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We Are Flying Solo

November 3, 2010

Downs And Ups

By the time I made it back to Solo's stall, my blood pressure had well passed healthy levels.  As I surveyed all the gear that needed to be applied to the horse, my eyes rolled and I turned in deperation to my teammate stabled next-door and shamelessly begged for help.  As any good eventer would, she sprang into action without hesitation.

I now had approximately twenty minutes left in which to tack up my horse, redress myself, warm Solo up, and be ready to parade through the coliseum gates. I arranged pad layers and set my jumping saddle on top and whipped off the fleecy cover.


Teammate: "What are you missing??"

"I HAVE NO $#@%! STIRRUPS!" I recalled they were on my dressage saddle, which sat in my trailer at the other end of the complex, well out of range of retrieval in time.

Dear, wonderful teammate: "It's ok, take my dressage stirrups."

Stirrups applied (and leathers rolled like I am six years old since they are long).


It was like a curse. I discovered several other things which sat in the trailer that I could not possibly continue without. Teammate calmly handed over everything we needed to get by and stuffed me up on the horse. Eventers rock, y'all.

Lesson 7: Don't put anything away until the end of the day.

We scurried over to the warmup ring Indy 500 track attached to the coliseum and started to trot around. And by trot around, I mean picking our way through horses cantering in both directions about three deep along the rail around the warmup jumps. People would randomly peel off and weave around to a jump with a warning yell. It was utter chaos and no place for the faint of heart, be it human or equine. Amazingly, even though there was more than one set of rider eyeballs bugging out, the horses calmly went about their jobs with not even a squeal of protest at the close quarters.

At this point, I discovered that not only were the stirrups set at jockey length, they were uneven to boot. So I swept out the gate and in desperation, asked a random couple to hold Solo for me while I fixed the leathers (horse people in a panic seem to have no qualms about harnessing the labour of innocent bystanders).

My state of emotional meltdown must have been written all over me like a billboard as the kind gentlemen readily stepped up and took Solo's head. As I fumbled with the buckles with shaking hands, he gently said, "Relaaax. Take it easy. Remember, sometimes when we try to do things faster, they just take us longer." Bless him, whoever he was. It was enough to get me to draw in a shaky breath or two and get things sorted. I jammed my feet home and with profuse thanks, returned to warmup.

With my brain now focused on riding forward to the jumps, keeping legs and core strong and supporting and the hands soft, we took crossrail, vertical, and oxer on. I could hear David and Becky in my head on each approach, reminding me to keep my shoulders back, leg on, and wait wait wait...

Our number was called, I rode through the white swinging gate, and then it was just us; one red horse and one determined me alone with ten jumps and the laser eye of the timers. I felt the ripple of a thrill as I heard our names being announced by the voice of eventing, Brian O'Connor. Then everything else disappeared and all I heard was hoofbeats and my own voice in my head: They're just poles. It's only an arena. Ride each jump and keep your eyes locked on target and LET GO OF THE DAMN REINS.

So when I got to the first jump, I completely choked, overrode it, and pulled the top rail.

Lesson 8: Let go of the damn reins.

Then I got mad at myself. And that makes me sit down and ride. I put a supporting leg on to each jump. I carefully remembered and used the tips we'd gotten earlier from an Advanced friend. I waited for the waiting jumps and rode up to the oxers. And the rest of the round was clean and under time, despite a few bobbles along the way.

There were many pats and much praise for Solo and a giant sigh of relief for me. I still had no idea what our score was, only that it had just increased by four. The rest of the day was ours to collapse and recover from this chaos and tomorrow...

Cross country awaited.


  1. I'm glad I'm not the only one who rides better when I get mad at myself. When I was learning to ride as a kid, I had the worst habit of not being able to do something until I was so frustrated I was in tears. Fortunately I outgrew the tears, but still ride better instead of worse the more frustrated I get. I suppose that's better than falling apart even more.

  2. Too true, Jackie. I think the frustration forces me to concentrate and really think, instead of just farting around and not really focusing.

  3. Goodness gracious! Sounds like it was quite the day. I'm glad that in the end it seemed to all work out. I have to say that one of the reasons I'm really attracted to eventing is how nice the majority of the people in the sport seem to be. It reminds me of Endurance in that way.

  4. We always try to help each other out, Amanda! Because pretty much anything that can happen has happened to all of us at some point.

    I think some of it is too, that for many of us, we are competing not against the other people, but against ourselves. So there is none of this, "OMG, I must defeat everyone and I'm not helping anyone else because then they might beat me!" Instead, we are just trying to get a better dressage score than last time or to get through all 3 phases clean or to assess if we are ready to move up a level.

  5. This whole story makes me nervous and I already know the outcome.

    You need crew.

  6. That sounds like someone volunteering to me... ;-P

  7. Ok, the main lesson that should be learned from this whole thing is that you need to have us ALL as a crew. Obviously I need to drop all responsibilities in Maine and head to NC.

  8. Your italicized paragraph in "Dressage is for Haters" is so familiar to me. As an adult coming back to showing and suddenly not having the "pit crew" I get SO overwhelmed at shows. It is SO tiring doing ALL of the physical and mental preparation. I spent the end of my 2nd show sans crew in my car bawling on the phone to my Mom who was 1,000 miles away. "WHY isn't this fun anymore!?!?" I was lucky a few times to have a friend play one hell of an awesome show mom for me. I'm not sure what I'll do next summer now that she's off to Grad school!

  9. Well, count me as a member of the "Needs To Get Pissed Off To Ride Well" Team. My old trainer created the monster that I am -- whenever I was flopping around like a ragdoll, he would yell and swear at me, making me angry and thus igniting the fire in me to actually ride.
    To this day, if my riding is going south, I just picture him screaming, "Get OFF THE GODDAMN HORSE!! You're ruining it and I'll never be able to sell it!" Works like a charm.

  10. OBVIOUSLY, molly, geez! How has it taken you so long to realize this, LOL!!!

    SP, it IS hard. I have done ok at the smaller HT's -- I organize carefully and show out of the trailer and it goes ok. I was so not organized enough to deal with separate camping and stabling and the huge venue! Maybe we need to have a collaborative post on how to make a one-woman show run smoothly!

  11. OMG, Frizzle, I laughed so loud I scared the cats...

  12. anytime you need a crew/photographer all you have to do is ask..... will be there if it is humanly possible....

  13. oh so it turned into one of those shows! eventers are so great at helping out when needed. too bad about that first rail!

  14. Your account has me on the edge of my seat...I live vicariously through eventing blogs as I will probably never be brave enough to be a real life eventer.

    Definitely can't do it without a crew. I had 3 people helping me last weekend at just a little local dressage show. One to watch my 4 year old daughter and 2 to help me and my mare! LOL... Couldn't have done it without them.

    Good thing eventers are so completely awesome!

  15. HA! Well, as soon as you figure it out you let me know! If I can help it, I'll never try a one-woman-show ever again!