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We Are Flying Solo

January 27, 2014

2013 Adult Rider Of The Year?!

Yes, somehow, somewhere, my circle of awesome fellow USEA Area II Adult Riders have named dorky little me as the 2013 recipient of our Adult Rider of the Year award!

As is obvious to anyone who knows me, this is not an award for riding in lots of events, LOL.  I can't remember the last time I got to sit ON one of my horses...

It is generally a surprise award, given out at our annual ARII AR (har har!) meeting.  These meetings include forums, great educational talks and of course, an awards luncheon (poor girl usually sits in the hall and eats a sandwich because the lunch is very expensive).  I wasn't able to make it up this year, as it is usually in northern VA and I'm not flush with diesel money right now, so our group coordinator called me in advance to inform me of the award and ask for a few pictures. 

After I was done being shocked and honoured (ok, maybe I'm still not done), my brain was tired and it went, "OOOO, PLAY WITH HORSIE PICTURES!"  So, since I need to make sure everyone knows how dorky I am, I made a little collage and included the fabulous logo made for us by Kate over at Polar Square Designs

Hey, I'm even wearing my ARII AR shirt!
What I didn't know was that our coordinator was going to read my rambling thank you email OUT LOUD at the luncheon.  Where the keynote presenters were Evention's Dom and Jimmie Schramm (that's why I wanted to go to the meeting so I could meet those talented horse consumption impressionsits!!).  Dang, I should have included a really ridiculous face picture!

But, again, thank you so much, I really do enjoy every chance I get to participate!  And don't forget to read the wonderful story of our Horse of the Year, Santos, an exemplary horse of soul and generosity.


January 24, 2014

Speaking Of Survival

Because we all need a giggle.  Well, and it's true.

January 23, 2014

On Love, Loss, Survival, And Sharing

No such thing as too much Cuna-love
I'm tired.  And I get all weird and philosophical when I am tired.  So consider yourself warned. 

This time of year, it would take about three or four of me to do my job, so at some point, my brain switches off for a while and wanders off on its own.  My heart has been with Aimee as she grieves for her premature goodbye to the amazing Cuna-fish.  I know we are all grieving with her.  I have also been glad that she found Courage (and kept his prescient name); from the first time she emailed me his picture, I knew he would be his own kind of special.

It was magical watching the two of them somewhat reluctantly discover each other and then, as they cautiously began to lean on each other, take off on a fantastic trajectory.  I know I said it many times to Aimee, but it always made me giggle, because she had found her Solo, that red horse with an enormous heart and an opinion to match who changed my life forever too.

But physics and life demand that for every meteoric rise, every explosion of love, there must also be a fall back to earth.  Joy by definition cannot exist without its polar opposite, sorrow.  Sometimes we all wonder if having and adoring these incredible partners is equivalent to signing a contract for heartbreak.  I certainly did on that fateful day in 2011 when I realized Solo's journey to our 3DE was over.  

I suppose in a way it is a non-negotiable bargain, but at the same time, your heart cannot be broken by something unless you love it so much that it is a part of you.  Almost three years ago (which is hard to believe), I had to say the same goodbye to my beloved Smokey-dog.  She was not in constant pain, but I knew that her old body was worn out and it was only a matter of time before she injured herself, so I made the decision to spare her that frustration and loss of dignity.  Dr. Bob, well-known to Solo and Encore, helped me let her go; even though he assured me that I was giving her a great blessing and that she led a wonderful life, it didn't make it any easier.

We both climbed Table Rock when she was 15!
It still brings a lump to my throat, thinking of that day, of driving home alone with breathless sobs because all I could think was how  much she hated being left behind.  For months afterwards, I would catch myself listening for the jingle of her collar or I would almost see a glimpse of her around the hallway corner before I remembered she was gone.

But she visited me in dreams; she was warm and happy and I got to hug her in a furry silence filled with love and peace.  And the gifts and lessons and memories she gave me during her life are still carried in my heart every day. 

Thinking of losing Solo terrifies me, although I know that it is inevitable since the damn creatures won't agree to outlive us, selfish beasts that they are.  At the same time, the idea of never having met him just makes me feel...empty.  Imagining the last 7 years of my life without all of the places and adventures we shared, even the arguments, compromises, and the disappointments (ok, maybe we could have skipped a FEW of those) along the way -- how much poorer a life that would have been.  The doors that he opened, the confidence he gave me, the lessons he taught:  Solo didn't just make me a better rider, he made me a better person.

