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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label team. Show all posts
Showing posts with label team. Show all posts

November 7, 2015

Fairy-er Magic: What Makes Good Hoofcare Great

Stud-ifying!
See what I did there??  Admit  it, you snickered.

We all learn within roughly 17 minutes of owning or managing a horse that a farrier can make or break you.  Without a good one, abandon all hope, ye who attempt to enter at A…

But what makes a Good Farrier?  In the US, becoming a farrier requires extensive effort – to write the word after your name, with no mandates regarding skill or experience.  It’s up to us to clamber up the painful learning curve of figuring out who knows what they’re doing.  Because, ya know, we’d hate to make some aspect of equine-keeping easy (I think that might actually be illegal?).

My top criteria (compiled mostly the hard way, of course), embodied by The Amazing Wonder Farrier:
  • Eyes.  He’s watching my horses move even before he gets out of the truck.
  • Ears.  He (no offense to Lady Farriers, I’m just sticking with mine for simplicity) LISTENS.  If this was a numbered list, it’d be #1!  No one knows your horse better than you do & a Good Farrier knows & respects that.
  • Curiosity.  He asks how my horses responded if we changed something.  He seeks out continuing education & is not afraid to try new products & techniques.
  • Experience.  My farrier is actually younger than I am, but has been handling hooves for nearly 20 years.  Experience also means he knows what he DOESN’T know & never lets pride stop him from consulting with other farriers & my vet (see next bullet).
  • Communication.  Ok, he may not agree with me that MY horses are the most important (duh!), but if there’s an injury or special need, I get a response, even if it’s a text at 9 pm (I’m not the only one with an over-committment problem). 
  • Attention.  It takes him two hours to do Encore’s shoes – because he is meticulous.  If he doesn’t like the way Encore blinked when he drove a nail, it gets pulled.  Each hoof gets tested multiple times.  Even before he pulls the old shoes (or trims the bare feet), he walks around the horse & stares at everything thoughtfully. 
Solo: always waiting for me to get with the program
Magic:  Exhibit A

Let’s see this combination in action.  Last winter, Solo became very sore in his right shoulder.  It was perplexing, as he’d suffered no injury I was aware of, had no previous issues there, & was not under any taxing workloads.

During the same time, there was a persistent whisper in the back of my head every time I looked at that front foot.  It just…looked funny, in that way you can’t quite put your finger on.  But that’s his white front ankle & with furry winter fetlocks, there’re plenty of optical illusions.

Dr. Bob (vet) & Wonder Farrier were both consulted, we found some saddle wool that needed to be re-fluffed, but it didn’t quite go away.  Finally, I dug into my extensive collection of “obsessive photos of my horses’ feet through time.
 
You should totally make one of those, if you haven’t already.  Bingo.

When I pulled up a photo from the spring of 2011, when Solo was competing at Training Level, the light bulb practically exploded.  His front feet had just crept out in front of him incrementally.  Enough that his angles were NQR but still so slight if you hadn’t looked at him every day for 9 years, you wouldn’t see it.

Creativity Win!

I’m not sure who was more excited when I dragged the laptop out at our next appointment, me or Farrier.  ANSWERZ!!1!  Now:  a plan.  This is where the awesome happened.

Along with backing up his feet, he needed a slight wedge (which he’s worn before) & a square, rolling toe for easier breakover.  However, the shoe we’d used for that previously was aluminum.  I have come to hate plain aluminum, primarily because it transfers significantly more concussion to the foot.  I won’t sidetrack into the materials science, but a steel shoe, however counterintuitive it may seem, absorbs more shock.

Ready to roll
As I thought about things the Sunday before we met, I sent a message:  “Ok, we know what biomechanics we need & what shape we need.  But how do we do that with steel?”

Farrier:  “Hmmm, I shall ponder while at kids’ horse show…I have an idea…”

And then he invented exactly what we needed.  (Although I told him it would have been much more impressive if he didn’t say, ‘wow, I didn’t think that would actually work,” LOL!)
 
He took a set of steel hind shoes which are made with a tiny wedge & simply widened the heels.  Because there were rounder & squarer (it’s a word now) than a typical hind shoe (sorry, I can’t remember the brand), they gave us both the shape & angle we needed.

Solo couldn’t stop licking his lips as he set his restored feet down.  The next time I got on, I could practically hear him giggling, “Yeah!!!  So much better!!  Let’s go!!”

Not only that, but they worked so well, we gave Encore a set too!  I think I’ll call them The Johnathan Special. 

And that is why it pays to be picky. 

Can we have some more of this?

