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We Are Flying Solo

March 26, 2015

Put More "Can" In Your Can-ter

The Power Of Positive

Something continues popping up its little head, quietly, back in mind cobwebs where useful things like to hide.  It just makes eye contact & then returns to its burrow, but each time, it reminds me how much I continue to evolve in the psychology of my riding & training.  And how far I have to go.

And stay off my lawn!
Growing up, I was always SO irritated by all those people who chanted "Think Positive!" & "Say It Like This!"  I thought, yeah right, life's not that simple, don't you think we'd LIKE to?  Your cheerfulness is annoying the crap out of me.  Go.  Away.

Now, I can't say that I still don't want to throttle That Person, because life ISN'T that simple, but I started applying an adapted version of this type of psychology to my riding (if you have the patience & psychiatric fortitude -- hey, don't look at me) & it was a game-changer.

In online seminars, articles, lessons, similar themes kept surfacing & finally, I began to string together these points of mental contact into a little Brain Sub-Toolbox (it's blue, naturally).  I can't decide if it holds just one big tool, a psychological Sawz-all, or if it's more like my box of a zillion drill bits -- all similar, but specialized per application.  But let’s rummage, shall we?

If you'd just listen to me, mom...
Make Your Thoughts & Plans Affirmative


Rumour has it that the brain doesn't recognize the word "don't," so when you say, "Don't hang on the left rein, you dolt," it hears, "Hang onto that rein for all you’re worth, baby."  I'm not sure if I buy the phrasing, but in this case, the means justify the ends:  tell yourself what you ARE going to do, instead of what you AREN'T going to do.

FTW example:  Enter sandbox with following internal monologue:  let's trot forward, make eye contact with the judge, smile like we know we're damn good.  My eyes & shoulders will lead my horse straight as an arrow down centerline & then I will use my leg to feed his forward energy through the bend of the corner.

A bit less of this, perhaps?
Fail example:  Enter Torture Rectangle mentally haranguing self:  don't let his haunches drift, get your head down, dammit!  Don't forget to prepare for the turn, don't get stiff, don't hold your breath, don't let him spook at the judge.  I’d hazard a guess that I’m not alone in my expertise in this approach…

If you keep working FTW, then you've succeeded in avoiding one of our worst habits:

I practice all the time!
Defensive Driving 

Stirring up all the negatives in my brain means that is what my subconscious is focused on as well, which leads to the oft-repeated discovery that clamping down on your horse like a straitjacket does not produce a relaxed, balanced dressage test.  After much practice with this charming technique, I have finally recognized it for what it is: riding for contingencies that have not happened yet.  Which means they are imaginary.

I have plenty of other issues with imaginary things, I could stand to dump one…

Supposedly this helps.  I wouldn't know.
We know well that our horses tend to live up to what the rider's body tells them to expect (note that I said BODY, not INTENTIONS).  If we are going to create self-fulfilling prophecies, why not make them good ones instead?

Because if I keep my brain positively distracted by waving good things in front of it, it (sometimes) remembers to tell my body to do the right things & pay attention to the horse I have underneath me NOW.  This keeps me focused on his energy & attentive to my riding, like a little mini-trainer is standing in my cerebral cortex.  (Hey, explanation for the voices:  BAM!)

Maybe just more of these...
Break It Down, Make It Useable

This goes far beyond just the dressage arena or show day itself; as I wrote about at the beginning of...uh, last year, I want to continue to step up & dial in my riding, sporadic though it may be.
  • That means having a plan for schooling rides…and a backup plan if it's not our day.
  • That means keeping my cool if the horse is frustrated & GETTING OFF if we both get frustrated.
  • That means envisioning each step of each ride as if it were perfect, including the feel of the contact, the rhythm, my posture, weight, balance.
  • That means also being ok when it's NOT perfect, recognizing the effort, letting the negative slip away & resetting the mental plan back to how the next great step will feel.
  • That means after dismounting, I mull over what went RIGHT & what that felt like in my back, in my arms, in my horse.  Each time, this reinforces my muscle memory & increases my ability to replicate that for a few more steps next time.  
You know, no big deal, just a few little mental exercises.  I’ve already TOTALLY mastered them.  *end sarcasm font*  But when I can do it, it WORKS.

