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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label humour. Show all posts
Showing posts with label humour. Show all posts

April 30, 2020

A Different Kind Of Derby

In an effort to give us all something to think about that is not tragic or terrifying, I present to you the following:

This weekend is the first Saturday in May, but due to COVID-19, for the first time since 1945, there will be no horses lining up at the post for the Kentucky Derby.  There WILL however be a Derby...

...of turtles! 

You can read the details here about the Kentucky Turtle Derby, which will even include an official race call by the Triple Crown announcer.  It doesn't sound like he has ever called a race this long before.  This isn't the first time racing reptiles have stepped in to give us something to cheer for:  the Turtle Derby emerged the same year, 1945, of the last equine Derby cancellation.

I will definitely be tuning to see the athletic prowess of delightfully named animals including Seattle Slow & Sir Hides A Bunch.  Thank you to whoever is organizing this, I, for one, sorely need a little levity.

It'd be even funnier if they actually ran like this...

February 7, 2015

Priceless Tips For Working Safely Outside

Still my favourite safety graphic...
All of us have reason to challenge The Great Outdoors.  Some of us even get paid (sort of) for it.  Although we in the latter group try to be certain we only hurt ourselves when NOT covered by Workman’s Comp.  Why lessen the burden on our already meagre salaries??

However, unless you are a cave troll (in which case, congratulations on mastering literacy & internet use!), if you are involved with horses, you will find yourself faced with Outside Tasks.  Whether it be opening a hay bale, removing a loose nail from a fence post, or something else, it is critical to always use all available safety gear & plan ahead to avoid needless injury (the last bit is our horses’ job, duh!).

Because Eventer79 Wants To Keep You Safe:  Things You May Not Have Considered
For example, you may have a few pine trees in your horse’s pasture, carrying a collection of small spears dead snags & branches on the lower portions of their trunks.  Should you decide to take care of this on a whim one morning, it is first important to choose an undersized tool.  The more ineffective it is, the more fun you will have!
My pines only LOOK innocent
When you engage your tool of choice, in this case, a very sharp hatchet (because borrowing an axe or chainsaw from neighbours within shouting distance will only hinder the insistence of your brain that you are going to do this NOW), try these techniques:
  1. Pine trees have brittle bark, which splinters into tiny shrapnel with every blow.  You should definitely not bother walking back inside to get sunglasses to protect your eyes.  Your prescription is already –8, there’s not much to lose anyway.
  2. Make sure & stare directly at the branch when you hit it, preferably with your mouth open, so that all of your mucous membranes can enjoy the shower of bitter, painful pine shards.
  3. To avoid this, you can adjust your position in relation to the branch.  I suggest standing precisely downwind, so now, the shrapnel can be blown right into your face with no effort whatsoever.

Another Easily Forgotten Phenomenon

If you are standing below say, a dead limb, & you whack at it with a sharp, metal object, the limb, being subject to a force called Gravity, will fall down when loosed from the tree trunk.

No worries!  By ducking & cursing, you may get lucky & only part of it will bounce off of your body (layers are your friend).

Returning To The Brittle Nature Of The Pine

Another special characteristic to enjoy goes something like this:

  1. After whacking at the base of a larger branch with your hatchet for a few minutes, you may decide this isn't fun anymore & your shoulder is tired the connection has been weakened enough that you can now use your body weight to snap off the whole thing at once.  
  2. Nooo...not like that!
  3. Remember your physics:  the farther away from the pivot/breaking point (where the branch joins the tree) you are, the greater force you can exert with the same amount of effort.  So you don’t want to try this right at the base.  Torque = Force x Moment Arm, people!  (No, I have no idea why that one stuck with me, but it's been endlessly useful since 1998.  If you know what a breaker bar is, you know what I mean.)
  4. Pull back hard a little ways out & if you do it correctly, the part you are holding will break off in your hands so you fall down immediately.  Success!  
  5. Even better, the large chunk between your hands & the tree trunk will also break off at both ends & become a completely unpredictable 12” projectile of 2” diameter wood.  Remember:  DUCK & CURSE.

