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We Are Flying Solo

March 26, 2014

Carolina International: Ups And Downs And Ups

Preface:  Frizz totally called me a name-dropper (shudder, my nightmare, I swear upon the FSM this is never my intention!), so I wanted to post my clarification (don't worry, most people find my babbling unclear) from the comments about the previous post (with new, added babbling, naturally!).

BFF, Erica, ACME, Jen-S...and some dork
What I do want to share is that there are so unbelievably many wonderful people in eventing world and by volunteering, you get to spend time with them and learn from them (dressage judges, course designers, technical delegates, ground jury members, organizers, secretaries). My effort is to raise awareness that even us smurfies DO matter and ARE appreciated to these people, and to encourage others to step in and discover that it's not just "working" but an unparalleled learning opportunity.  Eventing is so much more than horses and riders -- as I told BFF, I started participating because of XC (duh).  But I stayed for the people.

The photo above is at the XC fence that was sponsored by the eventing forum over on COTH.  This effort was coordinated by the amazing ACME, who I FINALLY got to meet after several years of just missing each other (she lives a mile from the Horse Park; yes, we all collectively kind of hate her, only you can't really because she's so cool).  Check out the great article COTH was nice enough to put together!  Moving along.  Pat the Volunteer Coordinator Queen gave us a great fence complex and the perfect schedule (THANK YOU!).  Since we only judged the 2* and 3*, we had a chance to explore a bit and then settle in during the morning's 1* runs.  When it was time for the blue jumps (3*), just after lunch, the roller coaster of cheering and worrying began.    

You can see the path of hoofprints hugging the curve
BFF was assigned to fence 17 and thanks to the announcer, we learned that a Muckle Brush is a Scottish term for a "large hedge."  Funny, I would have translated it as "terrifying gap in brush barely wide enough for my horse with a huge, face-eating tree in the way."  But that's just me.  Here, it's viewed from your approach line: up a small rise and then it drops slightly on landing as well.  With the added fun of the large 2* bounce immediately next door, part of the ABC combo we judged later, so I'd say that Mr. Designer was going for an accuracy question here.

Erica and I manned the complex at 18AB.  Meh, what's two skinny jumps? you ask.  Well, as your horse's front feet touch the ground behind 17, you have approximately one stride to make an impossibly-short-looking rollback and take three to four strides to the brushed corner at A.  Although, if you are Caroline Martin, you will use some kind of elfin magic to line up all three jumps at the perfect angle so there is not even a hint of TURN TURN TURN NOW!!!

I'll be honest, I expected carnage and nervously parked my chair next to BFF, as close as I could get to the face of 17 without putting myself in the "trample zone" if a horse ran out.  I have mad first aid skillz due to years of work training, but I'd rather not ever deploy them.  From there, I was also next to 18A and the FEI TD requested Erica directly opposite me between the complex elements so we could have a clear view of both flags.

Just maybe, I hoped, this will be one of those jumps with zero room for steering error that everyone will just ride excruciatingly carefully so I don't have to scrape anyone's eyeballs off of pine bark, as can happen, ahem, BFF

Up:  I was right.  With the exception of one rider burying her horse at the base (he saved it for her anyway), it rode like clockwork all day and rather unbelievably, we didn't have a single runout all day through the whole complex.

Mensa & Michael just three strides before 17
Down:  As Michael Pollard came through with Mensa, I was so excited to see this incredible horse in the flesh.  After sailing effortlessly over 17, they both made the turn was then I watched a display of great heart.  Mensa failed to read the jump at 18 quickly enough, but had such momentum, he had a split-second of indecision at the base of 18A.  Instead of spinning into a wicked runout or just saying no, this little bay gave an incredible effort to do his job for Michael.

However, by then, his chest was too close to the upper log and instead of successfully jumping, he caught his left foreleg on the flag and his chest slid through the brush (the essential element that gave the fence the forgiveness that no doubt prevented a far worse outcome) sideways, dragging his hind end with it.  Unable to stop the force of half a horse's worth of muscle and trajectory behind him, Mensa landed with his shoulder on half of Michael (Do. Not. Like. Rider-Smooshing at my jump!).  Somewhat miraculously, I was barely to the fence as both popped to their feet, Mensa to gallop back to the horses gathered at the vet box behind us, and poor Michael to stagger out of the line of fire, despite my desperate attempt to convince him to catch his breath for a minute.

