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We Are Flying Solo

November 20, 2012

WTF Just Happened? AKA The Surgeon's Update

So...I made this giant plan, right?  I pretty much gave up a year of my life to fix this stupid knee thing.  I had everything in place, all the characters lined up, & this massive, intricate web of steps ready to push into motion.

Anticlimax alert.

Then I woke up from anesthesia to be informed that all the tendons in my knee were, in fact, fine.  Big, chopping surgery with drills & such was not performed.  Arthroscopic exploration (which surgeon did say nothing was 100% till that) revealed that all of the issues stemmed from an intra-articular cartilage tear, just under the meniscus.  Which.....

Wait for it.

There is currently no available solution for.

I sat in my bed in puzzlement, looking from lifeshighway (BFF) to nurses to leg & back to lifeshighway.


What happened instead was that the surgeon debrided (read:  power sanded & sucked out) all the loose cartilage edges & built up inflammatory tissue (a lot!), wrapped it up & sent me home, now neatly moved into the "oop, can't fix, no longer interesting surgical case" category.

It's not a bad thing that I now have a two-three month recovery instead of an eight month one.  But now I'm sitting here with this heap of plan in my lap going, Heh.  Now what?

After the nerve block wore off, I spent Saturday in a whole new world of pain I didn't even know existed (thank cod I requested the stronger drugs), was dragged to salvation by two amazing friends, had insane explosion of plan remnants yesterday in "you can't make this shit up" realm, & now on Tuesday am just resting till I go back to work & PT next Monday.

Long term prognosis:  I am now a horse.  We will try maintenance HA (hyaluronic acid; at least I'm a nice enough horse that I get the expensive stuff) injections & I will rebuild muscle around the joint.  I will then just manage flare-ups until someone invents a solution.

Lifeshighway & I remain scratching our heads from the abrupt departure from expected occurrences.  I've been putting this thing together since late summer, building up to it, building up to it, ready to get my solution, then WHAM-O!  Just kidding, you'll be fine by February, except not really.  Now you're just another person with a bum knee.

Have fun with that!

November 12, 2012

The Eagle Has Landed

"You could totes be a model...."

Maybe that's what Encore's friends tell him.  And by friends I mean, one friend who likes to bite him.  Who is not really a friend, more like a food-stealing, bossy, co-dependent dominator.

But there has indeed been a noteworthy landing...of a Dover store in Raleigh (about 25 minutes from my house).  So BFF and I had to jump in the car and check out the grand opening sales, naturally. 

Much to my bank account's dismay (although all it knows is dismay, so perhaps it didn't notice), I decided I needed a consolation prize for the fact that things were going to suck really badly for quite some time.  So aside from the two years' worth of wormer and vetwrap (I ALWAYS stock up when that stuff is on sale! $0.99 a roll, I mean, come on!), I walked around the corner and stopped dead in front of this (for those of you who missed it on TFS Facebook):

Holy crap! you exclaim, Is that a custom wool dress sheet in exact Team Flying Solo colours?  Why yes, yes it is.  At 1/3 of its regular price.  Horse and trailer not included.  Mine.  The picture really does not do it justice; the colours are rich and gorgeous and I am quite sure we will intimidate the competition simply by stepping off the trailer next year.

Easy on the orange blush there, tiger.

Work it, baby.
I also found the grail of my year long quest:  a dressage pad with blue binding.  Well, close enough.  Enough with the black and white thing, DQ's, live a little!

Click to enlarge.
That pretty much took care of my year's worth of horse purchases.  Of course, I always snag a pair of breeches when they are on sale, since I have a pile in various stages of decay from daily use.

His Highness approves of your offerings.
I also did an experiment and verified that you were NOT immediately encapsulated in a metal cage and shot if you uttered SmartPak's name.  You do, however, get a glare from the store manager. 

Sorry, Dover, love ya, but SmartPak already stole my soul when they delivered my cat food for free.  BUT nobody carries everything, so the beauty of this one is that you can order anything you want from the Dover catalog and then pick it up at the store.  Not that I often need much at this point, but I HATE PAYING SHIPPING.  There, I said it, I'm spoiled.

