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We Are Flying Solo

April 30, 2012

Moving On

For a variety of reasons, the time came for Team Flying Solo to find a new home base.  Thus began the hunt for the perfect combination of facilities I need to train, space for my horses to move around, and no drama.  Ha, well, two of three can't be impossible.

Through an eventing friend, I learned of and visited a farm up the road and as I stepped out of the vehicle, I immediately felt calm and content (I am big on vibe).  It's an old Walking Horse farm, so it had a long low barn with no windows, surrounded by hotwalkers, several round pens and a sea of paddocks.  I wandered around and peeked in stall doors and kicked some dirt and sniffed some hay.

It wasn't glamourous, most of the fencing was high tensile wire and grass was cropped short and sparsely scattered.  But each pasture had a fluffy, nice round bale or two and I could find no manure just lying about.

All of the horses were in good condition, their feet were taken care of, and everyone was perky and bright.  No cribbing collars, no stall weavers, and every horse got at least 12 hours of turnout a day.  There was an arena with lights, a dressage arena measured out in the back, and a freshly built set of jumps.

"Can I have a pasture with a shed where my horses just live 24/7 and the fence gets a strip of white hot tape added?"

"Absolutely, no problem, when do you want to move in?" the owner replied.  He is just a SUPER nice guy, answered all my dizzying questions, and my board costs got cut in half then and there.

I'm not sure they've ever had a sporthorse boarder, as there were plenty of giggles at my detailed feeding spreadsheet and Encore's Mt. Everest of food.  The owner breeds VERY nice old-style Walking Horses, the ones I loved to see when I was a kid:  compact, sturdy, balanced, and built to last forever, with a willing, honest brain and solid feet (the new anorexic looking ones with deer legs make me sad).  In fact, the boys' new neighbours is one of the broodmares with her week old overo foal (SQUEEEEE!) who hops like a kangaroo and squeals to amuse himself.

The half-built shed.
The owner shows all flat-shod walkers now (hooray!) and has gotten enthralled with the versatility classes (horses do their regular gaited stuff, but also have dressage tests and jumping courses), so he is excitedly learning about dressage and jumping from my eventing buddy and applying it to all his training horses.

So as of Saturday, this is the TFS new compound.  I've built a tack locker by my horses' paddock so between it and the trailer, I just have my own space and my own end of the farm with the dressage arena and fields for hill work and XC schools.  As soon as I got the boys settled in, I realized this was going to be EXCELLENT desensitization for Encore.  Yes, he's already seen all the stuff on the track, but now he is seeing....

-miniature spotted donkeys braying for their dinner
-horny ducks who like to mate repeatedly while the pervy geese circle them and honk
-peacocks who call from the trees and leap on top of his round bale to squawk to the hens
-ponies whose main job is to kick the yearlings and teach them some manners
-and my favourite....

Meet Rocket, the mini stud who lives across the lane/fence.  He comes up to, oh, a little above my knees, but he reckons he can take on both those chestnuts and show THEM who's the boss.  He came "for free" with a recently purchased mare, but is actually a very nicely put together little horse and will do some breeding of his own and take over teasing duties from the owner's stud.

He paws like a little bull and assures us all that he could beat all our asses in a 'fro contest.

Solo and Encore, happily, put their trust in each other and rolled about the pasture together in an ADD frenzy, unsure of whether to be fascinated or concerned about the shrunken denizens that surrounded them.

They even showed off a new pairs routine they'd been working on, in beautiful synchronicity.

But by the time I came back on Sunday, they were relaxed and chowing down on clover and hay, the novelty of birds and stallions and donkeys having already worn off in favour of working out what the new breakfast and dinner schedule was. 

It's a big change for us, but so far, a happy one.  I've got a few projects to finish, including matting the shed and some pasture management, but in a few weeks, they'll be set and settled and I can take a deep breath and just enjoy the peace!

April 26, 2012

Your CHP Novice Coursewalk

Team Flying Solo basecamp

Mea culpa for no helmet cam, but I CAN give you a coursewalk, plus a few bonus bits of fun.  So take a deep breath, put yourself in the Carolina sandhills, and gallop out of the start box for your horse's first Novice course.

A simple log pile to get things going.  Then a huge U-turn to...

