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We Are Flying Solo

October 31, 2013

A Flying Farmhouse!

They were ready to "go" on October 22nd!
I do have horse trial stories, pictures and videos to share with you, but being 10 people at once is HARD and exhausting!  So instead I am going to give you the picture and video dump from today when...they put the Flying Solo FarmHouse on its foundation!

I decided to go with a simple modular house for several reasons.  (1) Duh, it's cheaper than any quality site-builders (note use of the word quality, I was also very careful researching modular builders and focused on structural integrity and energy efficiency).  My house will be EnergyStar certified, have a sealed, insulated crawl space, and an extra layer of heat blocker under the roof.  (2) Since they have to travel over the road, they are actually built using more lumber than a site-built house and in storms such as hurricanes, such as Sandy, who ran up to the NE last year, are proving to be the ones that survive (hey, I'd rather not get blown away).  (3)  Since they are mostly assembled in the factory on a line, not only are corners actually square, but none of the materials of the framing, subfloors, walls, or roofing are ever exposed to any elements (the house is shipped wrapped up in plastic.  I don't know about you but I always cringe when I drive by a half built house and see all that plywood and lumber soaking wet.  (4) They happen FAST, once the final spec sheets are signed.  I believe I signed my papers maybe 3-4 weeks ago.  Footers were poured last week, foundation was ready on Monday, house was set today!

It's nothing fancy (add-ons like decks and fancy roofs are expensive!!!!).  I'm all about practical and I will be outside with the horses anyway.  But I hope it will at least stay put, keep me warm and dry with the kitties, and generally, I don't want to have to think about it.  

Now....who wants to buy an AWESOME house in Creedmoor?  Like, tomorrow?

Remember that portapotty?  It didn't move.  I drove up to this!

Foundation (not sealed or coated yet) and hi there, front door!
Who needs an extension ladder?  You can see my lovely dining room atrium door -- but don't use it because you will fall out until I can afford to build a like ten years.  This is the back of the house.  Always wanted a yellow house with a red roof...
Then it was time to actually move the thing.  The roof  was still lying flat (I hung around for about an hour to meet onsite boss) but will be stood up once it is all set on the foundation.  The front porch and back steps (the county inspector said stacks of cinder blocks don't count, sigh) will be built on site.  Then they drill the well, dig the septic, hook up the power...

Yeah, pretty much, when I see someone these days, I just say, "Who should I make the check out too?  And hey, don't cash that for a week."

This operator must have nerves of steel...

Then they settled it in straight and I had to run to do 10 other things, boo..
It will be worth it in the long run, but there are not enough hours in the day to do it all right now! Where's the cash fairy when you need her???? But one day, hopefully soon...

My horses can graze in the 3-acre creek pasture if they want,

SuperNeighbour bushhogged it for me last week!  That's right, my awesome photoshop merge skillz, ha!

And this will be the view from the front porch:

October 25, 2013

Waredaca On!

My spot for the day -- sun!  At Waredaca!!  Shock!!
Endurance day:  check!  Even though it was cool outside, I hope a lot of riders learned more about getting your horse physically fit.  I saw a lot of heavier-type horses and by the end of phase D, several were definitely DONE.  Remember folks, get OUT, do your road work and if you have a heavier WB or draft type horse -- THIS IS NOT JUST A HORSE TRIAL.  This, the long format, is true eventing and there is a reason, as much as I love my Solo, that TB's excel at this sport.  Aerobic fitness and endurance are critical, as is making sure your horse's legs and body have been exposed to all types of conditions and footings so you can literally be ready for anything!

A day in the finish timer's office
I also saw some truly LOVELY horses still raring to go when they crossed the finish flags, including a darling pony of Chincoteague ancestry and more than a few bright-eyed racehorses.  No rider injuries in either level, although we did pull 3 horses due to injury/veterinary issues, had one minor rider fall on steeplechase, and three Technical Eliminations. 

