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We Are Flying Solo

February 23, 2010

My Eyes Are Bigger Than My Stomach

The phrase is one my mother always said to me when I piled food on my plate in eager anticipation of satisfying my rumbling belly. Inevitably, what I thought I could easily eat turned out to be more than my body could actually accomodate! It appears to also be true for my eventing aspirations.

Saturday dawned sunny and warmed up to a balmy 58 degrees so three of us crazy gals met to do some XC schooling. It was Solo and I's first attempt at really schooling Novice. I thought, pshhh, no worries, this is going to be a piece of cake!

Damn eyes.

Some parts were easy. Solo hopped smoothly and obligingly up and down banks (I LOVE BANKS!), galloped through the water, and leaped neatly over logs.

Just a lil' warm up log.

Down we go, nice as you please.

No problem, mom!


A great one of Solo's pasture buddy, Jeff, coming up out of the water -- what a splash!

Solo, of course, has to make his own splash! Do not ask me what I am doing, as it is obviously my very best riding zombie impression.

We ran into a little (shocking!) trouble at the ditches. Solo generally takes his ditches in stride, albeit with a rather, uh, enthusiastic leaping style to make sure no hiding trolls can reach his precious little feet, like so:


The routine goes: uphill to little ditch, downhill to little ditch. Then uphill to bigger ditch, downhill to....OMG, SLAM ON THE HORSE BRAKES, THE TROLLS ARE LYING IN WAIT! For some reason, coming down to the bigger ditch, Solo would have no part of it. He would go until the last possible second. We tried everything known to man. He calmly said, No way, no how, woman. Eventually, I decided it was not a battle worth losing the day over. He quite happily jumped every other (even bigger!) ditch on the property. But downhill to THAT ditch, THAT day, nope, beyond the realm of horsey possiblity, so I accepted my lumps and we moved on. I was annoyed, but after that, he even jumped the mini trakhener (a hanging log over a ditch) in the woods, so...whaddya do?

At this point, I am feeling pretty damn good about things, seeing as we haven't even been on a XC course since our starter trials last November at BN. We decide to finish up taking a few of the bigger fly jumps (simple box or coop type jumps, alone, taken from a gallop). No biggie right?


THEY ARE ENORMOUS AND TERRIFYING. How can there be such a difference in 2"??? The two jumps my cohorts selected and swore to me were Novice jumps were simple, boxy things. But as I galloped towards them, they got bigger...and bigger...and bigger.  Then right at the takeoff spot, I quailed with a whimper.  And Solo said, well, shit, lady, I ain't doing it without you! and declined to jump.  For which I don't blame him one bit, it was my fault for trembling in my boots and wailing in terror!

I admitted to my mates that the failure was entirely on me and I was not too proud to beg for a lead from the brave Jeff, for whom ginormous jumps come so easily.  And in the end, surprise was the ticket and we prevailed!!!

Look, you can't even tell that I am peeing myself in fear!!

And so we end, with a pat on the neck for a job well done!

I realized, though, an important lesson. This leveling up business is no walk in the park. No easy-breezy faking my way through it anymore as we gallop along. These bigger XC obstacles are going to take me screwing up all my courage and riding them properly so poor Solo is not left hung out to dry. My confident swagger from the morning has been well and truly squelched and replaced with a much healthier respect for the task at hand!! And a burning desire for another schooling session before we hit competition. You better bet we're going to be looking up the mighty David O. in the next couple of weeks....

February 19, 2010

Best. Saddle Ad. Ever.

World's most uncomfortable saddle

Date: 2010-01-01, 11:41PM PST

Like a ghastly specter from your darkest nightmare, this saddle has returned from the grave seeking vengeance. Its previous master thought it had banished it to the blackness of the abyss for good, but nay, it was only for an epoch.


*Steel rails forged by LUCIFER himself

*Genuine Auroch hide seat provides maximum chafing

I am reaching the end of my strength, as the madness contained within this dark artifact threatens to consume me. I cannot merely throw this adamantine saddle on the rubbish heap, lest some unwary passerby become transfixed by its lightless glow. No, I must only give this to one with the courage to look into the bloodshot eyes of insanity, and the strength to master it. A wizard with the cunning to master this beast gains an ally of unspeakable power: the ultimate theft deterrent. At the moment the thief straddles your steed, his fate is sealed. Eager for revenge upon mortals, the saddle will visit his arse with blisters that rival the torment of fire and brimstone... a dire lesson he will not soon forget. This same fate will befall any unworthy mortal who in his arrogance, attempts to mount the saddle of doom. Are you worthy?

