremely rewarding job, but occasionally it makes me want to gouge out my eyeballs. Fortunately that doesn't happen very often. School is just about finished for the year - the students' last day is Friday, so last week, my fifth grade team put on a full-day, celebratory event to wrap up our study of US History. Even though it was 100 degrees, I had the most fun I've had in a long while.
We call it Pioneer Day. To start with, all of the kids dressed up like early pioneers - jeans and suspenders with straw hats for the boys, calico dresses and bonnets for the girls. The kids were divided up in "families," and each family designed and built a covered wagon. Since my kiddos are virtual, I built one of the wagons. And yes, that is my muck-bucket cart. I bought wood-paneled contact paper and wrapped a cardboard box in it. Like most of the kids, I used pool noodles for the cover's ribs. I wired on a lariat and stuffed a feed bag full of alfalfa hay. I strung clothespins with baling twine and hung an Oregon or Bust sign on the opposite side. My girls loved it!
To start off the festivities, all of the "families" gathered out on the playground as our "guide" got us organized. Each family was given a map with the directions from Missouri to the Oregon Territory (a neighborhood map marked with the rivers and passes we would journey through and across). And then, one by one, each family got into line, forming a wagon train that stretched at least a hundred yards in length. We went out through the front gate of the school and proceeded through the neighborhood. Lots of the neighbors came out to wave and encourage us as we passed by. Along the way, we stopped at the park where each family was given a chance card. Many families "lost" members to snake bite, cholera, or wagon failure.
Since each wagon was home-built and decorated, there were quite a few mechanical failures. Many wagons lost wheels or simply fell apart. Since we had played a version of the game, "The Oregon Trail," the kids took the mishaps in stride and even proudly bragged about their calamities.
Once we got back to school, we parked all of the wagons out in the grass and spread blankets to sit on. The music teacher lead the kids in Home on the Range type singing and followed it up with square dancing. Right about that time, four of my little darlings decided they weren't having fun, so I was forced to quell their little revolt. That was an eyeball gouging moment that made me miss out on the singing and dancing. Ah, well.
For the final two hours, we set up stations around the field where the kids participated in weaving, crossing a river (a wading pool filled with ice and water), and even a trading post. Since "western" activities were well within my wheel house, I provided a game of horseshoes made from actual horse shoes. A very good friend removed the old nails, sanded off the rust, and then primed them. I finished them off with a coat of red and blue paint.
But of course, that wasn't the end of my contribution. As a grade level team, we tried to get district-approval to bring Speedy for the day, but that was a hard no. Instead, I improvised by hauling two straw bales, a bunch of bits, a halter and bridle, buckets of feed, saddle pads, and a western saddle to school. At my horse-inspired station, we talked about how the pioneers would have fed their oxen, mules, and horses, and then at the end, everyone got to climb in the saddle for a photo shoot.
I truly love my job, but the best moments are when I get to bring my love of horses to the kids. So many of today's kiddos have no connection with rural living, so showing them a part of life with which they have no experience serves to enrich their education. I actually had a few kids, boys no less, who asked if the bits had been in a horse's mouth. When I said of course, they dropped the bits with a disgusted look on their faces and wiped their hands on their britches. I laughed.
Kids are so funny.
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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%: