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We Are Flying Solo

August 30, 2014

Free Riding Clinics For You! A TFS Redux.

God spake to me...and I could not look upon his holy face.
Ever wanted to absorb decades of experience like a little fangirl sponge from greats like Jimmy Wofford, Ian Stark, Becky Holder, or Eric Smiley?

Well, aren't you a lucky little fangirl!!  In the spirit of relaxing over the holiday weekend, for those of us who can't access FEI TV (or don't want to), I have collected, in chronological order, our hilarious spectacular performances in front of these phenomenal horse(wo)men & teachers.  I'm sure they felt just as lucky as I did.  *insert sarcasm font*

I also wanted to share with more recent readers some earlier parts of this wild journey.  I'm sure you are spending every free moment catching up on the 500+ posts since August of 2009 (where's that font again?), but in the meantime, I set the time machine in motion.  Encore & I may appear fearless & quasi-competent at times (usually when no one is looking), but those moments are built on the foundation of 1,000 stumbling blocks of trial-and-error that Solo, my un-erringly brave & accidental partner, made with me.

Have no fear, I am unoffended if you point & laugh.  I do (at myself, past AND present).
The only Olympic-quality ride Solo ever got
The Man Who Ruined Changed Solo & I For All Time (or That First Time We Met The XC Grin)
Ian Stark - Summer 2007
(Yes, I was afraid to canter my horse in an arena because he misplaced that gait.  He only had trot & gallop...except on the trail.  I'll let you guess how humbling it is after 20 years of riding, to finally have a horse & be afraid to canter it.  And yes, I did try to make an eventing legend wear my sweaty helmet.  I failed.  Then Solo nearly dumped him.  Thank cod my horse did not gain infamy as The Killer Of Ian Stark.  *horror*)

I Finally Get To Meet God
Jimmy Wofford - Fall 2008
He only whacked my horse on the ass with his baseball cap once...

Becky has not convinced Solo that dressage has merit
We Discover Eventing Mecca & I Become A Bona Fide Stalker (& My Last Clinic With Solo)
Becky Holder - Fall 2010

Ok, he can jump
The Best Christmas Present Ever & Encore's First Proper Clinic (Thanks, Mom!)
Camp Becky Holder - 10 Days of Spring Training, 2013

A Scotsman Started The Fire, An Irishman Throws A New Log In The Flame
Eric Smiley - Summer 2013

Encore's 1st Training course (Fall 2013)
Wander at will & explore the evolution!  Or save it for some rainy day entertainment.  May there be useful lessons YOU can apply next time you swing a leg over.

And not least of all, thank you to my mother, to Jim, to our amazing friend, Beth, and to the victims kind, random people I threw cameras at.  Your support made these experiences possible & each one is a treasure, both in lessons learned & the partnership forged with my horses.  Not only did these incredible teachers raise the bar on my training & riding about 47 holes, but they did so with patience, grace, generosity of spirit, humility, & humour.

For that, I consider myself lucky indeed. 

August 23, 2014

No Cups? No Problem! Build Hassle-Free Jump Standards…For $0!

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 001
Careful schematics (I defy 'smart'phone world!)
There are few necessary evils so maddening & so fiddly as The Jump Cup.

Buying them, drilling holes that aren’t too crooked, losing pins, dropping poles on your foot while adjusting them, breaking plastic cups, bending metal cups, deciding you don’t even like the kind you have…but do we have a choice?

YES!

Nostalgia had me paging through my well-worn Encyclopedia of the Horse (a 1977 masterpiece), when a training photo caught my eye.  It wasn’t the jumper, but rather the obstacle:  a simple, versatile schooling jump with ZERO moving parts.  Out came the pencil & some very rusty geometry.

A beautiful Saturday & a newly expanded stockpile of junk reclaimed lumber meant go time.  A few hours (there may have been some wandering & catching up with friends involved *ahem*), an assorted collection of leftover screws, & some precise eyeball measurements, and I’ve got “plug-n-play” eventing standards!

Possibly best safety poster.  Ever.
Your friends are already jealous of your super-fly flower box, now it’s time to blow their minds when you never have to push an angry carpenter bee out of a pin hole again (or maybe that just happens to me?).