Requisite annoyingly positive graphic!
What’s Your CAN?

Here’s where I open it up to you:  pick a positive for the next few weeks of your own riding.  Leave it in a comment here & let that be your goal (remember, they all move in baby steps, occasionally even forwards!).  If you have your own blog, I’ll even issue a friendly challenge to share it there in the spirit of mental commitment.  Then we’ll check back a bit later & see what happened!

Bonus:  you get to call me out on mine!  Although a certain genius horse has sprained his stifles while inventing pasture games in mud (a post for later *headdesk*), at least the therapy involves riding.  In doing so, I WILL ride from my leg & core while my arms remain evenly soft on the contact.

If it makes you feel better, it was excruciatingly difficult to write that without any negative clauses!

March 22, 2015

Blogger Meets, Vol. II: I Add My Approval To The Owls’

Savannah sidewalk to hotel
Because I met royalty in Savannah at the end of January.   (Click here for Vol. I)

*pauses to accept shaming for being so many stories behind*

I had been emailing Beka (yes, THE Beka, unerringly witty author of “The Owls Approve) at the beginning of the year when she worried that Archie may need surgery for his irritatingly persistent leg wound (not that I would know aaaanything about those, ahem, orange money-eaters…).  Perfect chance to use one of the top perks of being a member of your USEA Adult Riders program:  hidden opt-in membership to what I have named Eventer Mafia, aka whatever help you need, wherever you are.

My view while writing, hence distraction!
Uh, Mafia?

The credit for the name goes to BFF, who applied it to another organization her husband was heavily involved in.  Both groups follow the classic model, though:  participate, volunteer for jobs, you meet people, they know people, people know people…and before long, everyone in EventLand becomes Kevin Bacon.  Although it’s usually far fewer than six degrees in this microcosm of HorseWorld (why do I like to name things like theme parks?).

Bet you didn’t think a horse blog post could connect owls, Kevin Bacon, & the Mafia.  Hey, a motto of mine is that we all have to be good at something.

Classic
Back To Beka

As she was concerned about Archie having to stand in a trailer post-op, should that occasion arise, I immediately whipped out one of my other skills of questionable merit:  attempting to solve everyone else’s problems.

Although in HorseWorld (“Tiger Trap” would be a great roller coaster name), it’s what we do, asking is not a pre-requisite!  I consider it paying it forward; there aren’t enough fingers in the noses of the world’s toddlers to count the number of people who have helped & taught me over the years decades.

I did at least email Beka with the offer before I threw resources at her, to slightly reduce creep-factor.  As I sent a quick text to find the contact information for several great vets & farm owners in GA, my brain had a rare moment of remembering something useful.

“Hey Beka – don’t you live in Savannah??”

Yes, yes she does.

“OMG, I will be there in two weeks for a work conference, wanna meet up?”  I mean, because, we both write about our horses & use dripping sarcasm on the interwebz.  Obviously we are both weird & crazy (in the best way), how could we not be besties??


Of Course We Did!

World tiny-ness:  Beka’s office was two block from our conference hotel by the Port.  Archie was a 45 minute ride from downtown, did I still want to meet him?  ABSOLUTELY!  One cannot meet a Beka without an Archie, it would just be wrong.

She walked over to my hotel & after a dinner date, we headed out to Archie’s home.  Beka herself was even more awesome in person than I suspected.  Not only hilarious, but compassionate, saavy, & unfazed by my habit of talking without pausing for breath.  I loved her immediately.

Beautiful portrait by Beka
Teh Archie

There was little moonlight when we parked under the Spanish moss at the farm.  My kind of place, casual, practical, organized, with nice, airy facilities for our southern summers.  I’d of course seen pictures of Beka’s incredibly sexy beast online, but I was in no way expecting what she brought back from the paddock.

You may have noticed I’ve become a teeeeensy bit of a TB nerd.  I’m moderately competent at guessing major bloodlines based on build & type.  However, when Archie stepped into the light, all I could say was, “Wow.”

Bold, intelligent eyes sized me up from a gorgeous, classic head, the kind I haven’t seen in a long time.  Archie looked like he was chiseled from a perfect model of the old British Thoroughbreds & he moved with a gliding confidence & precision that was simply stunning.  I believe my response was something tasteful & eloquent, along the lines of, “Holy shit, Beka, you have an incredible horse!”  Yeah, I’m much better in writing, LOL.