Michael & Halimey rock the 2* 16AB, looking for C
Up:  Medical was, somehow!, already there and gathered up a rather grass-stained Pollard for in-barn inspection.  Mensa was quickly snagged by a groom and both appeared to have escaped injury.  Which made it that much greater when, shortly thereafter, Mango (Ballingowan Pizzaz) and Michael hopped effortlessly through the same line and kicked its ass for 3rd place, followed by placing 2nd in the 2* with Halimey AND the Open Intermediate with Kyra.  And if you didn't already love Pollard Eventing enough, Michael was the first to hit the dance floor that evening at the competitor's party with his toddler daughter and her flashy-light sneakers.  Awesomesauce.

Down:  Becky Holder and Teddy (Can't Fire Me) looked fantastic and jumped around clean, but Teddy's opinion that show jumping poles are completely unimpressive meant that two pulled rails the day before kept them out of the top ten.

Nobie & Busta visit Stonehenge in the 1*
Up:  Becky Holder and Teddy (Can't Fire Me) looked fantastic and jumped around clean!!  She also placed 7th in the 2* with a double clear course aboard Frodo of the Shire.  And I got to talk briefly with Nobie Cannon, one of her students who got to be amused by my silent Becky Stalking last spring (doubtlessly why she remembered me, LOL), before she and a seriously grown up Bust A Groove tore out of the start box and jumped a clear round.  A more sincere and generous group of women is hard to come by.

Down:  I was also rooting for Nobie's compatriot Sarah Beth Anton and Blitz Volo (also in 1*).  Sadly, she got dumped in the water, as did Leslie Law on the fantastically named Fernhill Whatever, against whom Encore and I competed in his brief lower level years.  Happily though, all parties were unharmed aside from the discomfort of wet panties.

Wundermaske is WunderWOW with Sharon White
Up:  I got to laugh hysterically when the announcer noted that Nobie had left her saddle in the vet box.  Sorry, Nobie, I laugh lovingly -- I would TOTALLY walk off, oblivious that I was missing a huge and obvious piece of my tack, so you are not alone.  I also got an wonderful and unexpected surprise in the appearance of Pat (a different one, ha), one of my favourite co-workers from Waredaca 3DE and owner of the gorgeous A Bit Better Farm just down the road from Waredaca in MD, whose daughter, Kelley Williams, a lovely and gracious pro rider, I FINALLY got to meet after years of stories, as well as another unexpected dear friend and her family who live in SoPines, as her husband is often event farrier (this time with his brother) at CHP (if you see him at future events, always tell Adrian thank you, he is excellent, one of the nicest people ever, and so kind to the horses).

Down:  Since I couldn't stay for Sunday, I missed seeing both friends and horses who participated in the Horse Trials.  Damn you, life responsibilities.

Up:  I did get to see Grace Fulton, whom, along with her dad, Steve, and her sister, Savannah, I've cheered for repeatedly at the Waredaca T3DE, as she completed this weekend's 1* aboard Sharon White's Wild Orange.  This horse is a stunning mover in the dressage arena and Gracie is a beautiful rider.  I feel a bit like I've watched, at least in part, the girls grow up!

Colleen Rutledge & Shiraz have room to spare
Down:  When Buck Davidson came through on his last 3* ride of the day, Petit Flower, I could see as soon as he landed after 17, he was riding tired.  They didn't quiiiiiiite make the turn and the mare attempted the jump, but hit the left corner and slid off, taking the flag down with her.  I lost sight of both and was sure Buck had fallen off in the flailing, but they reappeared in proper vertical order.  A then-limber (get well soon!) and very dapper Boyd Martin, who was walking several students around, sprang in and replaced the flag (hey, that's on him, a jump judge should never step in, barring a safety hazard, until the jump is cleared) as Buck and Flower made a tight circle.

Up:  The pair cleared the jump and finished the course with only a small scrape to the horse from the log encounter and Buck nabbed an impressive 2nd place with his equally impressive veteran partner, Reggie (Ballynoecastle RM).