Standard Preface from the Safety Nazi:  Dude.  Tools are awesome, but don't mess aroundWear your safety glasses, close-toed shoes, ear protection when necessary, & pay attention.  Work smarter, not harder.  You can do anything you set your mind to, but make sure you have been properly instructed, know your equipment, & always plan ahead.



Ready, Set, Go

Rule #1 of Redneck Construction (we’ll consider safety to be Rule #OptimusPrime - hey, he wears a helmet):  never be afraid to try!  No one was born with knowledge, so ask questions, google your heart out, & don’t hesitate to click my email button if you want to know more – I consider it all “paying it forward” in thanks to those who taught me.

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 005
Let it begin...
Tools:
  • Skilsaw
  • Drill (pilot holes are especially useful in treated and/or scrap lumber, reduces cracking & other lumber fail when you drive the screws)
  • Impact Driver loaded w/ screwdriver bit (optional; you can use a screwdriver bit in your drill or a hand screwdriver)
  • Measuring Tape  
  • Pencil (or Sharpie, crayon, paint pen of your choice)
  • Wood Screws (I maintain a collection of leftovers)
Lumber:Two Frames (2) 6’ scraps (dimensions optional, but this is your base, so wide is good)
 (4) 5’ scraps (dimensions optional, mine don’t even match)
Pole Supports: As many as you like at any height you like (naturally, none of mine match here either)

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 002
Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 003
Other Materials:  A camera so you can share your masterpiece.  A phone in case you have to dial 911 (Remember, "proactive, not reactive").  Paint/stain if you really want to go hog-wild (overachiever).

Pertinent Notes:  I wanted a 4’ standard, as I need to be able to school up to ~3’7”.  My secret ulterior motive:  this also makes the geometry EXTREMELY easy, because one vague concept I remember is the standard 3-4-5 right triangle (hello, sophomore year of high school flashback).  The frame now measures itself:  with a 4’ line from the apex down the center, it is simply two right triangles back-to-back.  Each angled side must then be 5’ and the base, 6’ (two triangles combined = 3’ X 2).

Yeah, just look at the picture up top, I’m a visual learner too, LOL!
 


Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 006 (Small)
Damn straight, it's the TFS Official Eventing Stick!
Step 1:  I like to do all my basic cuts first.  But I usually, erm, SQUIRREL!, & MAKE A KEWL THING!  Since owning a farm apparently makes you an instant hoarder, I’d been saving this sturdy little pole I’d found in the giant burn pile (included free with property purchase, LOL).  One end had splintered, but I simply cut that off, sat down with my Sharpie, & check it out:  my own handy measuring pole, labeled by USEA levels!

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 012 (Small)
Frame layout
The Actual Step 1:  Cut the basic frame boards to length (for both standards) & lay them out.  Yes, these ARE three boards of completely different dimensions & age, heh.  My 6’ base is at the bottom of the photo & the two 5’ sides are angled around the 4’ upright.

The 4’ board is NOT included/attached to the standard, I just used it as a guide for the other three boards.  And I may or may not have gotten a little excited with the Sharpie & decided it needed to have the levels pre-marked & labeled too (hey, I might need a back-up measurer).

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 013 (Small)
4' reference upright
Step 2:  I suck at miter-ing.  A lot.  To trim the angles you see in the standing frame, I very scientifically overlapped the boards in the final configuration, squinted one eye, & sketched the trim lines.  Then, I just nipped the corners with the skilsaw.  Close enough.

Since there will be cross-boards screwed on to the frame, you don’t need to worry if your joints are a little gappy (not the ones in  your body, I can’t help with those).  The support boards will reinforce the frame & your finished product will be very solid.  At present, there is only one screw at each joint.

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 014
First completed frame
I also did a slight design modification.  If all your lumber matched (boring!) and you had actual miter skillz, you would fasten each side to the top surface of the base.  However, since I was working with some boards that were narrow & some that were quite old, I decided to drive the screws through the wider face of the angled boards into the thicker sides of the base.  It worked out very well & let me avoid splitting the edges of my thinner lumber.

   
Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 015 (Small)
Adding the first crosspiece
Step 3:  Do a little dance!  The hard part is done!  Now it’s time for the crosspieces, which will hold your poles/branches/panels/whatever else you can think of.