Photo shamelessly lifted from Beka's lovely work; pics in the dark suck.  :-(
 Archie stood patiently (perhaps swayed by my eagerly stuffing a carrot in his face) while Beka changed his bandages (his wound looked great!) & we proceeded to blind him about 47 times with camera & iThingy attempts at selfies.  Note:  we both kinda suck at selfies, heh.

No drugs were involved in the making of this picture
I remained stumped though; I told Beka, “Don’t tell me his breeding, I’m going to test myself!

Don’t worry,” she answered, “I don’t even remember it anyway, LOL!”  Sweet, no accidental clues!

Did You Win In The Game With Yourself?

Nope.  The closest I could get was “some ooold, high-end European blood.”  Then I made her requested she look it up before I exploded.

The Prince
No wonder – I’m not sure I’ve ever knowingly met a horse in the last decade who had Princequillo on the first page.  That exquisite British stud who nearly died on the ship carrying he & his dam to the US, away from the war where his sire died in artillery fire.  He was so sickly when the ship landed, he sold cheap...and became the greatest distance runner in US history alongside Kelso & was grandsire to Secretariat.
 
Not only that, but he was bred to the phenomenal mare, Baby League – I would have loved to have met La Dauphine, the filly that resulted!  Add in the strong lines of Nashua through Archie’s damsire, Seattle Slew on top (along with the obviously epic stallion, Chop Chop, nooo, I’m not biased at alllll…. ;P), & the fact that he’s a Storm Bird grandson, who are known for their athleticism & grit…no wonder I stopped breathing for a second!!

Wrap It Up, Rambling (Wo)Man

Classy woman.  Classy horse.  I am now part of yet another fandom (although sorry, Beka, Cumberbatch might outrank you on the fangirl list, but not on the awesome People Who Live In Normal World list!).  Does this mean I have to start a G+ group or something?

Beka, it was an honour, a pleasure, & a relief from fish conference stress (oh, it starts wayyyy before the conference itself) that I needed even more than I knew. 

By the way, you now need to move to NC so we can hang out & compile unbeatable sarcastic comebacks while galloping walking (like they are sound when you want them to be) horses though the woods.  I’ll get you in the Mafia…

March 21, 2015

This Is What Happens When You Shed Too Slowly

You get the "My Mom Doesn't Give A Crap As Long As I Sweat Less" designer clip.

It's even awesomer when he's not picking up crumbs...
Yes, this is a cheater post, but geez, the seconds keep ticking by so fast!  I'm so busy volunteering, I didn't even have time to volunteer at this weekend's 2nd Annual Carolina International CIC -- we had so much fun last year.  I hope everyone had a safe day!

March 17, 2015

Touching The Triple Crown

Sponsored post

In Kentucky's bluegrass & limestone, where I spent 10 years of my youth, there is one day that has been sacred, every single year, since 1875 : the first Saturday in May.  Derby Day.

One amazing filly; from southerngaming.com
In fact, the year we moved east from southern California, 1988, I was eight years old, & while we'd breathlessly watched Alysheba's gritty victory in '87, I'll never forget Winning Colors pushing her white bridle across the wire to become only the 3rd filly in what is now 140 years to wear the roses.  She not only led, untouchable save for Forty-Niner's late surge, start to finish, & went on to pocket over $1.5 million in her 19 starts, there hasn't been another since.

Those of us who don't normally follow racing, even those who don't know a thing about horses, still can't help but stop for "The Greatest Two Minutes In Sports."  Both legends & tragedies have unfolded over that mile-and-a-quarter, driven by the breathtaking power of pounding hooves & the stories that run beside them.

Aristides, 1st Ky Derby winner
Even The Race Has A Story

Just like the athletes, the Ky Derby sprung from English roots:  the Epsom Derby is the second race in the English Triple Crown (between the 2,000 Guineas & the St. Leger) & remains Britain's richest race.  Also run every year, beginning in 1780, this 1.5-mile contest was watched by a Col. Meriwether Lewis Clark, Jr., the grandson of William Clark (yes, as in THE Lewis & Clark!).  Upon arriving home (all the cool kids live in KY, naturally), Clark promptly founded the Louisville Jockey Club as a fund-raiser to build a great American racetrack.

