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We Are Flying Solo

November 15, 2010


They say that saying something out loud makes it real.  Well then, let me make real the overarching goal that has been driving me to bring Solo along and making the fire in my belly.

It started a year ago when I drove north to volunteer at Waredaca's Training 3 Day Event (T3DE) in Maryland. The 3DE series is one that is steadily growing with support of USEA. These are full, long-format, "classic" events, the way Rolex used to be before FEI and the Olympic committee had their way with the sport.

This means you not only do your three phases, but cross country day is a TRUE endurance day, starting with Phase A, Roads and Tracks, Phase B, Steeplechase, Phase C, Roads and Tracks II, and Phase D, Cross Country.

I spent my Waredaca weekend running scores, setting up arenas, running the start box on Phase D, and keeping the jog up running smoothly. The cross country course blew my mind, it was so amazing and the grins I saw at the end of endurance day were unmatched at any I have been to.

I was also watching and learning and participating in all the educational stuff that was offered for competitors and volunteers alike. As I drove home that Sunday evening, one thought burned in my mind:

I WANT TO DO THIS. This, this one incredible event, this will be MY Rolex, MY endgame, and my goal for Solo.

So here we are a year later. Solo has made fantastic strides this year, progressing far more than I could have imagined. After our jumping lesson on Saturday, I was talking with a friend and suddenly, it dawned on me:

"I think I have a Training Level horse," I murmured. "Excuse me, I have to go throw up."

The problem with T3DE though, is that you can't just sign up; you have to qualify. This sport has no mercy for poor people like me. If the soundness gods smile upon us, we somehow scrape funding together, and I stay on my horse, my goal is to qualify for Waredaca in 2012. Solo will be 16 and I don't want to push my luck any farther than that.

So, to qualify, here is what we have to complete in the next two years:

Four recognized Training Level events (we take donations of any type, thank you!), with "Nationally Qualifying Rides:"  
  • Dressage score under 50
  • NO jumping penalties on cross country (yes, this means no run outs, no refusals, no falling off)
  • 12 or less stadium penalties (4 rails, no refusals).
What could possibly go wrong???


  1. Wow! What a goal! Wishing the best for you and Solo. You give hope to us other poor folk.

  2. That's awesome! I know you can do it!

    So, I've always wondered what exactly is the difference between the steeplechase phase and the cross country? Is it an actual race? Also, what takes place during the roads and tracks phase?

  3. Amanda, the post to answer your questions is coming soon!

  4. Ok, you are TOTALLY going to need a huge pit crew... I'm thinking we all need to move to NC for this! Just think, if you get pretty purple ribbons without a crew, pretty blue ones will come with one!

  5. Wow, that sneaked up on me but I can see you do this.

  6. You can do it! Horse poor is the best kind of poor, right? I'll be lucky if I ever get to a training level event.

    Good luck!

  7. Thanks for the encouragement, folks, we are going to need every ounce of it, it's a long road ahead!

    molly, I LIKE the way you think...

  8. So I went back and started reading your blog from the beginning about how you and Solo(Benson;) started out. I have really been enjoying it. In a few short years you two have come a long way. I am amazed at the jumps Ian sent you over! Your story of getting started sounds so much like where I am at right now. We did our first eventing show last weekend and did green as grass division. When we were done a trainer said to me you have yourself a novice horse EASY! That scared the pants off of me and at the same time sent inspiration through me. So reading your story makes me feel like the sky is the limit. Well more like my pocket book is the limit but over time the possiblities are huge.

  9. Oh and our winters don't make for a whole lot of riding so I thought I could take some time this winter and try to educate myself. I saw you watched Jane Savoie's videos do you recommend any other sources that might be helpful? I lake knowledge of dressage and I need a bunch of help with my position in both dressage and jumping. Any suggestions?

  10. That's a fantastic goal! You and Solo can SO do this!!

  11. Thanks, Jenn, I hope so!

    Amy, thanks for your kind words! Amy, you need one book: Training the Event Horse and Rider by Jimmy Wofford. It can be a bit tricky to find, but keep digging. It is the eventing bible and Wofford is our god.

    I would also keep your eyes open for local clinics -- even if you can't ride, auditing teaches me a lot, is generally free or really cheap, and I fill up note pages. Also, volunteer at shows if you have any local ones. Scribe at a local dressage show -- you will learn a TON.

    You can definitely do Novice, pretty much anyone can with some good training. I feel you on the pocketbook thing, I am 100% in the same boat and it's SO frustrating. But I figure I only get one chance to do this with Solo, he's such a special horse, so I'm not going to look back later and regret missing out on something just because of stupid money.

  12. Signing up for pit!

  13. I will definitely look for that book. Unfortunately everything in Northern Indiana shuts down for winter. No clinics, no shows, nothing. Though I did volunteer to jump judge at a recognized show in October and I learned a whole lot and plan to do more of that next show season. I am also attending an event camp in July. 5 Days 3 clinicians a day. Dressage, stadium and XC(Peter Atkins). I cannot wait for it!

    So I am being serious here 2012 is a bit too far off to get in on this pit crew thing. I mean you don't want us to be rookies when it is the real deal right? So I am volunteering myself for any shows that you need a 2nd set of hands. I think that alone would be a great learning experience.

  14. Solo Pit/Spa/Glam Crew sounds fun!! We can pretend we're in the movie Sylvester. Oh, and of course, we will keep YOU stocked with Gatorade, beer, and Jell-o shots.
    Sign me up!

