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July 24, 2016

A New Favourite: Hands-On Grooming...Hands-Free!

Tell me if this sounds familiar:  currying off layers of sweat crust & dirt, I manage to drop my body brush at least twice.  I keep the gel curry on one hand to knock the dust off the soft bristles, but then I need to put something down so I can grab fly spray.  Even staging items at strategic equine corners has me juggling tools.  And my spectacular grace & coordination are somewhat legendary...

Maybe I'm just "special?"  <-- obvious statement is obvious

Even included sweet handwritten note!
Even More Exciting Than Sliced Bread

Thanks to Melissa & Barb from GroomingHands.com, who asked if I'd like to try un-droppable grooming, I have discovered a miraculous world where I can groom my horses, pick up other things, AND not hit myself in the face with a brush AT THE SAME TIME. 

I know, it seems impossible...but I had to find out!

Testing

Materials needed:  one sweaty horse, one clumsy human, two hands -- check.

Pre-test equine (Solo finds dinner more important...)
The Massage & Grooming gloves were described as a versatile tool which reduces static (not so testable in swamp air, but could be handy in winter) while allowing you to reach all your horse's itchy spots, work out dead hair, massage muscles, clean sensitive areas, & maintain manual dexterity.  A lot to promise, especially to a documented skeptic.

Hands ON!
Thankfully they come in multiple sizes, as my enormous lady hands require a large, but they fit comfortably, so I got to work.  I started at the base of Solo's ears & worked down his neck to his withers & shoulders, which always build up layers of dirt.

Results

Not only did they do "all of the above," I was honestly amazed at the amount of shed hair & gunk they lifted out of his coat.  You can see in the pre-test pic above, he's pretty "summer slick."  But when I got to his back & haunches...wow:

Where did all that come from??!
So yes, these are now part of my daily routine & I'm guessing from the sighs & drooping eyelids of relief that both horses are happy about it. 

Even More To Love

On top of being great to use, Grooming Hands is our favourite kind of company:  a self-started small business, built by a lifetime rider & groom as a labour of love.  Founder Barb Schuster had an idea during a PA winter & threw her heart & savings after it (as a single mom, no less!).  You can read her story here.

Solo definitely agrees & gives them four hooves up.  Even sensitive Encore leaned into the massage & I really liked the immediate tactile feedback of grooming with a glove, so you can adjust pressure & use different textured areas as you go.

The website is full of videos, tips, & helpful resources to explore; other features include:
  • Machine washable or just put them in the sink with some dish soap
  • Extra massage tips on middle & ring fingers
  • Smooth spots on thumb & index finger for soft wipedowns
  • Latex free for allergic folks
  • Not just for horses -- dogs, cats...hmmm, maybe myself...
Thanks again to the super-friendly Grooming Hands team for letting me try & share!

www.groominghands.com

July 9, 2016

The Day The Sheds Flew: Farmpocalypse 2016

As I was preparing horsey dinners last Wednesday, I never imagined the building I stood in would be torn violently apart 30 minutes later.

So many stories are overdue, but this one must be vexed about not getting a full telling, since it revisited last night!  I hope you'll forgive my job for swallowing me whole -- wildlife don't seem to courteously time their activities to my convenience, alas.

It Seemed Like A Normal Day 

Just home from work, I noticed the darkening sky, but it wasn't unusual for an early July evening.  Carolina summer frequently includes late-day cloudbursts, when hot, humid air blows its soggy overload.

Glancing west as I carried buckets to the boys, I was arrested by this...thing:


I know just enough about clouds to be afraid, very very afraid.  Convinced the Hand of Sauron itself was coming for us at an unsettling speed, I secured horses & hay in a record 7.8 seconds.  My ears popped as the temperature & barometric pressure went into freefall.  The passing Coast Guard rescue chopper you can hear in the video did not seem like a good omen.

My run-in, hayshed, & house are all engineered for 120 mph windstorms, my construction default here in hurricane country.  Feed & tack I keep in smaller kit sheds, but both have weathered much larger storms & are stuffed with heavy objects.

So while I wasn't thrilled by less than five minutes of warning, I hunkered down in the house feeling that all major bases were covered.  NOAA weather alerts showed this particular beast hurtling SE at interstate speeds, with angry windshear.  And hail.  (Some news photos of aftermath in the area here)

Run with the Tolkien theme
Fortunately, I keep 17 water bottles filled in the fridge, because I had time to run a whopping 1/2" of water into the tub before the power blinked out.  I was a little surprised, as in three years, I've lost power (>5 mins) exactly 0 times.  Hazarding a guess from the perfectly horizontal rain out the front windows, I'd say there were probably some trees down already...

But Solo & Encore have their safety walls I built during our first brutal winter.  I uneasily watched the now-rain-hail-mix swing 180 degrees from West --> East to East --> West in 10 seconds, but I was glad they were protected.

A half-hour seems a lot longer in the dark.

I went out front as the rain stopped, to attempt salvage of my now-shredded hay tarps before the next band moved in.  It was then I noticed the horses standing in the farther corner of their paddocks.  Which they only do if something scares the bejeezus out of them.

Like, I don't know, flying walls?

The remnants of Structure Formerly Known As Feed Shed

Priority One:  Horses

Both horses were luckily unscathed.  It's always a dilemma of intense storms:  flying debris risk vs. building catastrophe risk.  Sometimes you get both -- along with storms that don't read textbooks!

Incredibly, both fencing tape & posts held.  I called my Miraculous Rescue Neighbour as I had to get buildings off the fences & important gear/feed under cover immediately, because more rain was on the way.

Tack shed flipped off foundation

My big lag screws had been ripped out of the walls, but stayed in the brackets, so I made sure to account for each one as I dragged scattered panels out of horse areas.  Red arrows in the pic show locations over about 3/4 of an acre.  The last thing I needed to add was a punctured hoof.

Priority Two:  Additional Waterlogging Prevention

Homeless things
Gear got hurled into vehicles as quickly as possible.  I was grateful I hadn't unloaded three bags of feed in the backseat of my truck.  Although improbably, feed lid bins had stayed on & watertight!

We only had about an hour before it started raining again.  Just enough time to get pastures cleaned.  And just enough time for the full weight of the damage to begin sinking in.

Bathed in exhausted sweat, I was very glad it was at least 9 pm & NOT 100 degrees as no power = no shower.  And given the chorus of sirens in every direction, it wasn't returning anytime soon.

We gonna eat it all!
The horses were ok.  I was ok.  Major structures & vehicles were ok.

But rain had blown UNDER my hayshed walls in seemingly impossible ways.  I finally got the tarp off the roof, but some of my beautiful bales were decidedly wet:  not ok.  And it's pretty hard to keep mice out of a building with one wall, which didn't bode well for feed security.

Two words echoed in my head:

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).