Location: Green Lake

it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests.

God, I love craigslist.

February 18, 2010

These Boots Ain't Made For Walking

But are they any good for riding?

Years of tromping around barns has put me through years of going through paddock boots. I am always on a search for a perfect pair that match affordability ($150 for paddock boots, puh-LEASE!) and durability. Because you are SO lucky, I will share my findings of this incredibly scientific (we will just ignore sample size issues, ahem) experiment.

I wear paddock boots constantly for just walking around the farm and riding, which sometimes entails 4 hour trail rides, and usually includes 4-5 rides in the arena per week, so I use them hard. I put them on when I leave the house and they stay on. So I might be tromping through mud and poo, ice, rain, or heat. And I don't sit down and polish them every day. Survival of the fittest around me. And in case you don't notice a trend, I hate tying lace ups...

FAIL or WIN? I'll go from cheapest (yay!) to priciest (boo!) --

Gatsby: elastic-side paddock boots ($25) from Horseloverz -- those things are great! They are still fully intact, no cracking, comfortable. The only thing that happened was the lining tore, but I just threw a pair of drugstore insoles in and they work great. Wore them for about a year and a half. I still keep them in the back of my truck as spares. WIN!

Saxon: the Equileather zip paddock boots ($40). Got them last summer. Within two months, they blew out at the ball of the foot and then completely separated from the soles on both shoes. They were comfy and great to ride in but only last maybe 4 months total! FAIL!

Dublin: zip fronts ($~74). Using these now. Been wearing for about 8 months or so now. It's been a hard winter on boots with all the mud. But they were REALLY comfortable from the minute I put them on and the sole definitely had more support than the cheaper two -- not that I care about that, but I did notice a difference. They are wearing well so far, but I can see some weakening stitching around the ball of one foot, keeping an eye on that. I'd like them to at least last a year... I also just picked up a pair of elastic sided ones on sale for $40, but keeping them new in the closet till these die. JURY STILL OUT (but if that stitching blows, I'm giving the zip ups a FAIL).

Mountain Horse: Ice Rider lace ups (~$80). Just got them for this winter. Definitely worth it -- they are super warm. I've only worn them maybe 10 times so far, but seem sturdily made. Take some breaking in -- they hurt my heels pretty bad the first 4 or 5 times, but then were fine after that. JURY STILL OUT. (but it looks promising)

Ariat: lace ups (free cause they were given to me, retail between $150-200). Narrow foot and uncomfortable, always chewed up my heel (these were older style). Leather across toe cracked wide open where it flexed. Always leaked and generally fell apart. Hated them. FAIL! (But I do like Ariat clothes)

Blundstone: elastic side 500 series (bought in Australia for about US$45, but in US retail around ~$150). Tough to break in, but once I did, SUPER comfortable. I bought two pairs at once. First pair I wore for maybe three years, they were awesome, soles finally wore through. Second pair had the soles dry rot off within a few months. :-( I don't know why the difference. They are sitting in my closet still waiting for a repair if it's possible. One FAIL, one WIN!

February 17, 2010

The First Step Of A Fabulous Adventure

Not exactly Solo related (although I wish I could take him), but it's horse related so I'm posting it because I am TOTALLY FREAKING EXCITED!  I just sent in my deposit for the following trip this fall:

A hacienda to hacienda ride through the high country of Ecuador.  Galloping through the high volcanic peaks & valleys of the Andes & experiencing the unique culture of the Cordillera for seven glorious days.

This shall be me!!

My mother & I will be undertaking this adventure together (and yes, those who know me, I have already sent her links on where to purchase her helmet, LOL) in grand style.  Ok, maybe I will be undertaking it in my usual dorky style, but still....

T - ....uhhh, however many days are between here & September 4th!!!!!

February 16, 2010

Some Things Work, Some Things Don't

For some reason, the subtitle of the blog is not showing up correctly in IE but works fine in Firefox. Blog template settings are correct, it just goes black on a whim when you view it in IE. Grrrrrrr.....any IT gurus want to offer hints? Make it work!!!

But on to things that work!

It has been 15 days since the hock injections. I have not seen a huge difference in our dressage work. There seems to be a little more evenness in the bridle and the left lead canter (our yucky one) is more balanced though. Much as I would have loved for there to have been magic, all Solo's muscle memory has to be retrained now -- a process neither fun nor magical, sigh. This will take time and patience...

BUT, Sunday was a sunny, clear day and I decided to try our first post-injection jump school. I set everything up from about 2'11" to 3'3" and warmed up.