I laid out my 4’ guide upright, but I don’t have a t-square & didn’t feel like getting fussy with the level.  After laying down each cross-board, I also measured the vertical distance from the base to the top of the crosspiece on each side.  Now I could be sure that my poles would be supported at the heights I wanted & I marked the positions with my sharpie before I drilled.

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 017
Labeled by USEA level!
Step 4:  I was getting hungry & didn’t feel like ripping new boards down with the saw at this point (project honesty).  This translated to making do with the scrap assortment I had in front of me.  I had enough to cover the essentials, though.  This finished standard has supports at 2’, 2’7” (BN), and 3’3” (T).  Of course I labeled them!!

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 016 (Small)
One standard, AH AH AH!!
Step 5:  Repeat steps 1-4.  It goes much more quickly now that you have experience!  For now, my 2nd standard has only BN & T crosspieces, but later additions are a snap.

Step 6:  JUMP SWEET JUMPS!  Ok, I haven’t gotten this far yet, but if you do, picture submission is required!!

Building Standards 16 Aug 2014 018
All done!  Well, for today.
Future Finesse

I have a few touches left to finish (after significant snack-age).  Extras for you to consider:

  • Add a short scrap perpendicular to the end of each base if feet are needed for stability.
  • Cut the corners off crosspieces to reduce pointy edges.
  • Use molding scraps or other small wood pieces to make blocks on the end of crosspieces to prevent pole rolling.
  • Cut scoops or notches in crosspieces to hold poles like a cup.
  • Cut multiple notches in crosspieces on the inside of the triangle; you can make cavalleti, oxers & triple bars with just one pair of standards!
  • Paint it pretty, or stain to seal if you prefer the natural wood finish.
  • Drill holes in the baseboard for flowers, pinwheels, or other decoration.
  • What else can your imagination dream up??

August 16, 2014

Red Alert: Change Is Afoot

Danger, Will Robinson!!

Yes, I know, change is scary, but this one is long overdue & very exciting.

How about I leave you hanging a bit longer...?

TFS IS ABOUT TO EXPERIENCE A SERIOUS FACELIFT!

Didn't you just do that? 

You're right, it wasn't terribly long ago when I implemented the current design.  However, it's time for me to admit that, despite endless fussing, I've never been that happy with it.  The deal-breaker was when I found I'd made a  mistaken assumption and it's not responsive.  Boo.  (Just because I hate touchscreens doesn't mean I want to punish the millions of  you who use them!!)

So hold on to your bucking straps.  There are still a few details to finesse, although my beta-testers have given the thumbs-up.  But I think it's going to be a smoother ride.

August 14, 2014

Life Smacks You In The Face. Horses Reduce The Swelling Afterwards.


If pain must come, may it come quickly. Because I have a life to live, and I need to live it in the best way possible.  - Paulo Coelho, By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept

give up catThis week has been a rare treat at the real job (and by “treat”, I mean, a quite unexpected awfulness I didn’t see coming).  Every office has its crappy days, but it’s a special occasion when it stands out among a decade.  (I love my job, I love my job, I love my job, I…)

Betrayal, rage, pain, all the fun parts!  I am quite careful & quite diligent at drawing a firm line between my professional life & my personal one, but this monstrosity shoved right through that wall at exactly the wrong time, which naturally just multiplies the offense.  Something tells me I wouldn’t be off base in guessing you’ve been there…

Chocolate helps, but one “normal” person can really only have one expensive hobby at a time.  Which boils down to why we all have chosen to torture surround ourselves with large, suicidal, frustrating, money-burning, unpredictable, mesmerizing, magical, & altogether wonderful horses at every opportunity.  In fact, I find myself wondering if I can substantially increase my tax write-offs by adding “equine-assisted therapy” as a line item.

One of my resident greys
Requirement:  Resident Therapists

The smallest things can save you a drive to the loony bin.  That husky nicker alongside a face that says to you, “Hooray!  You are the bestest sight & I’ve been waiting all day just for you!”


Stomp-whisk-nom slows your breathing in time with horses deterring flies while relishing supper.

Watching the crystalline well-water fill the trough as a hidden broad-winged hawk scolds an uninvited guest somewhere in the oak trees, I can finally feel everything else fade away.  As the grey tree frogs launch their daily chorus, all that's left behind is a very welcome relief.

Could Actual Riding Actually Occur??

