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We Are Flying Solo

December 25, 2015

There's No Present Like The Time*

Holidays & I have mixed relations, but there is still no repressing my smile at Solo’s unfailing welcome nicker as I step out the back door.

So I relish every opportunity to lean on that massive shoulder & giggle at his never-ending fascination with nuzzling feet.

I’m filled with gratitude for this time off work to continue Operation Encore (v. 6.0?); we’re on day 9 or 10, I think, of my modified fitness regime. It’s some pretty thrilling stuff, like 20 minutes of walking while on the bit, or adding in some trot transitions on our longer hill walking sessions.

Where did everyone go?
We spiced it up yesterday with some radical Guinea Cutting & I think we’d have scored very well, successfully isolating the same bird three times in a row! You may not have heard of this discipline yet. That’s probably because I invented it yesterday.

Don’t worry, there’s still time to qualify for the Championships the next time Neighbour Vanessa’s flock wanders over (ride times are subject to change at the whim of pea-brained fowl).

It may have rained 427 inches in 24 hours, but at 75F, no one’s cold OR dehydrated.

For all these moments & many more, I say an inadequate thanks. Solo hates it when I press my face against his neck to absorb him with all my senses – so I try to do it often. At least he doesn’t mind my irritating chest congestion visitor (blech).

I hope I get many more chances to harass both of my ridiculous redheads in the coming year. But one thing all of us can do without fail is to seize the wonderful gift of Now.

Our bests to you from Flying Solo Farm -

My highlights
*Yes, I totally stole this from a movie.  No, I do not feel any remorse.  ;P

December 14, 2015

The Double Whammy

While I waited for Dr. Bob last Tuesday morning, I was fully prepared to hear Encore had torn a meniscus or something & I'd have a full-fledged retirement farm.

Oh, by the way, yeah, two days after Solo's "little" clinic visit, Encore decided he wanted to help keep me in poverty too.

But before I tell that story, I want to say a massive THANK YOU to each of you who commented & emailed & sent messages of support following my sad discovery of Solo's injury.  Words can be powerful & their meaning is beyond value when compassion is needed most.  Truly.

May be 1/2-finished clip revenge
Dr. Bob's 2nd Weekly Visit

After an attempt at a "consolation ride" on Saturday, hoping Encore would help lift my spirits, he informed me after a barely-pulse-raising 15-minute ride that his stifles were so sore that I was not to touch them.

I was not very consoled.

Much as I enjoy Dr. Bob's breadth of story-telling & educational treatises, I really prefer not to see him twice in four days.  And given Friday's news, I may have been a wee bit pessimistic as his truck pulled up to the shed.

I Get Somewhat Consoled

He allayed my fears after a hands-on exam & circled my "best case scenario."  Due to my intense work project demanding lots of travel since August, combined with other physical constraints, I've just been caught in a vicious cycle.

As previously noted, Encore gets bored & plays hard.  When he's not fit, soft tissue & joints are loose, & he jams himself up performing impressive sliding stops & other pasture escapades.  Then, because he's made himself sore, I don't push him, so he doesn't get fit.

Phone did something to pics...
However, the cycle shall be broken.  Dammit.

Work project has been wrapped up (ok, I decreed it wrapped up).  Encore got a shot of cortisone in each stifle to bring down inflammatory soreness, along with a steroid to help boost our ability to build muscle & tighten everything up.

I've got a schedule to try out, a back-to-work program - it comes in
versions from a clinic my neighbour has taken several horses to (brain needs small, concrete tasks at this point).  I'll tweak it a bit here & there to fit us.

Our 30 days began Saturday, with a, bareback walking session.  Eh, it was beautiful out.  Barring ginormous storms, hopefully in four weeks Mr. Porky will be a bit closer to Mr. Sexy.

December 5, 2015

In Which Solo Can Fly No More

*edited to add - Solo is still warm & huggable, my apology for any over-scare, but we did discover an injury effectively ending his ridden days beyond the occasional amble*

I tried to type last night, but..couldn't.  But before I continue (warning: it's going to be long), let me say that Beka Burke, of The Owls Approve, is just completely awesome.  For example, when random people send her crazed text paragraphs. 