Finally, If You Can Still See

And you have not managed to cut off your ear while scratching your nose with the hand holding the hatchet (sharp end right next to your face, of course):

  • Halfheartedly whack at poison ivy vines as thick as your arms.  
  • These are even better because instead of splinters, the vine disintegrates into a powdery dust.  Just like campfire smoke, no matter where you stand, this delightful cloud is guaranteed to blow directly into your face & eyes.  
  • In optimal conditions, you are also allergic to poison ivy.
Since you're probably now exhausted due to the completely impulsive nature of this effort, undertaken before you have eaten breakfast (but your horses have!), it is best to just give up after a handful of completely useless cuts.  You may have filled your eyes with poisonous oils for nothing, but you sure told that vine a thing or two!

Oh, sorry, too late...

December 24, 2014

A Few Of My Favourite Things!

Sing it with me now!

*dons epic Julie Andrews voice, click if you need to tune yours...*

Haynets on doorknobs and blankets draped sideways,
Horseshoes in puddles and eagles that spy them,

Streams of clear water that drip from hay string;
These are a few of my favourite things.

Merry Xmas to me from Encore!
Poo-coated buckles and stick-tangled tails,
Fetlocks all muddy and rainfall-filled pails,

Notes to the shoer, who can’t wait for spring;
These are a few of my favourite things!

When the boot rips,
When the wind blows,
When I’m charging lamps,

I simply remember my favourite things,
And then I don’t feeeeeel
So daaamp.


February 5, 2014

The Auger Returns: A One-Act Play

Setting:  A mild day in a North Carolina field.  Two people are going about the business of setting a 6 x 6 and a 4 x 4 post as anchors for Flying Solo Farm's shed dividers.  However, the tractor currently has the frame drag attached, so it must be traded out for the auger, which sits in the lovely, but unnecessary hole it made in November.

ACB:  He even matches the tractor!
Eventer79:  Hey, honey, I'm just going to go dump the drag and fetch the auger, I'll be back in a little bit, ok?

Awesome Crew B (hereafter ACB):  Ummmm, ok.....

Eventer79 exits stage left.  Eventer79 re-enters stage left 45 seconds later.

Eventer79:  Yeah, that is a really stupid idea.  This is going to take two people, will you come with me? [note that the auger had been placed in a temporary storage location on a slope and is heavy as shit]

ACB:  Sure, I wondered how you were going to pull that off.

Eventer79 and ACB exit stage left with tractor and unhook drag before proceeding down the hill.  Enter auger stage right.

Eventer79:  Lalalala, I'll just back up to it and we'll hook it right up, because we left it set up that way last time!

Auger:  heh heh heh heh.....

ACB:  Ummmm, hey, the top bar is blocked by the PTO housing?

Just keep backing, just keep backing...
Eventer79:  Oh yeah, duh.  I already forgot that you have to take off the top arm of the 3-point hitch first and that bar goes there.

ACB:  Ah, that's right, ok, we're good now, just roll back a little.  [connects uphill 3-pt arm]

Auger:  Now watch this...

ACB:  W.T.F. [despite much struggling, kicking, and pondering, we cannot get the downhill arm to line up with the pin]

Enter Amazing Neighbour stage right.  Proceed with hammering and head-scratching.  Eventer79 is glad that she did not attempt this alone or else she might have needed a sleeping bag.

Auger:  You shall never defeat me...



Neighbour:  Let's just disconnect the uphill one and then do the downhill one first.  Then the uphill one will be easy.

Eventer79:  Oh.  Well.  Yes, this is why I like having you around, you always have better ideas!

Auger:  Dammit...

Seat with a view.  Well, pre-shed.
Cheers erupt, the throttle is increased and the triumphant team of Eventer79 and ACB roll up the hill with waves of thanks to Amazing Neighbour.

Auger:  Oh, you think you're great now, huh?

Eventer79:  Something feels funny.  Like something is catching.


ACB:  What the..the PTO came off.  But it was on there really well!  Sigh.  We'll just hold it till we get to the shed.

The returning party arrives at the shed and with the application of much grease, proceeds to firmly reattach PTO and double check that everything is secure.  Hole locations are flagged, measurements re-measured, and it's go-time.