Oddly, almost surreally, it is a breathtakingly gorgeous evening:  August in North Carolina has a long tradition of sweating through four shirts a day, as well as fascinating discoveries, such as the fact that you CAN actually sweat underwater.  I guess the memo has gotten lost because my pastures are exploding with green & the air is…pleasant??!

The best part?  Solo digs eagerly in to his favourite spots in the top pasture, which has been resting for a couple weeks.  I carefully pick through Encore’s feet with Durasole, ichthammol, and ThrushBuster, only to find his LF closing up & his RF comfy, and FOUR SHOES ON FOUR FEET (*cough* we may or may not have seen our farrier twice in five days last week *cough*).

bareback solo
Don't be jealous!
How can I help but smile as I buckle the nylon girth of our fabulously stylish bareback pad (bony chick + TB withers = I am not ashamed of my eBay memory foam!!)?  Encore seems to agree: every bridling usually includes a patient pause while I wait for him to unclamp his silly teeth.  Today, though, I lifted the bit to an already-open mouth.  I guess we both got bored!

Yes, you read that right:  bareback pad.  You know, since he’s a “crazy” OTTB and all, after five weeks off, things get very dramatic when I hop on from the trailer fender and we…walk around for a while.  :D 

Getting The Kinks Out

The ride itself was nothing fancy; I mostly just used the terrain for walk work.  Both his front feet still have a week or two of growing to do before I am ready to put them back in full service.

So we wandered around the farm & I even had the gall (says my horse) to pick up the contact & school some lateral work, combined with stretching over his topline (I know, animal cruelty at its worst).  Encore grudgingly accepted once I explained it was simple physical therapy to soften all those tight muscles which have been standing around compensating for sore feets.  I did manage to restrain my “I told you so" once his back stretched, lifted & began to swing as he unlocked his hind legs & loosened into the bridle.
    
Horses Hanging Out 001 (Small) Savouring The Now

Every evening, my pond turns into molten gold when the fading light hits just the right angle.  Flycatchers & a common yellowthroat warbled across the pastures, a perfect counterpoint to the steady four-beat swoosh of hooves through tall grass.

After being grounded for more days than I can count, feeling my horse’s strong confidence beneath me, knowing we both relished the jailbreak, being in each moment & letting it all soak in – well, I don’t need to explain to you how precious those times are!

After I shut the gate, releasing Encore to enjoy fresh grass with his little big brother, I lingered there, watching my happy horses just doing what they do.  Something in that fills you up, as if you were the trough you just tended.  Even if there was old water in it already, you shove the hose to the bottom and the fresh, clean flow revitalizes the supply & pushes the stale, cloudy water out.  You are restored, at least in part, and for today, that is enough
Rock

August 5, 2014

The Agony & The Ecstasy: An Update (Mostly On The Former)

*insert standard blogger excuse about life, jobs, shoving your horse's legs in buckets of ice at midnight, perfecting your hoof wrapping techniques, blah blah blah, whatever, no posts for you*

There, that's out of the way.

To say it's been a roller coaster would be a vast understatement.  This morning, however, was the anxiously-awaited give vast sums of money to Dr. Bob fall shots/check my horses' various & sundry issues gala. 

HorseS??  You wonder quite correctly.  Solo, not to be outdone by his big little brother, has been quite sore in his large shoulder muscles for the past 6-8 weeks.  Erica & I have been massaging & stretching & staring quizzically (ok, that's my speciality), so I was relieved I could finally just throw him at Dr. Bob and let the magic hands find the answers.

Go home, horses, you're drunk.  Oh, wait, you are home...
Sore Solo

Aside from getting to be punch drunk on 1/3 a can of PBR (aka sedation lightweight, he's a cheap date) while his teeth floated away, he was quickly pronounced footsore on both fronts.  Lots of small bruises in his hooves have him compensating with those enormous shoulders & parking out a little to distribute his weight across his feet.

*now insert mom feels bad*

Oddly enough, I was relieved at this answer.  Instead of some new shoulder injury (which I greatly feared he might have come up with during The Pasture Games), instead we just confirmed that genetics are genetics & Mr. Shiny still has wussy feet.  I had been using  his front boots when we ride out, but on the farm or in an arena, he's just been going barefoot.

