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We Are Flying Solo

March 28, 2010

The Big E Part II. And Why Exactly I AM Happy About It.

Stadium Jumping
By the time they got around to stadium (yes, they ran the event in classic format with XC second and SJ last), my horsey was exhausted. I was exhausted and had pretty much reached the point where I was just ready to go home. The course was TOUGH. Lines wound everywhere including three jumps on a wavy bending line 5 strides apart and every jump was maxed out, including three HUGE oxers. Note: keep in mind especially jump 8 A and B (9 jump course) -- a two stride combo with a max oxer to a vertical; a challenging question asking you to jump in boldly and wide and then sit back and jump up and out over the vertical.  And yes, this is another year old picture too, of a much more successful day at a BN event.

I watched the first few rounds and it was obvious that ponies were T-I-R-E-D. Rails were dropping all over that max course. When I entered, I could feel that Solo's gas tank was hovering around empty and it was probably not going to be pretty. I need you to do one more thing for me, buddy, I told him, put your heart out there for me, we gotta get around one more time and then we can go home and take a loooooong nap.

The first two jumps on the course were a four rail vertical and then a long rollback to a stone wall with blue rails. I could feel my horse reaching deep just to keep going and I didn't kick, just squeezed and supported and told him Just give me what you got, buddy, I understand you're tired and we're just going to do the best we can. He couldn't quite get his feet up for the second jump and I heard all the rails crash behind me as we pointed towards the big oxer at 3. I knew that dropped us back to at least 6th place and I didn't care about it anymore.

I interject here: one of the things I am learning to love about eventing is that you really ARE competing against yourself. I know many sports say this, but here, it's really true. There are SO many variables and things can change so quickly, that I find myself really and truly measuring our performance solely based on the relationship that Solo and I have which allows me to know what my horse is capable of and then how do we measure up to that. If that makes sense.

And what goes along with this is the question of: how do you know when to stop? I've attended lots of *** and **** events and watched riders pull their horses even mid-XC when they felt that the horse was out of steam or it just wasn't their day. I can't even express how much admiration I have for the riders who make that choice. I wondered: would I have the guts to do that, to make that tough decision and make SURE you act in the best long term interest of your horse, no matter how much you paid to get there??

Turns out, I do. We negotiated the bending line of 4-5-6 and rolled back to a large natural oxer at 7. Remember that combo at 8? Oh and the ginormously wide oxer of 8A is blue too! With Tigger flags (how random). Solo looked but I sat down and said go. He went, but jumped it without much impulsion and went straight up and over and I believe I let out a rather loud squeak. When we landed, I felt immediately that the gas tank had run dry; he just died, but he still looked to the vertical at 8B and moved towards it. I didn't feel like I had enough horse under me to jump out clean and safely though and I did NOT want to climb over it ugly or crash; it was not worth giving my horse a bad experience. So I immediately pulled him out of the line to circle.

Yes, this would count as a penalty. And technically, according to the rules, if it's a combination you have to rejump BOTH elements. But I did not want to ask Solo for that huge oxer again. I just wanted to finish the two jumps left on course safely and make sure my horse was left with the impression that he can DO this and it's not scary.

So I made the decision. I only jumped the vertical at 8B, which eliminated me as soon as I did. But we jumped it clean, rolled back to finish the course at 9 and cantered through the finish flags with a big pat. At which point Solo slammed on the brakes with his nose on the outgate. Love ya, mom, but I am DONE! I laughed, gave him a big hug, and thanked him for his try.

He never stopped, he never gave up, and he tried with everything he had to get around that extremely tough course so I can be nothing but happy with him. I hauled him home, gave him his dinner and turned him out with his buddy feeling nothing but pride for his willingness to tackle the new challenges. As much as I hated seeing the big E by my name on the leaderboard, I realized what all those other folks who had retired on course already knew: the E has no power when you have made the decision to take care of your partner and make sure HE leaves the showgrounds with nothing but successful efforts under his belt.

So, homework!

Dressage: MEGA IMPULSION NEEDED. Especially at the trot -- we need energy, energy, energy and energy!