Solo did achieve some improvement with his newly invented shoes, but over this fall, some soreness returned in both his shoulders & in the past month, his right front foot.  I made him rest (which earned me plenty of dirty Solo-glares) & began my own differential analysis.

Combine a stoic horse with a subtle "NQR" & the result can be a diagnostic rabbit hole.  I knew I needed to consult Batman Dr. Bob further, but to get the best actionable information, I also needed to know what questions to ask & where to point.

I can stare too, mom. (sry, old pic)
Step 1:  Patient Scrutiny

An extensive Solo interview (they do tell you, so long as you listen), a whole lot of staring, & last week, a very helpful meeting with Wonder Farrier's hooftesters narrowed things down to some sobering options.  

The resurfacing of muscle soreness coincided with my observation that both front frogs were fairly pathetic-looking.  This told me Solo was not placing his heels on the ground first as his feet landed, reducing circulatory flow to the frogs, which steals away their fat, healthy cushion.

He was also reluctant to pivot smoothly on that RF & tested sore across the width of his heels.  Pulling up my mental image of hoof anatomy, this all pointed to sidebone, navicular pain, or bruising/calcification along the back of his coffin bone.  He didn't stand with toes pointed like a true "navicular horse," & he's had good hoof care, so I hoped for the "best," a.k.a. least limiting.   

Now that I could circle general region of the problem, it was time to take him in.  

Step 2:  Look On The Inside

I was pretty close.  How I wish I wasn't.     

Dr. Bob deployed his magic hands, his kind practicality, & all the experience we rely on.  After a jog & flexions of fetlocks, knees, & elbows, a single palmar digital (rear of the foot) nerve block confirmed where we'd take pictures.

A lateral & dorsal (front-on) view of the RF told us all we needed to know.  A flexed radiograph of the same knee, taken just in case, was thankfully clean.

Step 3:  Decipher, Plan, Cry

In short, Solo tore his DDFT (Deep Digital Flexor Tendon) where it cradles his navicular bone. Essentially a low bow, only much lower than horses normally have, on the rear of his pastern, nestled between heel bulbs, because it's Solo, & conventional is nowhere in his playbook.

There is some scar tissue in the 2" tear, some still healing, but the navicular bone itself is also degraded in the process, or to quote Dr. Bob, "falling apart."  The coffin joint is still clean, although P2 (the short pastern bone) is slightly pushed up by some fill in the navicular fluid capsule.

So much happy. By Pics of You
Which Means...?
He can never jump even a tiny thing again.  Because if he trips or lands a little heavy on that foot, he could fall & kill us both.  The thing that makes him glow, the lights him up with joy such that he still hunts anything jumpable every time I sit on him, is off limits.  

All flights officially, permanently grounded.  Which is excruciatingly difficult to explain to a horse who believes retirement is a synonym for punishment.  Even when his owner is sobbing like a dying animal.

Not even his hated dressage; he has to move however he needs to in order to be comfortable.  Which means crooked, lopsided if he needs it, whatever is necessary for his muscles to adapt & let his legs travel wherever they want.

There Are Bits Of Good

He can do light hacks if he wants.  The injury itself would have stemmed from a "simple" bad step in the pasture.  So being ridden is still ok & even important to maintain range of motion & muscle tone, as well as circulation.  

And our invented shoes were right; Dr. Bob said they were "the most a farrier can do for him at this point."  And my instinct to rest him was correct.  I couldn't have prevented anything, although it's impossible not to wonder if I could have "done something" (what, magic bone re-grower??) sooner.  

There are many more details & some fantastic sources of information, but they'll have to wait until I can emotionally catch up.

Whatever he needs - for he gave me the world

November 23, 2015

The Trouble With Horses

But Encore-face, impossible to not love...
Is that they're horses.  One minute you're on top of the world, the next, you're typing "NQR."

Also, never write about "winds of change".  They snicker & knock you down next time you walk out the door.

The silver lining is that change is, well, changeable.  I was disheartened last week when Encore was cooling out on the long lines...and started limping.  At the walk.  And post-grooming revealed stifle soreness. Again.

I tried not to go completely bonkers, after all, I've had plenty of practice. :/  He is out of shape & I had just asked him to really use himself,  albeit for a very brief session.