I had not seen a big change in his movement until the past two weeks though.  Dr. Bob once again fit the pieces together for me:  wet weather brings out raging growth in crabgrass, which is apparently quite delicious.  My pastures are mixed forage (this makes me happy, different species offer different things and do well at different times of year) & certainly have their share of this treat.  However, it is very high in starches when wet, which makes wussy feet even more sensitive.  Given the past ten days of monsoon season...lightbulb!

The Star Pupil

Encore has kept me hopping (& also made me an expert at monitoring a digital pulse, which my farrier FINALLY was able to show me...it's a lot easier to find when it's pounding).  :-(  Three emergency line calls & four vet visits in a month, well, I could have done without.  But things are healing, in fortunate cooperation with me reaching the dregs of my vetwrap stockpile!
Encore's RFhandiwork, 16 JulyNot quite so gory, 2 Aug
You'll recall his rather spectacular self-resection of his RF hoof on July 16.  He so enjoyed all the extra attention that he decided to go dead lame on his LF foot after his most recent shoeing.

Actually at actual midnight.  :/
Whee.

Wonder-farrier ran back to the farm the next day & pulled three nails to relieve pressure on what turned out to be the same bruise we poked at in late June.  It was just wandering around in poor Encore's foot because he simply refuses to abscess things out (heaven forbid we appear normal!).

I'll skip over his attempts to kill me by heart failure, timing pulses, hoarding ice, stocking bulk supplies of Epsom salts, & practicing duct tape sculpture by headlamp.  Including last night's wail of despair as he came limping in for dinner, sans LF shoe (to be fair, it held on valiantly for having only one inside nail).

Because today...(1) I got permission to stop wrapping the RF, as Dr. Bob deemed it hard enough to just take an occasional dab of ichthammol & carry on, and (2) The Man took his determined hoof knife to Encore's LF front sole and in a few expert slices, exposed the furtive gypsy bruise at last!!!

You know you have been a horse owner long enough when you are HAPPY to see pus and blood seeping out of your horse's foot...

Ok, I admit, I majorly science-geek-out on this picture

Of course he did.
Which Leaves Us...?

Hopefully over the hump of this particular mountain!  Encore's shoe has just been tacked back on, so I can save my duct tape while his bruise heals.  Of course the idiot managed to step on himself while sedated (don't take him out for drinks, he gets the high gravity version) and cut a chunk out of his hind pastern.  *I'd headdesk but I broke the desk from over-use*  At least it's just a flesh wound!  As long as he is not sore, I can (omg, don't breathe a word) ride him in a few days.

Solo will go back to work in his snazzy boots after a little rest and we'll all feel a bit better after some painkillers!

Now, would someone mind pouring me a shot of very expensive tequila?



July 26, 2014

Guest Blogger Returns & So Does The Original Flying Solo!

David at Blenheim (Small)
David & Red at Blenheim c. 2000 (via O'Brien Eventing site)
[eventer79:  I remember my very first lesson with David O’Brien, in the spring of 2009.  The scene is so vividly imprinted on my senses because, as I walked Solo into the arena, I was so nervous that my hands were shaking.  I don’t get nervous.  

Strangely, there was something about David’s quiet, friendly patience combined with the mind-boggling fact of this guy who had galloped his Irish TB, Fox In Flight (Red) around Blenheim & Fair Hill International, who I’d watched in the Rolex dressage arena, whose wife, Lauren, I’d photographed and cheered for when Dunrath Alto was eating up the KHP course for breakfast, that intimidated the hell out of me.

How was it that he was not only willing to teach me, but also give me his undivided focus, clarity, & respect for my earnest efforts to convince Solo that his butt was not just for holding his tail on?  

I’m not a “starstruck” kind of person, but that day, that arena entrance became a bridge linking childhood years at Rolex, when I thought that eventing was only for an elite horse & rider, to the discovery as an adult that nobody-me could be ONE OF THOSE PEOPLE.  Ok, not the Rolex people, but a slightly slower & more comically stubborn version.  

I feel lucky indeed to have hitched a ride to a friend’s farm that day.  And I still get ridiculously excited about every opportunity to learn more “David-isms,” although if I’m the one riding, it’s far more likely to be the same one…repeated often.

So I couldn’t wait to drag lead Erica across that bridge.] 
       
Body Demo 0 01 01-08
David: Srsly, stop stalking me!  Erica: IKR!?
Hey, Erica, How Did It Go??