I will always miss them both.
Some of you know that my life mantra is "Nothing lasts forever."  And it has gotten me through many seemingly impossible times.  I unexpectedly lost the person who made Solo a part of my life, but I am still here. 

It applies to good things too, as even the most perfect of moments, loves, and partners are only ours for a while.  Nonetheless, I have learned to hold each of them as a treasure, no matter how fleeting, and I would not voluntarily give up any one of them to spare myself the grief.  Because that doesn't last forever either. 

So I try to collect that love and then pass it forward, because in a funny, completely unscientific way, sharing love does not reduce it, but rather multiplies it.

I will let one of my favourite poets sum up my own rambling attempts:

I would like to believe that when I die that I have given myself away like a tree that sows seeds every spring and never counts the loss, because it is not loss, it is adding to future life.  It is the tree's way of being.  Strongly rooted perhaps, but spilling out its treasure on the wind.     -May Sarton

January 16, 2014

So, There's Water Polo, How About Water Eventing?

I should probably just keep a snorkel in my truck at this point.  Even the reservoirs can't hold any more and soil that "never gets muddy" is oh so muddy.  My neighbour tells me he has never seen it this saturated, so at least now I know what to plan for.  He may be regretting selling me his high spots now...

A few of you have noticed, but out of random curiosity, I have placed a poll for you in the sidebar directly above the social media buttons.  Tell me how you get your "fresh reading material" updates and how you follow along with your favourite bloggers!

Since no story ever gets to just wrap up smoothly, despite the fact that they've started power line work and I should have electricity in two weeks (yay!), complications abound.  An insulation subcontractor who for some bizarre reason uses a single-axle dump truck (suspected to be made of lead) with a tarp over it instead of a box truck, wandered up my (completely soaked) farm driveway with half the truck off the edge, resulting a lovely mud slop.  Duly added to list for builder of "things contractors messed up" -- it is a short list, and I think an unavoidable one, but no less annoying for all of that.

The lump mid-cannon on the outside front
With perfectly synchronized timing as my financial assets hit rock bottom until my old house sells (soooo....close....), my truck decides that it might like a couple of new injectors or a driver module.  While it occasionally misfires on a couple of cylinders, I hope against hope it's a $10 wiring harness instead (yeah right), but as long as it is sporadic, after consultation with diesel mechanic, it's fine to keep driving.  It still runs so I waved goodbye and pleaded with My Precious to just be patient, as mom doesn't have $900 to feed you right now.

Feeling left out of the fun, Encore popped a lateral splint, which I discovered on Sunday.  Probably being silly in the pasture.  On the plus side, it's cold, hard, not painful and he shows no lameness while walking and uh, leaping on a packed dirt road.  I consult with Dr. Bob and monitor closely, pleading some more that it's just one of those cosmetic ones.  Just don't start limping!  At least we won't be doing much in the next couple weeks (of mud).

The reason all this is so well-timed is that the state gives this lovely little holiday gift to its employees.  We normally are paid on the last working day of the month.  However, in December, the paycheck comes in two weeks early, before the Xmas holidays.  Which means you get six whole weeks to freak out relax and practice your planning skills until January's check appears.  Two more weeks, two more weeks...


January 11, 2014

Farm + Paint = Estate!

L. Williams (so you know who to blame) requested some more samples of my exquisite Paint artistry (I can't really blame them, I mean, you saw it...), so in an attempt to distract myself from having a panic attack about falling trees during a current fast-moving stormfront, I have focused all my creative energies to create for you these masterpieces.   The shoddy Photoshop work is just a bonus.

You're welcome.  As always, you may click to embiggen.

Here you can see a nice little redbud tree on the west side of the house & carefully planned native plant-scaping.  They did finish the stucco on the foundation finally, although I'm still waiting for my dang shutters so I just drew some in, hee.  No large trees allowed near the house since the truck-crusher of Summer 2013 (thankfully not personal truck, omg)!

The boys are unseasonably shiny this year, aren't they?  And Solo is so majykal that green grass grows wherever he steps.  Naturally.  The "Carolina horse shelter" (the horses live in a carport already, it's very common here; this baby is engineered and certfied for 130 mph winds) is completed as of yesterday!