The ubiquitous CHP cabins.  Run down the hill to...
The BIG brush.  It has wide steps on both sides.  Say hi to our buddy Sue!
Gallop up the hill to the coop.  No visual distractions here.  Focus on your jump.
Run through the tree tunnel to 5 & 6.  Since they are numbered separately, you ARE allowed to circle between them.  But I want to challenge my horse, so we ride straight through.
The course had a nice flow up until 6.  Then it went all wonky.  You galloped down a steep hill and wound through several tree paths and made an odd turn to the table at 7.
Now you immediately rebalance down the hill so your horse is ready for the baby sunken road and rolltop at 8.  Sue is getting tired of being in my pictures.  Too bad!
Down another steep hill to the trakehner.  Encore had never jumped one before so eyes UP, light tap with the go stick and LEAP over and charge up the hill to wind another crazy line to 10.
Sue insists on being the human element for scale.  Now that you have found 10, it's a simple cabin, than a hard left turn.
The water at 11 is a simple run through, keep your eyes on your next jump and don't ogle.  As an aside, this is only HALF of the big water complex at CHP, is it not amazing??
Sue threatens to tackle as you pick your way through the trees at an angle to 12.  Encore knocked a hind leg here, it was an awkward turn and he got an off stride, but he made it work.
Now you get your stirrup back, dodge a few more trees and go down another steepish hill to 13, and immediately balance so...
You can run through the second water at 14.  Don't miss your line because you have charge up the hill to...
15 A & B.  This is a combination so NO circling.  Up the bank, one stride, jump, then a horrible right turn IMMEDIATELY to...
Our not-so-friendly 16.  But it was a terrible line.  You can see the finish flags right behind it.  Sigh.
Then, ostensibly, you have done it!  As I noted earlier, after jump 6, the course notably lost its flow.  For a Novice horse, he should be able to gallop nicely through it in a rhythm and the jumps should come up naturally, as they did with our previous, much beloved course designer, Jeff Kibbie.  But he has moved on, sadly, so it will be interesting to see how things develop.  I will send in my event evaluation to provide some feedback, organizers do value those, so send yours in too!

And just for fun, Indian Smurf made some new friends:

Our VERY favourite starter, Bill -- you can often find him at CHP and several of our area schooling trials.  He always makes you laugh and relax before you set off and was recently featured in EventingUSA magazine for his awesomeness!
Our TD and friend, Cindy (who is also our national Adult Rider coordinator) and her apprentice TD, Tim, enjoying the shade of the golf cart and having a smurfy good time!

April 22, 2012

Sometimes Disappointment Is A Good Ending

That was one of the reasons I have always loved Audrey Hepburn's classic Roman Holiday:  there is no perfect bow and there is no closure except goodbye.  Life doesn't wrap itself up in a nice, neat little package where everyone always ends up exactly where they wanted to be in the first place.

But before we go there, I will give you the answer you've all been waiting for, the question that has held you captive since Tuesday's Hoof Quiz:  half of you are right and half of you are wrong.

Hoof A has a robust, heavy wall and a sole that is concave, thick, and hard as a rock.  The frog is giant and the heels are strong.  There's a teensy bit of a thrushy crack, always a project.  Hoof B is narrower, with a sole that is almost flat, has little callous and jerks back dramatically in response to contact with the tiniest bit of gravel.  The middle of the frog got thrushy (grrrr) from a muddy pasture.

So who was right?  *drumroll*  A = Encore and B = Solo.  So Val, Amy, Beka Burke, Abbie, Lyndsey and RiderWriter got it right!

This has taught me the huge role that genetics play in hoof quality and integrity.  That old saw that OTTB's have crappy, shelly feet?  Well, buy one with good feet and you won't have that problem.  My QH has wussy, cracky feet that need constant attention despite six years of me obsessing over them. 

As for that little horse trial we went to...

Overall things went smoothly.  Although, there was this one time, in middle of downtown Raleigh where I clenched the steering wheel and yelled a string of very bad words, realizing in the complete chaos that was my Friday that I had remembered everything....except feed for my horse.  Fortunately, there's a lovely feed store in Southern Pines which is open for Saturday morning panic shopping runs.

Encore is a very smart horse.  As soon as he unloaded, you could see the lightbulb go on as he remembered the Horse Park and he knew what he was supposed to do in each section we rode into.  He warmed up for dressage rather well, but I still have not completely figured out what he needs.  More canter?  No canter?  More suppling?  A different rider?  I know I slipped into an old habit and tensed up as we rode in the ring.  As a result, he never relaxed and rode up into the contact, and we ended up with a mediocre score of 41.