Oh. My. God.

Suddenly, my horse can approach a jump in a slow, balanced rhythm, come right up to the base and curl up and around the jump with ease. He can land in a rhythm (unless his silly rider loses body control and falls on his neck) and sit back immediately for the next jump.

Suddenly, 3'3" is not a huge effort with hooves barely scraping over the top rail, but rather a simple spring from a nice bouncy canter.

Suddenly, my horse who used to throw himself on the forehand in front of the jump and hurl himself over, then land in a heap and scramble on the other side has been replaced by Gem Twist.

Ok, I might be exaggerating a tiny bit on that last part, but really, it was totally awesome. Solo sprang through our gymnastic line of Xrail/bounce/vertical/one stride/vertical/one stride/vertical with nary a hesitation about rocking back on those hocks. And I wanted to jump all day long, it was just so much fun to feel the comfort and ease beneath me.

So today, yes, I am THRILLED with the results and can't wait to see how things develop. Our lovely chiro is out on Thursday to make sure everything is lined up and ready to go for competition season.

Suddenly, I am feeling a wee bit excited about this competition season...

February 14, 2010

My First, My Best Teachers

At that point, I had already been enrolled in lessons for about four years. When we moved to Kentucky in 1987, my mother had found a local barn where I could learn to ride. Once a week for the next seven years, I met with my instructor and occasionally her German trainer and learned about dressage, a smattering of jumping, and perhaps most importantly, how to adapt to the horse of the day.

Like Lucky, this shiny bay who carted me around for many a lesson. Note my awesome dressage attire; even then I flaunted the DQ's. I loved my cowboy boots, dammit, and wear them I WOULD! The school horses were just boarders who wanted a half price discount, hence the permission to use them in lessons, or my instructor's horses over the years. Which meant I could be riding a TB who had just come back from a three-day event or there might be a 4-year-old Arab just learning the ropes or I might be riding a one-sided kid's QH who liked to buck at the canter.

A blurry capture of one of my first jumps. It appears to have been ridiculously cold. Northern Kentucky sits in the Ohio River valley and it was not unusual for us to see winter days 10, even 20 degrees below zero.

I grew up in this beautiful barn and it was more like home to me than anywhere else. I rode in it as a kid and worked in it in high school. I can still hear the sweet rumble of its stall doors, the soft, heavy footfalls of horses in the arena, the sound muffled by sand and bouncing gently off of heavy wood stall fronts, the soft munching of the horses in the stalls at their hay while I rode, and the rustle of the sparrows in the hay loft. I will always carry it with me in my heart, unchanged and undimmed by time and distance. These were the sounds I lived for every week and that hasn't changed two decades later.

February 13, 2010

Blast From The Past

Today is a nasty, snow-ridden, mucky day so in order to entertain myself in lieu of going outside and getting cold, I start instead shuffling through the stack of old photographs I brought home at Christmas.

Growing up, I never had my own horse. The closest I got was the Welsh Mountain Pony X we leased for a while in California. So I eagerly pounced on any opportunity to ride anything remotely horselike and counted it as a good day. Ah, 80's fashion was so unkind to all of us...

I am in the back, my little brother sits up front. Two childhood friends smile at the camera. I am turned away, peering around to see, fixated on the wonder of this magical, living, breathing, powerful, beautiful animal that carries us. She was a little Asian elephant at the Cincinnati Zoo -- with four legs and a tail, close enough to a horse to count as riding!

If, perchance I found myself near ACTUAL horses, I was fixated. Occasionally I would find myself reduced to paroxysms of ecstasy, like over the Christmas holidays of 1991. I was 12 and we vacationed at Tanque Verde Ranch, a luxurious place nestled in the mountains near Tuscon, AZ. You got to hang out with other kids away from your parents all day -- and you got to ride every day. Twice. Cantering on sandy trails winding through the washes and peaks of the beautiful Saguaro National Monument. It was heaven.

I wish I could remember this little bay gelding's name that I am riding (sans helmet, gasp!). He had a respiratory problem when he loped, so I could only ride him in their arena. When we went out on our rides, I had to switch to a big freckled grey.

I remember a clear desert afternoon as we rode through a wash, my little brother, myself, and our chaperone who led, we encountered a wide patch of quicksand. The leader's horse stumbled in and bounded through. Next, my little brother, 9 at the time, clung tightly as his smaller horse leapfrogged across. He dissolved into tears as the saddle horn pummeled his crotch repeatedly. In true big sister fashion, I giggled at his plight.

