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We Are Flying Solo

August 31, 2010

A Peaceful Mountain Weekend. Now With Less Peace.

We had a lovely evening Friday.  Camp was set up along the edge of National Forest, burgers were grilled, horses settled in their pens, and beer cans duly emptied.  I fell asleep watching fireflies compete with constellations for the right to bejewel the trees. Saturday morning dawned clear and sunrise brought birdsong with a chance of omelets (yum!). Lifeshighway and I studied maps, checked our stored waypoints in the GPS (we may or may not have a history of misdirection) and stuffed our saddlebags with beet pulp, apples, and beef jerky in preparation for a day of mountain exploration. Pete and Solo fueled their tanks with clover. Lifeshighway has generously shared her endurance expertise (and supplies!) with us; we have learned the value of bringing along pickmeups for the horses. Just like people, they burn up their calories and run out of steam, but a bag of beet pulp at lunchtime gives you a whole new horse to continue your day with!


The ride itself was fantastic; five hours of streams and ridges, valleys and rock outcrops winding through the Uwharrie Mountains. Both our boys picked their way calmly through the rock-strewn trails with patience and confidence no matter how steep the challenge.

That's when it happened: I made the deadly error of speaking (it happens to the best of us). "Wow, we actually had a riding trip with no disasters such as getting lost or hurt!"

Then we got back. My first discovery was that my dressage saddle had created two huge pressure welts behind Solo's withers (horror!! shock!! anger!!). Apparently it is time to move on to saddle fitter number four. Sigh. A much more pleasant discovery was that his SI region, which was historically a trouble area, was NOT sore at all (cheers! glee! excitement!).

Second discovery, we got to spend all Sat night in the emergency room with someone who shall not be named (no horse riders or horses got hurt, everyone is completely fine now). By the time we got everyone back to the campsite, it was 2 AM and all were bleary-eyed. So instead of riding on Sunday (which I wasn't going to do now anyway due to aforementioned saddle issues), we headed home.

Aside from our foray into emergency medicine, I can happily say mission accomplished -- we completed a nice long ride I was hoping for in prep for next weeks tackling of Ecuador and I ended up with very little soreness. Solo did very well considering the humidity; I made sure to give him plenty of breathers and a good spongebath in a cold stream midway. And of course, there is nothing better for the mind and heart than this:


  1. I'm sorry the trip didn't go quite as planned, but some time on a beautiful trail is better than none, right? :)
    I have two questions:
    1) You brought Beet Pulp on the trail. Why that instead of grain? Did you soak it or feed it dry? I have found mixed opinions on the safety of feeding it dry so I'm just curious where you stand. I know that beet pulp is an ingredient in my pelleted feed, but the only time I've feed it straight I was barn sitting and soaked it like I was instructed.
    2) You ride with bells! I'm just starting to dabble in trail riding and encountered my first set of jingle bells tied on a girth just this weekend. I have a suspicion about what they're for, but I didn't ask about it, so I'll ask you instead. Why the bells?

  2. I was going to say you should mention our bells.

  3. (1) The beet pulp was presoaked before bagging so it provided yumminess AND moisture. I do as Madame Endurance Master commands.

    (2) Ah, the bells. I was going to explain them in the next post, but I'll summarize: I originally purchased the bells for our little riding group for riding in the fall. Gun season for deer is a time of mass carnage and drunken firing, so I like to make myself as loud and visible as possible during the rare times I dare the woods during the firestorm. I found I liked the sound of them and so I now use them all the time. They help alert the deer (or bikers or hikers or other horses or soccer moms) too, so they pop off in advance instead of waiting until you are right on top of them to explode.

    Turkeys appear immune to bells though. They take a special joy in giving your horse an anuerysm by waiting until the last possible second before hurling themselves in the air like a ball of feathers in mid-seizure.

  4. Glad it (mostly) went well - hope whoever went to the ER is OK now. Saddle fitting is such trouble - I'm going through a bit of that now myself.

  5. Love the video; it's very relaxing to watch the motion of Solo's head and listen to the bells. Looks like a lovely ride. With the tips of his ear coversing flopping and the sound of the bells, Solo looks like a jolly elf.

    Did your campsite have horse pens already set up or did you bring your own? Panels? Or portable electric fence? I really want to go horse camping some day.

  6. That was my suspicion about the bells, and it does sound like a way better idea than me constantly talking nonsense and gibberish to my horse.

  7. Yup, everyone is fine and dandy now, no worries.

    OUAE, the campground is set up for horses, so they have two pole barns with stock gate stalls and they also have outdoor panel pens and a couple round pens. People can also highline if they prefer, so lots of options. I've found campground stalls, at least in the SE, run $10-15 per night, so usually very affordable.

  8. That video made me miss trail riding! I'm glad no one was seriously injured.

    My horse finally just sold! (To a great home!) So hopefully I'll be able to start looking for the right match and get back out there very soon.

  9. That's great news, Amanda! I'm so glad you found a good home for Bugs and I know you'll find a new great horse! Let us know if you need any help evaluating prospects!

  10. That's great news, Amanda! I'm so glad you found a good home for Bugs and I know you'll find a new great horse! Let us know if you need any help evaluating prospects!

  11. Thanks! I will totally be looking for some advice on conformation and what not when the time comes. We're moving across the country at the end of the month so I won't be doing anything until then and I want to try and find a trainer/instructor first. Why is it always so hard to find a good trainer/instructor in new places??? It seems like so many instructors rely on word of mouth which makes it hard when you are moving to a brand new area and don't know anyone. Oh well, I'm very excited about the new possibilities!!

  12. Go to your new USEA Area Adult Riders group. They will know the ins and outs, the good and bad. I rely on my Area II folks to steer me right from wrong and they hooked me up with our awesome BO.

  13. sounds like the weekend we just had--but our group was not so lucky at the ER. Ten hours to find out our friend had broken her pelvis, but there is nothing you can do.

    waster a perfectly good weather day in the middle of a long weekend