SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label smurf. Show all posts
Showing posts with label smurf. Show all posts

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.   

June 2, 2012

(Much Needed) Good Times With Good Friends

While Encore was pacing in his prison alone (so he says), I ran away like a rabbit with fire ants on its tail to the mountains.  The legendary bromance duo of Solo and Pete were reuinited, their love/hate/love no less diminished by time nor distracted by the addition of a lovely TB mare named Kate.

Matched bays survey the top of the mountain.  Crystal riding Kate and of course, lifeshighway riding Solo's incorrigible Arabian best friend, Pete.
The mighty eventer, he is fire, he is speed, he is....oooo, beet pulp!
Old lovers often reunite over...beef jerky. 
A break is the optimal time to mug any immobile humans for plastic bags with food potential.
Did you hear that?  BAG!!!!
Crystal and her mare, Kate, both lovely in the shade.  Kate has an amazing story of being rescued multiple times.  Born a throw-away baby with deformed legs, 13 years later, she is an endurance prospect and Crystal has turned a sour and frightened mare into a good-minded horse with a bold walk and a bright future.
Pete the amazing 50 mile endurance racer.  If a carrot snaps in the woods, HE can hear the sound.
Of course, the smurf must have his moment with the top ten 50-mile racehorse!

What happens when I try to take a picture of Solo while sitting down.
My heart is full, chasing adventure with my partner and friend, and he did well!

April 26, 2012

Your CHP Novice Coursewalk

Team Flying Solo basecamp

Mea culpa for no helmet cam, but I CAN give you a coursewalk, plus a few bonus bits of fun.  So take a deep breath, put yourself in the Carolina sandhills, and gallop out of the start box for your horse's first Novice course.

A simple log pile to get things going.  Then a huge U-turn to...

The ubiquitous CHP cabins.  Run down the hill to...
The BIG brush.  It has wide steps on both sides.  Say hi to our buddy Sue!
Gallop up the hill to the coop.  No visual distractions here.  Focus on your jump.
Run through the tree tunnel to 5 & 6.  Since they are numbered separately, you ARE allowed to circle between them.  But I want to challenge my horse, so we ride straight through.
The course had a nice flow up until 6.  Then it went all wonky.  You galloped down a steep hill and wound through several tree paths and made an odd turn to the table at 7.
Now you immediately rebalance down the hill so your horse is ready for the baby sunken road and rolltop at 8.  Sue is getting tired of being in my pictures.  Too bad!
Down another steep hill to the trakehner.  Encore had never jumped one before so eyes UP, light tap with the go stick and LEAP over and charge up the hill to wind another crazy line to 10.
Sue insists on being the human element for scale.  Now that you have found 10, it's a simple cabin, than a hard left turn.
The water at 11 is a simple run through, keep your eyes on your next jump and don't ogle.  As an aside, this is only HALF of the big water complex at CHP, is it not amazing??
Sue threatens to tackle as you pick your way through the trees at an angle to 12.  Encore knocked a hind leg here, it was an awkward turn and he got an off stride, but he made it work.
Now you get your stirrup back, dodge a few more trees and go down another steepish hill to 13, and immediately balance so...
You can run through the second water at 14.  Don't miss your line because you have charge up the hill to...
15 A & B.  This is a combination so NO circling.  Up the bank, one stride, jump, then a horrible right turn IMMEDIATELY to...
Our not-so-friendly 16.  But it was a terrible line.  You can see the finish flags right behind it.  Sigh.
Then, ostensibly, you have done it!  As I noted earlier, after jump 6, the course notably lost its flow.  For a Novice horse, he should be able to gallop nicely through it in a rhythm and the jumps should come up naturally, as they did with our previous, much beloved course designer, Jeff Kibbie.  But he has moved on, sadly, so it will be interesting to see how things develop.  I will send in my event evaluation to provide some feedback, organizers do value those, so send yours in too!

And just for fun, Indian Smurf made some new friends:

Our VERY favourite starter, Bill -- you can often find him at CHP and several of our area schooling trials.  He always makes you laugh and relax before you set off and was recently featured in EventingUSA magazine for his awesomeness!
Our TD and friend, Cindy (who is also our national Adult Rider coordinator) and her apprentice TD, Tim, enjoying the shade of the golf cart and having a smurfy good time!

February 5, 2012

The David Intervention: Pt. II

I had a lot to think about as I drove....around the corner.  As I mentioned, Ryan had graciously offered Encore and I berth at the little farm where she works, conveniently located 3 miles from David's.  Ok, so it happens to be Charlie Plumb's (quite the family legacy) farm, so this is what you see when you come to the stop sign:

How do you get grass that green in the sandhills in January? 
It's a nice enough place, as you pull into the drive...

They have a little arena with a few jumps scattered here and there...

They even let me park my rig where it would be shaded by trees!

What?  I haven't shown you my traveling rig before?
I tucked Encore into the barn.  I guess it was ok....

Ha, it was, naturally, a lovely place.  I only saw Charlie for about four seconds, as he was busy with a clinic, but he offered a friendly hello (and escaped smurf picture recruitment, dangit).  As dusk settled, Encore devoured his well-earned supper and settled in.

I sought to digest some of what I had learned that day and fought to retain David's advice and instructions (although I still giggle every time in the video where he yells, "Work it!  Keeping working it!"):

-The Duo bit we are dressaging in now is great to introduce babies to contact and great for a finished horse who is light.  But we might want to try something a step up for the sake of my jello arms, which will encourage Encore to soften faster and more readily.  As he gets stronger and is able to be lighter, then perhaps we can go back to rubber finger bit.

-Keep the pace slow and NO RUSHING ALLOWED.  In order for Encore to stay balanced at the stage he is in, he must stay slow and resist the urge to run off his feet and get tense.  As he feels more comfortable in his balance, you can gradually ask for more trot.  But you have to have that balance before you can have forward.

The journey with Solo and now this new endeavour with Encore has, I think, taught me, more than anything, about what real contact is.  We are always told, "Don't pull on his mouth, stay out of his face."  That is, to an extent, true.  But real, working contact is not a feathery light touch until your horse actually has the balance, muscle, and training to carry himself completely.  That doesn't happen at the beginning.  Unless you have a freak horse that I just don't want to hear about. 

When you see me riding in those videos, none of that is easy.  My upper arms are screaming and when David asks us to reverse direction for the last time time, after I comment that I have noodle arms, my brain cries, "Dear cod, NOOOO!"  Contact is CONTACT -- you are asking your horse to push power from his hind legs through his body into the bridle and until he learns how to do that on his own, he needs your help at times and the reminders are constant.

As I said before, it's not locked, it's not a pull, it's just a steady, almost a resting feeling against the bit.  But it's alive and I am asking half halt with the outside rein, just little bit rounder with the inside rein, just a little bit straighter with that outside rein again.  And when he complies, I do not "release" as we normally think of it, not in a physics sort of way.  Rather, I go passive -- my resting contact is still there, but my forearm muscles soften and my hands are quiet, saying thank you, proceed as you are.  The horse's mouth can feel this subtle difference in energy.  The hard part is for the rider to regulate exactly the right amount at the exact right time.  I figure I'll have that worked out in about 60 years.

But for now, it was time for both horse and rider to sprawl out and rest for the day to come.   

Charlie might have escaped, but his lawn jockey didn't....