I've got to coordinate Stadium Jumping tomorrow, but most of the legwork got done this afternoon and we were able to organize most of our massive prize pile.  Now we've just got to get those riders through the ingate on time, out the other side safely, and decked out with loot so I can begin the long drive home.

It will be a close rumble for that blue neck ribbon tomorrow at both levels, but there are lots of great prizes all the way to 10th place!  Everything from gift cards to saddle pads to free electrolytes, ulcer products, ThinLine stirrup pads, and more.  Everyone gets my most coveted item (as long as they finish with a number score):  the 3DE completion ribbon.  We also have plenty of special awards, including Best Conditioned, Best Dressed for Jog, Highest Placing Adult Amateur, gorgeous engraved silver plates from MidAtlantic Horse Rescue for the highest place TB, and awesome tri-colour ribbons and duffel bags for each division's TIP winner (highest place OTTB).


Hey, there's a 71 year old lady with an adorable mini Solo, so I've still got time....

October 23, 2013

Defying Gravity, Pt. II

Ah my dear friends -- has anyone figured out how to clone yourselves yet??  I so need that option!

I must be off to Maryland for one of my favourite (although exhausting) experiences of every year:  helping to run the Waredaca T/N3DE.  I have written before about how important the long format is & how much it means to me, so I will let you play around on your own with that.

Photo by High Time Photography.
However, as a parting gift till I get a bit more time, I will leave you with the rest of our videos from our stellar XC lesson with David in early October.

Read Part 1 here

I had every intentions of offering some analysis of each section but I will let David's limitless experience & wisdom speak for itself, as he is more than capable of doing so.

One critical point that I will point out as you work through the videos is that, to be truly safe & effective cross country, it is not enough for your horse to merely be fast & game.  Encore has that in spades.  It is easy to get caught up in the thrill & whoop as your horse leaps over logs!

But it can get you in trouble in a hurry & David explains why.  He needs to understand what he is doing, he needs to use the correct techniques, & rider needs to give him the best opportunity possible to succeed (and stay on)Slow it down, break it down, and build a solid foundation.

Even if your goal is to complete a Maiden course or school some Novice fences, it will pay off in safety for you & your horse, not to mention making your partner into a smoother, more confident ride.  Everyone likes to understand what is expected of them in their job!

Note: yes, you caught me.  I was not wearing my safety vest.  In all honesty, we were running late on the way down, I got nervous about holding up David, tacked up my horse quickly & just completely forgot to put it on.  I did not even notice until the end of the lesson.  You all know that I am the Safety Nazi & gave myself a good mental scolding on the way back to the trailer.

Banks I

Banks II

Banks III

Water I (I would like to note that a year ago, David & I could NOT get Encore to jump over the little log into the water, no way, no how.  We spent about 15 minutes trying & then moved on so it wouldn't become a thing.  I am very proud of my boy for tackling it bravely this year & I credit that to the passage of time & the building of our relationship.)

Water II

Just as a comparison, here is Encore's attempt at dropping off a bank into water this March when we were under Becky Holder's watch.

Big Banks and Straight (ahem) Lines

October 20, 2013

So Many Updates, So Little Time!

I have more fantastic videos from our XC lesson with David to work through with you, really great material!

Encore is staying sound and getting stronger.

Solo is feeling spunky despite his continuing efforts to remove skin from his legs.

Ground is being broken for the new farmhouse this week!

So proud of my brave, but very tired poneh!
Oh and should I mention that Encore did his first Training-Novice HT today (Training dressage and SJ, Novice XC)?  He is finally on his way and I think he is going to be a HECK of a Training horse.  I am sure glad I decided to put mud studs in, but I guess it went ok....  Hee.  Most of our penalties were because I rode very conservatively over the footing so we were quite slow in SJ and XC.  My goal was good schooling and the last thing I wanted was another slip and injury or both of us wiping out on wet clay.