Over the 4th of July weekend, Team Flying Solo took a field trip down to Southern Pines. We hauled in Friday, stayed with some friends at their beautiful property [thank you, Alison!!!], ate by the pool under the eyes of some very sad dogs who clearly never ever get fed, and hit the sack.

The morning dawned unseasonably cool & crisp, thanks to Hurricane Arthur, and I tried to keep my mind occupied on getting Mr. Shiny looking, well, shiny.  Luckily we weren’t sure WHICH of Tanglewood Farm’s 27 beautiful arenas was our rendezvous point, so I had a chance to breathe as we wandered.  Don’t mind us, just a couple clueless poor people, nothing to see here…

The Lesson

After a “getting to know you” chat, David quickly assessed & assigned.  As all warmups should, we were to be first, forward, and second, bending.  Solo showed up ready to play and he felt great; I think we had some really nice moments while David helped finesse my position.  I apologize for anyone who has watches the videos, it’s got to be somewhat annoying to hear “shorten your reins” that many times, haha.  [eventer79: Why do you think we watch videos of lessons?  So we can get the benefits without sweating!  Besides, I’m sure NO ONE else out there EVER rides with their reins too long; I know I never, ever do. *quickly takes down all videos of self riding ever*]


Warming up at the trot.  You’ll see David almost immediately puts Solo on a classic figure-8; this is a fantastic exercise for any warmup because it engages the horse’s mind with the changes of direction and the latter also supples his body more quickly by asking the muscles on both sides to actively stretch and contract at shorter intervals.  The pattern also helps both horse and rider settle into a rhythm, while keeping the human brain & body busy enough with steering to avoid the stiffening & over-riding temptation of a single circle.  May or may not contain a cameo of up & coming Phenomenal Rider/Trainer/All-Around Awesome Person Andrew McConnon schooling the freaking adorable Jack Reacher at 4:19.


Continuing the Circle of Death at the canter.  Yes, I remain a heinous videographer.  I wish I could have gone in the arena, but I had to supervise a certain brown nose-r.  I also remain incapable of remember that the camera’s mic picks up MY STUPID COMMENTARY TOO.  *facepalm*  I would mute it, but the value of David’s teaching trumps my own embarrassment (meh, I’m used to it).

Solo Canter Warmup
I'd say they got moving...
I have to take a minute here to acknowledge what a great instructor David is. He was direct, positive, and never once made me feel like my skill level was beneath being worthy of his time.  It was one of the best lessons I’ve ever had.  [aaand my job here is done, folks :D]

And Then You Jumped Solo?  Really?  Really??  Really??!  [hells, yeah, she did!]

We started out with three ground poles to a small cross rail, just trying to get me to relax going through it.



From there, the second x-rail went up, then finally a small vertical, each with a one-stride placing pole. Solo did his land & root & scoot a few times after the last element, which nearly had me unglued.  My mantra changed from “shoulders back, neck strap” to “you can’t wuss out on David.”   [Now you’re truly a part of the Team; the latter is my strategy…for pretty much every single lesson with him, LOL!]  


David stops us and breaks down body elements critical to riding out the line:  for me the take-home message was to think not about slowing Solo down but rather bringing his front end & balance up.


Fine-tuning the exercise.

They Did It!


We finally made it through the grid quietly & confidently!

And Then…

…the magic happened.  [I love lightbulb moments!]

The last exercise David had us do was to simply ride a circle with a single jump on it.  [eventer79 was devastated by being unable to capture this on video, but she had to get on her horse]  We started at the trot, then brought it up to the canter.  I sort of wish we had started with this, though perhaps if I hadn’t gotten to it at this point of the lesson, it wouldn’t have been such an epiphany [see evil footnote].  The grid work seemed to bring out my clingy, panicked side, & I white-knuckled through it, but with this exercise I was able to establish a rhythm & just…ride it.  All of a sudden, it was like “OH! You mean, shorten my reins. And sit up. And put a monster half halt on going around the turn & then let go.