Eventer79:  You better drill a bloody hole this time, you recalcitrant beast, after all that!!

Auger:  Grumble...

The hitch is lowered, PTO engaged, clutch lifted, and...

Auger:  Fine.  Whatevs.  I know where you live...

After much leaping and dancing for joy, the second hole is drilled, posts set and leveled, concrete poured, and holes tamped down.  Hope remains, then, for holes where you actually want them!  Lesson:  do not store your implements on a slope if you want to hook them up by yourself.  Noted.

We have very serious groundhogs in NC.

January 11, 2014

Farm + Paint = Estate!

L. Williams (so you know who to blame) requested some more samples of my exquisite Paint artistry (I can't really blame them, I mean, you saw it...), so in an attempt to distract myself from having a panic attack about falling trees during a current fast-moving stormfront, I have focused all my creative energies to create for you these masterpieces.   The shoddy Photoshop work is just a bonus.

You're welcome.  As always, you may click to embiggen.

Here you can see a nice little redbud tree on the west side of the house & carefully planned native plant-scaping.  They did finish the stucco on the foundation finally, although I'm still waiting for my dang shutters so I just drew some in, hee.  No large trees allowed near the house since the truck-crusher of Summer 2013 (thankfully not personal truck, omg)!

The boys are unseasonably shiny this year, aren't they?  And Solo is so majykal that green grass grows wherever he steps.  Naturally.  The "Carolina horse shelter" (the horses live in a carport already, it's very common here; this baby is engineered and certfied for 130 mph winds) is completed as of yesterday!

Now all I need are two 10' gates.  And a 6 x 6.  And four 4 x 4's.  And a water trough.  And eyebolts for cross-ties.  And time to backfill & finish the fence.  But hey, I'm watching the ditches for loot!

The Master Plan.  Call it a 5-year plan.  Or maybe a 20-year plan.  But it is my vision for the future!  Of course I colour-coded it!

As of now, the house, shed, & hay shelter are essentially done (ok, so I need electricity.  And shutters.  And an inspection.  Details.) & the north & south sides of the main pasture (the top one is only for riding until I can find some free t-posts to finish the back fenceline) have their strip of tape up.  The lower pasture is also ready to use, although only when I am living there, as I can't afford to put a strip of tape in front of that wire yet; Solo & wire have a bad history.

Taaaape.  Loving the Horseguard, although I have not fully tensioned it yet.
Yes, my fence will be bipolar -- eesh, not my favourite product name, but it's still great stuff!  That way, I do not have to ground my charger unless I want to activate the wire.  You try driving a 10-foot rod in the Carolina piedmont.  Not till the neighbour's hydraulic post driver comes home!  My dressage arena is all ready:  all six little white plastic cones just need to move to their spots in the grass.

What do you mean I have to go to work?  I have plenty of work right here!

January 4, 2014

A Little Video Of Solo And I Playing Bareback In The Winter

I didn't feel like getting the tack out so, I just looped the lead rope around and hopped on.  Sorry, I was so excited about the new indoor I finally completed at the new farm, I forgot my helmet!


In all seriousness, though, Satchmo is and always will be an amazing horse and his partnership with Isabell has that rare quality which surpasses talent and skill and training and resides in the realm of heart and magic.  Enjoy.

November 26, 2013

How To Dig A Hole

You have a tractor and a big auger that has been dying to eat some dirt, so no problem, right?  Perfect timing, because you have a mailbox to install!

But it looked really cool!!
(1) 811, call before you dig!!  No one wants to be that person dodging the neighbours' bullets because you severed their phone lines.

(2) Carefully select perfect spot for mailbox placement next to driveway and flag your point.

(3) Place tractor so your auger point is over your point.  Lower until the tip touches the ground (PTO off!), then maneuver/tug/finangle until it is reasonably straight.

(4)  Drill!!  Drill more!!  Yeah...

(5) Realize that all you have done, despite shoveling out a pilot hole, is made a very shiny, very shallow divot.  The ground is too hard and your auger is going nowhere.

(6) Pout in disappointment and dejected gloom that your auger so cruelly failed you.