And a big TFS shout out and thanks to the folks who came up and said hi, shared their treats with my sweet, honest boy, and offered such kind remarks on my big sexy CANTER horse!  We always love meeting new folks and sharing hugs with old friends.  We also can't wait to review the many great shots captured by our friends at High Time Photography!

Last, but not at all the least, to Patricia Roberts at FenRidge Farm for once again putting together a fun and new XC course and a challenging SJ course on a lovely day in a safe and well-organized environment.  We love you so much, Patricia!!!


October 11, 2013

Defying (And Occasionally Obeying) Gravity

Solo locks on at Longleaf Pines.
This saga may end up longer than Newton's treatise on gravity...

When you gallop across turf, towards a cross country obstacle, it's as if gravity pulls you.  Not just your body down into the saddle & your horse's hooves to the ground, but also, drawing you both forward to the challenge in front of you.  Your eyes, his eyes & ears, are all pulled to its height, to its breadth, to shadow, to distraction.

His shoulders, head, & neck are all pulled by gravity down & forward; his gallop gains speed to hurdle this obstacle placed in his path by the course designer & by you.

Mr. Shiny Schools with Mrs. Holder
We have a charge, as horsemen, not only to recognize this momentum, but to arm ourselves with the innumerable skills of the educated, technical rider.  And to wield them with confidence each & every time we leave the start box.

Technical riding is a matter of subtlety of minuscule degrees.  It is with this technique that we much teach the horse & teach ourselves to defy the force of the universe itself.  We must take on these forces, these strings of gravity which pull eyes, balance, velocity in towards this solid jump, staked to the ground & unyielding in nature.

By taking these strings & snapping their hold, we are creating something better.  Creating something difficult to describe, but once felt is rarely forgotten, and is chased down time & again until it becomes second nature.

 But what is this mystical technique?  Do I have to order glitter hoof polish?  Won't my $7896906 custom boots do the trick?  I'm not familiar with the Vulcan mind meld.  Do they have it at Family DollarBit of Britain?  Is there a class at the Y?

Ah no, it is much simpler than all that.  And much more difficult.

It is shifting the points of your horse in relation to gravity, to momentum, to the pull of the jump in front of you.  It is rearranging those points to change your horse's balance, sometimes in ways so minuscule that only the most experienced eye can tell the difference from the ground.

But when you are in the saddle, it is not a difference of degrees but of miles.  Or more accurately, a difference of probability:
  1. The probability of success, of that distance out of stride or that perfect bascule, or...
  2. The probability of failure, which is at best, an ugly jump, a refusal or a runout, at worst, the accident that no one wants.
So how do we set our horses up for the first & avoid stumbling into the second?  This is certainly not a process of an afternoon or a clinic or even a month.

Just as we guide our partners up the progressive steps of the dressage training scale, we must lead them to the correct answers to the questions on course, always, ALWAYS keeping an eye on the future.  I think each of us knows all too well what happens when we stumble into one of those gaping training holes we bypass in our quest for finish flag glory...

Horse: 1, Rider: 0
 As usual, David patiently offers his (literal) world of experience and lights the way...

To be continued...

October 7, 2013

Swag Is Headed Your Way!

So ready to rock and roll!
That's right, you contest winners of gear awesomeness, I've sent your addresses to Absorbine and your TryPaks should be drop-shipped directly to you very soon.

I'm working on some fun posts for you, so much to process!  I know a Thoroughbred who is well on his way from a life of owning the racetrack to real progress in a life of OWNING the obstacle course.  Everyone should be lucky enough to have the magic of a good-hearted OTTB in their life.  I did not get the distinct pleasure of getting to visit Encore's incredible Auntie Jess as she showed off the remarkable CANTER MA Katzimo at the Pimlico Retired Racehorse Training Program Makeover this weekend with his other Autie Allie, but here's a teaser of Proper Event Horse Badassness that Encore gave me permission to share from yesterday.  -->