The judge was fair and accurate and I am sure that our results were a mix of greenness and Encore just having a week and a half off due to injury.  We had ONE dressage ride in the last two weeks. 

Cross country followed and you can hate me because I forgot to turn on the helmet cam.  I'm going to start writing it on my arm.  I will post a virtual course walk when I get the pictures organized.

Now that we were running Novice, I was finally able to let Encore run a little.  Wow, does he have a powerful gallop.  It took everything in me to slow down and balance enough for the fences.  But he was bold and solid -- baby sunken road, water, trakehner, bank, combination, HUGE brush -- he gave it an excellent run and responded to everything I asked immediately.

Until Jump 16.  Three strides from the finish line.  The last jump on course.  It was a simple rolltop, although a bit narrow, and newly built out of light, treated lumber.  I knew it was a steering question and it came off an odd turn, as the whole second half of the course lacked flow in its design.  But I aimed for the middle and closed my leg.

See, the smurf has no problem with it.
Encore is a very quick and athletic horse, as I'd already learned in Februrary.  He slipped out to the left at the last second.  I was stunned.  We had already done all the hard stuff!

Then I made the mistakes that did us in.  I simply rode at it again, thinking he would just jump it the second time.  He didn't.  Then I did the same thing the third time with, unsurprisingly, the same result and that was our endgame.

What I didn't do is get proactive fast enough.  The second time, I should have switched the crop to my left hand, dug that left spur in and used a right opening rein to close the doorway he found.

But as I walked back to the barn and commenced the "Saturday Pack of Shame" of those who get eliminated on the first day, I wasn't entirely unhappy.

I was unhappy with my failure to get the riding job done, yes.  But when we were warming up for XC, I had noticed that while Encore jumped the XC jump very well, he rushed the stadium fences, getting flat, hard, and fast in the last three strides.  I didn't like it and I am fairly certain that it is a training issue that I have caused.  I have some ideas, but I need some video or sharp eyes on the ground to solve it. 

But it needs to be worked out and I did not want to run him around the stadium course like that, as that could potentially make a problem much worse and become a negative experience for us both.  As a result, I was thinking of withdrawing after XC and going home to up our show jumping game.

In the end, the choice was made for me.  So while I have a bit of wounded pride for an E on Encore's record (it doesn't stand for "excellent," folks), when I take a step back and look at the big picture and what is best for Encore's career, I see that we achieved experience in the dressage arena, got both our leads and were fairly accurate, and had a great schooling run around a Novice XC course for jumps 1-15 on a horse who was at his second real horse trial and his first go at Novice.

The experience matters.
Like Gregory Peck, I didn't get the princess completion I wanted in the end, but I got an invaluable experience for my horse and I feel comfortable knowing that our show jumping round (in the rain) today could very well have not been what it should.

And that is what makes eventing a challenge and a long game if you want to build an eventer who is confident in his rider and knows how to get his job done.  It's not all clean rounds and sunshine, but it's the hard decisions and how fast you can roll with the punches that sort the wheat from the chaff.

April 21, 2012

Tune In Sunday...

...for the much-debated, long-awaited Hoof Quiz answer!

...and why our Big E today turned out to be not such a bad thing (for those of you watching the live scores).

If you're not watching live scores, well, SURPRISE, I'm home early and Encore is happily grazing in his pasture.  No people or animals were injured in the making of the story to come.

April 18, 2012

Game On!

I jumped Encore tonight the second I got home from field work.  Note to self:  if you leave a young OTTB pretty much off for 1.5 weeks and then point him at a jump, you will have your hands full.  But.  He JUMPED SOUND and the leg finished CLEAN AND TIGHT.  So Plan B is a go!  Complete with veterinary approval!

I'm not giving out the quiz answer yet, I am having way too much fun reading everyone's guesses and justifications.  I am both intrigued and entertained, congratulations!

As for Longleaf, you will find live scores here.

You will find ride times here.

The unicorn will be doing dressage at 11:06 am on Saturday, then he will run cross country at 3:08 pm.  Then his rider will ingest large amounts of carbohydrates and fluids and Sunday, show jumping will run in reverse order of placing.  This will be his first Novice HT, so one hopes his rider will do her job properly and not screw him up, ahem, like last time.

