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We Are Flying Solo

April 26, 2011

Long Days At Longleaf: Part I

After spending all of today winching trucks up muddy hills at work and then pulling into a hotel standing in the midst of last week's North Carolina tornado carnage, my brain is not quite functional.  My apologies.

I feel confident saying that this weekend was the most educational horse trial I have ever competed in. I feel equally confident saying that I hope to god no one was watching.

After a rainy Friday spent packing and buzzing around picking up last minute items, I loaded up one Solo and one Eminently Helpful Friend (EHF) who, in some enormous lapse in judgement, had agreed to come and crew for us. We managed to pull in to the Carolina Horse Park right at 8:00 pm with just enough light to bed Solo down and drag our tired selves to bed.

I leaped out of bed with a smile when the alarm went off at 4:30 am on Saturday morning, unable to wait one more second for dressage in the sandbox. No, you're right, I cursed and groaned and stumbled blindly about in the dark. I can't believe I do this for 'fun.' I believe EHF contemplated multiple ways to off me and take the truck keys. But we managed to get Solo his breakfast so that I could prep for my horrendous 7:42 dressage ride time.  Because who doesn't look awesome dressed like an 18th century English magistrate?

Because we'd had some struggles with dressage saddle fit this week, I elected to ride in my close contact saddle for all three phases. But I knew Solo's problem went deeper as soon as we got to the foggy mudhole which was the warmup. His jaw was so locked that I couldn't convince him to bend to the left. He felt even underneath me and moved forward well enough, all that was left to do was do the best we could. *sigh* I think I would pass out from shock if we ever got to do a dressage test at a horse trial where Solo and I were relaxed and at our best at the same time. But because one of my promises to this blog is honesty, I'm posting the test anyway.

The judge was far kinder than me and gave us a 37 and called Solo a "neat horse." I actually did NOT ride with my body in death clench while holding my breath for three full minutes, so that's an improvement. But Solo did not go well. I was frustrated for both of us because he is capable of truly lovely movement and I want people to really see him shine. But it was over and done with, so at least we could move on to the fun parts.

Stabling next to us were two Area II Adult Rider friends; R, with his lovely Prelim horse, and C, with her charming Training gelding.  And C always travels with my best event buddy, Russell the Russell, the only terrier I have ever actually loved.  He is so....un-terriery, I want to squeeze him until he pops in a ball of white fur!  It is always nice to be able to share dressage commiseration.  Although both C and R had quite nice tests so I suspect they were just being accomodating...  *suspicious glance*

Besides having heaps of great Adult Riders, Area II is a place where, if you forget to set the parking brake on your truck, you will probably run over a USET-type rider. Over the course of Saturday morning, C introduced me to both Holly Hudspeth and Bobby Costello. Hopefully I managed to keep some semblance of a normal look on my face when conversing with either. I was particularly impressed with Bobby -- he was open, friendly, hilarious, and ever-present through the entire event with cheerfulness oozing out of him, even when he was helping check folks like bleary-eyed me in when we appeared for dressage warmup at oh-dark-thirty Saturday morning.  Oh, and he has the cutest puppy OF ALL TIME.  USEF clearly missed out by passing him over for an eventing team coach, but I have to say, I'm a little bit selfishly glad that we get to keep him.

But then it was afternoon and it was time to gear up for our cross country round. I'd dutifully walked my course and set my watch and visualized my run and charged the helmet cam. Solo was booted and taped and bounced out of the stall -- I swear he knows what the cross country boots feel like! 

We sent EHF off with camera in hand and made our way down the long trail to the warm up, where, after Solo got over being a barn sour Shetland, we set our sights on the startbox.  Our very favourite starter was hard at work keeping everyone on schedule while making sure we all started our courses with a smile.

And it was time. As I pushed record on the helmet cam, little did I know what was in store over the next five and a half minutes. All I heard were my nine favourite words:

5...4...3...2..1...Have a great ride!!


  1. Damn you and your cliff-hangers! ;-)
    I hope you and Solo had a good time out there on XC.

  2. Ok, give us the second installment already!

    PS Maybe not what you wanted from your dressage test or horse, but lovely square halt at the end! :)

  3. grrrr I hate cliff hangers. I know you know your horse and what he is capable of but outside looking in he looked good in the test. I can see what you mean about stiff when he is troting but I thought he looked great at the canter. His walk was nice and transitions were good so I can see why you got a good score. We are our hardest critics. You guys look great especially your first time out for the season!

  4. This. Was. Not. Fair. More. Now!!!!!!
    Oh the tornado damage of last father was a first responder in Bertie, possibly the hardest hit (casualty wise) by the storm.
    And yes, everyone looks lovely dressed like an 18th century magistrate. duh!!

  5. Yes, do please put us all out of our suspenseful misery and TELL THE REST OF THE STORY!

    I'm sorry to hear that your dressage ride didn't go as planned, but things will get better with time. You did have some really nice transitions and the canter was quite nice, so don't be too hard on yourself!

  6. Ah!! Must read more!!

    Remember, bloggers all over the world are living vicariously through you. ;-)

  7. I have to echo some of the other comments. I thought your score was well deserved. I get that he wasn't up to what you are used to but he had some very nice movements/transitions/canter, etc.

    Oh, and in some ways I like my test/class to be nice and early. There is a lot less time to stress out about it that way, especially if I'm only half awake, lol.

    Mostly I'm just super jealous! Can't wait to hear more!

  8. Thank you for kind words! I actually was ok with his canter. He had a nice free walk, but we got dinged hard on it because he saw the horse in the next ring and wiggled off the line to check it out.

    I will inform my boss that I cannot come to work tomorrow because I must satisfy Solo's readers! He has been curious at what I have been slaving away at in my hotel room, LOL.