Solo's Final Gymnastic Jump
Balance getting better!
Untitled 0 01 30-30
No worries, minion, I got ur butt.
I get it! I was nearly in tears cooling down.  [I confess I couldn’t keep the grin off my face when, approximately every two minutes, all the way home, Erica would turn to me and yell, “I DID IT!”  Epic Moments In Life.  I kid you not, her FB update that day:  "So, uh, when I said we moved to NC because of the job market & cost of living?  I lied.  I moved to NC so I could trailer down to Southern Pines & take amazing jumping lessons with 4-star eventers."  *insert moar grinning*]

We’ve naturally now got tons of homework to do & reviewing the footage reveals that it’s pretty much all mine.  [it’s always us, sigh]  But that, folks, is how Erica found her jumping position and how Solo has resumed his flying.
Erica Flying Solo Edits
There's no feeling like it -- welcome to the Flight!

Footnote Revealing Pre-Existing Evil Plot

[eventer79:  I must now reveal my cruel strategery.  Solo has always been rush-y going through gymnastics because they are very hard for him.  Even low, slow ones, ask a horse to shift his weight back to his hocks and use his back, both weak points for my boy, so he worries.  These very tiny ones don’t hurt him, but he does have a Lifetime Exemption from bounces and most other gymnastic exercises.  I know David’s system and I knew Erica would find these unsettling, and now I am going to admit I did it on purpose.

Want To Go Faster
Letz go faster!! However, note perfect rider balance here!
I’m no stranger to “speed” anxiety and I used to be drop-dead terrified of downhill jumps.  To this day, I won’t get on a bolter due to an accident when I was about 9.  I STILL get a tweak sometimes.  But Solo was the horse who taught me about trust.  It’s not an overnight process & it’s ok to be afraid, but I know he will always be safe.  I also unfailingly install an emergency brake on my horses, heh.  I would NEVER say, “Just get over it,” but I saw in that lesson the perfect opportunity for Erica to experience that critical first step.

I believe in always setting a horse & rider up for success; the best possible environment for this moment, for Erica & Solo, was in a clearly enclosed arena with level, perfect footing under the instruction of David’s calm, methodical, & positive expertise.  He is a teacher who brings out the best in you because, as he matter-of-factly directs you to “go do this thing that makes your eyes bug out,” the systematic manner in which he has prepared you and his quick reassurance of everything you did right make up the parachute which always lands you safely on “holy shit, I DID IT!”

You can’t build anything without a solid foundation block & you can’t place the block without careful site prep.  There’s a method in most of my madness – sometimes it even works.  ;P  I AM SO PROUD OF BOTH ERICA & SOLO & I HOPE THEIR JOURNEY CONTINUES!]

Head Profile Solo (Small) Untitled 0 00 28-21
And THANK YOU, Erica, for the wonderful gift of seeing this look of joy & proud bad-assery back on Solo’s face.  That puts tears in MY eyes.

July 25, 2014

WTF: Cat Befriends Stegosaurus

Wordless Triassic Friday!  What did you think it stood for??!  *snicker*  I admit part of me just wants to see if I can get the most bizarre Google search terms of all time (Oh c’mon, like you didn’t know I have the amusement level of a 10-year-old).  Damn, this is supposed to be wordless.  Psh, not within my skill set.

Orange Cat Snooze
Orange Cat never minds older friends
I swear real posts are in the works.  I’ve just been a tad preoccupied since Encore’s left front foot got jealous of his right front foot.

Encore's Busted Feed
Self-resection (RF), meet bruise (LF) -- I so enjoying spending time with you both
Solo Face July 2014
SoloWhat’s a guy gotta do to get some attention around here?
MeDon’t. You. Dare.

July 18, 2014

And Now For Something Completely (Not) Different, AKA, Encore Has A Vet Addiction

I apologize for the break from our regularly scheduled programming.  Although looking through some recent posts, maybe this IS our regularly scheduled programming!  I had hoped to just post fun lesson videos before departing for a fun mountain ride, but alas, while I still get to hook up the trailer, it’s a much shorter trip (pun not intended).

16 July 14 Heel b
The crappy cell phone view
Whyyyyyyyyyy?  (ok, maybe you say it with a bit less resignation than I do)

Because, upon lifting his right front bell boot, Encore presented me with this lovely gift on Wednesday evening.


What In The Name Of Cod Is That?

I first thought it was just (yes, after enough horse repairs, it becomes ‘just’) an abscess.  Our dear farrier was stopping by on Thursday anyway to do a quick reset of that shoe to hold it until our appointment next Tuesday.  We both found it dryly amusing that his LEFT front foot was the one he bruised a bit about a month ago.