Work stepped in, I had to go flail around in mosquito clouds in the swamp, so he had a week to think about what he'd done anyway.

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous when I climbed on today to feel things out & at least get a road hack in.  You want to know but you don't want to know, you know?


I kept our lines wide & straight in a brief W/T/C/hop over a couple logs warm up.  He started out with that anticipatory tightness that something might be sore.  But I just asked him to move forward through the bridle, & waited.   Not uber round & compacted, just connected to a soft feel & working over his back.

When he began to stretch down & swing a bit, it was a shared relief!  (Offer valid for the next 12 hrs only, terms & conditions may apply...)

I didn't ask more than about 10 minutes of moving out before we looped out into our road route, about a mile & change with some rolling slopes to walk.

It's (another re-) start, but such is the nature of our much-loved, yet maddening partners.  Circles both real & metaphorical & no predicting how small they'll be.

The goal & challenge will be to rebuild consistency - garnering what energy I can find & keeping my butt in the saddle so Encore has the strength he needs to support work & play.  At least until he thinks of a new trick.

Um, anyone want to ride a very cool horse while I'm stuck in meetings?

Scenery included at no charge

November 11, 2015

Catching Up: Like, RIDING HORSES!

It’s a tad squishy out, what with several inches of rain over the last 24 hours.  But the sun is warm & some of the grass is still green.  And my carefully guarded drainage sloughs & soils are hard at work already, drying it out for me & eight expensive hooves!

Storms make great sunsets though
There’s a lot to catch up on, both on these pages & in the saddle.  I commend the patience of anyone still clicking over to TFS.  One look at my annual post numbers over there in the right-hand archive tab reveals yawning gaps in our journey.

It’s not that there weren’t stories to tell.  More often a general overwhelm of the universe conspiring towards my demise combined with…well, who really wants to read, “I didn’t ride my horses because I’m sad & tired?

There are hints of change in the wind, though.  I’m not entirely sure of their direction yet, but I’m thinking that they’re the good kind.
To my shame, I have to admit that my riding muscles were actually sore after giving Encore a chance to stretch his legs on Sunday.  If that doesn’t tattle on me…  I was reminded, though, that vacations are always good for our partners.  They don’t forget what we’ve taught (good OR bad, heh) & more often than not, giving things a chance to settle in has brought us better results in the long run.

Encore: Please, admire at your leisure...
Encore Escapades

The Turf Beast has had quite a bit of down time, with intermittent bursts of exercise (let’s not go crazy & call it ‘work’), first to heal his X-Games injuries, then to wait for his rider to finish grubbing fish out of swamps through the fall (only THREE trips left this year, woohoo!).

While that naturally means we both get to rebuild muscle, all the buttons are still there, & once we start moving, it’s now only a few minutes before he is working over his back properly & staying elastic in the contact.

Um, super exciting progression from ‘llama/hackney cross impersonator locking the left side of his jaw’ that we started with.  It helps that I’m getting better at staying focused on how I WILL ride & remembering to notice that if my left shoulder starts aching, it’s probably because I’m hanging on to that rein like a climbing hold.

Psssh, with my eyes closed... By High Time Photos
 Because guess what:  your horse goes forward so much nicer when you aren’t blocking all of his energy with your iron grip.  You can have that earth-shattering tip at no cost!
Life on Solo terms: not the side of the fence I left him on
Solo Shenanigans

Solo’s been keeping my guilt active with his very special “I’m making a list of every time you don’t play with me” look.  He had his own vacation (or in Solo-terms, ‘horrific neglect,’ because somehow I have a horse who thinking eating grass & hanging out with his best horsey buddy is punishment), thanks to aforementioned ridiculous employer demands that I actually EARN my paycheck, as well as working out Weird Shoulder Thing.

While he is Member #3 of Muscle Rebuild Club, he assured me he was a solid, sexy, fancy stud both under saddle & on the longe last week (feel my awesome canter, mom, hey, let’s jump this log, did you see how awesome I was, yeah, check out this sexy canter, did I show you my badass canter?).

I couldn’t stop giggling (er, between panting) – I’d ask him to trot & he’d step up into his favourite canter instead, with that trademark spark in his eye & both ears cocked back at me to make sure I was paying attention.