(7) Dig hole with pointy metal stick (which was surprisingly effective, worlds better than cursed posthole diggers!) and shovel.  At least it only had to be 18".

(8) You still have to put auger away.  Knowledgeable-type people have recommended drilling a hole before you disconnect it from the 3-point hitch so it can stand on its own and you can hitch by yourself next time.  Skepticism abounds.

(9)  Return to attachment storage pen and back tractor into place.  Turn on PTO and begin drilling with substantially lowered expectations.

(10)  Use your quick reflexes to hit the clutch and stop the auger before it pulls the tractor into the new well it has just dug, sinking at least 3 feet in about 15 seconds like a mole on Ecstasy.

(11) Try not to let the whole street hear your cursing.

Moral of this important lesson:  when you want to auger a hole with cool equipment, make sure it is somewhere where you don't really need a hole.  If you require a useful hole to actually place mailboxes, fenceposts, and other such useful items, abandon hope, all ye who attempt.

June 17, 2013

How To Make A Lasting First Impression

Perhaps you have a job interview for that dream position or perhaps you are pitching a hot new idea at a big meeting.  You want to blow their minds, right, and be certain that you are the hot topic for the rest of the day?

Do I have the solution for you!

This brilliant scheme was first practiced on a beautiful Saturday morning as BFF and I prepared to meet the group on our Mount Rogers trip last month.  The horses were tacked up and I had longed Encore briefly, since he had demonstrated an abundance of energy and he was wearing some new saddlebags.  Everything was purring along smoothly and our farrier came splashing across the creek to pick us up and lead us to the group rendezvous.

We mounted and followed him back through the trees to a small meadow where roughly eight other horses and riders awaited.  Encore had been placid as a lamb on the longe and marched calmly along just in front of BFF's Pete.  Entering the clearing, I smiled and waved at the group, as we did not know anyone except for farrier and his family.

"Hey, peoples!" I called gleefully.  The greeting is key to the success of this approach, as it maximizes your chances of being seen.

I didn't mean to...
No sooner had the words left my mouth, then Encore transformed from quiet trail horse to apocalyptic explosion.

As he leaped straight into the air like a gazelle, it felt exactly like sitting on a horse who is being stung by bees (been there, done that).  Yet there had been hardly any flying insects and all the other horses were watching in frozen amazement.

The first leap hurtled me vertically and to one side, but I had a leg on and felt like things could still be saved.  But then I received the memo that there was a second leap.  All hope was lost.

Luckily, at this point in my life, when being catapulted from an equine, I have learned to relax everything and roll with it (the deathly Solo fall was sadly, not a catapult situation).  While I landed hard, the impact was mostly to my head, shoulder and elbow, and I quickly rolled onto my back.  No harm, no foul (although I will be taking advantage of Saturday's helmet sales!), thanks to the ever-present noggin protector.  Without the latter, our weekend would have ended very messily right there.

Encore ran in a circle to his friend, Pete, and stopped, trembling.  I jumped up and walked over to him -- hey, my instinct is to FIND MY HORSE, since a certain orange beast was always one to run off -- to inspect him and try and solve the mystery.  We never were able to confirm much.  He was unhurt, no signs of bites or stings.  He did jump when I touched the saddlebags (I longed him in them and he has worn his own, very similar ones, heaps of times!!!) so I  moved them from the cantle to the pommel of the saddle.  I climbed back on and he was fine.

He was not being spooky or naughty or even excited.  Something convinced him that he was being suddenly stung and it scared the life out of him.  For a horse who spooks by standing still and getting very tall, I would never expect that kind of panic reaction, but he is still a horse and apparently believed that full-body rocket-launch was the only escape!

I am damn sure, however, that no one will EVER forget that entrance!!!

This post brought to you by WEAR YOUR FREAKIN' HELMET!, inc.

October 29, 2011

It Only Takes 30 Minutes To Feed The Horses

Especially on a cold, rainy evening.  There's only six of them, easy, right? Bring horses in, dump the feed, turn them back out, done!

Except the water on the beet pulp's gone cold and I want to run some hot water in there.

Except since it's raining and 45 degrees, I want to put a rain sheet on Solo.

