SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 




We Are Flying Solo

Enjoy Our Instagram Feed!

May 14, 2016

Moments Make Memories

I have a confession to make, while I'm sorting through piles of Southern Eighths stories & photos.  I emotioned...in public.

Before you get too weirded out, I'm fairly certain no one noticed.  But it was still quite strange for me, not out of any habitual conscious "feels-suppression" efforts, it's just not something that usually occurs.
Erica arranged epic prize table of TIP, Riding Warehorse, Horseware, Fleeceworks, Cowboy Magic, & many more great sponsors!!

We'd just reached the last fence on the Heart of the Carolinas' Training 3DE division's coursewalk last Friday, led by wonderful friend & lead clinician (& incoming USEA President!), Carol Kozlowski.

Carol demonstrates choosing lines for maximum avoidance of wet pants

As I listened to her insights (well done to Course Designer, Tremaine Cooper, & Builders, Tyson Rementer & Rob Mobley!), adding & adjusting to my own mental "if I rode this" plan, out of nowhere, my vision blurred with welling tears.  Fading to the back of the group to sniffle incognito, I asked myself what the why??

T3DE Kathy Parker & OTTB Peace Dancer take off after XC #1

My heart quietly answered:  I want to ride this amazing course so bad it hurts.  And I have a partner who could've done it.

2015 3DE TIP winners Lisa Borgia & Laurelin soar in the HT

I could have gotten lost in that moment.  But another part of me knew that letting the weekend be a memory of sadness would be an even bigger loss.  It was up to me to choose.  I'm so glad that I took a deep breath, re-focused my eyes, & looked for better moments.

Sally O'Connor (R) explains Roads & Tracks plans to riders with Carol's supervision ;)

Because I found some.  And I re-learned an increasingly important lesson:

The best kind of moments appear readily given opportunity, but it remains up to us to identify them. Our eyes are accustomed to recording images by collecting reflected light.  It requires an additional step, a filter adjustment of sorts, for us to capture these fleeting gifts.

Tori Nuckols, fab daughter of Gammon, our gallant Volunteer Coordinator, did her homework & won Best Conditioned Horse, flying the Special Edition Horseware cooler...that graced some Rolex rumps!
They are illuminated instead from within, the shine of which is often overlooked or lost, out of focus in periphery.  It is when we can widen our field of view beyond the self, while having the patience to be fully present in each heartbeat of Now, that we begin to truly see.

A few of my found gifts -
  • Seeing one of our BN3DE riders, Sandra McDonald, choose her horse TWICE (withdrawing in the 10-minute box just before the start of her XC course as her horse's temp wasn't dropping quickly enough, then after beginning SJ with permission, retiring after one jump because her mare was still tired) without hesitation, then lose her breath in shock as we awarded her with our Sportsmanship Award (my personal favourite prize, another Horseware cooler along with embroidered Riding Warehouse pad & Dover goodies!) for excellence in horsemanship 
Yes, myself & Erica totally fan-girl'ed Sally (I think she's saying 'Help, crazy Americans!' with her eyes...)
  • High-fiving Sally O'Connor & giggling at her gleeful grin upon the announcement of Michael Jung's Rolex Grand Slam win on Sunday (2nd rider ever...I got to watch Pippa win a leg of hers in KY 13 yrs ago!)

  • Watching Dana Cooke charge out of the XC startbox Saturday on a massive, full-throttle bay appropriately named Stormtrooper.  My jaw dropped at her unflinching courage & skill without a second's hesitation aboard that leaping machine, since the last time I saw her, I was helping EMT's bundle her up after a painful crash at Intermediate just last fall.  Later on Saturday, she followed on her Prelim CT ride, the gorgeous FE Mississippi, who you saw in the water on our InstaFeedThing!  My kudos & joy for such a wonderful recovery!!!   
Only slightly blurry Dana & Stormtrooper, 1 jump from a clear round in Stadium Jumping
  • Bumping into Becky Holder in the show office, where she not only remembered my nobody self (although Solo did hurl me through the air quite impressively for her), but gave me the kindest empathy hug & said she was so sorry to hear about Encore.  I nearly choked, as she has far more important things to think about than my crazy life attempts!  So much grace & compassion in a simple gesture -- this is why she is my heroine in so many things!
That's just a sample, but I think our incredible flying volunteers from the All Veteran Paratrooper Team captured this spirit & the "heart" of the 3DE itself in their 2016 highlight video (see our Wonderwoman photographer, Brant Gamma herself, at 1:29!!  Good sniffles!):

May 6, 2016

Dressage, Delights, & Drop Fences, Oh My: The 3-Day Photo-ganza!