Naturally, I’m rediscovering my ability to begin picking up (& searching for) pieces as soon as that nasty winter time change sets in.  But that’s ok; when it’s dark out, that's when you get to see the stars.
My Solo superstar

November 7, 2015

Fairy-er Magic: What Makes Good Hoofcare Great

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?

October 26, 2015

Orange Is The New...Orange: Including My New Favourite Neck Strap!

Solo getting his glow on in last fall's gear
Autumn:  beautiful riding weather...and rifle season for deer!  This means it's time to play "decorate in reflective strips & blaze orange" to make sure there is no room for uncertainty -- I am indeed a dork on horseback, NOT an enormous doe.

Once again, the great folks at can help you & your partner stay safe with more accessories (enabling sequence initiated)!  Even outside of hunting seasons, being seen is critical, particularly if you ride near roads or in low light.

Orange You Glad I Can Use This Pun?

This October, they sent us a pair of their blaze orange reflective splint boots along with a matching nylon harness/yoke.  Both are emblazoned with broad reflective tape & bright print to appropriately scream, "HEADS UP!"

Sexy turf horse safety (sorry the orange looks yellow in pic)
One of the things I've appreciated about their products is the feeling that someone was thinking about what really matters to the average rider:  affordability & simplicity without completely sacrificing practical durability.

The boots are neoprene lined with solid, even stitching; they slid right into place & stay put while jumping without having to use "velcro death grip."  Which for those sensitive-skinned TBs, means no rubs either.  You bet they are lined up for use as turnout boots too (free bonus: finding your horse in a dark pasture gets much easier).

Can you see the boots??  ;P
I loved the easy clip around the neck of the yoke, which was also adjustable there & at the "make your own girth loop" attachment.  Visibility + neck strap rolled into one!  Although I think mine has the buckle stitched on incorrectly for the girth loop -- no worries, though, with their 100% happiness guarantee & free shipping both ways.
Reflect upon the visibility power!!
And my favourite part of both?  Hose 'em off when you're done, hang to dry, all clean!

Remember:  Knowledge IS Power...And Safety!

No matter where you are, always be aware of your local laws & regulations.  NC has a new law this year, making it legal to hunt deer with rifles on Sunday on private land (previously only bow-hunters & falconers could hunt Sundays).

So check your area's natural resource agency webpage:  we must all be responsible when sharing land & do our best to help prevent accidents.

U.S.: Get started finding yours here (although missing, uh, ours, LOL)
Our state's law requires all hunters to wear blaze orange in season & our Hunting Safety Education officers have done a great job making it a universally recognized symbol statewide.  We can use that to our advantage even if we're not the one in the deer stand.

Thank you again to Horze for sharing; check out more of their great line of safety gear (oh, I covet the sheet!!) & be seen, be safe, no matter what!

October 18, 2015

Help Me Help You! Sharing Struggles?

The almighty Google Webmaster has been telling me that there are many sharing fails occurring on the desktop version of our site.

Please help me quench the wails of anguish: I've tested both sets of sharing buttons in 3 browsers in both mobile & desktop platforms & can't seem to break it (make that ONE thing in my life that works).

Share your input so I can make everything better! Please add any relevant (or irrelevant, that's how we roll, after all...) info in the comments.

Do You Struggle With Sharing?

October 13, 2015

Ever Tried To Catch A Greased Weasel?

Because that's pretty much what it's like trying to pin down sentences in my brain anymore.  Little buggers are elusive...

I know my last post was not entirely upbeat.

But a life is always far more complicated to actually DO than it may appear.

It could appear that my life is its own paradise. And there are many good things:
  • The farm is beautiful in every kind of light.
  • Fall field work, aside from the 4-hour drive to get to the watershed, is usually a lovely change from the heat-stroke ridden July trips.
  • Two chestnut faces greet me twice a day, each voice unique.
But memories can be haunting.

But I’m doing my best to break everything into 5-minute increments.  My brain can just about DO 5 minutes.  And then I can check something, however small, off the list.

Well, my knee surgeon told me in 2012 I'm not allowed to run.  But I have a match in my hand (which means I’m probably burning my fingers, heh), though it flickers.  And I'm walking as fast as I can.

