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We Are Flying Solo

September 27, 2015

TFS Time Machine: My Life's Lullaby

On these quiet evenings, having walked out to groom the horses as the weekend rain subsides, I'm reminded of a constant.  That balm which soothes pain, fear, worry, even exhaustion, which has been the solace of my life as far back as memory can reach.

So I share it anew, as I think it cannot be possible to ponder it too often. 

Striking: five years ago seems another lifetime, yet some patterns persist, before & since.  This text is excerpted & slightly updated, you can find the original post here.

Little Melodies

I often feel sorry for people who never know the companionship of animals, outdoors in their own realm.  Their playlists are missing the sweetest music I know.

Just today, I am struck with the notes:  embraced by the gathering dusk, my left hand rests on warm, red hair while my right guides a soft brush in its particular rhythmic chord over Solo's side.  Pay attention to that sound next time you groom:  there is a real, earthy caress in its tone.  

Prairie Warbler surveys FSF
Sheltered alongside us, there is the ever-present, ever-pleasant undertone of Encore pulling at his hay.  A barred owl throws his signature announcement to the evening sky, following the burbling arpeggio of an immature bluebird snatching gnats from the fenceline.  

I can feel my heartbeat slowing & my subconscious finally allows the tension to leak out of my muscles.

It's a quiet symphony, syncopated by Solo's tail, a gentle, slow, swishing counterpoint.  The growing chirps of the crickets, the string section of all Southern nights, adds a higher harmony.

You will never hear it on the radio, although it's not because such peaceful music is rare.  But drinking it in doesn't cost a thing beyond allowing an inviting silence, through which the song may enter your life.  

Take a sip; you may find yourself enriched in ways you never knew existed.  You too can know the wonder of feeling your pulse hum in tune to the ancient song of horse, of nature, of life.  It is always there, just waiting for you to listen.

September 19, 2015

Five Points Of Fantastic

Because adorable. From Reddit
Better late than never?  But after our own exciting jumping achievement this morning (sometimes small, uneventful jumps are a really big deal!), I can finally get around to posting -

My Five Favourite Points Of Five Points HT (say it five times faster)

Because there really was a lot of fabulous outside of the unfortunate.  In no particular order, as awesomeness levels are equivalent:

  1. Watching the best at their best.  The demonstration of adjustability & incredible skill to package your horse beneath you without losing that critical forward impulsion & power, well, it was not only stunning, but consistent.
    • Subtle yet huge:  we all get our wrists slapped, no matter the discipline, for riding backwards.  I was thrilled to see lines & horses moving FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD, even as shapes & strides changed.
    Dan: "Meh." From
  2. Kim Severson.  O.M.G.  I want to ride like that.  A young me knew I was watching something special every time she & Dan (legend Winsome Andante, above) thundered by us to win Rolex THREE times (in between Olympic medals, ha), but add 15 years of educating my eye...
    • Every time she came through, it was like watching the flow of silk.  At a whole new pinnacle of her game, Kim's quiet body would offer just a breath of a suggestion through a soft shift of one hand.  I had goosebumps watching a near-telepathic invitation to the horse that connected delicacy to power, as if saying, "Lovely creature, the next jump is just there, well done." 
  3. Being part of the community.  Every time I volunteer, in any capacity, there's always this unique feeling, the knowledge that you are helping to create something bigger than yourself.  And it's a community of sharing, teaching, helping, learning...yes, you can start singing "kummm-by-yaaaa" now, ha!
  4. Seeing old friends, making new ones.  So many wonderful connections built up over the years & events are often the only chance I get to enjoy them in person!  And I don't think I've ever walked away without meeting a new one.  And hopefully not weirding them out too much in the process, heh.  Whether it's been a month or a year, the smiles, support, & stories never seem to wane.  
      • It's just a bonus to get to share the experience with BFF, who has a fabulous eye & eats up the epicness as fast as I do!
      I feel like I recognize that...
    1. Inspiration to work on my own horse.  We all get stuck.  Spending a day watching 150 mini-lessons 15' in front of me sends me home with a flurry of tips & ideas I can't wait to try.  It seems to remind my subconscious that, oh yeah, we used to do this fantastic thing, how about we get back to that??
    What about you?  Have you had the privilege to get free riding lessons from 10 pros at once volunteer recently?  What was your favourite??

    September 6, 2015

    The Day After: Shock & Awe

    Making Advanced 17A look easy
    Saturday was packed full of things both wonderful &, er, somewhat less so.

    Warning: many words follow, take your pee break now!! 

