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We Are Flying Solo

May 19, 2012

All Work And No Play

It's not really like me to sit around and sigh for long when I can't ride my little project.  It's not as if there is ever a shortage of things that need tending to!

I always work very hard to make sure that I keep my BO's happy no matter where I am.  While Solo has become a very easy horse to take care of, Encore practically needs his own wait staff.  With five kinds of food, a wheedling plea for better hay, and constant adjustments to try and get back all the weight he dropped in the farm move, I want to simplify and contribute as much as I can to the farm.  I will bend over backwards and work all day long to make my boys' home the best it can be.

Feeding spreadsheet duct taped to bins on waterproof paper?  Check!
Supply my own shed for all my eventing crap so I take up zero barn space?  Check!
Prepare the next feeding myself whenever I am there so the next feeder has life easy?  Check!
Perform archaeological dig in shed, cleaning it, and add some gravel and stall mats to stabilize the floor?  Check!
SmartPak it up so there is no supplement scooping or buckets to fill up the shelves?  Check!
Cap all the t-posts?  Check!

I even go further.  Given that the boys are now on full pasture board and the pasture horses are fed via gator feed transpot, I provided colour coded buckets with their own labels thanks to SmartPak's ingenious covers (seriously an awesome invention)!  You can't tell in the picture, but yes, their names are embroidered in TFS powder blue.

 And while I liked my shed, divided neatly in half so I could imprison Solo and Encore could eat his dinner in peace, its open sides meant it only really provided shade at oh, noonish, and only was a rain shelter if the rain came straight down with no wind (pretty much never).  So while the BO had offered to enhance the shed construction when he had more funds in a few months, I decided to take an afternoon and give the boys some sunblock on their western wall.  The BO can consider it his early Christmas present. 

Of course, I had forgotten that sheets of treated plywood weigh 47,000 lbs, so everyone in Lowe's got to see me fall flat on my face when one dragged me over.  Oh, and also that lumber costs a gazillion dollars.  And I invented some pretty interesting rock climbing moves to get the top crossbeams up.  But I conquered it all myself except the two top sheets of plywood (yeah, you try it!) so I roped in one of the women who works at the barn (horsewomen are awesome and can do anything) to help me lift and screw in the top sheets and cover boards for the seams.  Four 4' x 8' sheets of plywood, four 2 x 4 x 10's, a box of super-magic treated lumber screws, and a lot of acrobatics and "magic words" later... 


After.  The prisoner entreats in futility.
 These horses better freaking love me.

May 16, 2012

When Is Naptime Again?

There are so many things I want to write for you, so many "almost ready" posts to breathe life back into the blog.  I am just trying to figure out how to do that while trying to be four people at once. 

I am, for some reason, expected to show up at work in order to get a paycheck (entirely unreasonable, I think), so there goes 40 hours.  The horses, well, who knows how many hours that is. 

Dealing with life itself, that can't even be counted in hours.

If you haven't already clicked over to Facebook to follow Team Flying Solo there, I am putting up extra content for you to have fun with because it's just a little bit faster. 

Everything Encore is pretty much in slow motion until a thousand million seconds pass and we meet with the Equine Sports Medicine Man at NCSU.  And after tonight's ride, I know we'll have to keep it slow until then.

Which means I have some time to get on Solo again; Solo, who has reduced from hippopotamus to normal horse size since the move, which is nice (unfortunately, Encore has been subject to the same phenomenon, dang TBs) so a little work has been done for me. 

So I think tomorrow, we'll put his boots on, I'll swing a tired leg over his back and settle into my favourite home for a very familiar ride. 

I can't wait.

May 13, 2012

Full Stop

It was madness on Friday.  Dashing 100 miles from our last field site of the day home, changing bags, changing trucks, only to dash again to the farm and pick up Encore and wind our way up into the Blue Ridge of Virginia.  We made it to our friend's farm around 9:00 pm, I tucked Encore in in his pasture, then passed out shortly after.

I played video and pole girl Saturday morning; it was interesting to watch the lessons I taped.  The first, especially was tackling the same problems I was having and I laughed as she finished, "I think you just got my lesson!"

We had a quick lunch with David and I was excited to saddle up Encore and show off how far he'd come.  We started our typical Warm Up Circle of Death, but as soon as we got to the canter work, I knew something was wrong.  Encore was falling out hard behind and kept doing a strange hop step with his hind feet on his left lead.  David watched carefully and said, "I don't remember this horse doing this before."

"No," I said, "he's been uneven but this is the worst it's been."

He put us through a low bounce gynmanstic.  After we did it for the fifth or sixth time, I knew he was concerned.  We never work through a gymnastic line that many times.  We tried a couple of small courses, but every jump was odd.  I stopped and said, "David, I can't see anything, it doesn't feel right, I feel as if I've suddenly forgotten how to ride, there's nothing there?"

"That's because there is nothing there, you have no canter," he responded.  My heart sunk.  "You know," he said, "I had a whole plan for this horse today but as soon as I saw the canter issues, I had to throw it all out the window."

It was like a knife to the heart but I knew he was right.  And I couldn't say it was a total surprise either.  I'd been watching Encore for a few months, not sure if it was strength issue or something else, as horses are often uneven behind until they get stronger.  But as the work got harder, the issue became more pronounced.  Our dressage trainer noticed his left hind didn't flex as well as the right and even Dr. Brian asked if he'd ever had stifle issues.  David was just the one who came right out and said, "You have a mechanical problem."