And damn it, I'm going to at least see what the walls of the tunnel are made out of.  And then my horses & I are going to gallop out into blazing sunlight.

At which point we’ll probably trip & throw a shoe, but hey, someone’s got to provide comic relief!

October 8, 2015

Why Should I Ride?

TB always ready! (Get it?!)
I felt a restless hassle, mixed with now-familiar fatigue, as I slipped the saddle billets into girth buckles.

Why am I doing all this?  I seem to have lost my goals for the time being…

Rational brain shook a finger at impulsive brain, saying, "Just get on the horse, you’ll see why."

I sighed & buckled my helmet strap as I led Encore into the top field.

With a quiet, ready eye, he took his place by my mounting cinder block/dressage letter & I swung up to his back with a fistful of mane.

As I slid my foot into the opposite stirrup & gave Encore his cue of Good Boy! to move forward into the crisp dusk of autumn, I looked towards my pond over my left shoulder.

That’s why.
Last autumn's pond delights
Oranges & reds of the setting sun were reflected in the concentric circles rippling out from a spot where a fish popped up to nab an insect, breaking the mirror surface of the water.

After the windy damp of the hurricane & the too-many rainy days before it, the clean breaths of a sun-cleansed evening were a glorious gift.

Everything in my body clicked into its respective place, my muscles wrapping around & channeling the energy of my horse, both us reveling in the sheer act of motion.

He responded in kind, stretching over his back, reaching up through the bridle for the connection, soft & ready to use his restless body.

Yes, most definitely yes.  That’s why.

C'mon, mom, there's a whole world out there for us!

September 27, 2015

TFS Time Machine: My Life's Lullaby

On these quiet evenings, having walked out to groom the horses as the weekend rain subsides, I'm reminded of a constant.  That balm which soothes pain, fear, worry, even exhaustion, which has been the solace of my life as far back as memory can reach.

So I share it anew, as I think it cannot be possible to ponder it too often. 

Striking: five years ago seems another lifetime, yet some patterns persist, before & since.  This text is excerpted & slightly updated, you can find the original post here.

Little Melodies

I often feel sorry for people who never know the companionship of animals, outdoors in their own realm.  Their playlists are missing the sweetest music I know.

Just today, I am struck with the notes:  embraced by the gathering dusk, my left hand rests on warm, red hair while my right guides a soft brush in its particular rhythmic chord over Solo's side.  Pay attention to that sound next time you groom:  there is a real, earthy caress in its tone.  

Prairie Warbler surveys FSF
Sheltered alongside us, there is the ever-present, ever-pleasant undertone of Encore pulling at his hay.  A barred owl throws his signature announcement to the evening sky, following the burbling arpeggio of an immature bluebird snatching gnats from the fenceline.  

I can feel my heartbeat slowing & my subconscious finally allows the tension to leak out of my muscles.

It's a quiet symphony, syncopated by Solo's tail, a gentle, slow, swishing counterpoint.  The growing chirps of the crickets, the string section of all Southern nights, adds a higher harmony.

You will never hear it on the radio, although it's not because such peaceful music is rare.  But drinking it in doesn't cost a thing beyond allowing an inviting silence, through which the song may enter your life.  

Take a sip; you may find yourself enriched in ways you never knew existed.  You too can know the wonder of feeling your pulse hum in tune to the ancient song of horse, of nature, of life.  It is always there, just waiting for you to listen.

September 19, 2015

Five Points Of Fantastic

Because adorable. From Reddit
Better late than never?  But after our own exciting jumping achievement this morning (sometimes small, uneventful jumps are a really big deal!), I can finally get around to posting -

My Five Favourite Points Of Five Points HT (say it five times faster)

Because there really was a lot of fabulous outside of the unfortunate.  In no particular order, as awesomeness levels are equivalent:

  1. Watching the best at their best.  The demonstration of adjustability & incredible skill to package your horse beneath you without losing that critical forward impulsion & power, well, it was not only stunning, but consistent.
    • Subtle yet huge:  we all get our wrists slapped, no matter the discipline, for riding backwards.  I was thrilled to see lines & horses moving FORWARD FORWARD FORWARD, even as shapes & strides changed.
    Dan: "Meh." From
  2. Kim Severson.  O.M.G.  I want to ride like that.  A young me knew I was watching something special every time she & Dan (legend Winsome Andante, above) thundered by us to win Rolex THREE times (in between Olympic medals, ha), but add 15 years of educating my eye...
    • Every time she came through, it was like watching the flow of silk.  At a whole new pinnacle of her game, Kim's quiet body would offer just a breath of a suggestion through a soft shift of one hand.  I had goosebumps watching a near-telepathic invitation to the horse that connected delicacy to power, as if saying, "Lovely creature, the next jump is just there, well done." 
  3. Being part of the community.  Every time I volunteer, in any capacity, there's always this unique feeling, the knowledge that you are helping to create something bigger than yourself.  And it's a community of sharing, teaching, helping, learning...yes, you can start singing "kummm-by-yaaaa" now, ha!
  4. Seeing old friends, making new ones.  So many wonderful connections built up over the years & events are often the only chance I get to enjoy them in person!  And I don't think I've ever walked away without meeting a new one.  And hopefully not weirding them out too much in the process, heh.  Whether it's been a month or a year, the smiles, support, & stories never seem to wane.  
      • It's just a bonus to get to share the experience with BFF, who has a fabulous eye & eats up the epicness as fast as I do!
      I feel like I recognize that...
    1. Inspiration to work on my own horse.  We all get stuck.  Spending a day watching 150 mini-lessons 15' in front of me sends me home with a flurry of tips & ideas I can't wait to try.  It seems to remind my subconscious that, oh yeah, we used to do this fantastic thing, how about we get back to that??
    What about you?  Have you had the privilege to get free riding lessons from 10 pros at once volunteer recently?  What was your favourite??

    September 6, 2015

    The Day After: Shock & Awe

    Making Advanced 17A look easy
    Saturday was packed full of things both wonderful &, er, somewhat less so.

    Warning: many words follow, take your pee break now!! 

    *Photos can be clicked to embiggen. No, I have not mastered the 'selfie' & don't know why I appear compelled to hold phone 20' in the air*

    Definitely not boring, a beautiful day for Preliminary/Intermediate/Advanced Cross-Country at Five Points Horse Trials, but I would've been ok with "slightly less eventful."  (pun not intended)

    I'm going to bet that quite a few folks would agree on the latter!

    TD Bobby Stevenson briefs us
    Volunteering is ALWAYS educational.  I encourage everyone to never miss an opportunity to watch, listen & learn from a unique type of immersion you won't find anywhere else!  When 150 riders attempt to answer the same jumping question(s) right in front of you, it's an invaluable way to see what works & what doesn't.

    Although we always hope the "doesn't work" part is a simple run-out or refusal.

    What Happened?!

    Horses insist on being horses though, & no matter where, how well-prepared, well-designed, or even what discipline, for lack of a more concise summation, "shit happens."

    If you were following online through our feed or Event Entries great scoring service, you already know that BFF & I had a busy morning jump judging at I fences 17 & 18A/B, a challenging accuracy & planning question on the Intermediate course: 

    I intend a follow-up post including the many fantastic rides we saw & a breakdown of our fences for each level.  So I'm not going to delve into much detail here, but I want to share some of the parts that unfailingly remind me why I love eventing:  the people.

    Gratitude Due

    They need this shirt!!
    THANK YOU - to the medical team.  Nothing personal, but I generally dislike meeting you, especially so many of you, because that means gravity was not very nice to someone.

    However, (& I'm still sleuthing out the department to name) all of you were calmly expedient, compassionate, on your A-game, & took over rider care like a well-oiled machine.  I know first-hand that when you're the person on the ground, hearing kindness & confidence from your caregivers means everything.

    JJ, why do I always look rabid?
    THANK YOU - JJ, I can't say it enough.  I know some of you out there have been lucky enough to work with radio control queen, JJ Johnson, as well, so you can corroborate that there is NO ONE you'd rather have on the headset when there may be 4-5 horses on course at 2-minute start intervals.

    (Dutton, give me time to write down the previous rider's number before attempting to lap them!  Kidding - but whatever is in that man's cereal, I obviously need some!)