Even more illustrious history, along with guides to whose names we might hear on this year's irresistable call are all at your fingertips at sites like DerbyCraze.com & OnlineDerbyAction.com, where you can peruse your favourite Derby legends as well,  and HorseBettingInsider.com, which additionally lets you follow the Triple Crown, the Breeders Cup, & other top stakes races around the world.

Alysheba with Chris McCarron, stunning in blue & white
It's Only The First Race...

The Triple Crown:  does it even need an introduction?  There have only been 11 horses to win the title, although the official name did not exist until the 2nd winner in 1930, Gallant Fox (poor Sir Barton, but we still count him!).

We held our collective breath in 2014 as the brilliant chestnut, California Chrome, came so close.  Winning the Derby & the Preakness Stakes handily, he still finished 4th in the grueling 1.5-mile Belmont Stakes after suffering in-race injuries.  Nonetheless, he joined a prestigious list of 22 horses since 1932, including my own Alysheba, the son of Alydar, Affirmed's career rival (like Chrome, he came in 4th in the Belmont), who have "almost were."

Fun fact:  If you look at Chrome's pedigree, you will see a great-great-grandsire on top is the Irish stallion, Caro...who sired Winning Colors. 

It's A Thoroughbred Thing So I Had To!

Yes, after the sponsors contacted me about a Derby post, I immediately had to find out how many Triple Crown legends stood proudly in Encore's family tree (the pictorial version is still a work in progress, but a fun one).  I have been fully assimilated into TB-geek-land!  And the results are in:

2 legends: Eddie Arcaro soothes a chiseled Citation
A quick glance at his pedigree immediately shows the common, but no less phenomenal Seattle Slew (1977), Secretariat (1973), & War Admiral (1937).  Their stories, along with the spectacular Citation (1948), one of only three major North American Thoroughbreds (along with Cigar & Zenyatta) to win at least 16 consecutive major stakes races, I shared here

Digging a little deeper, I discovered that he directly carries the blood of SIX of these champions.  Putting my hand on Encore's shoulder, I can almost hear the rush of the Winner's Circle at Belmont Park...

The Additional Three:

Gallant Fox:  (1930)  Ridden to victory by jockey Earl Sande, he was the 1930 Champion 3-Year-Old Colt & Horse of the Year 1957 Hall of Fame Inductee.  Earning $328,165 in an era of hard luck, his sire line produced a Canadian mare, Ciboulette, who foaled a Northern Dancer colt named Night Shift, Crowd Pleaser's (Encore's sire) damsire.  Gallant Fox was the only TC winner whose son equaled his feat:  he sired 1935 Triple Crown winner, Omaha.

Gallant Fox with his dam, the "Matriarch" herself
Interestingly, his dam was a British mare named St. Margeurite, considered one of the "Matriarchs of the Turf."  A stakes winner in her own right, she was also the grand-dam of the English Triple Crown winner & damsire to Man O'War, Rock Sand.

Count Fleet...apparently worthy of your furs
Count Fleet:  (1943)  Sired by the 1928 Derby winner, Reigh Count, this Ky-bred colt was undefeated as a 3-yr-old, even though he was injured while winning the 1943 Wood Memorial, a Derby prep race.  He recovered in time to win the Derby by 3 lengths & became a wartime hero by the time the Belmont rolled around.

Only two other horses dared to challenge him there -- Fairy Manhurst (there's an unfortunate name for you) & Deseronto -- but he & jockey Johnny Longden left them in 25 lengths of dust, which stood as a record until Secretariat's unforgettable 31-length lead three decades later.

"The Count" was owned by the wife of John D. Hertz, of rental car fame & he sired a mare named Sequence in 1946. Her Nashua daughter, Gold Digger, gave us Mr. Prospector, father of Encore's damsire, Allen's Prospect.  Count Fleet lived to the ripe age of 33 at his Ky stud farm; his son, Count Turf, also won the Ky Derby in 1951.

