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We Are Flying Solo

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?


  1. Swimming is one of the best ways to get fit. I hate it myself but recommend it enthusiastically.
    The HT sounds like a good learning experience and it must be nice to know that he will tackle the xc at that size. Good for both of you. Heal up fast.

  2. I second the swimming because I don't think you get wet enough during the summer.

  3. Hahaha, lh, now Barbara does not know I swim for a living. Of course, I'm not exactly out there doing laps in the river. But god it makes me appreciate being being dry.

  4. It's really tough to be partway through a course and realize you're not fit enough for it. I had that happen last time I was out - thinking that I was not going to make it. I have come to realize that there's a huge difference between riding conditioning sets and really getting out there and turning and jumping. It takes a lot more out of you!

    Also, some advice that was once given to me when I objected to riding with (very small) spurs and a bat. As my trainer put it, you don't have to use them, but if you need them, you have them. I only needed the bat once with my very forward, ultra-sensitive horse, but boy was I glad I had it! Just a thought...

  5. I laughed so hard at your photoshop photo.

  6. Wow, that is quite a story and you are quite a story teller. That really stinks about your ride times changing but it's so good to hear your very good attitude about the whole thing.

    Swimming is certainly the least impact workout with the best results. You could try the elliptical maybe? Also don't focus just on cardio. Doing some strength training will also help you in the fitness department.

  7. Maybe some cross training would work? Weight work, especially for your legs and back would probably help your strength and stamina.

    You should take everything I say about that with a grain of salt though, I am currently trying to lose weight I gained in school, and have fitness problems during especially tough lessons.

    If you tore your meniscus expect to have it bother you until you get it surgically corrected. I tore mine coming off on a cross country school about 5 years ago, and if I'm not running and working out regularly it flares up (and sometimes even if I'm being good but have to sit for a while - planes are evil). I don't have good health insurance so I can't get surgery for a while.

  8. You are right about the tools, jenj -- I do jump with spurs, but I can't use a bat with Solo. Someone used to hit him, so if you hit him while jumping, he stops and panics and backs up, a rather counterproductive reaction!

    Tisi, you are not giving me great hope here!

  9. Oh no! Thanks for sharing! How frustrating the time change must have been! Egads.

    I have to admit I am giggling a bit over Solo deciding to go off for a jaunt on his own on Friday night :)

  10. I can't believe the times changed and there was no formal notification system! That's terrible! I think you made the best you could of the situation and Solo tried his heart out for you. Feel better!

  11. Thanks! Jenn, it wasn't funny! Ok, it was a little funny. After I caught him.

  12. Tough break! It does sound a bit unfair, but I guess you just have to roll with the punches. I'm sure it was a big learning experience for you both (like, maybe next time Solo will have at least 10 chains on his stall, lol).

    As for fitness, I highly recommend Russian kettlebells. I know, they seem like they were only meant for crazy weightlifters, but they actually give you cardio, strength, and stretching into one workout. Hard to believe, but I used to be a certified personal trainer. And when I started using kettlebells, I noticed a huge boost in my fitness. (I should mention that I have a horribly crippling knee injury from getting bucked off a bratty pony 8 years ago and landing directly on my knee, which I never had looked at, and I can still do most of the KB exercises.)

    I got mine from (I started with a 6kg and progressed to a 12 kg), and also bought the "From Russia With Tough Love" (lol!) DVD. It's not a "workout" DVD, it just shows you a bunch of exercises and the proper form -- I'll put it on and workout with them, and if they're doing an exercise I don't want to do, I'll just do a different exercise. It is SUPER cheesey, low-budget, etc. and you will crack up at the Russian guy's lame attempts at humor, but I think it gives you really good tips about doing the exercises with proper form.

    Sorry for the novel! :-)

  13. OMG, now I have a mental image of Frizz as a hairy russian bear lifting dummbbells!

  14. I cannot believe they changed your ride to an earlier time! Since that ultimately led to your fall, that was no small matter for them to leave unannounced.

  15. I know, Val! Well, I can't really blame them for my injury -- I KNOW Penny and Brian Ross, the organizers, work their butt off for the sport and do a great job with the horse trials. This was just a REALLY unfortunate SNAFU that should not have happened. I should have withdrawn when I knew the time was so short. I should have stayed on the dang horse! Hard lessons...

  16. Hey, you gave it your best shot. Can't ask for much more, can you? In regards to exercise, here are my ideas, that attempt to meet the criteria laid out:
    -You could lift weits in bed... but I don't think that's going to do much.
    -Umm... be an exercise rider at the track. That'll get you into amazing shape!
    -unfortunately, I don't have any good/serious ideas.

  17. It's too bad you had a rough go of it.. But at least you know what you need to work on now. As far as conditioning, I really recommend inline speed skating. it's low impact, but great cardio conditioning and really improves balance, core strength, leg/ab/back strength. It really helped my riding a lot.

  18. wow I just typed this huge response and it deleted itself....crap.

    I was going to say, you get assigned times?? Where do you event, we are always left guessing when we sucks.

    and fitness, I always feel like Im about to fall off by fence 16, and my horse is still mega fresh...bad combo.

    as for falling, I just did last weekend at a competition on fence 3 of XC....didnt even get to finish the event..

    i tore my miniscus last year and it blows, quick recoveery!

  19. no assigned stadium times...we get XC and dressage...sorry forgot to clarify

  20. Ooo, Kate, lifting weights in bed, I like it!

    Michelle, you are talking to a very clumsy person. Putting me on wheels and making me go fast, well, it would make my doctor's a lot richer than they are already getting off me!

    CM, yeah, we always get stadium times. Sometimes they are just in reverse order of go, but then they still give a division start time.

  21. So I had to go look and see what the heck a "kettlebell" was, since Lord knows I could use conditioning myself. While I haven't got any exercise-prohibiting injuries (lucky moi) I just abhor most forms of it - except riding! :-) Problem is, I need to be more fit to do THAT halfway decently. Put it this way: my instructor used to say I was blowing harder than the horse, and things haven't improved since I'm only in the saddle once a week.

    Anyway, the kettlebells are interesting. I think I'd like the cheesy video as well. Now I just have to find the smallest ones they sell...