As I kicked the grey forward to cross the sand, he took two steps and plummeted to his belly in the muck. The gelding froze, unwilling to thrash with me on his back, but uncertain of his ability to escape. I immediately hopped off. Since I was a tiny beanpole of a kid, I stood easily on the surface of the quicksand that had swallowed my horse. I stepped forward and clucked gently and calmly to my grey friend, calling, "C'mon, buddy, you can do it." In two leaps, he popped right out and shook himself up. I scaled back on with a grin.

I believe our guide's eyes nearly popped out of her face at my calm problem solving and for the rest of the day, she told our story around the ranch. My mother heard the story third hand before we rejoined her for dinner and instantly realized, "Yep, that's my daughter." I always was good in a crisis, LOL.

February 11, 2010

Hoof And Mouth II

Since Dr. Bob was already at the farm to do Solo's hock injections last week, I had him take a look at our ongoing foot rehab and took the opportunity to ask a few questions. Because I ALWAYS have questions. And I am trying not to drive my wonderful farrier completely insane by asking 40,000 questions. So Dr. Bob = new victim.

Dr. Bob was the one who helped us get the feet back on track so he has seen their progression over time. Overall, he gave the farrier's work a thumbs up and said things were looking good (woohoo!). I need to get some new pictures...

I had several questions about the hind feet though. I freely admit I hate (HATE HATE HATE) having Solo in shoes, but as I told Dr. Bob, they are working and he is so obviously more comfortable, I have a hard time arguing with their usefulness for the time being. He still has some sensitivity in his rear heels. I wasn't sure if that was residual from the removal of heel by ex-farrier or if it could be caused by something else, even the shoe itself. I wanted to pull the hind shoes but couldn't in good conscience do so KNOWING those heels were still sore to the poking. I also had been staring cross-eyed at his hind frogs. Barefoot, his frogs had gotten VERY wide behind and since reapplication of a shoe, had narrowed back up some. Not so much that they looked cramped or smooshed, though. So was this bad, good, indifferent??? I had to know...and fortunately, Dr. Bob's most favouritest thing is talking to people so he was happy to answer as follows:

The heel issue: residual soreness can last for six months to a year after the heels are compressed in constant contact with the ground. Don't pull the shoes until that bulb sensitivity is no longer there. (Which seems like a big duh, but ya know, sometimes you just need to hear from someone qualified that yes, you are doing what you need to be doing.)

The frog issue: yes, all the barefoot literature constantly talks about the frog being wide. But much more important is the fact that frog have depth/height to it so it can actually function as the pump it needs to be. When it gets super wide and flattened and smooshed down as you see with barefoot horses who are low heeled, it can't do anything. So, no, I do not need to worry about the width as it is nowhere near constricted at this point.

So I guess now, I get to find something new to worry about, hmmmm....

February 10, 2010

Hoof and Mouth Lessons

If I have learned anything about horse ownership, it's that we can try our damndest to do everything right, to give our charges the bestest, perfectest life...but we'll still screw up somehow. Blessedly, most of the time, our horses patiently hang in there till we figure it out.

As you've probably figured out by now, I pretty much bust my ass to educate myself on every issue I can related to horse care and training. I try to keep an open mind, think critically and research via every venue I can get my dirty little paws on. So, frankly, it just plain pisses me off when I still get it wrong! But I guess life is a series of lessons learned via experience and if you never have the experience you never learn.

So, two recent lessons:

Lesson 1 -- Tooth maintenance. Last time I had Solo's teeth floated was about a year and a half ago. He had all kinds of pointy bits on there. My vet at the time (no longer my vet) had one of those fancy power units and lots of sedation and filed them down over the course of an hour. It looked pretty cool and efficient to me. It cost me over $300. Turns out there is actually no relation between price and quality.

New dentist came out yesterday. Supposedly he is the best. He travels up and down the east cost from FL to Canada and he just does horse teeth. He has told me that Solo drops food all over the place because his teeth are screwed up and don't even meet. He walked into Solo's stall with his little metal file and just went to work. No sedation. Done in about ten minutes. Solo just stood in the corner and was like, oh, ok, you are scratching my teeth, have at it, dude. That kind of calm is kind of shocking if you've ever seen tooth floating in action -- giant long metal rasp stuck in horse's mouth and loudly scraping at the molars while moving the whole head after which crazy looking Midieval Torture-Device-Resembling Speculum is strapped on to their head to hold their mouth open.