September 2, 2014

A Hitchiker's Guide To Our New Website

Hated the book, but I was 13...
Being one of those people who takes longer than I will ever admit to mentally digest information, a thought just occurred to me:

Here I have thrown an entire new interface at you and, while I'm sure you have lots of things nothing better to do with your time than play with the shiny new TFS site, perhaps it would be helpful if I handed out instructions!

As I mentioned before the transition, our new site is responsive (FINALLY!).  You can geek out on the link as to what that means in detail (believe me, the template came that way, I am a "trial-and-lots-of-errors-and-googling" programmer, using the word "programmer" extremely loosely), but the part that matters is that for you touchscreen/mobile device peoples, you now get a streamlined, mobile version of the site that matches the web version!

What On Earth Did You Do?

Don't hyperventilate yet, the standards are still standard - the trademark banner of Solo's galloping butt will always bring you home (oh, the levels of symbolism...) and our social media buttons, through which you can suffer through enjoy even more of my random brain drool, have just hopped up to the top of the page.  All photos can still be clicked to embiggen!

Streamlined Sidebars

You can toggle the right sidebar display -- I love tabz!!
All our trusty sidebar widgets are intact, just rearranged.  You'll find our calendar for easy stalking on the left & the blogroll (in need of updating!) just below it as you scroll down.

On the right side, just beneath the search tool (for all your "did she write about that?" inquiries), the handy little tab box allows you to toggle between the most popular posts of the last 30 days, our category labels for easy post sorting, & the (restored to proper useful form) archive calendar.  Scrolling down will take you to our familiar blog community links & the profiles of my orange beasts have just shifted to the footer.

NEW SHINY THINGS!

Here, the title is linked to my review, photo to product site
The Photo Slider:
Don't have a seizure.  If you hover your mouse over the slideshow, it will pause.  You can use either the circles at the base of the slider or the arrows on each side to navigate through at your own speed.  Each photo & title is a clickable link as well!

Email Subscription:
  • For those of you who don't use an RSS reader to curate your blog collection or who just don't feel like clicking all the time, there is now an easy email subscription box in our header.  All you have to do is enter your address & click subscribe.  New posts, in a clean, easy-to-read format, will hang out in your inbox until you hit delete feel like reading them. 
  • I hate spam as much as you do & all of the subscriptions are protected in my secure account, so I promise I will never send you FREE LIFE INSURANCE QUOTES TODAY!  Never.  
  • What you WILL get though (eventually, stupid job), is free bonus content that I am busy compiling, including tip sheets, useful facts, and other fun & useful goodies (sorry, I cannot put chocolate in your inbox).
It was an interesting morning...
Twit Feed:
Despite my ambivalence/hate relationship with Twitter, it is the only way I can share quick tidbits to our Facebook page without being in front of a PC.  I bitterly swallowed my pride (it wasn't too bad, I haven't much left), so you will find a live Twitter feed box in the right sidebar.  It also allows you to follow or tell me I'm an idiot throw a Twit at me with one click (no new windows!).

New Menus With New Options

Some you will recognize, including links to our core team members, sundry horsey items for sale, Solo's story, Encore's arrival, & "In Memorial" of furry friends who said goodbye.  My product reviews are intact, but are now categorized for even easier retrieval.
All your shopping tips, pre-sorted

The two new dropdowns:
  • "Education," which includes a list of great OTTB resources, as well as links to my past post collection on topics like equine nutrition & the heart of eventing, the long format.  Keep an eye out for additions and fine-tuning on this one!
Lots of fun things & more to come
Easy-peasy!
 I hope you will enjoy the new goodies & things will run a little more smoothly!  I'm always picking at things -- a blog seems to be like a farm:  never truly finished.  Please do let me know if you encounter any issues, so I can google the answer repair them right away!

You're welcome (or I'm sorry, depending on what happens...).
-- Not A Web Designer But I Play One On The Internet

June 6, 2014

The Journey Of The Tragic Hero

VA HT May 2011 088 (Medium)
Quiet Moments
I apologize for the rather scattered nature of my last post, but hopefully you were sufficiently distracted by pictures of pus and PONY!

PROBLEM

I have been thinking a lot about this blog lately (among other things, my brain is a hamster on drugs, remember).  Because there is a conundrum.  Longtime readers know that my writing (ok, world) centers around Solo and his big little brother, eventing, horsemanship, and associated topics. 

As our Facebook page notes, it focuses on “being an adult amateur, putting your horse first, and fighting for your goals in a sport that has no mercy for the unprepared or faint of heart (or wallet).”  Aside from an occasional note about the unique challenges (and sometimes awesomeness) of my real job, my personal life is, well, personal.  For myself, the latter is neither relevant nor appropriate content re: my mission statement.