    *Photos can be clicked to embiggen. No, I have not mastered the 'selfie' & don't know why I appear compelled to hold phone 20' in the air*

    Definitely not boring, a beautiful day for Preliminary/Intermediate/Advanced Cross-Country at Five Points Horse Trials, but I would've been ok with "slightly less eventful."  (pun not intended)

    I'm going to bet that quite a few folks would agree on the latter!

    TD Bobby Stevenson briefs us
    Volunteering is ALWAYS educational.  I encourage everyone to never miss an opportunity to watch, listen & learn from a unique type of immersion you won't find anywhere else!  When 150 riders attempt to answer the same jumping question(s) right in front of you, it's an invaluable way to see what works & what doesn't.

    Although we always hope the "doesn't work" part is a simple run-out or refusal.

    What Happened?!

    Horses insist on being horses though, & no matter where, how well-prepared, well-designed, or even what discipline, for lack of a more concise summation, "shit happens."

    If you were following online through our feed or Event Entries great scoring service, you already know that BFF & I had a busy morning jump judging at I fences 17 & 18A/B, a challenging accuracy & planning question on the Intermediate course: 

    I intend a follow-up post including the many fantastic rides we saw & a breakdown of our fences for each level.  So I'm not going to delve into much detail here, but I want to share some of the parts that unfailingly remind me why I love eventing:  the people.

    Gratitude Due

    They need this shirt!!
    THANK YOU - to the medical team.  Nothing personal, but I generally dislike meeting you, especially so many of you, because that means gravity was not very nice to someone.

    However, (& I'm still sleuthing out the department to name) all of you were calmly expedient, compassionate, on your A-game, & took over rider care like a well-oiled machine.  I know first-hand that when you're the person on the ground, hearing kindness & confidence from your caregivers means everything.

    JJ, why do I always look rabid?
    THANK YOU - JJ, I can't say it enough.  I know some of you out there have been lucky enough to work with radio control queen, JJ Johnson, as well, so you can corroborate that there is NO ONE you'd rather have on the headset when there may be 4-5 horses on course at 2-minute start intervals.

    (Dutton, give me time to write down the previous rider's number before attempting to lap them!  Kidding - but whatever is in that man's cereal, I obviously need some!)

    JJ is not only on the ball as Incident Commander, but she is a true master cat herder.  From sitting next to her, learning that side of the mike while working Endurance Day control at So8ths 3DE, I can promise you that it is no easy task keeping track of horses, questions, & runners over a network of volunteers ranging from veteran to "wait, so the horse has to go BETWEEN the flags?"

    With 3-5 channels in front of her, JJ still keeps everyone safe, connects officials to volunteers to EMTs to scorers, every time.  And she can even do it with a smile.  Amazing isn't a big enough word.

    Miriam hooks us up!
    THANK YOU - to Miriam, wonderful volunteer coordinator.  That's one of, if not THE hardest jobs of all.  This was the first time I've met her, but positive energy, lots of helpful information beforehand, & plenty of delicious lunches & snacks (frozen chocolate bars, omg, I think I love you!!) -- it's what keeps that priceless commodity, our volunteer corps, coming back!

    THANK YOU - of course, to all my fellow volunteers!!  It may not feel very glamourous to handle traffic crossings or write down rows of zeros (but we do love zeros) all day, but not a single event would exist without you.

    CD Marc Donovan: "Don't wrinkle the shirt!"
    It's cliche but true!  You don't even have to be a horse person, you don't have to have any experience.  If you can read & write & push buttons & have polite human interactions, you're 100% qualified.  And did I mention my chicken salad was amazing, THANK YOU, whoever was lunch lady!!

    THANK YOU - to our favourite course builder (we can't help it, he's hilarious AND mad talented), Tyson Rementer, and his crew, always on hand for spares & repairs.

    I'm convinced that Tyson shares the ability to teleport with Boyd Martin, who I swear materialized out of thin air when our first rider fell (Seriously, it's uncanny how many times Boyd is present when things diverge from the plan!  But THANK YOU, too, for never hesistating to jump in & help!).

    I walk our Advanced line in possibly the most boring video ever:

    I know I'm hyperfocused both when I ride & judge XC, but as I hit the ground next to the rider to keep her still & talking (screaming's ok too, you can't scream without breathing, just stay with me & scream in a manner that lets me know you're not going to pass out, that's better for both of us) until Medical arrived, all of a sudden, a very familiar Aussie voice chimed in right next to my ear:  "Just be still, they'll be here right away, you'll be okay."