Except he's got festy gnat bites on his belly that won't heal and I want to clip around them and spray tea tree oil on there.

Then I decide to go ahead and clip his back white foot because the fungus is always attacking.

Then I need to smear some more desitin on that foot anyway.

Then I need to take Solo's rain sheet off of Encore and put it on Solo.

Now Encore gets Solo's mid-weight blanket because it's not QUITE cold enough for his winter blanket but he's skinny so he needs more than a sheet.

Then Danny needs his sheet because it's wet and cold.

Danny and Solo can finally go out but now I have three leftovers.

Tigger's pasturemate is out of town and he can't stay alone. I can put Tigger with Pete and Encore but now they all need their own hay piles.

Except there are no open hay bales so now I need to climb the stack in the extra stall and roll a couple down.

Then I need to take hay out to each horsey so no one feels left out.

Then I have to scrub all the feed buckets so they are ready for the next morning.

Then I discover Tigger and Pete both left presents in their stalls for me.

Then I need to sweep up fallen hay and make sure everyone has water.

An hour and a half later, I can finally go home.

May 26, 2011

A Carolina Rodeo

I am coaxing a knee back into cooperation and I just got dexamethasone shot into my spine (hey, now me and Solo have even more in common!).  Problem:  I need to keep Solo moving without me in the saddle this week.

Perfect solution: we've ponied Pete several times, now Pete can pony Solo. Solo was an experienced ponier at the track, no problem to just switch roles, right? So I set lifeshighway up with the shiny beast and they wander off into the woods to work on some conditioning.

Oh, why didn't I notice she wasn't wearing gloves. I kept a nervous eye on the back gate. Solo is very strong. And have I ever mentioned his tantrums that hath no warning?

I hear the jingle of bells when Pete returns.

"How'd it go?" I asked.


Uh oh. Apparently Solo was moderately amenable to the plan for a while (although he is Pete's boss in the pasture so he had no qualms about body checking the little guy). Until he decided he wanted to have a little gallop.

I believe that ended with Solo galloping in a lead-rope sized circle while lifeshighway hung on and Pete spun in little circles trying to keep up. She adamantly protested that she did not want to suffer the shame of having Solo beat her home. I hope she does not have too much rope burn on her very capable hands.

Am I cruel because I wish there was a video? I made sure everyone was ok first. Pete gets a gold star for stepping up to be cow pony.

Naughty, naughty orange horse. I put him to bed with some bute and hopefully he did not damage himself unduly, the idiot. Guess he feels recovered from his horse trial. You just never know when even the calmest horse is going to lose his shit.

Never, never pony a horse without gloves and always tie a knot in the end of the lead rope. And it's ok to let go, I won't laugh too hard and it's better than getting hurt. Here endeth my lesson.

I shall be hiding out in a cabin in the middle of a national forest for the weekend and letting the river attempt to work magical healing powers. Hopefully, next week, I can climb back on the horse and get to work.

Have a safe and beautiful holiday weekend!

April 21, 2011


The O is for Owner. In case you wondered.

Lesson: do not fire off an angry email to your saddle fitter because you are exhausted and frustrated and you had a bad day. They are not actually your best friend so they won't get that you are just tired and frustrated. They may get quite offended and take it personally. Oops. My bad.

On the other side of a long night, I have decided I will not put Solo up for auction on eBay as things are probably all my fault anyway, in some way shape or form. We can only work with what we have. Today is "nice hack in the woods" day and tomorrow he gets to just have a bath and chill out in his pre-competition day off. Hopefully, he won't hold a grudge.

I have just dropped my entry for for the Virginia Horse Trials in the mailbox -- for Training Level. No takey-backeys now. Next month we'll have to take a deep breath and go for the big game.

We've also got our ride times for Longleaf Pines this weekend. I must have pissed off the organizer.

Dressage: Saturday at 7:42 am. Owwwwww. 
Cross Country: Saturday at 1:44 pm. Hmmm, maybe enough time for a nap.
Stadium: Sunday afternoon in reverse order of placing.

You will be able to watch and groan/cheer here with live scoring.

