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We Are Flying Solo

May 26, 2011

A Carolina Rodeo

I am coaxing a knee back into cooperation and I just got dexamethasone shot into my spine (hey, now me and Solo have even more in common!).  Problem:  I need to keep Solo moving without me in the saddle this week.

Perfect solution: we've ponied Pete several times, now Pete can pony Solo. Solo was an experienced ponier at the track, no problem to just switch roles, right? So I set lifeshighway up with the shiny beast and they wander off into the woods to work on some conditioning.

Oh, why didn't I notice she wasn't wearing gloves. I kept a nervous eye on the back gate. Solo is very strong. And have I ever mentioned his tantrums that hath no warning?

I hear the jingle of bells when Pete returns.

"How'd it go?" I asked.


Uh oh. Apparently Solo was moderately amenable to the plan for a while (although he is Pete's boss in the pasture so he had no qualms about body checking the little guy). Until he decided he wanted to have a little gallop.

I believe that ended with Solo galloping in a lead-rope sized circle while lifeshighway hung on and Pete spun in little circles trying to keep up. She adamantly protested that she did not want to suffer the shame of having Solo beat her home. I hope she does not have too much rope burn on her very capable hands.

Am I cruel because I wish there was a video? I made sure everyone was ok first. Pete gets a gold star for stepping up to be cow pony.

Naughty, naughty orange horse. I put him to bed with some bute and hopefully he did not damage himself unduly, the idiot. Guess he feels recovered from his horse trial. You just never know when even the calmest horse is going to lose his shit.

Never, never pony a horse without gloves and always tie a knot in the end of the lead rope. And it's ok to let go, I won't laugh too hard and it's better than getting hurt. Here endeth my lesson.

I shall be hiding out in a cabin in the middle of a national forest for the weekend and letting the river attempt to work magical healing powers. Hopefully, next week, I can climb back on the horse and get to work.

Have a safe and beautiful holiday weekend!

May 25, 2011

Ah, The Stories

Who, me??
What stories to tell?

How about when Solo decided to exit his stall, sans halter, sans me, Friday night & trot briskly out of the barn, across the parking lot, bent on adventure until someone saw him in their rearview mirror & leaped out of their truck to head him off?  He loves to embarrass me.

How about when I slammed my fingers in the stall door because I wasn't paying attention?  Eh, those are the boring stories...  ;-P

The Rundown

Sexy beast
The dressage went well.  Three days off prior to a competition appears to be the golden ticket.  Solo came out of the stall fresh & ready to roll.  Ok, a little TOO fresh, hence his extended trot, oh wait, that was a canter.  Oops.

But he stayed soft through all the canter work & I was pleased.  I thought our 38 was a very fair score & if we stop blowing through a downward transition or two & actually DO the extended trot (which he CAN do nicely!) then I see good things in the future.

The cross country course felt really big the first time I walked it.  Although David informed me yesterday that it was actually a bit small for Training.  Ha.  But after I walked it a second time, I felt good about it.  Ready.


My hands shook as I buckled on Solo's jumping bridle, but R gave us our important last minute reminder tips & off we went.  Warmup was GREAT & Solo cleared the biggest oxer I think we have ever jumped in beautiful style.  We came out of the startbox gangbusters & tackled it.

Solo was a bit backed off by the jump size but he gamely leaped his way through the BIG rolltops, coops, & logs.  He navigated the huge steeplechase jumps with ease & after we cleared the stiff combination at 12, I thought we were golden.

But it was hotttt & as we galloped up the hill to 16, I realized I wasn't hydrated enough & my legs suddenly were non-responsive.

Brain: "Squeeze, legs, squeeze!"
Legs: "Zzzzzzzzzz..."
Legs: "Lalalala, not listening...."

Uh Oh

So when Solo stopped at 16, I knew we had a fitness issue.  He was a bit tired & needed more leg support & I didn't have that to give.  Dammit.  Bad, bad me.  I heard Brian O'Connor's voice announcing our refusal & my heart sank.

We cleared the gate on try two & hit the water.  But water is a BIG impulsion sucker & I knew the flag table at 17 would get the hairy eyeball.  I tried to squeeze with everything I had but there were only about two or three strides after the water to get it & it didn't happen.

Finish It

We gave the table a second go through the water & it didn't happen then either.  Oh god, I'm tired, maybe, I should just retire, I thought.  No f@cking way, I snapped back, we don't get to come back & school this, we are DOING it.  So the third time I approached the flag, I hugged the dry edge of the water & curved at the last minute to the jump -- & he cleared it!

Two jumps left -- a big open ditch & a smaller table.  I ran downhill towards the ditch, making sure Solo had no option but to DO it. He did it HUGE & I popped up & landed with one stirrup.
NAUGHTY tired me is tipping forward.  BAD BAD BAD!

Yes, that crazy landing again.
I am braced on his neck, pushing myself back into the saddle.  One more jump, one more jump...
Get that stirrup back & ride on girl! 

We finished it!  Check out the helmet cam!

We have some conditioning to do!  I used Jimmy Wofford's conditioning sets & had Solo at his Training sets, but that was not enough for the big hills of Virginia. Perhaps Mr. Shiny Chunks needs to be doing Prelim sets...

And Then There Was Stadium

On the outside of my packet, my stadium time was 11:52 on Sunday.  Always trust your packet, right?  I pulled into the barn about 8:30 to feed Solo. R was sitting there in his t-shirt.

Hey, man, weren't you supposed to show jump at 8:20?

