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We Are Flying Solo

May 14, 2016

Moments Make Memories

I have a confession to make, while I'm sorting through piles of Southern Eighths stories & photos.  I 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!):


  1. Sounds like an incredible event :)

    1. We got very lucky with weather again this year & there is always so much to learn! :-)

  2. You are an amazing writer and I feel gifted from having read this... thanks!

    1. Suzanne, you are too kind, but you're welcome & thank you for indulging my random ramblings.

  3. Hey, there's my pony in the background next to Tori! Ha!

    What a great post. And I have been there before. Many years ago, I was JJ volunteering at Surefire and walked some of the Training fences after the event was over. At the time I had a horse that ended up being essentially a write-off in the suitability/soundness/training department, so I was feeling really miserable since I hadn't even completed a BN with him. Training seemed like a pipe dream at the time. But I kept volunteering and experiencing new things and meeting new people, and it kept me going until somehow the stars lined up and I did find the right horse (and even then it took several more years before I got to Training level!). And you will ride that course someday, I promise!

    Also, I cannot even begin to describe what a great time I had... I knew it was going to be fun, but this far exceeded my expectations. I wish I had gone up and introduced myself but wasn't 100% sure which one was you! (Plus I don't think I had more than 2 minutes of downtime the whole weekend. No idea how my neighbor was able to both the N3D and T3D on two horses without a groom, I was barely able to do fairly self-sufficient TB.)

    I will try to come back next year; if I can't, I will do anything I can to help out with organizing/running/whatever. :)

    1. Kendall! Well done, you! And thanks for the encouraging words, it means a great deal indeed! It is hard sometimes, I feel like I've been "almost there" for so long. But being able to be a part of making an experience like that possible continues to be full of its own kind of rewards indeed. I am so glad you had unexpected levels of fun!

      It takes a huge cooperation to bring all the pieces together, but a vital voice completing the symphony, as it were, is that of all the horse & rider teams who earn their way there. And as you know, I definitely know how much work it takes & making it to the awards ceremony is a feat approaching par with a miracle in my book!!

      I'm going to hold you to that promise, LOL. I did notice Jodie's (& I think someone else's, Jodie ran in our N3DE last year with her older Appy) double feat, I was totally ready to catch ride so they wouldn't get so tired having to do TWO 3DE's at once. I mean, that just seemed neighbourly... But alas, they had it totally covered.

      You probably didn't catch many glimpses of me, ha, I am in the judges/control booth on Endurance & SJ day & radio instructions across to Erica, who was keeping the prize mountain in order for me. I have to sit right behind the judges & score-master & live-track everyone across divisions, plus consult the GJ & vets for all our awesome special awards, so I don't escape the box till the end, haha. You can tell which one is looking for the invisible person who, if sighted, is balancing 2 radios, a headset, & a laptop while trying to make sure autocorrect doesn't turn Instagram sponsor tags into some horrible insult word!

      I might have to come up with a "Tag The Blogger" prize for 2017, though!! Bonus points for finding us without nametags, hee. And we have sweet volunteer swag too -- Nicole from Eventing At Midnight can testify, she came down & helped all four days from VA to learn the ropes before she shoots for the BN3DE!!

      If I ever make it to the jog-up, though, I feel confidence I'll be the most well-prepared 3DE participant of all time because as you so correctly noted, the education, meeting officials, listening to judges, spending time with CDs & vets & builders -- I couldn't begin to put a price on those opportunities.

      Definitely keep it on the calendar, there's lots of fun things to do & even more new goodies for next year (because that's how So8ths rolls, it's my pretend fantasy world, ha). And oops, your name is already in my spreadsheet! (Because I'll be mailing you a check from Jockey Club as soon as I get it!)