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We Are Flying Solo

Showing posts with label trail ride. Show all posts
Showing posts with label trail ride. Show all posts

May 24, 2013

Climb Every Mountain

Neighbouring Grayson Highlands SP has feral ponies.
With fuel prices up, bills to pay, time at a premium, and my bestest riding buddy with a schedule perhaps even more difficult than mine, it's been a long time since I've been able to hit the road and enjoy the woods with a pony.  These trips are also an important part of our conditioning regime; 20 miles of walking up and down mountains is an unparalleled way to strengthen your partner's hind end (and wear out yours!)

I shall wait no more!  BFF and I share a farrier, whose wonderfulness you can find on the team page; he and his family go to Mt Rogers National Recreation Area every year, which is part of George Washington National Forest.  This year, we actually scored an invitation, which sent me on a hunt for the perfect campground, as I require that my horse have a safe and comfortable place to rest after carting my butt up clifffs for 8 hours!  Bonus:  if my horse loses a shoe, I won't have to go far for a repair.

Reservations are now made and we will be off shortly to explore new vistas of Appalachian beauty and relax with good friends and a good beer.  Hopefully I will even remember to take pictures.

Team Flying Solo wishes everyone a safe and wonderful holiday weekend.  Share your horse riding/hugging/dreaming stories for Memorial Day!

Mt Rogers NRA - I can't wait to be back on the trail!

October 13, 2012


I'm terrible at it.  So perhaps it's a good thing I've been left in charge of the farm this weekend while everyone is shining their silver at the State Fair.  With still about 30 horses left behind and a pony with an eye infection, plus pasture dragging and arena mowing -- oh wait, skip that one, the mower wouldn't start.  At any rate, better than fidgeting.

I don't want to do anything meaningful with Encore until Dr. Bob has a chance to set right what is sore.  Solo is quite of out shape; we did a bit of walk/trot work the other day (see our FB feed) and he was fantastic, but it definitely woke up some long-slumbering muscles who now whine in protest.

So instead, tonight I rode out bareback into the sunset, Solo's familar sway beneath me and Encore's bright face at my knee as we ponied him through quarreling mockingbirds and the fat-rolling scramble of groundhogs in a perfect early fall evening.  It was good to get them both moving slightly faster than a lazy pasture amble and good to be on a horse after tractors and pitchforks and grain scoops and hoses.

Only two more days, two more days....

September 21, 2012

Rocky Mountain High

If you don't know by now, I think the worst thing you can do to your sporthorse is make it an arena baby (edited to add:  ok, obviously not the worst thing.  I mean, you could beat it with sticks and never feed it.  But that would just be uncool.).  Biologically, physiologically (I have the degrees to back it up, go ahead, check me!) to make a tissue or system strong, you have to challenge it.  Obviously, the equation of equine soundness is one of multiple confounding variables, but I think a powerful influence is the lack of "off-roading" and far too much arena grooming, track prettifying, and grass fondling, which only leads to weakening soft tissues and bones.

What do I do about it?  GET OUT THERE.  It was Encore's first time in the Uwharrie National Forest and it took him a couple of hours to sort it out, but by the end of day one, he could power walk through a rock field without tripping even once.  Lessons: balance, agility, strength, decision-making, and focus.

A commenter asked me if I thought it would really make a difference in his training and I said yes.  Because it's not a walk in the park:


This face always makes my heart skip a beat.

Pete and lifeshighway share a moment.  Or perhaps Pete wonders absently when dinner is.

It was a short trail with a simple name...

Turns out, it really was that simple:

We even saw a wild sponge.  Which was odd; I rarely find them outside their normal aquatic habitats...


But at the end of the day, it was all about team building and enjoying a beautiful weekend with friends.  And yes, my horse is tied by his reins when I am standing next to him.  Sue me.  ;P

September 13, 2012

You Buy, You Break

I could smell it already -- the clean air in a silent forest at the top of the mountain, a living quiet broken only by the sound of hooves on pine needles and limestone.  So when I went up to the farm last night, I thought I'd just do some light dressage schooling with Encore, focusing on suppling his muscles in balance, because he had a weekend of serious mountain climbing ahead.

That would have been way too easy.

It was a beautiful evening, too, and I almost quivered with anticipation of the soft, zen vibe of sitting on my horse in the setting sun.  Then I pulled off his fly sheet.

Raging across the middle of his back was a huge scrape, swollen and hot and sore to the touch.  You may have heard my bubble popping as I remembered why you have to always live in the moment with horses.

