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We Are Flying Solo

March 20, 2012

Horses Make Life Suck Less

SprinklerBandit wrote this in the last posts' comments and I had to steal it because it was hilarious, yet so apt.  I cannot think of a better way to lead in to the Tales of Day Two.

After leaving Carolina Horse Park, we followed a long and complicated set of directions which ended up at a place I had been before -- only now I actually knew what it was!  It was our fellow Adult Rider Alison's farm, where Encore, mum, and I were graciously allowed to spend the night.

I was a bit concerned about Encore because he was going to have to stay in this horrible pasture overnight, but he seemed to decide he could make do with the conditions.

Just awful, isn't it?
There, I also discovered the cutest pony of all time.  Don't argue with me, because there can be no comparison.
Meet Ponytail.  100% purebred Pony.
Yes, yes, she seems all innocence and preciousness, but I got the eerie sense that Ponytail KNOWS things, that she merely allowed the humans to think they were running the show.  I caught her, for just a moment, during breakfast, watching us with superior expression.

Heh.  Those humans.  They think they're soooo smart...
Ponytail and her mini horse companion (minion?), whose name I missed.
The minions wonder why I am not preparing pony breakfast immediately.
After a lovely night, it was time to load up and head back to CHP!
Whoa.  Mom.  Check it -- shrunken hairy horses.  What's up with that?  And why do we look like blueberries?
It was hard to leave such an idyllic retreat, but we had a hot date with a XC course that I couldn't wait to run.

Fun while you wait:  put Russell the russell in my bicycle basket.  How can you not??!
He always rides around on his mom's scooter, I think he secretly liked my awesome milk crate...
Our time came though and we took the long hike back to the start box and warm up area.  As I let Encore trot out the kinks, I realized he was actually TIRED from the day before.  This horse never gets tired -- maybe I wouldn't have to do a wrestling match to avoid speed penalties after all!  He immediately locked on to the warm up jumps, took them all beautifully, and we were ready to go.  I already posted the helmet cam here, so I'll leave you with a few snapshots of a course that was fun, inviting, and as I always feel at the finish flags, far too short -- I want that feeling to last forever! 

Check out his new muscle-butt!
Sigh.  Really, mum, this is the hardest you can come up with? 
Yay, galloping, NOW you're talking!
Wait, what?  Gallop slow?  Why do you ruin everything!?
And then it was over.  But I was thrilled with my horse; he'd run double clear XC and the only problem we had was that the jumps were so small, he barrelled right up to them!  Had I not missed my turn in SJ, he would have jumped clean (he is quite careful and hates knocking rails) and we would have finished on our dressage score -- putting us in 5th place in OPEN Beginner Novice in a division of 18 at his very first recognized horse trial.  Just knowing that was enough for me!  Even with the real results (rider error included), he finished 11th, middle of the pack, and had a healthy row of zeros across the most important phase (XC) and came in just 18 seconds under optimum time, so we were pretty close to smack on the pace.  Not bad for an ex-racehorse who just got back under saddle late last summer. 

I can't wait to see what happens a month from now...

March 19, 2012

A House Divided

It is hard when great joy and soul-wrenching grief co-exist in your heart.  On one hand, a person I love deeply is gravely ill and it will be some time before a resolution is reached or even in view.  I am a fixer; I like to repair people, problems, jump standards...but here, there is nothing I can do.  I am helpless to fix what is so much bigger than either of us.  I can wish that I was a doctor, or perhaps even better, a wizard, so I could wave a wand, cast a spell, and dismiss the dark cloud overhead.  As it is, the only things I can do are love deeply every single day, treasure each shared word and rare moment, and give all the emotional and moral support I have in me plus a little bit more.  But that love and support never falters nor wavers, even though I cannot be as close as I would, given my choice.  One day at a time has become my mantra. 

At the same time, in the same emotional space, there is great joy for the unexpected gift that a young horse brings to the same battered heart.  He cannot take the pain away, but what he does offer me is a bright spot in each day, a kind face that always makes me smile, that I can lose myself in for a period of time in the evenings, a balm for the open wounds and a therapy for a mind in turmoil.

Each one abates the other, in small pieces.

Yes, in a roundabout way, you are getting your event report.

It was a gift of a weekend when I towed that bright-eyed young thing into the organized chaos of the Carolina Horse Park on a Trial weekend.  Warm, blue, with perfect sandhills footing, the stage was set and we were even lucky enough to have the Amazing Mum with us to capture pictures and help with the endless tasks of shifting things about that events inevitably involve.  Some say a picture is worth a thousand words, so I'll let them tell the story instead.

Please feel free to admire and comment on my cuteness at any time, thank you.
Quiiiit, I'm not a stinking barbie!

I is workin' on my mohawk.  Check it.
Correct leads!  Both ways!  No starting gate leap!
All 10's, right??!  Look how cute I was!!
He was actually quite obedient.  If he didn't have a rider handicap of an oaf hanging on the right rein who would instead just let him flow through the bridle, he would have done very well indeed.  There were some lovely trot moments across the diagonal and his rider is slowwwwly learning to sit up straight.  All in all, a quite respectable 38.6, not bad for his first recognized show where I ran out of time in warm up and didn't even get to canter.