I figure he knows what he is doing because by this point I have figured out who he was discussing with BO as he is telling client stories. He keeps talking about "Mike and Charlie" who live about two hours south of me. Slowly, after a comment from BO, it dawns on me that he is talking about Michael and Charlie Plumb. Yeah, the Michael Plumb who has, oh, six or so Olympic medals in eventing. (This happens a lot when you live in Area II, where if you forget to set the parking brake on your truck, you will run over a member of USET, they are that prolific) So I guess if the top guys hire Dentist Man, he must be the best!

New dentist has a little teaching tool: a bag of horse teeth. Digging around, he pulls one out of the bag and says, "This is what happens when you use power tools on horse teeth; the tooth heats up almost instantaneously and then the roots burn and a hole blows out of the tooth in some random spot."

Awesome. I had no idea. So, I write him a check (this one's only $90) after he shows me how nicely Solo's teeth meet up now and I promise never to let a power tool touch my horse's mouth again.

Stay tuned for Lesson 2 -- Hoof biomechanics.

February 8, 2010

Sun Is For Basking

Our snow is all melted now (thank god!!!!) but I thought I would share these pictures anyway of what I found upon arriving at the farm last Monday.

I ponder life as I lie in the snow...

Pondering + sun = sleeepy


I'll be right with you after this snow scritch...


February 4, 2010

It's Just Around The Corner!

Spring, that is!


And Solo never tells a lie...

February 2, 2010


Well, you know, "I-Day" just doesn't have the same ring to it.

Yep, yesterday, our favourite Dr. Bob came out and shot a bunch of cortisone into Solo's high and low hock joints. We decided to skip the HA (hyaluronic acid for the uninitiated, be happy if you have never had to think about it) because (1) it adds $200 to the price (why yes, that was my moan of agony you heard just now!) and (2) unless you are doing super upper level stuff, Dr. Bob has not observed it adding too much, especially if the horse is already on Adequan/Legend (which Solo is). After discussion with the vet and consultation of the science, I'll be dropping our feed-through supplement and just maintaining the Adequan.

The cortisone takes away the ow. The HA/Adequan helps rebuild fluid/cartilage and protect them from further degradation. The antibiotic shot in there with it all helps protect against infection from the injection itself. Dr. Bob has never had an infection and it's easy to see why -- he spends ages with the bucket of Nolvasan scrub and other little scrubby pads to the point where I would happily lick Solo's hairy legs.

Solo gets his lovely injection of happy juice and I am assigned to hold the head end up (yup, owner gets the bitch job.). The procedure then goes something like this:

Me: Holy crap, Solo, your head weighs 247 pounds! (Anyone who has ever held the head of a tranquilized horse knows EXACTLY what I mean!)

Solo: Heyyyyyy....don''

Dr. Bob:
Hey, Solo, don't kick Dr. Bob now or else we'll have to get some more drugs out.

*SLAM! BAM! WHACK! POW!* (The pasture abuts the barn directly behind us. This is Ms. Hunter Princess Moxie Mare using her head to hurl open the sliding barn windows and the washstall door in which we are standing as hard as she can to illustrate her desire to be let in and pampered above all others. At which point I thank all the gods that my horse is calm. And drugged. Don't let her innocent face in the picture fool you.)

Ok, Solo, really, could you use just ONE of your many neck muscles at this point?


Solo: Let me blow all the snot out my nose too....


Me: My arrrrrmmmssss........

Dr. Bob: Only one more, be nice to Dr. Bob now, Solo!

Moxie: *SLAM! GALLOP GALLOP GALLOP!!* (This is the sound of thundering hooves as Moxie leads everyone in a riotous protest gallop since someone besides her is OBVIOUSLY getting pampered.)

Solo: Snottt.........

Me: OMG, not only have my shoulders dislocated, my head is now encased in a bubble of horse mucous as Solo seems to feel his only method of protest is blowing out his nostrils.

Moxie: *WHAM! KICK KICK KICK SQUEAL!* Freaking mares.

Dr. Bob:

Solo: Duuuuuuuude.....

Could someone pick my arms up off the floor?

So pretty much routine, you know, uneventful. Just another quiet day on the farm. At the end of it all, you might have heard another anguished scream, but don't worry, it was just my checkbook.

I am instructed to give Solo three days off. Which is not really a problem since currently the ground is covered in about 3" of leftover snow topped with a serious ice crust. Oh and freezing rain is falling on top of that. Then on Friday I can do some light walk/trot work (yeah right, it's supposed to rain some more Friday) then Saturday I can do whatever I want (since it's supposed to snow on Saturday).

For now, I will just lie still on the floor with ice packs on my arms and be grateful that we chain the washrack door shut precisely BECAUSE of Moxie's lovely little ways.