    JJ is not only on the ball as Incident Commander, but she is a true master cat herder.  From sitting next to her, learning that side of the mike while working Endurance Day control at So8ths 3DE, I can promise you that it is no easy task keeping track of horses, questions, & runners over a network of volunteers ranging from veteran to "wait, so the horse has to go BETWEEN the flags?"

    With 3-5 channels in front of her, JJ still keeps everyone safe, connects officials to volunteers to EMTs to scorers, every time.  And she can even do it with a smile.  Amazing isn't a big enough word.

    Miriam hooks us up!
    THANK YOU - to Miriam, wonderful volunteer coordinator.  That's one of, if not THE hardest jobs of all.  This was the first time I've met her, but positive energy, lots of helpful information beforehand, & plenty of delicious lunches & snacks (frozen chocolate bars, omg, I think I love you!!) -- it's what keeps that priceless commodity, our volunteer corps, coming back!

    THANK YOU - of course, to all my fellow volunteers!!  It may not feel very glamourous to handle traffic crossings or write down rows of zeros (but we do love zeros) all day, but not a single event would exist without you.

    CD Marc Donovan: "Don't wrinkle the shirt!"
    It's cliche but true!  You don't even have to be a horse person, you don't have to have any experience.  If you can read & write & push buttons & have polite human interactions, you're 100% qualified.  And did I mention my chicken salad was amazing, THANK YOU, whoever was lunch lady!!

    THANK YOU - to our favourite course builder (we can't help it, he's hilarious AND mad talented), Tyson Rementer, and his crew, always on hand for spares & repairs.

    I'm convinced that Tyson shares the ability to teleport with Boyd Martin, who I swear materialized out of thin air when our first rider fell (Seriously, it's uncanny how many times Boyd is present when things diverge from the plan!  But THANK YOU, too, for never hesistating to jump in & help!).

    I walk our Advanced line in possibly the most boring video ever:

    I know I'm hyperfocused both when I ride & judge XC, but as I hit the ground next to the rider to keep her still & talking (screaming's ok too, you can't scream without breathing, just stay with me & scream in a manner that lets me know you're not going to pass out, that's better for both of us) until Medical arrived, all of a sudden, a very familiar Aussie voice chimed in right next to my ear:  "Just be still, they'll be here right away, you'll be okay."

    Speak of the devil: Boyd & Welcome Shadow own it
    As I help EMT's figure out how to get her on the board without aggravating a hellaciously painful hip too much, there's Tyson too -- I'm telling you:  teleportation superpowers.

    There are, of course, MANY more, but I won't wear out your scroll button.

    And How Are Our Riders?

    Of the three falls at our I fence (A & P were nicely uneventful), Tiffini at 18B popped up quickly & her horse galloped back to stabling in fine form, so both appeared luckily none the worse for wear.
    Happy photos: Doug Payne & Vandiver (5th, A) land with eyes on target
    The other two did have the painful misfortune of their horse landing all or partly on top of them, but neither horse rotated & both horses hopped up sound & alert.  Both have my heartfelt empathy for also having the nasty luck of landing on their hips, which frankly, hurts beyond the ability of the best cursing.

    And I'm so sorry I had to make you lay on what hurt you most until Medical arrived, I was hurting right along with you, but no spinal injuries on my watch if I can help it!
    Photos AND horses need compression; Doug gets it done!
    As I shared in a brief update for Eventing Nation, just because all of us as fellow riders worry for our brothers & sisters, both Dana & Sara were talking to me & the EMTs & the lovely foam in their vests & helmets did its job perfectly.

    They left in excellent hands to get the good drugs & a thorough check alongside some hopefully peripheral repairs.  Hopefully both, along with Will Faudree, who suffered a solid whack at the fence after ours, will be on the mend quickly!!
    And Vandiver jumps out of the Advanced line, textbook
    And because I've been there, especially to Sara, who began asking me for details in the ambulance:  adrenaline makes us blank out for a reason.  To this day, I cannot remember what happened between the saddle & the ground on my Very Bad Day with Solo.  There's an email link at the top right of my page, don't hesitate to use it if you have questions after you're feeling better!

    Bests to everyone today, have a great ride, & do your best to keep the steel side down!
    Seriously, both these coolers were in the volunteer tent, we all should have chosen from the bottom one!