  15. Awww, y'all are sweet, thanks so much for the pit crew offers, you have no idea how much it means to me!!! I've got to get there first!!

    Although if Frizz serves me jello shots, I'll NEVER make a clear cross country round!!

    I will be working hard to suss out next year's schedule, once I get it figured out (plus Plan B and Plan C and Plan X), I will post it on our calendar!

  16. Oh boy are you going to get sick of I seriously am hooked on reading all your posts. I think you could publish it as a book. I mean I am no editor but I cannot not stop reading!!! I am up to May. I don't know what I will do when I am up to present day. I mean of course I will keep following the progress but it is like getting half way through a book and stopping...ha.
    So I just finished reading your boot posts from May 09 and I am hoping you might offer me some advice. From the begining my OTTB has beyond brushed both front and back legs. I think he had this problem during his racing years too because of the look of his legs. Pasterns have old bumps and cannons have scars. Since I have had him he has given himself some minor scraps and some pretty ugley gouges out of his pasterns. I have trailered in to lessons 10 or so and I have had the gut feeling that he needed boots but my trainer never really took the questions seriously. I think she may have been thinking as he looses his track issues like; lack of balance, inability to bend right and muscule tone that he would grow out of the problem. Which is true to an extent because he is better but he is all legs and I think he will always struggle to keep those legs in perfect line. I am talking flat work and it is a real problem. Now ALOT of walking to warm up helps and he is soooo much more balanced and bendy and the problem is better but not nonexistent. Ugh I am sure you are wondering when I am going to shut up and get to the So I did buy some inexpensive boots for the front but I still think he needs them on back. Then you talk about heat hurting the tendons and do not want to damage him more than I am helping. Though it is winter and heat won't really be a problem for a few months. So I guess what I am really wanting is for you to just tell me what to go buy because I don't really know how to judge what is best myself right now because my knowledge of boots is well very little. Could you help me????

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  20. Amy wanted an answer sooo bad, she posted it four times, LOL! ;-)

    You have a couple options. Here is what I would try first: hind ankle boots with a hard shell on the fetlock itself. I picked up some made by LamiCell in a tack shop sale recently for $14. These will do two things: (1) obviously, protect the fetlock/ankle from brushing and (2) act as little "spacers" so maybe it will keep him off his pasterns too.

    Then, observe. If he is still nicking his pasterns, get him some pastern wraps, Bit of Britain carries them. Voila, all protected.

    I don't do a full boot behind unless I am doing XC, not only for heat reasons, but because I am always fighting fungus on Solo's back legs.

  21. Ok I am kind of affraid to comment for fear of looking like a crazy stalker...haha What the heck happpened? I did not post four time I promise...LOL. Ok I will definitely try the ankle boots if you think that might work. Ok I am not all brushed up on my horse anatomy so I think it might help to take pics of his legs and his booboos to give you a more acurate discription of where he is getting himself. Because I don't know that it is actually the pastern. Actually I am pretty sure it is the fetlock that he nics the worst. I will take pictures today and post the link. If you don't mind taking a look at them. I really hope this only posts once.

  22. Hahahaha, no worries!

    The fetlock is the big round ankle joint. The pastern is the straight part between the ankle and the hoof. Both are very common areas for horses to nick themselves. :-)

  23. Ok I took pics of all his legs and problem areas and posted them Here.

  24. OK, Miss Scientist Lady, I have been pondering something for quite a while, and I'm thinking maybe you can unlock the riddle for me.

    So: as we all know, the latest trend in boots is to have vents for air-flow, in order to cool the tendons (since all of those studies show that hot tendons = badness).

    OK. So. Then, on the other end of the spectrum are the Back on Track products, which contain ceramic (I believe) in order to reflect the horse's body heat back onto itself...or something along those lines. Now, if they only had post-workout or pre-workout stuff, maybe I could see the logic (??). But if we're still on board with the hot tendons = not good (at least during exercise?), then why are there things like Back on Track polo wraps, which INCREASE heat...and yet are labeled as "theraputic" and what-not?
    I have been confused about this for quite some time.

    OK. There you have it. Maybe next time, you can solve the riddle of the Sphynx...

  25. Frizz, from my understanding on how the Back on Track products work, they do not actually increase the heat in the tissue to the level of, say, neoprene does. I read a long discussion on this recently, I think on COTH and it seemed like the BOT stuff just maintained heat at normal healthy levels, where neoprene would just let that heat keep cranking up forever. I can't replicate what was said here, but it made sense at the time?

  26. Hhhhhmmmmm...I'll have to go read up on BOT, I SWEAR I thought I read that the ceramic increased heat. Or was it increased blood flow? Guess I'll traipse on over to COTH and see if anyone has some non-snarky wisdom. Thanks!
    (And in other news, I *think* I may have actually had the tiniest bit of influence on the eventing world. I made a comment on EN about, "Can we start calling Phillip Dutton 'P. Dutty'?" and it seems to have caught on; unless it's been around for ages and I'm just a newbie -- ??? Hey, if I can't event right now, at least I can make up funny nicknames for Olympic-level riders!)

  27. I think it was in the "Horse Care" folder?

    I saw your comment on EN, LOL, although Holly Hudspeth has already called PD "P Dutty" in her posts, but maybe you convinced John to start using it himself!

  28. I looked through the first 5 pages in Horse Care & didn't see anything, so I gave up. In the war of knowledge vs. laziness, laziness is clearly victorious.

    And...of course! I'm always a step behind, lol.