He hadn't broken the skin, just torn off all the hair and it looked much like I feel when I whack my hip on the corner of a dresser and say many bad words.  So I rubbing in some SoreNoMore and covered it back up.

It was a perfect opportunity to snag a bareback ride on Mr. Shiny instead, so I pulled him out, much to his glee as he has been doing his eye-begging once again, pleading me to fuss with him.  I started brushing him down and curried some mud off his hind fetlock -- to discover a full-thickness filet cut upwards through his ankle.  I could lift up the flap of skin and see pink tissue inside.

Of course.  My theory that the more horses you have, the more injured horses you have, stands intact.

Solo did not have any heat, swelling, or any signs of a problem around the cut, so I crammed a bunch of purple goo in there while he yawned.

Tonight, Encore's back looked and felt significantly better, so I hope that we will still be able to enjoy our mountain weekend.  It's not just about relaxing, it's something I have been trying to do all summer, because Encore lives in Flat Land and the mountain work could well be a make-or-break for his fall season, as he still needs a boost in hind end strength.  Our BFF riding partners have finally had an opportunity to get away and it is valuable in so many way. 

But somehow, and I don't even see how this is possible, I yet again end up at the last minute wondering, "Will he be better?  Do the pros outweigh the cons?  How does this fit into the big picture?"

Over it....

June 2, 2012

(Much Needed) Good Times With Good Friends

While Encore was pacing in his prison alone (so he says), I ran away like a rabbit with fire ants on its tail to the mountains.  The legendary bromance duo of Solo and Pete were reuinited, their love/hate/love no less diminished by time nor distracted by the addition of a lovely TB mare named Kate.

Matched bays survey the top of the mountain.  Crystal riding Kate and of course, lifeshighway riding Solo's incorrigible Arabian best friend, Pete.
The mighty eventer, he is fire, he is speed, he is....oooo, beet pulp!
Old lovers often reunite over...beef jerky. 
A break is the optimal time to mug any immobile humans for plastic bags with food potential.
Did you hear that?  BAG!!!!
Crystal and her mare, Kate, both lovely in the shade.  Kate has an amazing story of being rescued multiple times.  Born a throw-away baby with deformed legs, 13 years later, she is an endurance prospect and Crystal has turned a sour and frightened mare into a good-minded horse with a bold walk and a bright future.
Pete the amazing 50 mile endurance racer.  If a carrot snaps in the woods, HE can hear the sound.
Of course, the smurf must have his moment with the top ten 50-mile racehorse!

What happens when I try to take a picture of Solo while sitting down.
My heart is full, chasing adventure with my partner and friend, and he did well!

May 29, 2012

Unscheduled PSA: Don't Be An Idiot; Don't Kill Your Horse

I know you have earned an Encore update, but I have some amazing images to upload and organize first.

At the moment, however, I have something to say.  I preface by saying that, in the National Forest where we spent the weekend, there are a variety of equine campgrounds, ranging from a gravel lot with no electricity and no permanent equine enclosures to a lovely bathhouse, cabins, grassy campsites, multiple barns and pens, and washracks.  There is a reason I pay extra to camp at the latter, although even it is not immune to idiots.

If you travel with your horse, even if you are "only" trail riding, you have the following obligations:

-Your horse must have a safe place to stay overnight, with clean and safe footing, free of hazards, where he can lay down and rest after hauling your butt up and down mountains all day.

-Your horse must ALWAYS have water to drink.  Yes, really, always.  It is your responsibility to check his bucket periodically to make sure it stays full and clean.  I don't care if the bucket is heavy, your arm will not detach.  You can always use several smaller or half-full buckets to top it off.  If we have to fill your horses' empty buckets when it is 90 degrees and they slurp down the entire thing in one go, they have just told on you.

-After you have ridden, I don't care how hot you are, how many beers you want to drink, how long you want to practice your redneck yells, which of your handguns you want to play with, or which of your shirtless neighbours you want to flirt with (all of which I saw when we rode through aforementioned other camping areas).  Your first responsibility is to make sure that your horse is hosed off, cooled out, his feet and body are checked over and returned to safe place where he can rest with water.  Only after all this is completed may you attend to whatever else it is you want to do.

-Even after you have put your horse away, you must go check on him 30 minutes to an hour later; he may have guzzled his bucket of water after hauling said butt up said mountains and need a refill.  Or he may be showing delayed signs of heat stress or colic or other problems.  It is your job to know and respond.