The Other Five...Strands In The Web

Allen's Prospect in MD
Sir Barton (1919) was a son of the British stud, Star Shoot, who also sired the unforutnately-named Uncle, producer of the rich damline of Allen's Prospect.  Sir Barton's damsire was Hanover, an American stallion in Tettau's (Encore's dam) damline.

Omaha (1935), as mentioned, was sired by Gallant Fox, out of a Wrack mare named Flambino.  This  made him a full brother to Flares, Ciboulette's grand-sire.

Whirlaway's (1941) sire was the unparalleled British stallion, Blenheim, contributor to innumerable great lines, out of a mare by the equally influential American stud, Sweep.  Blenheim appears many times in Encore's past, but most closely as the sire of the French stallion, Mahmoud, who fathered Silver Fog, the mare bred to Citation, as well as Almahmoud, grand-dam to Northern Dancer.  Sweep surfaces most as the sire of the great mare, Brushup, who gave birth to War Admiral himself.

Hail To Reason: easy on the eyes
Assault (1946) was out of a mare called Igual, by Equipoise, an American stallion who was Silver Fog's damsire.  Igual was also the grand-daughter of Masda, a full sister of Man O'War.  Assault's sire was a son of St. German, the British damsire of Galla Colors, grand-dam of Hail To Reason.

Affirmed (1978) was a grand-son of Raise A Native, most famous as the sire of "Mr. P," & a Native Dancer son.  Our last Triple Crown winner's damline also includes Mahmoud, War Admiral, & another French stallion named Sir Gallahad.  The latter was a son of famed show jumping foundation sire, Teddy, & sired not only Galla Colors, but the mare Double Time, in Seattle Slew's sireline, and Betty Derr, grand-dam of Iron Reward, who gave birth to Swaps

Slew shows Affirmed his heels
The 1978 Marlboro Cup even featured a rare meeting of the last 2 Triple Crown winners:  Seattle Slew's refusal to give in, though, left Affirmed 3 lengths behind at the wire.  After Slew left the track with a career racing record of 14 firsts & 2 seconds in 17 races, earning $1,208,726, he sired well over 100 Stakes-winners & was a champion Broodmare sire.  Even though Affirmed was the last to take the big trophy, it was Slew that earned the title of 'the most complete thoroughbred the industry has ever seen.'

It's a close call, though, when you watch the magic of Secretariat's unforgettable Belmont... 

March 7, 2015

When 'Failure' Isn't Failure

Brilliantly perfect!
Before I sate your curiosity about the title, I have to comment on my Problem With Posting.  It's easy to see the trend when you look at our archive tab over there on the right. 

But the root lies deep within my weird special brain:  I have lots of draft posts, but I can't bring myself to hit that "Publish" button until they are Good Enough.  The problem arises from the fact that I set my own bar a wee bit high (sadly, not the good kind of high, heh).  So getting to Good Enough for a single post is hours of work & research.

It's even on the shirt...
Just Post It.  It's Just A Blog!

I should & it is.  But those of you who have been insanely following our story over time have most likely read my "mission statement" (yes, I'm doing some experiments building an "About Us" page, you can find it by clicking our logo in the left sidebar as well)  While useful & valuable as a record of our adventures, this blog began & remains a labour of love not just about me, but for YOU.  There's a reason for the word "team" in that logo... 

The undercurrent I strive for & the reason I share our stories is this:  there are many of us out there, the Adult Amateur, working full-time & then some, juggling busy lives & sunset tables to squeeze in every minute we can with our giant, baffling, wonderful, suicidal, maddening equine partners & friends.  And I want you to know that you are not alone in the ups AND the downs.

The blessing is being part of this great community; the curse is my own fixation on providing content of value that doesn't make your brain bleed when you try to follow the rambling (yeah, there's a lot of editing...).

It sucks...
Back To That Title, If You Don't Mind?

I shamelessly confess I am reposting this from a conversation with a younger friend, who is struggling, as many of us have & continue to do, with that tug-of-war between our longing to spent every waking moment with/on/near horses & the rude fact that we have to pay bills, mortgages, & other irritating obligations. 

More than a few get caught straddling the fence of "I want to make horses my life, but I don't want to live in a dumpster & I need health insurance."  Pile on that most difficult period of life my friend is in, the early-to-mid 20's angst, when you feel like you should know what you are doing & where you are...  Good times.