I am hoping if I ride Thursday and Friday, I will NOT have a fire-breathing dragon on my hands on Saturday...

No, I have no idea why Longleaf is run in classic format, while others, like SoPines I, are not.

April 17, 2012

Up For A Little Quiz?

But before the question, I have some gleeful news to share:

I rode Encore last night in the arena and he was SOUND AND FRISKY AT W/T/C!  In fact, after I got off, his leg was cleaner and tighter than when we started, which is what I was hoping would happen once he got moving.  He kicked out with a giant buck picking up one canter, I think it was part exuberance and part annoyance at having just one leg wrapped in layers (I didn't want arena grit in the scab).  I have many smiles, it feels good.

Now, on to your quiz.  It's a simple one...or is it?  These are pictures of my horses' feet.  Both are back hooves on brown legs, both have been barefoot with the same farrier for roughly the same amount of time and both get the same management and same base feed.  No hoof supplements.  Size is irrelevant, the camera was just a different distance from the hoof.  So -- which one is a shiny Quarter Horse and which one is a doe-eyed OTTB?

 If you answer correctly, you win.....


wait for it.....


Yeah, I know, best prize ever right.  *insert self-deprecating snicker here*

April 15, 2012

Why Not A 5 Day Weekend And A 2 Day Workweek?

I vote for that instead.

The Horses:  

Encore radiographed clean on Friday *HUUUUUGE sigh of relief* and was pronounced "He Who Hath Excellent Bone Density" by Dr. Brian.  He is on another course of antibiotics because there is still a little fluid pocket around the wound and slight fill in the ankle/tendon.  But it looks a little better every day.  No more bandages, just the daily bute/abx and tomorrow, I'm going to hold my breath and get on him.

Solo got his huge, shiny butt ridden today -- I think he will always be lopsided (not that he ever was NOT) because of the scar tissue in his back and his weakness there, so the bulge to the left is just default now.  I correct every second stride or so, along with constant reminders that locking the left side of one's jaw is not allowed.  I have begun to let him jump about 2' and under -- he is so terribly excited to jump again that he locks and goes, overjumps dramatically, flings his head in the air and tries to take off at a XC gallop every time.  Mr. Shiny may get his martingale and jumping bit back after all...

The Weekend:

Yes, it is Longleaf weekend, my favourite event of the year.  And I WILL pack up my trailer and my OTTB and we WILL go to the Carolina Horse Park on Friday.  Because the cruelty of eventing is that you can't get your money back.

The Plans:

Plan A:
We do the world's most expensive dressage test on Saturday and then withdraw and volunteer for a while before heading home Saturday evening.

Plan B:
We do dressage, check the leg, if it looks clean and tight, we run XC.  Cold wrap leg and standing wrap it overnight and if he jogs out tight in the morning, move on to SJ.

Plan C:
We do dressage and if leg does not look perfectly tight, we have a chat with Ground Jury to see if we can skip XC and just CT-it by show jumping on Sunday for the schooling experience on level footing.

Plan D: 
None of my plans will go according to plan and I just wing it, tottering about CHP on my bike with my bright orange milk crate while my brain chases its tail trying to figure out what to do.

The Added Bonus:

No matter which plan actually occurs, I still get to use the New Totally Awesome Horse Organizer's Dream Box.  Check it:

It starts like this.  Boots added for scale.  TFS sticker added for coolness.
Then it does this, like a fishing tackle box.
That's right, my OCD friends, just remember
to wipe up your drool.

Of course, I have to make it our own.
 Not only that, but it has a retractable handle like a suitcase.  And wheels.  WHEELS!  And you can lock every section.  Can you just step away and let me and the box have a few minutes alone together in the tack room....

April 11, 2012

Heal Faster!

Encore's leg laceration is healing nicely -- filling in from the inside out with healthy flesh.  Most of the swelling in the leg and hock has gone down cosiderably.  Compare his hocks tonight with Saturday, the day of injury!

Late Saturday morning turkey hock.
The right one only looks bigger because it is closer to lens.
I am holding my breath every day.  It's getting tiring.  I do have a funny Solo story, but it shall have to wait until next time.

For those of you still shopping for your spring show needs, don't forget we have lots of goodies.  I'll post them here so they tempt you more.  Hey, I don't lie about it, ha!

