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We Are Flying Solo

October 24, 2011

The Most Fun You Can Have On A Horse

It's the first time they experience cross country, the way their whole body comes alive with excitement when they realize that, hey, my job is FUN!  It's impossible to hide my ridiculous grin when I feel that joie de vivre pulsating beneath me and the exuberant leaps over tiny logs hardly worth a step.  A horse's first eventing experience is indeed an exercise in uninhibited glee.  But I will let the pictures tell the best stories -- thanks to lifeshighway and our friend, Cindy, who both manned media recording devices to capture the Encore debut.

Someone thought my hairnet wearing skills were hilarious awesome.

The unicorn is all ready for dressage.


I can't say I was overly thrilled with some of the judge's comments -- I get a little irritated when they write "could be rounder" on an Intro test.  The point of the Intro tests as marked on the score sheets and judging guidelines is a horse who moves forward into a steady contact with a clear rhythm.  If they know how to go round, then they should be at a higher level! 

Nonetheless, I was THRILLED with my boy.

For the photographer's caps of us, you can click here.  If that site gets you lost, we actually have pictures under #62 and #63 (62 was a friend of ours who scratched the day before, perhaps the photographer got confused?)

Now I'm jumping poneh.

Tying your own pinney:  always an exercise in contortion.

The blue stripey jump
Stadium jumping was quite the adventure for baby Encore!  He was so busy staring at the XC horses during our warmup that it took a few tries to get over the oxer, but eventually he managed to pay attention.  The course was VERY bright and colourful (you can see the jumps as expertly demonstrated by Solo here).  As Encore trotted into the ring, he was game to try but I'm not sure he'd really figured out what he was supposed to do yet!  Having never jumped a course before, I just wanted him to take his time and let the course educate him.  The second jump on course, though, was the one with the crazy blue striped sail standards (at right, with Solo at Novice) and here Encore picked up a baby stop, running out to the left.  I don't think he'd really focused on the task at hand, so I turned him back around to the right and represented.  He jumped it very willingly and then I felt him click and go Ohhhh, I get it now!  It's ON!  And the rest of the course.....went off without a hitch!  Giant daffodil standards, pink, orange, black and white spots, even a skinny on top of a mound -- no problem.  He had it all worked out.

Which left us....the start box.  That crazy Thoroughbred walked in, sighed, cocked a foot, and stood licking his lips as my favourite starter counted us down.  At which point I promptly forgot to turn my helmet cam on.  Devastated sobs.  But for most of the course, I looked like this (sorry for the blur.  And what happened to my breastcollar?):

And Encore looked like this:

My goal was to have him finish happily, but not run around like a crazy horse.  As Allie Conrad told me, with great wisdom:  A quiet mind is a trainable mind.  So we attempted to trot each jump (ok, there were a couple deliciously uphill canters) and upon landing, we would return to trot and sometimes even walk.

A few extra great candid shots of Cindy and her Percheron/Friesian Diesel (aka Big D) who also competed Sunday and landed a freaking SWEET 37!  We were so proud of these two, they have worked so hard and D is not an easy horse.  But he has a good heart, a fun jump, and a really great canter and they deserve all the success in the world!

Big D can turn on the charm.
I'm not sure if this is a smile or a grimace.  Oh wait, it's before dressage.  Definitely a grimace, then.
Not everyone can rock my awesome coaching boots like this.  Don't be jealous.
Big D and Mini D!  This pony was adorable.

Don't let the body fool you, this guy can JUMP.
Don't look so excited about the sandbox...
Remember to breathe....

See, mom, I can dressage....
This is what makes it all worthwhile....
 I couldn't be more thrilled with our day and I couldn't be happier with Encore's performance.  He came through those finish flags high on life (possibly egged on by me yelling GOOD BABY for the entire course, which reportedly could be heard back at the start box...ummmm....) and I gave him a giant hug.  I can't wait to see what happens next...