TFS + COTH.  Yeah, I did, dorkiness has no shame.
Down:  This picture-perfect, sunny day at 74 degrees and a light breeze, strewn with amazing equine athletes at all levels, did not last forever.  And Jimmy Wofford went home immediately after the evening pep talk, so I did NOT get to fangirl his signature into my book.  And somehow, I was under the impression that team members were going to speak at the dinner, dangit, how did I get that wrong?  Nonetheless, a massive thanks is due to Karen Stives, who used to live in SoPines and who was a title sponsor of this event, an incredibly generous act (among many!).

Up:  I got to spend this picture-perfect, sunny day at 74 degrees and a light breeze, strewn with amazing equine athletes at all levels, with two great friends.  It was a MUCH-needed therapy indeed and a very special day in my stress-packed life.  Despite times when I feared my head might explode from sensory over-stimulation of exciting things in all directions, I am so glad I signed up and got to be a tiny part of this event on its birthday, which was wildly successful.  No matter how late we get home, there is no way to put a price on that.
The pros at work

March 23, 2014

Carolina International CIC*** & HT: More Awesomeness Than Blogger Can Hold

Trademark CHP stands rise behind CIC*** #16
Should I just put all the adjectives up front?  Amazing fabulous wonderful gorgeous jaw-dropping beautiful incredible inspiring even-greater-than-expected phenomenal wow breathtaking...I'm sure I could keep going but my brain is still tired and stunned!  If you followed the sporadic outbursts of our Twitter/FB live posting (thanks again, Erica, for putting the pics up, my phone can't do that), I hope I succeeded in my goal of annoying the crap out of at least one person all day.  If not, hey, it's still up there, if your boredom is so deep that you'd like to pretend I'm babbling in your ear from 6 am to 10 pm.

While a full report on many fronts will come once I can put it together (as my blogger buddies know, putting together a meaningful post takes HOURS - or maybe that's just me...), there are few things I have to blurt out share while they are still a fresh grin in my mind.  I had a great time seeing familiar friendly faces and catching up with so many Adult Rider, volunteer/staff, & other eventing peeps, so:  Hai, it was wonderful to see you, Pat, Cindy, Foy, JJ, Dana, Sue, Bill, Jennifer, Nobie, Becky, Jen, Alison, Adrian, Alexis (heee, I love that your family is AAA), Jeff, Ross (ok, I never could catch you to say, but I did mentally when I saw you at dinner, LOL), Sarah Beth (I didn't get to talk to you, but saw you gallop by and I hope you are all dried off and ok!), Gracie, Suzanne, and Steve!!!  I'm sure I forgot someone, mea culpa.

Will Faudree & Land des Feuers open CIC*
Thank you SO MUCH, Erica, for driving down and back and being a great friend and volunteer buddy, and BFF, for being able to join and and I am so glad you had fun, I absolutely love watching people discover the sheer awe and wonder of sitting 20 feet from a **** horse as he navigates an eyeball-bugging complex like it was a set of ground poles.

Things I Learned and Awesome New People
(just get used to the word awesome a lot, despite my hatred of repeated words in writing)

Kelli Temple is not only super cool and friendly, but more fun than a crate of bouncy balls.  She joined the TFS Trio Dinner Table Of Poor Peons with two of her working students (who, geez the horse world is small, I have both watched and cheered for as they navigated our beloved Waredaca T3DE).  Upon seeing the eight empty champagne flutes set up with the centerpiece (they go big or go home in SoPines), Kelli immediately popped up, ran to the bar, and returned entire bottle, as a true eventer should!  She promptly made sure all eight glasses were full (for the six of us, of course) and everyone was set for beer and wine.  I love her.

Hugh Lochore is indeed a world-class, bar-none course designer.  I confess my head exploded when we arrived at our post for the CIC*** division and the first thing I saw was this...thing:

Erica is not that much shorter than my 5'9"
But Hugh is truly in that excruciatingly small class of designers that can make this a "simple" rider accuracy question among a beautiful and deceptively challenging course, yet ensure that any equine or human mistakes are only penalized by a refusal, runout, or in a few cases, rider falls.  But NO rotations, NO equine ambulances, & with the exception of one unfortunately extremely hard encounter with the sand after a loss of balance, no lasting rider injuries.
Really want to ride one of his courses now!
Oh, and he is charming, hot, hilarious, adorable, generous, friendly, down-to-earth, attentive, AND straight (which is why on Facebook, I have named him "The British Unicorn") -- I would like to hate his wife, but I am told she is beautiful and friendly and kind, as well.  I hope he...snores really loudly or something.  ;P  I love him.