The gory details:  Shipping and handling for all items is a flat $8.00 (sorry, I had to go up, boxes cost more to send than I thought!) in the US.  If you are in Canada or elsewhere, I'll have to figure that out.  All items will ship as soon as I can upon receipt of payment.  Payment is accepted via check or Paypal, email me for information.  I will also take reasonable offers or do package deals.  I have done my best to accurately represent, photograph, and measure all items.  Everything is kept clean, nonsmoking, I have cleaned and conditioned all the leather, blah blah.  Please inquire if you need any more details.  Sorry some of the pictures are from crappy cell phone camera, you have to use what you have on you.   



Caldene english show coat -- Black.  100% wool.  Made in England.  I had the seams let out when I bought it because I have big shoulders, so it could fit a 6 or a narrow thin 8 without giant shoulders.  Single vent in back with two black accent buttons behind.  Three button front with seal grey lining.  Lovely and I am sorry to part with it, but I found one that fit me perfectly in blue, and well, you know my weakness for blue....  This will have you set for dressage, hunters, eventing, schooling shows, whatever you want.  I had it drycleaned last year and have not taken it out of the bag since for fear of getting cat hair all over it (so I'm not unwrapping it now, black wool will be an instant hair magnet!), so it's clean.  Last time I wore it, it was in excellent condition.  Retail ~$200.  $75.


Collegiate reins -- never used.  Brown laced leather reins.  I just don't like laced reins, so they are new!  Total length is 116" so half is 58".  Retail $75.  $30.  Sale pending.

Collegiate Raised Breastplate with standing attachment -- raised havana leather.  A lovely piece of tack, very nice leather, this will look great on your hunter.  Can use with or without attachement.  Horse size.  Very lightly used, like new, plus I had my leatherworker reinforce the D-ring snaps so they won't pull the stitching out, as they are narrow.  Retail $100.  $50.  Sale pending.

Flat Breastplate -- havana leather.  This is one sturdy piece of tack; it has seen many trail miles and competitions with Solo, yet it is in perfect condition and not a stitch out of place.  No brand, but apparently is indestructible.  I have used for schooling and shows.  Horse size.  $30.  Sale pending.

Hunting breastplate -- dark brown, plain raised leather.  Lovely condition, nice leather.  Horse size.  Retail $100.  $40.  

Running martingale attachment  --  Dark brown leather.  Attach to your breastcollar or breastplate with easy buckle.  $10 but if you buy it with a breastplate, it's only $5.

Dover jumper girth -- dark brown with lighter brown inset.  42", measures 46" from tip of buckle to tip of buckle.  Stainless steel roller buckles.  I was schooling a very small QH, LOL!  Retail $50.  $25. 

Zilco crupper -- ok, technically not leather, I believe it's made of beta biothane, but it's very nice and like new.  For your mountain getaways!  Brown with black padding and brass toned hardware.  Horse size, very adjustable.  Retail $40.  $30.

Leather draw reins --  Dark brown leather.  I use these only when I want to remind or teach a horse how to use his body correctly (back off, draw rein nazis!).  They have done the job excellently, I usually only use them for two or three rides, then take them off once the horse gets what I am asking.  Horse size.  $5.  Sale pending. 


Big D dress sheets -- THERE ARE TWO OF THESE.  Blue/hunter/burgandy plaid with burgandy trim, very nice, hardly used.  One is a 74", one is a 78".  Leather-reinforced fittings with nice hardware.  Closed front.  Surcingle and leg straps on both.  The 78" does have a 1" tear near the butt dart, pretty easy to stitch up, pictured.  Retail $70.  $40 for the 74" and $30 for the 78"

This tear is ONLY on the 78".


Loose ring snaffle -- looks like a KK with copper-y (but not in an illegal way) type mouth.  5.5 inches.  $10


Solo says thank you for looking!  We hope you have a fantastic spring!  Remember, I take offers and will make package deals!! 

April 8, 2012

Super Sweet Spring Sale Alert!

If your keen eyes have not already spied it, there is a new tab in our header.  It takes you to the magical world where YOU can own a piece of Solo history and look awesome at the same time.

That's right, I have added new items to our sale list and the tab will stay up there as long as there are things available.  Since SOMEONE decided they wanted an emergency vet call, sigh. 

So browse at your leisure -- first come, first serve, email through the link in our sidebar to reserve your items. 

You get two hints -- (1) show coat and (2) how did I EVER end up with so many breastplates and attachments?