"They changed my division times," he says. "I don't go till 10:30. But you might be really nervous right now."

Huh? Why?

"Check the time sheets."

I flip madly through the ten page list of competitors.  OMG, they changed my ride time to 9:06.  WTF?  I must have looked at that page six times yesterday, but had not noticed.  One is generally on information overload at these things.

I now have 20 minutes to get Solo from stall to ingate.   He doesn't even get to finish his breakfast before the bridle goes on & we have to trot to the warm up.   The warmup ring is EMPTY.   Everyone else was caught out by this too.

I am not happy; if the packet stuffers had time to stuff the updated time list in there, they had time to sharpie on the outside of the packet that times were changed.  Most eventers I know ALWAYS go by the times listed on the outside of the packet.  Not.  Cool.

R helps us warm up & Solo jumps ok, but he's not completely up in front of my leg.  I can feel him going hey, I'm still chewing my breakfast, wtf is happening here?

I should have retired then.

But I wanted to give it a go so we walked through the chute & into the coliseum.  We cantered in as Brian O. announced our score from yesterday sitting at a whopping 140-something, which I had to laugh at.  We jumped the first jump, but it wasn't beautiful.

The second jump had been riding very poorly all weekend; pulled rails, crashes, it was nasty & horses didn't like it.  I gave Solo the widest turn I could through the rollback to the short side so he had as much time as possible to see the thing (you only got about three strides to approach).

Twenty minutes is not enough for my horse after standing in a stall all night.   He hadn't enough time to stretch out his legs & back.  And he said, I'm sorry, mom, I just can't do this.  And he stopped & backed & turned.

Last mounted moment as Solo backs out from under me
Eventer Down

It wasn't a hard fall, I just slid sideways over his shoulder.  I don't remember exactly how I hit, I only know I ended up on my knees, holding one rein.  I let go & stood up.  Poor Solo's eyes were bugged out of his head, but he stood & waited for me & we walked out.

Our upper-level friend said I rode it right, Solo just wasn't there.  It was really an unfair situation for him & I don't hold the stop against him at all.

At the time, I felt fine.  Once the adrenaline wore off, the leg ached a bit, but it was the four hours in the truck home that told the real story.  When we got back to the farm, the pain was very real.  But I hobbled around & got Solo set free in his pasture & went home to mull it all over.

I must have landed on the knee & twisted the leg wrong at some point.  The orthopedist reckons it's either a bone bruise, a meniscus tear or both.  But with luck, a couple weeks will heal it.  So keep your fingers crossed that I can have a wee bit of luck this year!  (Edited to add much later: I didn't.  It wasn't.)

Am I disappointed?  Of course.  I thought we might have some time XC but I had hoped & believed we could get around clear.  I remain proud of Solo's efforts & proud of our dressage & XC completion.  We have a development plan for summer & maybe we'll try to move up again this fall.

Until then...anyone know how to get fitter without running or biking (body won't allow)? Preferably while lying down?

May 23, 2011

A Horse Trial In Pictures

The Flying Solo rig makes an entrance.

One of the six stabling barns

Our stall set-up.

Sorry the first bit of the test is missing.  We scored a 38.6.

A feel for the terrain.  This shows about 1/4 of the course, maybe a bit less.

Oops #1:  Pilot's legs cease to function at jump 16.
This didn't help matters.  But third time's the charm.

Overjump that ditch much?  And I only have one stirrup.  But now we're headed home with the triumph of course completion.

The kiss of death.  But an unfair situation all around for the orange beast and I.

But he tried so hard for me.  Thanks, buddy.

Sometimes it's not about winning.  Sometimes it's not even about getting a score.  Sometimes it's just about trying with everything you've got.  We might not have impressed anyone on the scoreboard but we accomplished some really big things for a horse that some have never believed in.

Thank you, Solo, for hanging in there for as long as you could!  Thanks, mom, for everything!

If You Are My Mother, Don't Read This

Yes, I got to spend 5 hours in the ER in the wee hours of this morning, which lifeshighway was kind enough to drive me to. 

In my silly slow fall in stadium yesterday morning, I didn't think I hurt anything, walked away fine.  Four hours of driving later & I was crippled & pain skyrocketed in the evening so I decided to get it checked out.  Hey, I've paid my deductible for the year, I've got to use this while it lasts...for a whole 'nother month. 

So for now, I'm on crutches with a knee immobilizer till I can get in & consult with orthopedist.  MOM, I TOLD YOU NOT TO READ THIS - I WILL BE FINE!

I am off to meet with chiropractor (mine, not Solo's) this morning anyway, but before I disappear in a busy day, I will at least let you peruse our cross country course at the beautiful Virginia Horse Center. Where it is very VERY hilly.

Starting with a BIG steeplechase.  I think the brush was about 3'6" or so.

R and the beautiful pup Lily try to escape my silly pictures.

Downhill to the coop at 6.

Turn left & go down some more to a nearby rolltop at 7.

Log with one stride to drop.

Backwards view of 8 A/B.

Charge up a steep hill to 9.

R shows a bugeyed me how to jump the corner at 10.  I am grateful I don't have to jump his prelim corner next door. 

BIG WIDE steeplechase at 11.

Fat log downhill from 12 A with a steep downhill behind it.

A Himalayan mountain mid-course!

This table was WIIIDE

At the water.  Jump in over 16, one stride into water, jump out over evil flag in the back.

Eeeevil flag jump.

Super wide ditch.

Home free, baby.