    Speak of the devil: Boyd & Welcome Shadow own it
    As I help EMT's figure out how to get her on the board without aggravating a hellaciously painful hip too much, there's Tyson too -- I'm telling you:  teleportation superpowers.

    There are, of course, MANY more, but I won't wear out your scroll button.

    And How Are Our Riders?

    Of the three falls at our I fence (A & P were nicely uneventful), Tiffini at 18B popped up quickly & her horse galloped back to stabling in fine form, so both appeared luckily none the worse for wear.
    Happy photos: Doug Payne & Vandiver (5th, A) land with eyes on target
    The other two did have the painful misfortune of their horse landing all or partly on top of them, but neither horse rotated & both horses hopped up sound & alert.  Both have my heartfelt empathy for also having the nasty luck of landing on their hips, which frankly, hurts beyond the ability of the best cursing.

    And I'm so sorry I had to make you lay on what hurt you most until Medical arrived, I was hurting right along with you, but no spinal injuries on my watch if I can help it!
    Photos AND horses need compression; Doug gets it done!
    As I shared in a brief update for Eventing Nation, just because all of us as fellow riders worry for our brothers & sisters, both Dana & Sara were talking to me & the EMTs & the lovely foam in their vests & helmets did its job perfectly.

    They left in excellent hands to get the good drugs & a thorough check alongside some hopefully peripheral repairs.  Hopefully both, along with Will Faudree, who suffered a solid whack at the fence after ours, will be on the mend quickly!!
    And Vandiver jumps out of the Advanced line, textbook
    And because I've been there, especially to Sara, who began asking me for details in the ambulance:  adrenaline makes us blank out for a reason.  To this day, I cannot remember what happened between the saddle & the ground on my Very Bad Day with Solo.  There's an email link at the top right of my page, don't hesitate to use it if you have questions after you're feeling better!

    Bests to everyone today, have a great ride, & do your best to keep the steel side down!
    Seriously, both these coolers were in the volunteer tent, we all should have chosen from the bottom one!

    September 4, 2015

    Follow The Action: Five Points HT A/I/P XC Live!

    If, you can't ride...get judgy?

    That's right, I'm going to be taking names and, er, hopefully writing a lot of zeros!

    BFF & I will be sporting TFS pride tomorrow (translation: I'm totally wearing my dorky awesome shirt), volunteering as jump judges at the Carolina Horse Park's pinnacle fall event.

    Eventing Nation posted a great preview & you can find live scores at Event Entries.
    Between duties, I'll be sure to add some trademark ridiculous commentary just for you on both our new Instagram feed & live on Twitter.

    Since, I know your life cannot possibly be complete without my random brain drool, it's easy to access in the right sidebar or from the social icons at the very tippy top of any page on our site.

    5...4...3...2...1...don't say I didn't warn you!

    September 2, 2015

    Obvious Riding, Obviously

    A normal workday-& perfect metaphor for my life
    It's been hard to write.  It's been hard to ride.  I'd guess all my fellow horse-bloggers understand the relationship between the two.

    Added to the mayhem which is field season at work are repeated spins on the health care roulette wheel.  Only I can't seem to get the ball to land in a winning slot.  :/

    We're still gathering data, but there is a glimpse of a silver lining, aka treatable things.  Which would be fantastic, as I'd love to, you know, get back to living my life?

    Hence my offering of a consolation prize in the form of the ridiculously dorky photo feed now featured on our homepage.

    There Was An Actual Dressage Thing, Though!

    I have eked out some rides here & there.  Last weekend, Encore challenged my commitment to "I Will" during a brief dressage school.

    As we began a few figures in the 20 x 40, my horse was tuning me out & going llama.  I got emotional:  I got frustrated.  Red flag that things were spiraling downhill.

    Letting go:  possible!
    But then I let go.

    I paused to breathe & regroup my scattered bits of focus.  The trainer in my head firmly repeated, "Ride off your leg, let go of the death grip on your horse's face, BE PATIENT."

    We rode centerline & diagonals & I focused on staying soft.  I focused on supporting with my seat & core.  And I waited.

    Patience Is The Hardest Part

    I just kept riding as correctly as possible & around the third or fourth repetition...I felt Encore start to trust.  He was trusting forward & trusting that I would not suffocate the energy flow with my hand.

    As we turned across each successive diagonal, I felt his trot lift & push from behind.  And lo & behold, correct worked.

    Maybe I should try that more often.
    Never too much Grumpy Cat