Now all I need are two 10' gates.  And a 6 x 6.  And four 4 x 4's.  And a water trough.  And eyebolts for cross-ties.  And time to backfill & finish the fence.  But hey, I'm watching the ditches for loot!

The Master Plan.  Call it a 5-year plan.  Or maybe a 20-year plan.  But it is my vision for the future!  Of course I colour-coded it!

As of now, the house, shed, & hay shelter are essentially done (ok, so I need electricity.  And shutters.  And an inspection.  Details.) & the north & south sides of the main pasture (the top one is only for riding until I can find some free t-posts to finish the back fenceline) have their strip of tape up.  The lower pasture is also ready to use, although only when I am living there, as I can't afford to put a strip of tape in front of that wire yet; Solo & wire have a bad history.

Taaaape.  Loving the Horseguard, although I have not fully tensioned it yet.
Yes, my fence will be bipolar -- eesh, not my favourite product name, but it's still great stuff!  That way, I do not have to ground my charger unless I want to activate the wire.  You try driving a 10-foot rod in the Carolina piedmont.  Not till the neighbour's hydraulic post driver comes home!  My dressage arena is all ready:  all six little white plastic cones just need to move to their spots in the grass.

What do you mean I have to go to work?  I have plenty of work right here!

January 9, 2014

Creeping Solo Farm Might Be More Accurate, But There Is Progress...

As any of you out there who have built a farm know, it is so much more than just building.  Even when you have the land, you've barely begun.  At the beginning of this project, I knew that, but at the same time, I didn't KNOW.  No matter how good your builder or contractor is, no matter how long you spent getting zoning permits, building permits, septic permits, well permits, no matter how many maps and diagrams and spreadsheets you put together, you still have to BE THERE.  This tends to clash with my boss' idea that I should be THERE.

Seriously, they were going to throw all this away!!! o.o
It would be wonderful to have a handy extra free person to handle things while I am catching up on work (mail order bride?) but even then, it takes my eyes to identify spots in need of repair (construction is messy!) or an incorrect installation or get the massive amount of very valuable lumber out the dumpster (hey, I paid for it, I'll dive for it!).  It takes me to personally stake out and line level exactly where I want the run-in to be and to catch any attempts to put things where they are NOT supposed to be.

All of this is enough to exhaust anyone, but add on top selling my current home, trying to occasionally make sure my horses are still alive, arguing with my stupid health insurance company (don't even ask), and oh yeah, my truck did a weird thing the other day, misfiring on a couple cylinders.  Perfect timing.  Although it's behaving for now and better continue to do so.

In short, a person had better be ready to pour their heart, soul, stubbornness, and hope in on top of every other resource you have.  I committed to building the farm after a massive personal loss, which stole a future in a way I didn't even know was possible.  So as crazy and risky and stressful and difficult as it is, this farm is my leap of faith in an attempt to build a new future.  All of the greatest things and experiences in my life that I treasure most have come with great risk and many moments of doubt.  But I don't regret a single one.

I may land in a worn out heap on the other side of the abyss, but here I am mid-jump anyway, with blind trust that there IS an other side. 
You can click pics to embiggen.
Front porch in progress:  Step 1

Front porch:  Step 2, although there's a bit of a safety issue.

Front porch:  Accomplished!!!  Now bring the rest of my shutters!
It's all ready for power...
And dinner parties...

And beer on the porch!
You can just see the next-door trainer's barns, looking over my riding field.
Hey, it is awesome.  And it gets installed Friday.  Don't envy my grafix skillz.
And the best part...ONE of the views out of the master bedroom.
I can't believe I almost forgot this last picture...thanks to an awesome Xmas gift, the welcome mat is ready to welcome.

January 7, 2014

When Bloggers Collide

It appears there were multiple horse-y blogger holiday road trips from Texas to North Carolina (um, because this is where it's at, hello!) at the end of the 2013 and one of them resulted in a close encounter!

Like, REALLY close!
With a little coordination, I had the distinct pleasure of finally getting to meet jenj from Wyvern Oaks and her husband, Sean (dude, they joust AND event, I mean, c'mon).  If you follow Jen's blog, you know 2013 was a true F-you from the universe year for them and she and I have chatted often through gmail about the heartbreak and poverty of horses.  But we also have shared the magic and the irreplaceable joy they bring with them. 

If you have not seen her new and adorable-to-an-illegal-level partner, Paddington the Haffie, you need to go check out his blond charmingness now (he's kinda hard to miss)!!!  Oh, and her husband was nice too.  (*wink* TFS loved you, Sean!!!)  And they are movie commericial stars now!

