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We Are Flying Solo

February 27, 2016

A Singularly Solo (S)Celebration

Can it really have been 10 years??  As I broke Solo's favourite candy canes into his 20th birthday breakfast last Sunday, I couldn't quite believe in a DECADE.

A DECADE - that's encompassed what feels like several lifetimes.  Maybe that's why I fantasize about naps, ha.  While our official 10-year anniversary isn't until Memorial Day weekend, I can't help but feel like we've checked a major milestone.
Beginnings: our trot in Aug 2006
LITERALLY our first jump together (& awesome critique here)
2009: My 30th, his 13th
I don't know Solo's actual birthday.  All I had was the Coggins in the envelope with the bill of sale, taken in January of 2006, describing a 9-yr-old gelding.

When I met him that May, he was advertised as 10, so I decided to give him my own birthday, sitting neatly in the middle & a date I might even remember.
June '07: Ian Stark shows me what my horse can really do!
Given the electric phenomenon of our initial encounter, I suppose I should have known that unimaginable adventures lay ahead of us.  But, well, I was an exuberant 27...and they were unimaginable!
May '07: 1st show (I still thought we were hunters, LOL)
Solo may have been the first horse who was ever my own, but I have had the privilege (some more pleasant than others...) of working with countless others, as far back as my memory can reach.
June '07: That Stark guy suggests he might have some jump (my eyes are closed in terror)
Yet, he remains astonishingly unique, truly his own sphere of being, capable of becoming what BFF once accurately described as "a force of nature," ALWAYS on his own terms.
Solo discovers his calling when Ian takes us XC that summer
But his kindness & fiercely loyal generosity have more than once moved me beyond words.
June '08: Our first XC at BN Foxtrack, making it up as we go
The greatest gift of my life, that chestnut face is also the sole remaining bridge to the person I was & the person I loved before the loss whose story is still trapped inside.
Fall '10:  We've found our stride...literally. Photo purchased from Brant Gamma.

Spring '10: The joy of flight. By Pics of You.
Many of you know I'm a painfully practical biologist, not prone to anthropomorphize.

However, I also know that "different" is not the same as "lesser;" I have seen animals defy our limitations too many times.

And Solo's ability to look into my core, to lend me his strength, his joie de vivre, to become so intently still when things fall apart & promise me, on a level of communication I can't explain, that he will wait with me & it will be ok...that horse continues to save my life.

It's a worn-out cliché, but a truth nonetheless.

May '07: Our first blues
So, my notoriously shiny, larger-than-life, impossibly endearing, hopelessly optimistic, greatest partner, everything I have & am is yours.

You taught me that trust opens up the sky for soaring, that being patient & fair is often more important than being right.
Apr '10: Owning Novice Longleaf HT. Photo by Pics of You.
You never let your body get in the way of your enormous heart, you gave...simply because I asked.  Even when you shouldn't have.
SJ at 2010 Longleaf HT: Poetic partnership.  By Pics of You.
Oct '10: Steeplechase w Becky Holder
We're both older, each with some busted-up cartilage, joints that predict the weather, & a longing to burst out of that start box together once more.

I can at least give you wide pastures & good friends, for which I'm so grateful.
May '11: Training Level sexy
And we can pause together in the loblolly's shade, watch the heron stalk unwary fish, & relive a thousand memories in every touch.  And if we're lucky, share many more new ones.

From a 2010 indulgence of my inner 12-yr-old, an illustration

Song by Templeton Thompson, a very talented & kind singer/songwriter/horsewoman I had the pleasure of meeting at an Equine Affaire in Raleigh.

February 16, 2016

You Can Win The Triple Crown Of Eventing – At Beginner Novice

Or Novice.  Or Training.  Or even Prelim.

This is not a joke.   This is a real broadcast from the “Awesome Eventing Opportunity” system.

You may have read a few posts here about a certain long format 3-day-event that comes around on the first weekend in May.  That’s right, Heart of the Carolinas (HOTC) 3DE at the spectacular Southern Eights Farm, just across our southern border in Chesterfield, SC.

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2015 BN3DE Prizes
A spring sister event to the Waredaca 3DE that first inspired my (as-yet-thwarted, sigh) singular T3DE completion goal, HOTC brings it all to the table: a destination facility, a championship-level cross country course, phenomenal clinicians, incredible sponsors (no, Sponsorship Coordinator is not biased at all, hee)…I have so much to share, but that’s another post.

I can’t resist some tempting breadcrumbs, though: how about Sally O’Connor, Carol Kozlowski, special editions from Jim Wofford, Doug Payne…but I digress.