March 31, 2011

What I Wish I Was Doing Today

Was that really only two weeks ago? Hard to believe on this drizzly, grey day.

What I am ACTUALLY doing today -

It's just not the same.

March 17, 2011

Are You Ready To Be A Horse Owner?

Wondering if you are ready to take the big step of having a horse of your own? I have come up with an iron-clad test of preparedness for horse ownership.

Step 1: Go to your bank and withdraw $500 or the balance of your account, whichever is greater. Small bills are better.

Step 2: Take your cash home and carry it to your backyard.

Step 3: Carefully arrange your bills in a pile on the ground. This is why you want small bills -- it makes a bigger pile.

Step 4: Sprinkle the pile liberally with diesel fuel.

Step 5: Drop a match into the center of the pile.

Step 6: As you watch your money burn, carefully evaluate your feelings.

If:  you are bothered by the sight of your hard-earned cash being incinerated before your eyes for no apparent reason, you are not ready to be a horse owner.

If: you find yourself undisturbed by the sudden and unexpected disappearance of your money and maybe, in fact, you even giggle a little and dance around the flames, congratulations: you will make an excellent horse owner! You have no emotional attachment to your liquid assets and will remain calm when asked to part with most or all of it on a regular basis. Head on over to DreamHorse now!

That's a pretty big smile -- obviously a seasoned owner!

August 5, 2010

Buddy Plug

Ohhh, I just realized that may be a poor title choice, but it made me giggle, so there.  This is just a PSA to help out a good friend in her quest for blogging glory!  In Solo stories, you have met our friend lifeshighway and her trusty mount, Pete the Endurance Racing Arab.  Her hilarious blog, Along Life's Highway: The Yard Art Game is in the running for several awards, including "Best Hobby Blog" in the Blogger's Choice Awards. Now unfortunately, to vote, you do have to set up an account, but it's quick and relatively painless and they don't send you spam. She still needs votes to climb to the top of the heap, so Solo and I humbly plead with you to take a few clicks to help a fellow HorseGeek in need!

Click at Blogger's Choice Awards or the blog itself, Along Life's Highway in the right sidebar.

March 19, 2010

How To Blanket A Horse

I bet you thought you knew how to perform this simple skill, didn't you? Well, around our place, some technique modification is required.

1. Enter pasture with blanket wadded under one arm so you can open the gate with the other.
2. Unwind blanket straps from around legs as horses trot up to investigate whether mysterious bundle under your arm is stuffed with carrots.
3. Place blanket on Jeff's (Solo's pasture mate who is body clipped, hence the blanket) back.
4. Remove Solo's nose from Jeff's back so you can smooth out blanket before beginning to attach straps.
5. Buckle chest straps.
6. Remove Solo's nose from your back pocket so you can walk around to do leg straps.
7. Fasten Jeff's leg strap on near side.
8. Remove Solo's nose from underneath Jeff's blanket on off side so you can also fasten that leg strap.
9. Remove Solo's nose from your shoulder so you can walk back around to Jeff's near side to fasten belly straps.
10. Fasten front belly strap.
11. Remove Solo's nose from your side pocket so you can fasten rear belly strap.
12. Pat Jeff on the bum so he knows he is free to go.
13. Extricate Solo from your lap so you can open pasture gate and exit.

February 19, 2010

Best. Saddle Ad. Ever.

World's most uncomfortable saddle

Date: 2010-01-01, 11:41PM PST

Like a ghastly specter from your darkest nightmare, this saddle has returned from the grave seeking vengeance. Its previous master thought it had banished it to the blackness of the abyss for good, but nay, it was only for an epoch.


*Steel rails forged by LUCIFER himself

*Genuine Auroch hide seat provides maximum chafing

I am reaching the end of my strength, as the madness contained within this dark artifact threatens to consume me. I cannot merely throw this adamantine saddle on the rubbish heap, lest some unwary passerby become transfixed by its lightless glow. No, I must only give this to one with the courage to look into the bloodshot eyes of insanity, and the strength to master it. A wizard with the cunning to master this beast gains an ally of unspeakable power: the ultimate theft deterrent. At the moment the thief straddles your steed, his fate is sealed. Eager for revenge upon mortals, the saddle will visit his arse with blisters that rival the torment of fire and brimstone... a dire lesson he will not soon forget. This same fate will befall any unworthy mortal who in his arrogance, attempts to mount the saddle of doom. Are you worthy?