Cross country: We won't need to school before Longleaf, but I will just need to make sure that, as we did yesterday, we start off the course riding aggressively and I keep Solo in front of my leg to the jumps. We need FITNESS. Trot sets (boooring, yuck) here we come.

Stadium: We need more FITNESS! And we also need to learn how to jump max oxers. The verticals rode fine, despite the crashing down of one, that was just hanging tired pony legs. We will meet up with David O. tomorrow night to work on this after Solo gets two days to hang out and nap in the pasture.


  1. Wow, what a day! Thanks so much for sharing this experience! I feel like I was there with you both!

    Now, go do your homework! LOL!!

    (By the way, I know you asked if I could make the font bigger on my blog, and unfortunately, there's a defect in the template that won't allow me to do exactly that! I know the font is ridiculous, but if you hit the "control" then the "+" buttons, we've found this will enlarge the screen you are reading! Hope that helps, and thanks so much for the heads-up!!)

  2. Good for you!!! I've never had to make that choice, having only done one true event (we're talking matchstick jumps here), but I hope I would make the same decision. Sounds like a successful for the both of you!!

  3. Thank you, AFANM! Oh and good idea on zooming the blog, thanks! That stinks about the template bug, I have a couple in mine as well, just little things, but it does get irritating when you are trying to change something and it won't let you!

  4. All in all, I call that a successful weekend. Lessons learned and goals set into place. Solo did well and tried his best to perform. You can't ask for more than that.

  5. Good job, horsemanship before ribbons every time!

  6. Very good job - thinking of your horse first! And excellent outcome all around!

  7. I am impressed and happy to hear both about the decision to pull out for the safety (and training!) of you both, and your willingness to make your partnership come first.

    Standing ovation! Wouldn't it be something if points or awards were given for choices well made...

  8. Thanks, y'all, for the encouragement, it means a lot!

    And TLH, lifeshighway and I were talking about this last night and I firmly believe that eventing should borrow a note from endurance and if you finish all three phases, you get a completion tshirt just for surviving!!

  9. Well, in my book you got first! Horsemanship is SOOOOO much more important than any stupid ribbon! Learning is kinda the whole point right? I agree w/ the completion t-shirt thing! Even if you don't do well, if you finish (and pay those not so cheap comp fees) you should get SOMETHING!!! Congrats on an awesome learning/bonding experience!

  10. Nope, I definitely didn't know what the Big E meant. But, I'm very impressed with your decision. It seems to me that the more you practice listening to your horse at home and at shows the easier it will be to make these kinds of decisions. I can't imagine in a few years you will ever regret pulling from this event but if you had forced it and Solo had gotten injured I'm sure it would have stayed with you for a very long time. Sometimes the prize for doing the right thing is just knowing you did it, but it sure beats knowing you made the wrong decision. Congrats to you and Solo! I am so looking forward to someday going to my first event and reading your blog has certainly been a huge inspiration. Thanks, again.

  11. Thanks, Alana! And Amanda, you are definitely right. This sport is tough and complicated and it takes so much work to get to the events, but I wouldn't trade it for a second and I don't regret any decisions I have made so far. I am glad we can be helpful and hopefully we can continue to provide entertainment!

  12. Hhhhmm, I think Mr. Solo needs to get his glossy red butt on the treadmill and spend some quality time with a Bowflex machine. It sounds like he has enough heart for Novice, but now he just needs to get pumped!
    I agree with the chorus -- well done and good on ya for putting your pony's welfare first!

  13. Exciting! I am living vicarious through your blog posts... lol. I'm glad you made the best decision with your horse, and commend your devotion to trot sets. We'll be joining you soon.

  14. If I was younger, much younger, I would love to try this. As it is, I think I'll be content to follow. LOL

  15. Frizz - I think we have and invention here - Pony Bowflex. Millions of dollars are waiting to be spent!!

  16. I think we need Pony NordicTrak, LOL! I bet falling off vicariously is better than falling off for real, maybe I will trade y'all places, ROFL!

  17. It sounds like the event was a big success for you and Solo. You are doing it the right way. The equine sports need more riders like you who put the horse first, enjoy themselves, recognized where improvement is needed while still celebrating their successes and the goodness of their horse.