BFF & Pete the WonderHorse:  The Bests
Why Can't I Just Make My Dreams Come True?

I'm lucky to have an amazing BFF, we've had many conversations about this, as we share lives of unending crises. We agreed that my generation was just pounded with what was really a terrible message in disguise: "Follow your dreams, you can have anything you want if you just want it bad enough, and you will be happy."

Not to say we shouldn't dream nor should we stop trying to achieve what is important & gives meaning to us.  But the message was delivered almost as an order & left many people feeling like they had failed if they weren't among the lucky whose desire crossed paths with opportunity & means.

Which couldn't be farther from the truth.  The truth is that as we get older, really, that just means more time has passed in which things happen to us. Some are beautiful. Some are shattering. Many fall somewhere in between. There's a lot we can't control or ever anticipate.

Patience & Practice...Are Hard But Necessary

One of my life mantras is "nothing lasts forever." NOTHING. Nothing in the universe. Things can suck for a REALLY long time, but everything comes to an end. Great things come to end too, which is why it is so important to try & remember to relish those moments.

Just like eventing, it's a journey. Or a book. There are many chapters. But there is no Table of Contents (dammit). Or index or map. Which is probably a good thing, because I'm not sure any person's brain could even face the enormity of it.

Perhaps it's better summed by saying that there is a balance. Constantly-shifting perhaps, but we just have to feel it out. And we get better with practice. And experience. Even experience we don't particularly want.

Who could ask for more?
There Is Respite

At the moment, I'm a human wasteland, exhausted, with 400 impossible work deadlines that go all the way up to Congress. But for 40 minutes Wednesday evening, a pomegranate sunset escorted Solo & I around the farm bareback & he lifted his back into a soft trot up the neighbour's long drive.

In Thursday's ice rain, it was hard to believe I was wearing a t-shirt & jeans, but for those 40 minutes, it was me & my best buddy, with him saving me yet again, & I couldn't suppress my laugh when he pulled at the bridle for more.

Not exactly proportional, but...balance. Ish.

February 28, 2015

You Know That Day You Were All Like “Imma Be A Hero!” Pt II

Here Come The Awesome Points!

After meticulously clearing spaces around all levers & pedals, I slip the tractor into 4x4, put the transmission in (s)low gear, & begin the crawl towards my road.
 
Snow, hay, it all drags, right???
Hold on to your panties, because…it’s working!  I keep the drag teeth adjusted at just the right height so they don’t reach the fragile, saturated soil beneath.  They break up the tire tracks so there is no risk of creating packed ice.  I move to the side of my path every few minutes to lift the drag, dropping accumulated snow so it doesn’t get too heavy.

Richard’s house is very close to the street, our driveways connect, so as I turn (about 20 mins later…I wasn’t kidding about slow) onto his section to make my entrance as Epic Rescue Neighbour, I see him with snow shovel in hand, having just cleared the edges of his carport.  He waves & walks down the hill, so I stop & switch off the tractor to chat.

Begin Subtraction Of Attempted Awesome Points

I excitedly point to my Ingenious Solution & proudly announce that I could finally repay him for…at least 1% of all he’s done.  Richard grins & replies.   

*insert trademark NC retiree accent here*

Great!  I was just about to start up the skidsteer.  I was just gonna plow a quick loop around our driveways up here by the pole barn & the street so it’ll get down to that black surface & melt faster.

Oh, yeah, he also owns an industrial skidsteer to which he added a 5’-wide bitey bucket of his own.  And a 10,000-lb excavator.  And pretty much anything else you can think of (except a drag!!).

Aww, Richard!”  You’d think I’d have learned my odds of success whenever I start to think I’m awesome.  “Dang it, now you ruined it!  How am I ever going to be helpful when you own every toy in the world??!”  I’m laughing at the same time, so it wasn’t as heartless as it sounds, hee.

As Richard is also the trademark, old-school southern farmer-type (of the best subspecies in that genus), with a heart of gold & an enormous Compulsive Helping complex, he, also laughing, insists that, no, no, my Ingenious Solution is still helpful.  ROFL.
 