Sally relaxes to review XC courses
But first, a giant THANKS to the over 400 folks who tuned into to the colourful & educational (a true 2-in-1 package!) dressage commentary from eventing royalty, Sally O'Connor, during all three (Training, Novice, & Beginner Novice) 3DE division tests today!!!  I know it was a treat for me to be able to watch from the stabling office while I attempted tests of how many tabs one can add to a spreadsheet before it collapses.  :D

And no worries if you missed it or are itching to see Sally's review of your ride.  Just like the Judge-A-Test Demo on Thursday, a recorded version will be posted as soon as it's processed.  And the channel will keep rolling tomorrow as our first T3DE horse steps out on Phase A at 9:00 AM EST.  You can also find a link straight from USEA (THANKS!!!!) along with the latest press here.

You've no doubt noticed my attempts at keeping up in our Instagram widget at the top of the homepage, but phenomenal helper, Erica, has been keeping our live Twitter coverage rolling.  Follow the action here. 

You can always hit the left sidebar HOTC logo anytime to access our list of awesome sponsors, event schedule, hotc3day social media channels, article links, live scores & much much more!

That's about all the words left in me at this point, as I'll be stuffing my pockets with radios early tomorrow morning, resuming my annual post as Radio Control for Phases A, B, & C for Endurance Day.  Phase D (the cross-country jumping course itself) will remain in the expert hands of JJ Johnson, Radio Goddess (you can find all our staff, clinician, & official bios in the program here).

So....hey look, shiny pictures!!  (Much more to come, including "I get to meet Nicole, aka Eventing at Midnight, who's joined us as a volunteer/prize helper from VA this weekend!!" & life is revived after I got my Becky Holder hug, snif...)

Prizes:  Beka of The Owls Approve strikes gold again, making mroe perfect bracelets!

Kim & Accolade offer a Training leg yield for clinician critique

Judges Wayne Quarles (headset) & Peter Gray talk through Kim's test with tips for watching riders

I walked the T3DE course with head clinician, Carol Kozlowski (blue, right), while CD Tremaine Cooper, started the N3DE group (white polo, left)

New carvings from chainsaw artist & epic person, Randy Boni, decorate the T log into the Riding Warehouse water complex, ready for action!
Sponsor coordinator represents, thanks to Julie @ RW for the hat & Beka's darling charms for my boys from 2015, all with our fantastic cover shot by Brant Gamma Photography
Priceless prizes:  signed books filled with timeless horsemanship wisdom from God Jim Wofford...

...Doug Payne's brilliantly organized Repair Manual...

...and Sally herself donated a note, charming beyond measure!
Dressage bridles, valued at $250, from our announcer, Charles Pinnell, who also represents Schneider's Saddlery

May 5, 2016

How About Free Dressage Lessons From Sally O'Connor?

She won our T3DE in 2015, too!
*see below for update*

We can do that!

Starting in just a few minutes, our first live commentary stream goes up with a ride from Dr. Kim Keaton & her Intermediare stallion, Accolade.  Our judges & clinicians will have tips on how to get the best from your horse and your test.

Afternoon update:

Sally will be joining us tomorrow, but the recording of the excellent commentary and Q&A session with dressage judges/Ground Jury, Wayne Quarles & Peter Gray is ready for watching at your leisure.

Bonus:  Wayne led the writing of the current tests & had excellent observation from a perspective entirely new to me (with my dressage test writing experience of...zero).

April 24, 2016

We're Still Here, Still Crazy

My intentions to update you remain overwhelmed by assignments, but I couldn't leave a gaping hole for guesses, so I shall at least attempt The Bullet Approach:

  • To each person who has shared & those who continue to share support, kindness, laughter, & even just saying hi – THANK YOU, YOU ARE AWESOME. 
  •  
  • I apologize for any impressions that I may be sitting in a hole of self-pity, (ok, I'm human, I totally own that there was some egregious despair) however life stepped in & ripped the cover off the hole in short order. 
    • Field research season opened for roaring business at work, leaving little time for whimpering. 
    • See splashy horse (unless on a mobile)
    • It's also nearly the first weekend in May, which means – click the countdown to Heart of the Carolinas 3DE in the left sidebar to visit event central...GO LOOK AT ALL THE PRETTY THINGS, THEY TAKE A LONG TIME TO MAKE! ;P  There's more on the way, thanks to great sponsors & my fantastic Sponsorship Assistant:  Erica, you rock
     
  • Encore & I are picking away at this whole rehab thing.   I'm not sure where we are right now, but today was sunny, 70F, with a light breeze, & we walked through a green forest of birdsong: vireos, warblers, wrens, thrashers, gnatcatchers, woodpeckers, even the wild turkeys.