Dom Schramm is just as easy to talk to as he seems; I had to stop him at dinner and thank him for providing me with entertainment, although I had to admit that I had not yet seen "How Horses Eat Their Food, Part Deux," to which he replied, "WHAT??!!  What else could you possibly be doing?!"  He did concede that my employer expecting me to do actual work at work was an acceptable excuse.  I love him.

The no-one-else-even-came-close-I-don't-care-how-famous-your-name-is, best ride of the day through our insane complex was Caroline Martin and Quantum Solace (she is 18, geez).  She lined up all three jumps (17-18a-b) on the foot-perfect approach and as soon as her horse took off, her body never budged from its impecabbly soft, balanced center and I didn't even see a rein move as her Argentine sporthorse gelding floated through like hunter, responding instantly to the turn of her head and lightning-fast eye.  Incredible.  The only other pair that came close, and were also just exquisite to watch, were Rachel Jurgens and Ziggy (he is an OTTB the same age as Caroline Martin, LOL, and ran Rolex last year!).  Starting 3 strides out from 17, she looped both reins of her Pelham and floated her hand in immovable softness, anchored in an incredbly strong leg and core, all the way through without so much as a twitch.  I love them.

Buck and The Apprentice are 1st to leap #17
Buck Davidson really is an incredibly gracious, generous, and kind person.  And I almost didn't recognize him at the volunteer briefing Saturday morning; he and Caroline came to say thank you to everyone before riding (awesomeness), he has lost a bunch of weight and was looking very stylish indeed (hanging out with Faudree??)!  But not only did he make that special effort, as he walked our complex for the second time (he overshot the line with his first ride, The Apprentice, although that veteran horse still made it look easy, so came back out to make a better plan), he made conversation with BFF and I.  Laughing after I noted he had, what, ten more tries to get it right, Buck again thanked us so sincerely for being there.  Classy.  Dude.  I love him.

Both Arthur and Manoir de Carneville (Tate) are even more incredible in the flesh than they look in photos and video.  Arthur in particular is stunningly gorgeous and Allison rode him superbly; both hers and Sinead's special partnership with their horses was more than evident!  I love them.

David O'Connor really does cry at every milestone/pep talk/special occasion.  Upon introducing the 1984 gold-medal-winning Olympic team of J. Michael Plumb, Jimmy Wofford, Bruce Davidson, Torrance Watkins (who competed two horses at T this weekend!), and Karen Stives (the first time all five were together in 40 years, wow), he choked up into tears at the end.  I had to giggle a little, knowing how hardcore and stoic Karen is, wondering how often she rolls her eyes and throws a box of kleenex at him, hee.  I love his adorableness.

Sinead Halpin and Tate: so in tune
There are more, but a certain blogger is running out of steam.  But I cannot close the post without one more thing:

THANK YOU to the Carolina Horse Park, Jane Murray, Bobby Costello and the organizing committee, Hugh Lochore, Tyson Rementer (Stonehenge?!  Seriously?!), Roger Haller (FEI TD & best XC judge briefing I've ever heard) and all of the TDs, our fabulous friend, Foy Barksdale for being secretary bar none,  JJ Johnson for always being the best XC control ever, all of the sponsors, all of the volunteers, and especially Pat Gibson for all of her cat herding as volunteer coordinator:  you all brought to life a top class event with so many wonderful, special touches that made it truly unique in all my years of attending and working events.  I love all the peoples.  Combining the generous hospitality of Southern Pines with the open, welcome, positive, and fun atmosphere that eventers never fail to create, resulted in a feeling that I was a part of something great, even as a nobody smurf.

As we wound down the night and headed home, endurance racing BFF remarked, "If this is part of your evil plan to convert me to eventing, it's working."  (*gasp* Evil?!  Sounds like a great plan to me!)