Location: Green Lake

it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests.

God, I love craigslist.

September 23, 2009

How To Make A Nun Cuss

Tell her to fit a saddle to a horse and rider.

It'll work, I promise.

As I mentioned, after the failure of SF#1 to satisfy, I moved on to the saddle shopping phase. And let me tell you how much fun THAT was. I needed to keep it less than $1500. But it had to fit my freaky long thighs, Solo's big rib cage, be flocked with wool, be 18" and well-made. Doesn't seem to hard, does it? WRONG. Might as well have searched for the Holy Grail (We've already got one!).

Everything was too big, too small, too narrow, too expensive, flocked with foam or air (a big NO, I wanted adjustable!), too crappy, too deep-seated, didn't fit my was like being freaking Goldilocks.

Well, I finally found something that met all my criteria after about a month of pulling my hair out and ordered a Collegiate Convertible Diploma. Took it to (highly recommended and locally very well known) SF#2. He poked and prodded my horse, digging his fingers in everywhere, making tracings and pronounced my horse very sore but fixable. He sounded like he knew what he was talking about and everyone used him so he must be good, right? He added point billets and a crupper bar, took out lumpy factory wool and put in some new stuff and sent us off.

Right off the bat, it fit much better and Solo MOVED much better. Aha! I thought, Our problems are over!

Then after a couple weeks, it started listing to the right. Bad. So we went back, SF#2 fixed it up. Only now when we went home, Solo was resisting lifting his back. SF#2 came out to farm and did a group of horses and fixed ours again. This time, Solo got even more resistant and then came the death knell -- he developed dreaded White Spots behind his withers on either side.

To make things even more obviously wrong, two friends' horses developed the same symptom at the same time. Both had been worked on by SF#2 as well.

So I called, left a terse voicemail and never went back. $400 and three visits later, the saddle fit worse than it did off the shelf.

Then I called SF#3. She came up to the farm, flipped my saddle over and showed me obvious unevenness in the panels. She then showed me how the point billets had only been forcing the metal parts of the tree down into Solo's poor back and generally doing more harm than good.


Point billets removed. Wool reflocked. Saddle rebalanced. And OMG, now my horse could lift his back without being punished by the saddle.

Good thing I'm not a nun.

September 21, 2009

One Month Of Bending Does Not A Dressage Horse Make

Let me clarify my ambivalence
Or how about "My Horse Is A Doofus."  Or “The Near Explosion of My Head & Subsequent Murder of My Horse (But I Love Him, I Swear!)”  Yeah, that one’s a bit too long.

[Warning, if the following was on television, there would be a lot of bleeping.]

For some idiotic reason, I decide to enter Solo in a dressage show in mid-April of '09.  Two tests, Beginner Novice A & B.  We'd been doing great at home, lots of work on suppling & transitions, he's going much softer & listening well.  For like a whole 30 days!  No problem, right?

Bloody #$#%@! horse rider.

Arrival & Omens

Our ride time is 8:42 am, so I get on about 8:20 & proceed to warmup.  Little Steward Girl (LSG) informs me that I ride next. My head explodes & I stare at her with the bloody stump that remains. Huh?!  She says "oh, but you don't HAVE to go, we just started early.  Ummm, then I'll warm up first thanks, ok?  LSG says sure.

Speed Warmup & Execution

Things seem to be fine:  Solo's looking around, but moving ok, so we head into the 'on-deck' spot at A. He immediately goes all tense, ignoring all my aids.  I do my best to use circles to get him bending again.  The judge whistles us in.  

Probably a little like this lovely moment in '08...
As we begin our test, all semblance of order vanishes & Solo reverts to gaping-mouthed, iron-necked giraffe.  My hypothesis is that he believed the little tiny white dressage arena fence was some kind of horrifying little jump & he had no idea what to do with it.

Oh, & the photographer at M was also apparently bent on evil.