Sean photographs Jen photographing Encore mugging the carrot lady.
Awesome Jen, the most bestest Solo, and the most dorkiest me (I love my llama hat, I found it in Ecuador!  Solo not-so-covertly checks to see where that 5-lb bag of carrots went.

Speaking of getting together with other bloggers and sharing laughs (hey, it's better than crying), I discovered several changed and new networks for horse bloggers that you may have noticed in my sidebar (that I'm still working on, arg!).  There is still the great Haynet, but there is a new group just starting on Google+ (I know, BUT interwebz rumours are that FB is on its way out for businesses/marketing and G+ is gaining ground) -- join Horse Blogger's Network and help make it awesome!

Many of you probably already know the Horsebloggers group, which I THOUGHT I was a part of.  However, it appears they have updated their site and I found I was no longer on the list, horrors!  So head over and check, you may need to re-add your blog to the directory.

Happy blogging and here's to sound horses and a COMPLETELY UNEVENTFUL (hear that, universe???!!) 2014!

January 4, 2014

A Little Video Of Solo And I Playing Bareback In The Winter

I didn't feel like getting the tack out so, I just looped the lead rope around and hopped on.  Sorry, I was so excited about the new indoor I finally completed at the new farm, I forgot my helmet!


In all seriousness, though, Satchmo is and always will be an amazing horse and his partnership with Isabell has that rare quality which surpasses talent and skill and training and resides in the realm of heart and magic.  Enjoy.

January 2, 2014

Are You Riding Your Horse Or Just Reacting To Him?

Well, everyone has ambitious lists for 2014 and lovely summaries of the past year & I have enjoyed reading each one (although I am going to admit that The Owls Approve is my favourite, pure awesome) -- I hope that horses stay sound & safe & riders get to achieve even more than they thought!


I'm not one for goal lists, which is not to say that I am goal-less, but perhaps since my brain has never acquiesced to operating in a linear fashion, it doesn't understand partaking in that process.  My heart still burns for the T3DE jog strip & a little part of me was hoping I could qualify Encore for Southern Eighths in May, but I know that is both fiscally impossible & an unfair level of sudden pressure for my horse.  I know, as part of the event staff, we want people to ENTER ENTER ENTER, & every inch of me wants to fill out that form, but I can't do it alone, I need my partner to be ready too!

There are no guarantees that we will even be able to compete at all this year, as all of my money has fallen into a sinkhole named Flying Solo Farm.  Any of you who have hung around here long enough know that I do not event for the competition, but it IS the only way you get to run a correctly designed, marked, & wonderful cross country course.  Why do you think we put up with all the other craziness, duh?!!

Appalachian mountain high.
I'll Take My Favourite Rides

I hope that we can make it out a little, as I'd like Encore to get some more formal Training Level experience, but honestly, I take just as much delight (well, more, due to lowered stress level!) & education from getting out to lessons & the trail fitness adventures of BFF & I.  Schooling, miles of trots & canters through the woods, fine-tuning skills, those are all things I will be able to do, & for FREE since I can ride out the back gate (all that searching pays off!).

The Big Goal

There is one thing that I want to drill into my body & mind (what's left of it) this year, however.  It may seem small, but the past years of watching & listening oh so carefully have shown me that it defines the effective, thinking rider:

I want to become significantly more aware & more consistent of riding the HORSE & riding the gait/movement/line I want & not riding the horse's behaviour.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming...
I've improved over time, but I still fall into that trap we all know when your horse spooks or resists or has a 'moment' & you react.  You might kick him or yell at him or smack him with the whip. 

When instead, an effective rider just. keeps. riding.  She does not change her request, her position, or her goal.  She informed the horse, "We are going to trot a 20 metre circle, connected, & forward, & in the shape of an actual circle."  And that's it, she RIDES the circle.

The horse may throw his head or wiggle or be excited or get distracted or do all those things that horses do, but he will come back to find the same set of aids creating the same space & energy for him to move in. 

THAT is what I want to achieve for Encore more often.  It is a big little thing because it is a huge mental challenge to remain that patient & focused & non-reactive (even when I'm not on the horse).

It's even harder when it's 98 degrees & 4500% humidity.

So I suppose that is my goal for 2014:  to ride my horse(s), as simple (and as difficult) as that.