Stay the bomb and gallop on, all my fellows in the eventing community!  You truly do rock, indeed.   

March 21, 2014

Notes From The Madhouse

Be forewarned:  an unbelievably horrific three day long work assault meeting has left many brains crippled, so sense is not to be expected in any of the following statements.  And I hope CHP doesn't mind me borrowing a couple of their awesome graphics!

Dancing Dining With The Stars
TFS will be packing up and heading south this evening to participate in the long-awaited and tantalizingly star-studded Carolina International CIC*** and Horse Trial entrance onto the world stage!  Not only is it a qualifier for the 2014 Adequan Gold Cup series, but it brings a spotlight to our very favourite competition grounds, the Carolina Horse Park, about which I've written so many times.

Bruce Sr., Torrence Watkins, J. Michael Plumb, Karen Stives, and The Wofford
Alongside BFF and Solo's (hopeful) new minion (oh, what should her nickname be???  Blog Stalker?  No, that sounds too negative, although I love blog stalkers -- She Who Longes Children?  LOL), I'll just call her Erica, for goodness sake, we shall oogle and analyze the FEI*, **, and *** XC riders as jump judges.  If you haven't checked out the entry list already, well, what, do you live under a rock????!  Becky Holder Event Team, Colleen Rutledge, Kate Chadderton, Jan Byyny (currently sitting in first place after a lovely dressage test -- follow the link for video), our Carolina Will's, Faudree and Coleman, our new 'neighbour', Doug Payne, along with Arthur and Tate and Shiraz and Teddy and Wundermaske and William Penn and Pirate and Catch A Star and...dinner with the 1984 Gold Medal LA Olympic Team (Jimmy Wofford, Bruce Davidson, Karen Stives, Michael Plumb, and Torrance Watkins)!!! *fangirl implosion* And many many more eventing friends and 'family' that, well, we are hoping will wander by our chair on their coursewalks, because frankly, judging 300+ horses, I can tell you from experience, doesn't leave a lot of time for social calls.

(left) Can't Fire Me (Teddy) watches as Courageous Comet gives Dad a lesson at the winter farm in 2013; I bet I won't catch Teddy lying down on Saturday!

Related Online Crap
To the best of our ability, TFS will be live-tweeting (oh my cod, I'm so embarrassed I just typed that) from the event tomorrow, so you probably want to go ahead and follow us now so you don't miss out on the unmatched randomness and hilarious dorkiness that is our trademark!  Oh yeah, and The Becky StalkingI've also started a series of sometimes exciting, sometimes ironic, always entertaining #farmownerdiscoveries, as those of you who follow us on Facebook have probably discovered.  Like/follow/click/tap (take your pick from our media shortcuts in the sidebar) and join the insanity!  

Flying Solo Farm Stage:  Implementation
Crossties are up and fence tape is charged and mats are down and feed is stored and neighbours are supplied with excessive amounts of emergency contact information.  The door, my friends, at long last, is not only open, but strewn with bits of hay and mud and cat hair.  In addition, speaking of cats, one of them puked on the carpet recently, so I guess it's definitely home now. 

Blogger Mental Health & Plans For The Spring Season
The former is long lost.  The latter:  try not to starve, dream of times when you could purchase diesel, fatten up orange bellies after move stress shrinkage, remember how to ride a horse, learn our new trails, annoy visit with new neighbours...

And above all else, drink in the moonrise over MY east line of oak trees while a grey fox yips, at least four species of frogs sing across the pond, a great-horned owl greets the stars, and a brown bat makes adorable swoops after the first tiny insects of the year.  Through the bone-deep fatigue, those long-missed melodies are indeed balm for a great many things. 

Sunset over our creek pasture

March 14, 2014

How To Make Your Own "Soft Ride" Boots

Remember when I posted useful articles on this blog?  Me neither.  However, today, I actually do have something useful to offer you!  Do try & hide your shock.

soft ride boots
Soft Ride Boots:  the hottest trend in trailering when they hit the market two or three years ago (or less.  or more.  I lose track of time generally.).  "Reducing fatigue, enhancing performance, & helping treat & prevent injuries," these boots promise to pretty much eliminate the need for a vet, trainer, & sleep all at once!