    Each note landed gently on my heart, seeming to say that the Moment is here, the Moment is now, & this Moment has much good.  That is a melody I embrace.  There has been more than enough darkness, today I unquestioningly cherish the sun.
  •  
  • Back on a lighter note: HOTC 2016!  There will be some seriously amazing new elements this year.  You will still be able to follow the live media feeds on Twits & InstaThingies (you know you have it in your diary: “Be entertained by eventer79's ridiculous sleep-deprived commentary.”) & I'll share more very soon. 
    • Hints: listen in when Sally O'Connor joins us – yes, THAT Sally – and meet both new & familiar equine crafts(wo)men. 
    • On top of the Mother's Day craft contest (eventers + beer + glitter markers = no-lose possibility), annual Southern Eighths KY Derby party, the return of our flying volunteer veterans, & did I mention a collection of mind-blowing prizes??? 
    NOMS??!?
  • Solo sends his shiniest magic to all of you, although he is still working on transferring an unfathomable amount of dull winter fur into every single one of my pores.  Note to self: do not open mouth while brushing horse on windy spring days.  Or eyes. 
So for now -

When your eyes are tired 
the world is tired also... 
The dark will be your home tonight. 

The night will give you a horizon 
further than you can see. 

Iris woke up today!
You must learn one thing. The world was made to be free in... 

Sometimes it takes darkness & the sweet 
confinement of your aloneness 
to learn 

anything or anyone 
that does not bring you alive 

is too small for you.

 -excerpt from Sweet Darkness, poem by David Whyte, thanks for the discovery to Calm Things
 

April 3, 2016

Remember To Not Forget To Not Ride


I watched my horse's eye soften as I worked my hands over Encore's neck, back, & hindquarters, seeking out knots & tension to ease away.  Each time my thumbs dug into a hard burl of muscle, Encore's lower lip quivered & his head dropped lower...and lower...and lower.  He licked his lips & sighed in thanks.

As our horses keep us running in circles (some of them voluntary...), the line between remembering & forgetting & which side we're on (is it the one we're supposed to be on??) can get blurry.  Going through our bodywork ritual, I'm reminded once more of the importance of being NEXT to your horse.

If it sounds familiar, it's because I've combined & updated several (very!) old posts with added comments here to knock the dust off these critical routines.  These tiny tasks, many that take only seconds, are what collectively add up to a well-managed horse.  This is what makes a horse(wo)man, not just a rider.

Take The Time

Take the time to palpate your horse's large muscle groups before & after a ride to look for tender spots.

...to look in his eyes:  are they bright, alert, free of cloudy areas or spots?

...to run your hands down each leg so you know if that knot is new or old.

...to lay a palm on each hoof as you pick them to check the temperature & wiggle each shoe to check for tightness when you lift his feet.

...to really notice the colour, shape & texture of his frog & sole so you know if they change.

...to run your fingers up the back of his pasterns to check for fungus like scratches.

...to take him out on a hack to condition him on hills & uneven ground at the walk & trot. Don't get trapped in the sandbox.

...to watch him walk away from you as you turn him back out to watch for any stiffness or unevenness.

...to give him a day or two off for a grooming spa or some quiet handgrazing so his body & mind can rest each week.  Let him just be a horse.

...to glance into his feed bucket -- is he cleaning it up? 

...to watch him eat. Is he chewing easily & evenly or does he just mash it & let it fall out of his mouth?

...to inspect his manure & watch him pee. Is everything normally coloured?  Is the flow & consistency of all his waste the same every day?

Fight the urge to rush, get to know your horse's body & habits so that when something does change (oh yes, we know it will), you will be the first to know.  Early detection is key to maximizing his chances at recovery, comfort & longevity.  Tendon, muscle, & joint also each need time to rest & recover from micro-injury & stress that comes with work (or equine existence :/).  It is our responsibility to respect that need & to ensure that we are not asking our horses to work in pain or discomfort.   

Encore & I finished with some carrot stretches to each side -- I make him stretch his nose at least to his flank (no cheating & moving his feet!) in each direction.  Upon recheck, his back muscles are softer, his withers are less sore & the knots along his haunches are smaller.

It's a continuous process, but one I must not to forget in the bustle of every day.  Happier body = happier horse.  Happier horse = happier me.  It's that simple.

I eternally love Grumpy Cat...