Encore, of course, thought he was done after what he felt was a brilliant performance.  To say he was surprised when the jumping saddle went on is an understatement.   So his ears were swiveling twelve ways at once when we got to warm up, leaving me concerned that he would be a bit wild over the jumps.

Arrrrrrggh!  I am ready to jump sweet jumps!!!
Er...your jumps do not impress me.

Ok, fine, I suppose I'll put some effort into it.
Then it was time to breach the ingate and start the show.  The first 2/3 of the course were like a dream.  I kept the rhythm, I re-balanced him, I softened my hand and closed my leg in front of the jump, letting him find each jump and arc over it perfectly.

It didn't last.  You see, they had opened the course for walking while I was doing my dressage test.  I hopped straight off when I finished and went into walk my stadium course.  I knew the course in my head and I had walked up to jump 7 when they kicked me out of the ring to put it back in play.  It became our epic fail.

I watched the riders before me, but apparently not closely enough.  Jumps 6 and 7 were a line down the far wall, then you made a sweeping rollback to 8.  I missed the turn.  My eyes frantically searched for the numbers and found it, but we had already passed our line.  I sat back and did a desperate, frantic detour and Encore gamely dug in and we found our way back to the jump.  Flustered, I lost my focus, and we pulled rails at both 9 and 10 and our detour cost us 8 time penalites as well.  But the fault was entirely mine and I still patted Encore for a job well and bravely done.

But can you ask for better engagement than that?  As I apparently attempt to climb to his ears?
It was time to pack up and go.  We had a sleepover date for the night at a friend's farm.  Who also owns the cutest pony you have ever seen.  But you'll have to wait for the next post to see the evidence.

March 15, 2012

I'm Trying!

I am not holding out on you on purpose, I swear to you.  I am so swamped this week, am completely booked solid for the weekend, I don't even have time to eat!  I managed to get Encore out for a great hack last night (THANK YOU, TIME CHANGE) complete with deer and turkeys and streams and very large puddles and he proved once again that I bought the right brain.  Hopefully, we will be back in work next week and things will settle down a little.  Of course, my field season for work will start soon so that will mess everything up again!  Argh, work really gets in the way of my eventing!!!

As a consolation prize, I offer you this, Encore's XC run from Sunday.  He DEFINITELY needs some bigger jumps to back him off.  His only real hesitation was a pause of a bulge at 3, with the logs and brush, but I kept my left leg on, touched his shoulder with the stick, and he went boldly on.  I thought the log and drop at 5 and 6 were a fairly significant question for BN, but the more I thought about it, it made a lot of sense -- for most of them, the momentum of going over the log at 5 would carry them the stride or two to the drop at six and they wouldn't have time to think about stopping.  Encore, of course, took it like a pro, we've diligently practiced our banks and I make him walk through every puddle we see, much to his annoyance.


5...4...3...2...1...Have a great ride!

And get this:  he was quite tired from Saturday, so we actually got within 18 seconds of optimum time, something I NEVER managed with Solo.  At BN and N, I was always frantically trying to slow that train down so we didn't get speed faults.  And I can't believe I finally found something that makes Encore tired....but it was a big mental AND physical day Saturday with dressage and stadium to deal with, so everyone slept well that night.

March 12, 2012

I'll Almost Fill You In

My entire body and brain is tired, but I promise many media are coming.  There are photos to be cropped and videos to be uploaded and it all takes time.

I do want to say one thing immediately:  THANK YOU.

Thank you to the volunteers -- I try to be one whenever I can and I think it's a fantastic job, but it's also a long day(s).  I was happy to see some of the jump judges chowing down on a really good lunch, so good job, CHP, for taking care of your peeps.

Thank you to mum -- none if it would be possible without you.  Having an extra pair of hands for the weekend was an extra bonus!

Thank you to everyone who stopped and said hi, sent a text, or wrote a note of encouragement.  Each one is so special and unexpected to me, it makes it all that much more fun to know that Encore is sharing his journey.  A shout-out to Alana and Ryan, I wish I could have had more time to talk!

Thank you to the atmosphere, which gave us two perfect, Carolina blue days in the sandhills. 

As for the event itself, well, you will just have to be a little patient with me.  I'll give you some hints:

Our dressage test was much better than two weeks ago, but would have been even better if I had listened to a friend...

Our stadium round was nearly flawless, until...

Our cross country run was, as it always is for me, an exercise in pure awesomeness, but there's a funny story about a ditch....

I will say that I was THRILLED with the way Encore handled himself, it's amazing to watch a horse who spent three years racing take in a whole new scene so professionally.  Any and all mistakes were rider error, we crossed the finish flags on XC clean and clear within 18 seconds of optimum time, and a month from'll see us back at the Horse Novice.

For now, it's all between Encore and the giraffe...

March 9, 2012

Encore Premiers!

I only have a million things to do today and not enough time to do them all.

Encore's first recognized event, ahhh!  Wonderful mum is here to hold all media devices.

In brief, you can find your favourite riders' times here.  Besides me, of course.

Encore:  Sat, Dressage at 3:04 pm, Show Jumping at 5:18 pm // Sunday, XC at 3:20 pm.

You should be able to find live scoring here.

Off we go!