"I've just been really hoping he just needed to be stronger," I pleaded.  "I've been gun-shy since the Solo Incident."

"I completely understand that," he said, "but there is nothing to be gained by being an ostrich.  Go do your diagnostics, pinpoint the problem, then you can fix it and move on with the myriad of treatment options available today."

I was disappointed, yet at the same time, very grateful for his direct assessment and the recommendations he offered.  It gave me a concrete game plan to step forward and address the issue and his eye gave me credibility to take to the diagnostic center.

Sorry, mom.  But I wanted to make sure the insurance was worth it!
My money is on the left stifle and I am hoping it is something simple.  I've known several other horses with similar issues and a simple stifle injection or something similar had them back on track.  Well, I am really hoping it is nothing, but anyone who's been in horses long enough knows they are horses:  it is not if but WHEN you be looking sorrowfully at your lame partner.  It doesn't matter what breed or type -- they are all walking suicide machines (except for Shetland ponies, but I believe evil sustains them).

On the plus side, he is not out of riding commission, so we can still work on things and do fun rides, but we cannot step forward in training until we resolve this and he is able to even up behind.  At the very least, our spring eventing season was done anyway, my summer work schedule is picking up, and we had no horse trial plans until the fall.  So I suppose if any timing is ever right, this one is.

Tomorrow morning, I shall consult the Batphone and we shall see what there is to be seen.  This, indeed, is why I insisted on insurance for the first year!

May 8, 2012

Just A Few Notices

(1)  I have finally broken down and made a Facebook page for TFS.  I admit, the curiosity got the better of me, even though I don't use Facebook much anymore.  But there are often quick things I'd like to post and it offered a faster medium than writing a whole blog post, so there will be extra content, fun pictures, videos, polls, and more -- so find the link here or the permanent link in our sidebar and have even more dorky ridiculousness in your life!

(2) I still have some times for sale on the "Sale" tab, so check them out.  Thanks to those who have purchased and I hope you have fun with your new Solo karma!!

I do remember these books though!
(3)  I NEED YOUR HELP!  I am clearly a moron and suddenly am incapable of remembering to turn on my helmet cam in the XC start box.  Help me come up with a clever solution that even an amoeba could remember and post it in the comments!  I thought to sharpie it on my arm, but that requires remembering the sharpie and remembering to write it.  I did have a sharpie with me, but did not remember to use it.  Life stress really reduces brain function!

You do get extra internet karma if you test your solution on an amoeba and it works.

EDITED TO ADD:  Pictures from Encore's run at the Carolina Horse Park this weekend are up for your entertainment.  Although he was tense in the dressage test, he still had some good engagement behind.  He definitely still jumps like a greenie, but he looks damn cute on XC!  You can view them here.

May 7, 2012


Yes, I am lax in my posting.  Field season pulls me away 2-3 days per week and I've been gone every weekend.  I never want to drive again.

I am also a moron because I keep forgetting to turn on my helmet cam.  This weekend, I did remember at jump 3 and made a valiant attempt to turn it on there.  Unfortunately, Encore had just settled into full TB gallop and those jumps just aren't that far apart at that speed; one handing the XC course did not feel like a good idea.

I know, no cam, what's the point, right?  But we did get some good mileage.

Lesson:  Encore is great in the dressage warmup; I am finally learning what works for him and I had him soft, responsive, supple, and ready to go.  Then we left the warmup ring and entered the dressage arena at A, at which point Encore threw his head up, startled that he was suddenly alone and stared at, and I was unable to unlock his jaw for the next five minutes.  To my aghastment (it's a word now), we still scored a 36.09.  :-o  It felt more like a 45.  But baby needs a lot more mileage so he can get comfy and relax his topline in the arena and we will be hitting the dressage schooling circuit this summer, instead of the schooling HTs I had originally planned.  Not as fun, but cheaper.  The boy already knows how to jump, I'll save those jumps for the fall.

Lesson:  I was starting to figure out a few things in the SJ warmup.  I kept my leg on all the way to the base of the fence and over, hooking a finger through the martingale strap so there was no mouth catching, and we got some LOVELY jumps.  Once we got in the arena though, any place where there were two jumps in a straight line, he charged like a bull and I was left to try to half halt and be soft at the same time.  I think I have at least partially created this problem.  Basically what happens then is I end up trying to hold him to the base of the fence instead galloping through it, which will almost always mean back rails get pulled behind, and I forget all about keeping my leg on.  Hopefully, David will fix us this coming weekend.  If there is a turn or corner to use to balance, we do fine and I can focus and get him back.  A friend was nice enough to catch the rail bowling jumping round on her phone for your entertainment (I would recommend full screening and maxing the resolution)!

Lesson:  Encore is getting more confident on XC, yeah!  And WE JUMPED THE LAST JUMP.  Oh yes, the bright rolltop nemesis was defeated with a holler and a smack.  I don't think I would change a thing about his course.  It was the same funky course as Longleaf, which I still think doesn't work well for Novice horses in several places, but it made my coursewalk much easier.

The point of SCHOOLING horse trial is SCHOOLING and I am very happy with the experience we got.  Encore feels a little more sure of himself each time out and the horse trial itself did its job of showing me where our weak spots were.  So to the drawing board we go, to come back in the fall with a big fat BANG!