The Test In My Mind:

"You bloody @#$#!! horse, slow down and relax, #%&*! Bend, dammit, bend!! I really really hate you right now."

 [I interject at this point to share, by the way, clamping down & mumbling curses at your horse STILL does not cause them to either slow down OR relax. You know, just in case we don't have enough data on that one.]

Can't you just see the devil lying in wait?
The Test In Solo's Mind


Yes, it was, I'm sure, poetry in motion.  *rolling eyes*

It seemed easier in 1990
No Worries, We Get To Do It Again!

Back to warmup.  I put Solo in trot figure 8's hoping to soften him & get him to relax more before test B.  DEAR COD, PLEASE LET THERE BE MERCY!  Did I mention I don't so much enjoy dressage these days?   I was praying for a jump course, praying.

I love the discipline, but dang, why was it so easy when I was 12?  Oh yeah, I rode trained horses...and 12-year-olds haven't learned to overthink breathing.  Who knew it could be so hard to teach a horse to trot & canter in a circle...calmly.  Even with terrifying tiny white fences.

Test B

We enter the ring.  Much more acceptably.  Yet in a Moment of Universal Horror, as we made the turn off centreline, I become that person at shows I always pity but generally never am:   She Who Goes Off-Course.  AHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!

Well, what I actually said to the judge, with my typical grace & forethought, was, "OH SH!T!  I mean, uh, sorry, uh, can we have a Do-Over?"  There was mercy:  the judge had a sense of humour.  Her laughter was kind while she replied, "Sure!"

It wasn't great, but Solo was mostly listening, though still fussing with his head & insisting on a counterbent method of travel in which his nose is sideways.  Apparently he must keep an eye on that Tiny White Fence.  We complete.  I am happier.  BUT OUR SCORE IS WORSE.   

I'd have preferred THIS Solo to show up!
We Did "Win" Ribbons...In A Manner Of Speaking

We ended up 2nd for test A -- by default the organizer helpfully tells me (ouch!).   I don't know what happened, everyone else must either have not shown up or had their horses leap out of the ring & galloped away.  They were pretty ribbons....the kind judge gave us a 41 & was even nice enough not to laugh or gasp in horror (audibly).

4th for test B with a 49.  Out of four!  *insert 'We Are The Champions' chorus*  Most of the judges' comments were as expected for Stiff Crooked Bad Horse Rider.   One collective mark read "must sit the canter."  Hmmm, I felt certain that by age 30, I might have mastered that one?  Alas...

The Adult Solution

I decided to go eat brownies & sulk.  Perhaps I should take up competitive trail riding -- you don't have to bend OR go in circles for that!

Perfect illustration of dressage by

August 25, 2009

Jumping Clinic With...Me

And it was finally time: here I had bought this horse to supposedly be a hunter, perhaps it would be fitting if I actually tried to jump him?  Ya think?  This is our first jump together -- (and to get the feel of what it was like to be there, you must envision me whooping, "He DOES jump, WOOHOO!!!"  I have no idea what I would have done had he tripped & fallen on his face or spun & run away.)


*AHEM* (I prepare my best crotchedy George Morris voice)

This rider is pinching with her knee, raising her seat too far out of the saddle. She needs to shorten her stirrups several holes to achieve the perfect 110 degree angle & then drop her heel in the stirrup so she is not flung over her horse's head should he chip or stop. She should go back to jumping small crossrails...oh wait. Never mind, hope is probably lost. I also cannot tell if she has properly washed the soles of her boots -- I suspect they are dusty, at which point you might as well write "F@ck you, judge!" on the back of her shirt. Her back is flat & her eyes are up. She appears to be attempting some version of a long crest release to give her horse plenty of rein. 

Her big horse is...uh, shiny. His knees are even but he is so loose below he might as well be a marionette. With an unpulled, unbraided mane, unpolished hooves & unwiped butt, I'm not sure how he even dares appear in public?! Add to that this rider's mismatched tack, travesty of a green saddle pad, gloves the colour of the devil-who-hath-no-hairnets, I'd really rather gouge my eyes out then look at this picture.

Sorry, George, a full time job & poverty's a bitch.