Stubborn Woman Will Help You Whether You Like It Or Not

And once she has started, she’s not stopping just because you can swoop around 30 times faster on your all-terrain tracks & clear everything better than a snowplow because you have 80,000 hours of experience.  Nope, she’ll follow you around with the drag, breaking up & smoothing the skidsteer tracks.  Hey, it looks prettier & it will increase meltage even more.  Go team!!

Naturally, Richard’s Helping complex also kicked in, so when he finished his loop, he proceeded to polish off my entire driveway, including my tractor path back to the run-in.

Endgame

Me = 100 points for good intentions, 10 points for actual usefulness

Richard = 1,000 more Awesome Points to add to his already uncountable total, all of which are also 100% actually useful

TL;DR:  My personal slogan may be something like, “Dang, I tried to help,” but I am possibly the luckiest farm owner ever when it comes to neighbours.

Just for pretty factor, our much more well-behaved snowfall from January, which melted in two hours, like proper NC winter should!
shadowfx01's Jan 2015 Snowfall album on Photobucket

February 26, 2015

You Know That Day You Were All Like “Imma Be A Hero!” -- Pt. I

Richard w/ hydraulic driver = epic
Where you could finally pay back Epically Awesome Neighbour for the ten million things he’s helped you with?

Just face it, you’re never going to be the hero.  But you get an A for effort.

Back Story

Ok, I am heinously lucky & have two Epically Awesome Neighbours. 
  1. Vanessa, professional horse trainer & former 1* long-format eventer, kind, generous, helpful, &, along with her husband, welcoming from the very start.
  2. Richard, professional fence-builder/bush-hogger/idea-generator/general-rescuer-in-chief.  Technically retired, although he still works at LEAST as many hours as his thoughtful & entertaining wife.
I owe you many stories (I am so very sorry, work…there is not even an adjective), but this story is about Richard.

I could not have built this farm without him.  Because this is Richard.
Teaching me PROPER hi-tensile wire repair
 And this is Richard.

Need a telephone pole driven?
 And this is Richard.
Need a log moved so you can build your own XC jump?

He feeds my horses in the mornings when I have to travel (often) for work (to be fair, all three of us have horses & he is the end of my driveway, since the land I bought was his back pasture).  He splits spring & fall farm call fees with me since we use the same vet.  He stands guard as watchdog of my person & property (as well as our entire mini-community back here).

Not. Cool.  Although quite chilly.
Ok, So He’s Captain America

When I woke up this morning to 8” of fresh powder, somehow off-course from its proper destination at Whistler or, oh, I don’t know, anywhere but here (fine, it’s better than 3” of ice), I first said a lot of very bad words fed the horses.  I’d filled their heated trough yesterday & they were content munching hay under cover, but I wanted to at least reduce the depth of the fluffy white devil between their mouths & the master hay shed so I could move some bales tomorrow.


Tractor w/ drag attached in nicer times
Problem:  Tractor is wonderful, indispensible, infinitely fussed-over treasure, but using bitey bucket (aka Front End Loader [FEL] aka 4-in-1 bucket) as plow/bulldozer is near the top of the list of Mortal Tractor Sins (unless you like fixing hydraulic systems).

I fire it up; it needs to run anyway, wake up the battery, circulate the fluids, & when that little workhorse Shibaura diesel warms up, I can at least grab a couple bales of hay.
 
Looking For A Hero?

You know by now that one thing I am never short on is crazy ingenious solutions.  As I broom snow off the tractor (see above BETTER THAN ICE), my eyes settle on the currently-attached drag.  My brain immediately flashes an image of drag links rolling & spreading clumps of old hay in the paddocks.

Safe from my "ideas"
*insert light bulb here - probably also a warning sign*

Not only can I drastically speed driveway melting (it’s 0.3 hilly miles to the road, not that the latter is ever plowed or treated either) with my mad drag skillz (my favourite feature:  it has a welded frame, so you can lift it with your 3-pt hitch & avoid shredding hoses or destroying packed gravel), but I can swoop in with my disintegrating snow gloves blue diesel cape & take care of Richard’s driveway too!!

For, just yesterday, on my way home from my exotic beach conference, he’d mentioned that his tractor starter was dead.  It also does not have 4x4.  Thanks to me, if emergency vehicles are needed, there shall be access for all!


To be continued...