I'm not sure how much will be left of that sheet  though, after I spend months petting it in my lap until I can jump sweet jumps again...


November 6, 2012

An Emotional Blender

Our farrier met me in a bitterly cold wind this afternoon and pulled Encore's shoes; the final touch ending my desperate attempt at a fall season.  At least I won't have to get all crabby about riding in the dark all winter. 

It's not all bad -- Encore no longer shows any pain in his hip or hindquarter from his ligament injury, which is great.  Now we just need to work on loosening up the tight tendons and ligaments in the area and make sure to keep them moving throughout the winter.  The Majykal Hotwalker (my new best friend) will help keep his muscles toned and hopefully, the round pen and a lovely rider of a friend can keep a hint of topline on him.

In addition, there is Amber.  Delightful, thoughtful, enthusiastic Amber who showed up out of nowhere and brightened my life really at its darkest moment.  She will be helping me keep Solo in shape and showering him with the attention he has been craving.  I laughed out loud on Sunday as I glanced at him:  Amber was brushing him and his bright eyes and pricked ears were locked on me, saying, "FINALLY!  Thank you for this most excellent minion!"  He was in heaven.  At least until he found out there would be SOME work involved.  But he was quickly bribed back to joy with a giant peppermint stick.

My surgery comes next Friday and this week is a crazy one at work, so the clock is ticking.  I will be stockpiling feed and digging out my old crutches and relishing my last moments with my legs wrapped around a warm, wonderful horse.  I lean against their necks and breathe deeply, hoping I can save up their essence to get me through to the other side.

November 2, 2012

The Guestest With The Bestest

I am proud to introduce you to Amber, who humoured me and has written a guest blog for us today.  She contacted me through email about my woeful longings for Solo to have a job again and to get him back into shape.  We had our first meeting this past Sunday and she is fantastic.  Not only does she have a lovely seat and posture, she got the Solo seal of approval, a list which only has two people on it, AND she's just a fun person!  Perhaps my red love boy is finally relaxing and learning that its ok to trust the people I bring him.  He thoroughly enjoyed his job as caretaker and Amber very quickly re-found her balance and rhythm.  I couldn't be more excited and proud for my beloved shiny horse and so happy and grateful to have met such a great person.
Without further ado, take it away, Amber! 
Everything. Hurts. And it’s glorious.  I couldn’t be happier to be this stiff and sore!  It’s so completely worth it for the experience of riding Solo. And I guess a statement like that begs for some background information.
While I haven’t left comments on this blog, I’ve lurked in the background for a while.  I’d sit reading away every morning when I got to work; yes I was procrastinating.  It was just a nice window into a sport I enjoyed in my teens.  I stopped riding about 15 years ago and pretty firmly closed the door on that part of my life. It’s funny how horses manage to creep back into your heart and your life, sometimes when you aren’t expecting it at all. One morning I read Brena’s blog post about Solo needing some attention and exercise, and all of my casual thoughts of getting back into eventing became this uncontrollable urge to start fresh with this horse. It’s the Solo magic I think. Before I knew it, I was emailing like a complete creeper to see if this stranger would let me ride her horse.  Imagine my surprise when instead of a restraining order, I received an email response! Brena has been immensely generous with her time, expertise, and her shiny wonder boy.
I drove up and was privileged to ride Solo this past Sunday.  Of course when I first saw him, Solo was running around his pasture screaming and performing aerial maneuvers I haven’t seen outside of a Royal Lipizzaner Stallion performance [eventer79 notes:  Encore was on the hotwalker and Solo disapproved and there was a cold wind blowing up his tail].  I just looked at Brena as she laughed and said “that’s my broken horse”. I’ll admit, I definitely had a moment of questioning my sanity as I watched him gallop and buck. As soon as he realized we were coming to get him though he settled right down. It was awesome to see his happy face as he received some well-deserved attention from his minions. Solo is very expressive, and it was easy to see he enjoys having people fawn over him.