Ok, perhaps I exaggerate a bit for effect, but while the concept of absorbing concussive shock traveling through the trailer frame to the floor & your horse's feet is a good one, marketing, as often occurs, goes a wee smidge over the top.

Note:  This post does not apply to use of any kind of boot for veterinary or therapeutic hoof issues which require daily wear.  I speak only in the context of booting a trailered horse for comfort.  Hopefully, those are obviously different scenarios to be addressed on a case by case basis.  

Not to mention, as with all normal things (human shoe inserts or foam cut-outs, anyone), give it a special horsey name & hint that it might knock a few points off your dressage score all while keeping Dobbin sounder, & you can mark up the price by approximately 4000%.  So, a gel pad that you stick on your horse's hoof which he will promptly stomp in his own poop can be yours, in a pair even, for around $200.

*pause for personal need to repeat hysterical choking sounds*

The Epics: great for non-forgers
Now, Soft Ride folks, my apologies if you are miffed at my badgering, but it does not carry any ill will nor even am I suggesting you have an unhelpful product.  I own a pair of both EasyBoot Epics (they did work when they stayed on...) & Cavallo Sport Boots, the latter of which I adore & are worn by Solo every time he is ridden off grass.

Both have had foam inserts for cushioning while riding as well.  Although both paid for themselves by replacing horseshoes.  And EasyCare has done the same thing as Soft Ride with the EasyBoot Rx hitting you up around $150 a pair, though they avoided some of the grandiose verbage.

I am simply offering an alternative solution for those of us who live down here in the real world (or even worse, my poverty world) where we have to actually CHOOSE which things we spend money on instead of just buy them all.  There certainly is value in convenience sometimes, but it doesn't have to be unreachable. 

If you are anything like me, every time you feel & hear that 'clunk' of your trailer coming down after a lump or hole, you murmur an apology to your horse that he is never going to get Air-Ride (unless HE comes up with $6,500).  But given what I ask my horses to do, I do want to lessen that series of a gazillion impact waves (particularly on VA cheese-grater roads) traveling up through the joints of his fetlocks, hocks, stifles, & back.  I just did not have & was not going to throw $200 at it.

Straight out of the bag
Enter the Hoof Wrap:  a step above buying a foam pad alone or cutting one out of insulation board & duct taping it on (duct tape tends to be single use only).  These are basically reusable (& extremely durable, it turns out) ballistic nylon foot napkins with a lot of velcro.

They also come with their own 1.5" thick EVA foam pad (replaceable for only $7 or you can double up) for cushion & if you want more (I do in VA!), you can add a gel pad (which even smells like odd incense thanks to an infusion of tea tree oil).

All components are reusable; I don't use the gel every time I use the wrap, but it's been on at least four long trips.  Want to go hog wild?  Mix & match all kinds of thickness & density pads for $14 & just cut to a fit you like.

And at $20 per foot for wrap & foam pad, you can instead spend $80 & come out with TWO pairs (I only outfitted his hind feet for a mere $40).  Like any type of hoof boot or wrap, they take a few applications to get used to.  But the straps are numbered in the order in which you should attach them (THANK YOU!).

If you make sure the foot is centered & you pull the velcro tight, they even stay put in the trailer.  If you like, add a strip of tape (hello, colour coordination!) around the foot for backup.
With gel pad added.  It had an odd aromatherapy...

Encore models
I would say it takes me a total of about four minutes to apply both hind wraps & I only use them for trips of two hours or more (or if I'm entering VA, period).  But effectively, it creates the same device at 1/4 of the price (1/2 if you add gel pads, but still...and hey, that rhymed).

And yes, I did observe a marked reduction of stiffness & let-down time coming off the trailer when I use them vs. prior long trips in just horseshoes.

You're welcome.

March 11, 2014

I Rode A Horse...Or Two!!

We don't work no more!
It's true, don't believe the rumours -- I sort of remembered how to ride and I didn't fall off!  And it was sunny!!

The horses were caught quite off guard, having come to consider me merely as She Who Bringeth Foods.  So when I put Solo in the cross-ties (I HAVE CROSS-TIES) and put the saddle pad over his back, I could hear his mental, "Whaaaaaaa?"