October 22, 2011

When Do I Get To Sleep Again?

Exhausted.  Training 3-Day at Waredaca was awesome yet again.  Many tales to be told.  All competitors made it around safely save one, who had the misfortune to fall and break her arm, but she is young and will heal with time, thank goodness.

Upon arriving home from the sprint from Maryland, I (a) thanked the heavens for sunny warmth, (b) slept for an hour, (c) ran to the barn to ride Encore, (d) leaped off to let farrier replace his pulled shoe, then (e).....zzzzzzzzz...what?  eh?  oh....uh, yeah.

Tomorrow!  Encore makes his horse trial debut at FenRidge Farm!  His dressage test is at 12:06, we trot into stadium at 1:54, then we wiggle around XC at 2:08. 

My hope is to let Encore have a fun, safe horse trial run, get the feel for how the day goes and just experience his first miles on jump courses.  I don't care if the score is 100 as long as he tries and has a positive go.  Our cross country will not be timed so we can take it easy and look at one question at a time.  With any luck, it will be a completely uneventful day! 

October 17, 2011

I Feel Pretty

At least that's what Encore sings.  He finished our FIRST solo (not to be confused with Solo) trail ride together and he did a great job.  He got a bit anxious and quick in the second half, but he still listened.  After a post-ride snack and a shower:

Check out that trademark Flying Solo shine!
I am pulling my hair out trying to find time to get ready for the big trip up to Waredaca's Training 3-Day this week.  I absolutely love volunteering at this event, it has taught me an incredible amount of information to add to my "competing an eventer" knowledge files.  Both Stephen Bradley and Tremaine Cooper will be working closely with competitors and volunteers this year and I especially look forward to Tremaine's insights on the course, since he designs courses himself.  And of course, Brian O'Connor's entertainment is not to be missed.  Then's Encore's first Horse Trial!!!

October 15, 2011


This forest has been cut over multiple times.  In the clearing where Solo and I stopped, I could see tertiary growth, immature pine trees at close ranks, the usual suspects in recolonizing slashed hardwood stands.  Except for one:  a solitary oak, half dead limbs, half tiny leaves, hanging on at the top of the hill, gnarled boles refusing to give up the last gasp.  It has survived at least two clearcuts, the only thing standing as far as I can see that is more than ten years old.  Perhaps it knew the original denizens of this ridge and I wonder how it got lucky and weathered the storms and the saws and the years.

An autumn wind rushes through the tree tops; its sound is the soft roar of surf on sand.  I close my eyes, blocking one sense to open the others.  Solo shifts his weight beneath me, grazing on his favourite weed and the leather of the saddle creaks.  There's a soft jingle from his bit, the grind of his teeth and a muffled stomp as he discourages a torpid, late-season fly.  A few fall grasshoppers chirrup in the trees and I can hear the footsteps of a young buck who passed by moments ago as he moves among the already-fallen leaves.  All else is beautiful silence. 

And the air.  Cool, but sun-warmed when it hits your skin, it smells of Forest, it smells of Life, of the clean, sweet breath of the woods that is Home.  You can almost hear a patient sentience in that air, of the intricate and vitally alive, yet so incredibly quiet many-geared mechanism that is that ecosystem.  To participate in that and to breathe in that sense of being is a gift that grows no less cherished with numerous givings.

Turning for home, Solo swings readily onto the trail and part of the spell is broken as I must open my eyes and duck the spiderwebs that are too high for his bright ears to break.  But it's still a treasure, shared with a best friend, the memory of which will tide us over until the next visit. 

October 14, 2011

It's Hard Work Being This Cool

Decked out and patched together in a mayhem of, let's call it "repurposing," with a touch of shabby chic.

Rockin' Solo's old sneaks for happy hoofies.

Why yes, that is a stirrup leather tied together with hay string to make a bombin' neck strap!

The black tape gives you ninja powers.  My sports medicine guy likes experiments...