Wait till she gets to do this...  Damn, he looked good then!
As I scrambled aboard he was a saint, and definitely babysat me as I exhibited amazing feats of clumsiness and a complete lack of coordination.  It is simultaneously humbling and hilarious to ask your muscles to do things that they haven’t even considered for 15 years. My brain said one thing and my body did something completely different! I’m so grateful that Solo took such good care of me, and I know he most definitely took pity on me because I really doubt any of my cues were very effective.  I’m also grateful that Brena is willing to allow me to ride His Shine-ness, and I look forward to the both of us slowly getting back into shape. Who knows, maybe someday you guys will see us out doing a maiden course somewhere. But for now, Sweet Heavens to Betsy…I am a bowlegged mess, and this is several days later! I’ll take being this horribly sore any day if it means I’ve been out riding.

October 31, 2012

A Gear In The Complex Machine, Pt. II

The anticipation was palpable as dawn crept over Waredaca's rolling course.  A light mist and a breeze made it perfect galloping weather.  All our organizing was done the night before so we only had to man our stations (with the barrrrely enough volunteers who showed up) with scoresheets and timers and pens and cameras and radios and drinks and to stalk each rider through their phases.


I took up my traditional role as the finish timer of Phase D.  I love seeing the big grins as each partnership gallop through the finish flags, having finished the greatest accomplishment in our sport:  endurance day of a true long format event.

Tools of the trade.
Bonus:  the borrowed vehicle I sat in had heated seats.  At least, it did until the battery died.

It also came with a friend.  3 minutes can be long...
From my vantage point, I could watch riders trot off on Phase A (warmup), finish Phase C (cooldown), enter and work the 10-minute box, and then, of course, the last two jumps of the cross country course.  It was up to me to hit the red button, recording everyone's timing fate on the Seiko ribbon and reporting it to Brian.  50 times.  At (mostly) 3 minute intervals. 

It went something like this (warning, terrible cell phone video resolution):

The latter was one of my favourite horses, Mr. President. a big drafty paint cross who was actually a lovely mover and jumper and had the sweetest face; I wanted to pick him up and put him in my (very large) pocket and take him home.

But it wasn't all the same thing.  Some had more trouble than others with the concept of flags (apologies again for poor video but the conversation is worth it)...

By afternoon, it was done.  I believe one horse withdrew in the vet box and the only fall was an unfortunate soul whose mount tripped and fell on his knees starting Phase A.  Trotting.  Fortunately, you don't get eliminated for that.

After that, it's a like snowball rolling downhill, already having gathered so much momentum,  your exhausted brain just rolls along with it.  Scoresheets were all turned over the the head scorer, we all ran away and passed out after a final review of which prizes go where, and the sun had set on a fantastic day.

Saturday was almost anticlimactic after the thrill of completing the day before.  After the morning jog up,  I worked as pole steward when tired or looky horses didn't quite get all four feet over and as holder of all prizes for distribution.  The three divisions (2 Training, 1 Novice) jumped around, collected their loot, and we bolted for home.

I'll keep going back.  Maybe next year I will be on a horse.  More likely, I'll be defying death by golf cart again.  A behind the scenes video would be fascinating -- you truly would not believe the flurry and hard work and acts of generousity beyond the call of duty that are constantly occuring behind that usually smooth face of each event.

Even greater though, is the knowledge and experience I gain with each trip.  Not only do I meet new judges, officials, clincians, product reps, and adult riders, but I learn tidbits from the seemingly bottomless well of how to successfully complete a long format event.  Things you never get from a clinic or a lesson.  When I finally DO make it to competitor status, I will be the one sitting there feeling (relatively) confident about exactly what is going to happen every day, as well as how to be not only successful but EFFICIENT with my competition plan.  Because I've seen what worked and I've seen what didn't and I've seen the difference between how you ride and manage a true 3-day horse and how you ride a regular horse trial horse.

And all I remember thinking, the whole time this year, was, Encore could totally own this...