That being said, those of you who have been wonderful supporters along the way also know that my policy is 100% open honesty (pretty sure that’s redundant but my level of give-a-shit is low right now).  Result: conundrum.

SOLUTION?

But I think I have made a decision (reference said hamsters above while laughing about lack of decisiveness in statement of decision).  Although TFS (Team Flying Solo) is an entity I often reference, as is (now) FSF (Flying Solo Farm), the title of this blog remains “We Are Flying Solo:  The Journey Of A Horse & His Girl.”  Just like Solo’s name, there are many layers there, but our story IS about the journey.  And no journey (except maybe a really boring one) is complete or worthwhile without highs AND lows.

Notre_Dame_Academy
Go Pandas! They get to wear polos now?!
If perchance anyone who went to high school with me reads this post, they will giggle at the title along with me.  But it is also A Thing.  I had the same, phenomenal, AP English teacher both my sophomore & senior year of high school.

Mrs. Bricking was the kind of teacher who challenges you to constantly raise the bar, with the motive of opening the minds and eyes of 15-18 year-olds, who are sure they know everything, to a broader view of the world, and the powerful themes and tools that great literature provides.

Spiderman Fail
I totally just used Spiderman; but he fits
Which brings me to the title:  it was there I learned about this nearly ubiquitous tool of story-telling.  The “Tragic Hero” is the main character, usually the protagonist (read:  good guy/woman/thing), and we love her (gender pronoun chosen for simplicity).

She is rife with good qualities, but she always has a “Tragic Flaw,” an Achilles heel, which is required, otherwise you wouldn’t have a story!  It may be an unrequited love, a physical weakness, a negative personality trait, what have you.

As a result, she travels the worn path of the “Tragic Journey.”  Its outcome is uncertain, but there will always be a build-up, a “Tragic Fall” (yeah, everything is Tragic, LOL, goes back to the Greek Tragedies of Sophocles and his peers) to the nadir, the lowest point of the journey.  The Hero(ine) must then struggle to rise from this nadir in order to triumph (or not) in the end.  Think about your favourite movie or book plots – see it?

THAT’S NICE, BUT WHAT, SO YOU’RE A HEROINE NOW?

Hardly.  But that is how I arrived at my conclusion that there is a story that I have not yet written down which needs to be told, because it most certainly is not only a part, but both initiates and shapes OUR entire journey.

A few of you know the details, but I experienced my own nadir in a trauma like no other several years ago (not horse-related) and it continues to haunt my steps.  No doubt you have noticed a change in the blog and I can tell you that it is not, in large part, due to the purchase and move to the farm.  Rather, the reverse is the case, where Flying Solo Farm was born of the Tragic Fall in an attempt to salvage what pieces of the future remained.

Uwharrie Ride 3_10 004 resize
BFF & the amazing Texas Pete at Uwharrie NF
IT ALWAYS TAKES A TEAM

So I hope that you can be patient with me as the epileptic hamster tries to find his way back to the wheel in the dark.  Blindfolded.  On three legs.

I do count myself very lucky in having BFF and Erica, who have been unbelievably awesome help, along with THREE incredible neighbours, the wonderful network of Area II Adult Riders and the eventing community. 

They’ve got my six and I am also thankful every day to my mother, who helped make it possible for me to have the most wonderful scenery ever, including my two orange buddies, in which to negotiate the maze and find my way back to this woman.

Gallop (or walk, or just hug) on and don’t worry:  my ridiculous dorkiness and penchant for crazy adventures which never go according to plan remains intact, so you need not cry yourself to sleep that your life shall be unfulfilled without the TFS posts (haha).  Writing is wonderfully cathartic and I hope to continue to share posts with you and of course am reading all of yours!  

And I am still determined as ever to get my amazing Encore (daily thanks too, CANTER MA!) to a T3DE, it’s just going to take a little longer than planned (oh wait, it was a horse plan, that’s a given).

Evening therapy sessions by the pond
One very tired Eventer79 --

Out.

February 21, 2014

Long May You Run

My 30th, Solo's 13th in 2009
I couldn't imagine a more fitting phrase for the birthday of my center of orbit, my sun, my Solaris.  Thanks, Neil Young (it was even inspired by his horse). 

I didn't know Solo's exact birthday when I brought him home.  From his Coggins, it appeared to be sometime in early spring, so I simply assigned him one that would be easy to remember:  mine.

While I often forget what day it is & rarely do much about my own aging, I always remember & celebrate not just Solo's day, but every day since he came into my life & irrevocably changed so many parts of it and me.