Farrier snipped away the flap (is it still a flap if it’s the entire thickness of the hoof wall??) and paused.  Ermmmm, I don’t think that’s an abscess.

RF Medial Heel Cut 17 July 2014 007 (Small)
YUM!
RF Medial Heel Cut 17 July 2014 004 (Small)
Supplies at ready...

Neither of us can figure out how he managed it.  While he grows ridiculous amounts of toe up front (he’s at four weeks in these pics), his hind toes stay short, neat, and round.  His (thin, cheap) bell boot was not torn at all.  The angle is simply bizarre. 

Now What?

As a biologist, I do appreciate his efforts to fascinate me via self-dissection, revealing internal anatomy.  However, I’d rather just check that out on Google Images.  I let him steep in the magic of an Animalintex pad overnight, dosed up on SMZ’s and bute, with a liberal amount of duct tape.  I wasn’t quite satisfied with the view this morning though.

RF Medial Heel Cut 18 July 2014 003 (Medium)
Still...ew
RF Medial Heel Cut 18 July 2014 005 (Medium)

He’s re-wrapped with some neosporin on gauze to let things dry out a bit.  Since he couldn’t possibly do such a thing on a Monday, the trailer will head out this afternoon to the Batcave Dr. Bob’s clinic for an in-person inspection for weekend peace-of-mind.  He did essentially resect his own hoof.  If experience has taught me anything, it’s that the Unexpected Twist will ALWAYS occur on Saturday afternoon.  :/

RF Medial Heel Cut 17 July 2014 008 (Medium) That’s Depressing.  Give Us Some Trademark TFS Stupid Stubborn Positives.

Encore is quite sound wandering around his pasture.  There is no swelling in his fetlock or pastern, nor heat, and he had no reaction to the hooftesters on his sole.  He is also an excellent patient, dozing immobile as you poke, hose, wrap, smear, photograph, and peer at his feats (& feets, LOL).

I’m tossing around a few new USEA names for him on teh Facebookz; thus far, I’m rather taken with “Waylaid Again.”  It has a little more flow than “The Vet, Again?!”  Although his barn name is indeed prophetic, even more so if we lived in France.  Or Quebec.  Half the time he walks into the shed, I exclaim, Encore?!

July 11, 2014

It's Never To Late To Strap One On! On Sale!!

http://www.riders4helmets.com/ihad/
That's right, the FIFTH annual International Helmet Awareness Day is tomorrow, July 12th!  Not only is it your chance to score a great deal on the rather staggering array of new helmet options, but it's also an excellent opportunity to shine a spotlight on Riders4Helmets, a vibrant organization that began in the wake of Courtney King-Dye's tragic accident in 2010.  Courtney has become an inspiring participant and speaker at events around the work, all while teaching and working on her own constant rehabilitation schedule.  Here, three years after her injury, she looks back on the momentum she never imagined would roll through the equestrian world. 



Even in the past year, we have sadly witnessed injuries and fatalaties both in the spotlight (Silva Martin's severe concussion WHILE wearing her helmet when she struck her horse's neck on the way off; I know she and Boyd are both so grateful she wasn't bare-headed) and far away from it (a local trail rider died of a catastrophic open skull fracture a few months ago when her horse was surprised, she lost her balance, and her un-helmeted head hit the side panel of a nearby truck).

My Horse Is A Veteran & I Haven't Fallen Off In Ten Years, Why Bother Now?

Colours!!!!
If not for you, do it for the people who care about you, because I can tell you first hand, losing someone you love to an unexpected TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is a devastating, life-altering event that you can never recover from.  No one ever sees that one terrible second approaching, that's why they are called "accidents."  So, in one easy step, do the right thing and dramatically reduce a huge risk factor in your favourite hobby and keep the "dents" out of your skull. 

Bonus:  it also keeps spiders out of your hair on the trail and, yes, now you can even put rhinestones on them (no, no I did not).  I must confess my impressed surprise when I tried out the new Troxel Intrepid; it's my new everyday helmet, replacing my trusty Tipperary Sportage (sorry, but the Intrepid is cheaper AND lighter).  The fresh designs really are lighter, cooler, and more comfortable than ever!

Which one is your favourite?