I think both were pleasantly surprised though -- I finally rode Solo on Flying Solo Farm and It Was Good.  The boys once again dropped a bunch of weight in the move and lost most of their muscle and feet from standing in the mud all winter, but I have lots of hay and finally, daylight!

Solo and I hacked around the top field, said hello to Trainer Neighbour, even did some trot and canter over a telephone pole fencepost I'd brought up.  Mr. Shiny and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, although I regretted not putting the spurs on, I really should know better after 8 years!!!!

It was well into the 70's though, and none of us have any condition to speak of, so it was short and sweet, but the footing was excellent:  my soil shopping paid off indeed considering our Icepocalypse 27 on Friday.  Already on a roll, I simply traded horses and took Encore up on the longe to stretch his legs.  I expected racehorse, but he was rather pleasantly blase about it all.  Some stretchy trot, some canter that needs its butt back, and Bob's yer uncle.

But the best part of all (well, ok, maybe tied for best) was putting the horses up, throwing out hay...and walking 45 seconds to the back door.  Wow.  I went back up the to feed shed to get something and returned to the house again - just because I could.

My brain and body are fried.  Even writing this requires a pitiful dragging of each staggering sentence out of its slumber, but we're actually there.  Here.  Even the inside is starting to look a little bit more like a home.

Thanks, BFF, it never would have gotten painted without you!!

March 6, 2014

It Was A Dark & Windy Night In North Dakota

At least, that’s what it felt like Monday night as an assault of horizontally-driven snowflakes pelted my face and hands while I daisy-chained extension cords.

It was my first official work-then-home-to-farm day.  As of last Saturday, I am officially residing in the new house, although “moved” would be a strong word.  I have my bed, washer, dryer, and pets along with clean underwear and work clothes.  So we’ll stick with “residing.”

Gee, thanks, mom
My boss and I had spent the day in a project meeting about four counties south.  Having had no internet access, I knew the weather was supposed to be around 50 during the day with some rain and then plummet to 14 that night.  So I’d left the horses nekkid and figured I’d throw their blankets on when I fed that evening.


My first clue came as we drove south and all the DOT signs along I-85 flashed “WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM NOON UNTIL MIDNIGHT.”  Well, both the boys had their shelter from precipitation and it had been 70 all weekend, so things could only change so quickly.  Right?

Wolverine work truck
We did manage to wrap up the meeting around 2:30 pm so we could hightail it 2.5 hours home.  Our dubious entertainment was watching both whip antennas on Boss' work truck turn into icicles as the wipers’ Effective Clearing Radius shrank to a tiny rainbow of windshield.  The incredulous hilarity continued when we picked up my work truck in Durham and both of us chipped through solid ice with the corners of our scrapers so I could have a teeny patch of windshield to look through.  I was certain I’d break a window; even back home in the Ohio River valley, it was rare for the freeze to occur that hard, that fast.

By the time I arrived home, the roads had turned into skating rinks of flashing lights and crumpled metal.  So quick and unexpected had the severity of the storm been (it was LITERALLY 75 and sunny the day before), many people didn’t even have coats in their cars.

I’m certainly no stranger to winter horse care and have everything I need to do it comfortably, including my beloved heated watertub.  But none of it was set up, naturally, given that Sunday was summer.  Frantically, as the weak daylight disappeared, I threw out serendipitously pre-stacked hay as I curried icicles off the horses and dragged crunchy, frozen blankets over them, forcing frozen straps through buckles with fat glove fingers.

Plz no moar winterz
We finally got squared away though, and I spent the entire time mentally screaming gratitude for the wonderful Adult Rider friend who’d given us the cozy feed shed and brought her family over to help set it up, and to ACB for his tremendous assistance stacking hay, setting posts, moving pallets, and the gift of the beautifully blinding magnetic LED that lit up the whole shed and the curtain of lost blizzard that pushed its way around all three of us.

Tripping over my own boots as I took them off in the mudroom, and staggering to the nearest folding chair (hey, it has beer-holders), I caught my breath and tried to figure out when we’d been sucked out of the Carolinas and into some Midwestern version of hell. 

All I could hear was a sardonic voice in my head cackling, “Welcome home!”