So here's to you, my very best friend, partner, & piece of my heart.  Even thinking about the insane adventures, ups & downs, glorious triumphs and the darkest of heartbreaks brings tears of both sorrow & gratitude of unimaginable depth.   

Seeing your head shoot up at the sound of my voice is still the best part of any day & even through my current exhaustion, the thought of seeing you at home is what keeps me going.  I cannot wait to present you with the farm that I built for us. 

Memorial Day 2006:  I brought him home
Our partnership would not exist but for the team of wonderful people that surrounds us &, most of all, the two who made it all possible along the way.   

Thank you, from both of us, although those words fail to encompass the emotion, to mum & Jim, the founding members of Team Flying Solo, for the gift of this extraordinary relationship that was & still is more powerful, more miraculous, and more intimate than I ever dreamed.

I revive, then, my inner 12-year-old girl and the Ridiculously Cheesy Solo Montage from a 2010 nighttime fit of boredom.  I love you, buddy.  Please resist your genetic drive to be a walking suicide machine for a while yet, ok?


The song is by Templeton Thompson, a very talented and very kind singer/songwriter and horsewoman 
I had the pleasure of meeting about five years ago at an Equine Affaire in Raleigh.

2011 Area II Indian Smurf Award:  For courage in the face of adversity
I hope we have many stories left to tell.  I WILL get you back in shape this year, I know you are bored and I am so sorry -- I know how much you have left to give, although you owe me nothing!

We have a fresh start with your younger chew toy brother, who entertains us both, & Awesome Crew B, who always lends a hand & a shoulder.

And we have you, my wonderful readers and friends.  You are part of our team too, & sharing our journey has enriched it even more.  It's hard to believe that there are over 200 of you on our feed now; I thank all of you for letting me share my shiny, stubborn, loyal, kind, & altogether remarkable flying Solo with you.      

As Neil Young so fittingly wrote:

We've been through some things together, 
with trunks of memories still to come.
We found things to do in stormy weather,
Long may you run.
Although these changes have come, 
With your chrome heart shining in the sun, 
long may you run. 

January 15, 2011

There Is No "I" In Team

But there is a "me" which is practically the same as a Solo! Hey, it makes sense in my head.

Who makes up our team? I have talked about them before, but I wanted to take a moment to recognize the core members -- without whom we would be unable to accomplish any of this crazy adventure.

Each one is "mission critical" & I am indebted to them all. There are, of course, others who have touched our lives along the way, but if I write them ALL down, I fear you'd be stuck reading for days.  So, in no particular order, on the short list, I introduce to you --

Team Flying Solo:

Dr. Bob: Our vet & answerer of all my 1,001 questions. A former eventer himself, he always has a ready smile & an apparently boundless store of information about the needs & management of the sporthorse. He always answers the phone with a "So, how's my buddy doing?" & never fails to consider what is best for Solo over what is best for his checking account.

Johnathan: Our wonderful farrier. He always takes his time, never brushes off my inquiries (Dr. Bob is not alone in being subjected to my barrage of questions on regular basis), & is always working to further his own education & broaden his skillset. He can also simultaneously discuss the latest triumph or flop on American Idol.

Priscilla: Magical dressage trainer. Capable of sneaking progress up on us when we thought we weren't doing all that much. Generous, encouraging, & creative when it comes to doing an end run around Solo's dressage tantrums. She can also keep you entertained for several hours at a time with horse stories.


David: (right) Oh-so-patient jumping trainer. Since he has completed the "big boys" of Burghley & Rolex, I never fail to be intimidated when I walk in the ring. But he is unfailingly kind, generous with his time, & extremely talented at bringing out the best in horse & rider. He doesn't even yell at me when I do something stupid -- I believe he has noticed that I tend to beat myself up plenty, no use kicking a girl while she's down.

Mum: What can you say about mum? Not only a cheerleader, but taker of great pictures & the one who makes it possible for us to even attend competitions. We'd be stuck bored to death at home without her support!

Jim: (left, with Smokey the wonderdog) Do I even need to list why? I will anyway. Not only did he make a gift of Solo, he supplied us with our rig & other goodies, including more than a few great photographs of his own. His unfailing love & support in this great passion of mine was a true & rare gift & one which I will always treasure no matter what.

lifeshighway: Our BFF & conditioning partner. She & her horse, Pete, are endurance racers & have taught me so much about conditioning & managing the equine athlete. She has also, for some nutty reason, listened to all the intricacies of the ups & downs of our journey with never a complaint as I flounder my way along, thinking out loud.

All of you:  That's right, my fellow horse junkies.  Your kind words & support mean the world to me & are a bolster to my courage when progress stalls or motivation lags.  The fact that you take the time to read & contribute is a great & thoughtful thing.  Thank you!