Yeah, Get To That “Triple Crown” Part

While there is a great KY Derby party, that’s not the one I’m talking about.   Last year, some inspired heads came together & created the Carolina Eventing Challenge (CEC).  And HOTC is the final leg of this series.  Are you ready??
Equine opinion may vary (2015 HOTC Jog)
CEC Levels - Beginner Novice, Novice, Training, & Preliminary (as noted)

To win, horse & rider team must complete a minimum of TWO of these
  1. Southern Pines HT (Carolina Horse Park; hurry, entries close 23 Feb!) 
  2. Longleaf Pine HT (Carolina Horse Park; always my favourite HT
  3. HOTC 3DE (Southern Eighths Farm; includes CEC description) 
One must be HOTC and only the 3DE divisions count towards the CEC mega-prize (to be announced).  The one exception is Prelim, as we do not have a Prelim XC course at HOTC, the Prelim CT, which incorporates some Derby fences, will be included in the Challenge.  Lowest scores win.

That’s right, you don’t have to be Pippa Funnell to win an epic eventing series!

2015 TIP Delights
More Than One Way To Play

Not ready (or still working on that quarter jar *raises hand*) for the 3DE yet?  Come on down for our parallel HT divisions, including a new Intro course & the just-created BN-Assisted division.   Bonus:  your OTTB can win cash prizes from the Jockey Club's TB Incentive Program in the HT as well!

Evil goal-thwarting horse (*raises other hand*)?  Um, our volunteer swag is kind of awesome & you can attend all the clinics/coursewalks/lectures for free!

You can find details in the USEA Omnibus listing here.  We already have some amazing prizes for the 3DE (all three long format divisions receive prizes through 8th place); you can check out our ever-growing list of sponsors on the event website.

Can’t make it, but want to be a part of the action?  Fence sponsorships are inexpensive & open to anyone: the LOWER (League of Weenie Event Riders, I love it!) group has supported a XC fence, Riding Warehouse is sponsoring the water complex with more fab prizes…it would be great to have a Horse Bloggers fence, if someone wants to help organize it!!   Leave a comment note or click the email icon up top to give me a shout.

For more information, including TFS posts, EN articles, program links, & more, I maintain a clearinghouse page here, which is also linked in the slider at the bottom of our homepage.

Come fly the Carolina skies! (2014 BN3DE Haffie Whinney The Pooh, I'm not making that up)

February 7, 2016

Allow Your Horse To Believe In You

The concept of "belief" can at first sound nebulous, but in our riding, it directly translates to the essentials of trust and confidence.  In ourselves, in our partners, and theirs in us.

I've been picking away at a captivating book -- that speaks my language:  "The Natural Rider:  A Right-Brain Approach To Riding," by dressage and biomechanics author, Mary Wanless.  There is a long list of insights to discuss already & I'm only halfway through!

But one that continues to jump (pun not intended!) out at me speaks to both the foundation & the everyday process of training & schooling.  This is what we must carry with us in order to succeed in defying gravity in all its forms:

Yes, Solo once had a (exceedingly strong-willed) mane!  There are many layers of warm fuzzies in this blast from the past...June 2007, our clinic with Ian Stark (collected reports here) which took us to a brave new world. 

February 2, 2016

Of Tales And Trails

Do you think our stories break when we do?  Or do they just get so tangled up that we can't find a view of the road?

I'm still struggling to figure it out - or at least looking for some high ground that might offer a bit of perspective.  Who knew the search would be measured in years??  But the tangle, the fog, whatever it is that swallowed the map is the same thing that has dragged at my efforts to write to you.

This blog is a journey, just as much as the tales it chronicles.  I guess it shouldn't be shocking that a journey involving horses has sinkholes, detours, & inexplicable roadblocks!  Nonetheless, I apologize for my stutters, fits, & gaps of silence (although more than one person that knows me might say that last is a blessing, ha).

I'm working hard on the search for impulsion, though.  Half-steps are hard for horses & people (dressage joke FTW)!  I do feel like there's been some improvement in muscling!

Encore approves
Stepping Out

Encore & I did get to indulge in some desperately-needed trail therapy on Sunday.  Sun & warmth & wait, was that a bud on that tree?

Riding has been a wee bit challenging for everyone this winter, so our rehab pretty much matches my posting attempts:  sporadically possible, with moderate chance of fail.  But there be muscles on the horse too!

We've combined hill-walking, W/T transitions with roundness, some collected walk with lots of topline stretching, & occasional bursts of weather-permitted trot sessions.  While we're hardly ring-ready, Encore's been pushing evenly behind (one of my big indicators) & happily loped over some 18" obstacles.

Getting back in the woods was a wonderful treat - many thanks to lovely neighbour Vanessa for  pony daycare, as poor Solo can't keep up with giant TB strides for two hours anymore.

And my gratitude to you for all the forms of support & patience, no matter how small:  they always means so very much!

Deep breath then, & we shall attempt another step.

I'll never tire of my sky!
I have heard that voice many a time when asleep
and, what is strange, I understood more or less
an order or an appeal in an unearthly tongue:

day draws near
another one
do what you can. 

-Czeslaw Milosz