-If your horse's back is shaped like a U, his pelvis is rotated on the end of his spine, and the top of his rump sits 4" higher than the low point of his back and all of his back muscle is completely atrophied, leaving a ribby, dangling belly between normally muscled shoulders and haunches, for the love of cod, your saddle does not fit, your horse's back has a major problem and you should not be plopping yourself up there without addressing it.

-If you have failed to do these things and I have to ride through your equine ghetto of a campground and see your dead/dying horse lying in his shoddily constructed "enclosure" of ancient tape around trampled manure and mud while you peer at him from 20 feet away and then wander back to your trailer without a peep and if I have to wonder whether your potbellied shirtless neighbour is actually going to try and shoot your horse with the 9 mm handgun he is playing with on the other side of me, it is going to take every ounce of willpower within me not to leap off my horse and push you in front of the next passing logging truck.  Or possibly attempt to stab you to death with the dull knife in my saddle bag.  If I have to ride away as quickly as possible, praying I don't hear gunshots behind me, I am going to wish upon you the worst karma I can think of and then I'm going to get even more creative than that and wish that.

The horses don't get a choice (although I would be deeply gratified if they trampled you the next time you came in the pen); therefore, you don't have one either -- you must attend to their safety and needs before all else.  Then I don't care how many beers you drink or how little clothing you wear as long as it doesn't wake me up.

End PSA.

April 7, 2012

So, How Was Your Day?

Plan:  Wake up, load up, leave farm about 9:00, take Encore and Pete along with me and lifeshighway to the Moss Foundation on a perfect riding day in the beautiful pine savannah.

Reality:  I should have stayed in bed.

Episode 1:  I am backing out of my driveway, as per usual.  My street is narrow but has very little traffic, it doesn't even have a middle line.  I'm not really paying attention, I do this every morning.  Until I feel the passenger rear wheel suddenly sink into the ditch, that deadly point of no return where your axle is riding the ground.  *insert many bad words here*  Plus the grass was JUST slick enough from a light frost that there was no hope of a lucky surge.

However, I AM a lucky person in that I look forlornly out my windshield and my eyes lock on to my work truck sitting in the driveway.  Which just so happens to have a 9,000 lb winch on the front.  As furtively (please, let the neighbours be sleeping) and quickly as possible, I dig out winch controller, pull out cable, attach to tow hook, wrestle with poor plug placement on front of work truck, curse many times, then hit the go button. 

Like magic, my precious is gently removed from the ditch and ready to go once more. 

My brain, however, said beware a bad omen at the start.

Sometimes, I'm a poor listener.

Episode 2:  I had heard my phone ringing while hooking up the winch, but I blew it off in favour of the task at hand.  Upon recovering truck and normal direction of travel, I see call was from BO and I call her back.

"Um," she says.  "Encore has a cut on his leg and it is swollen, is it ok if I take him out and cold hose him."

More cursing.

I know exactly what happened.  Encore was put out last night with his normal pasturemate PLUS another horse who he is not usually with.  Other horse gets quite aggressive at food time and it's not hard to surmise that hooves started flying at breakfast time and Encore got the blow trying to get away (he's mostly submissive in the pasture).

I get there and find a deep slice and leg swollen hock to ankle.

Where is my tendon?

Deceptively small.

My hocks are two differently sized turkeys.

So much more cursing.  Horse trial in two weeks.  Why, cod, why? 

I call vet -- I'm taking no chances.  Robin is on call, so we meet him at clinic.  Summary:  the shoe slice itself is just forward enough to have avoided anything nasty, it's just made a pocket where it cut the flesh.  The concern is the cellulitis, which sets in very quickly, so just in case the swelling IS that (instead of just a trauma reaction), to SMZ-ville we shall go. 

Thankfully, Dr. Brian says we should be cleared up within a week and have no problem getting to our trial.  I am relieved but still anxious until I can kill the swelling.  I leave with assignment of Furazone/DMSO sweat for 2-3 days, 5 days of antibiotics, and standing wraps.  I will also sneak my Animalintex in there because it is magic.  I was glad I went, because had I waited two days, we might have been in a world of hurt. 

On the good side, Encore is not lame at the walk and is very generous about letting us mess with it.  When I poke it and cold hose it, he just holds up the leg as if to say, Fix please, mum.

There was nothing more I could do for him so I turned him out and we loaded Solo on the trailer in his stead.  We would not get to enjoy our lovely sandhills, but there are some nice (hilly!) bridle trails in a local city park, so we went there instead.  It would be good for the hippo slug Solo to work off some fat.

Episode 3:  We were just at this park last weekend.  They held a 100 mile foot race (why anyone would voluntarily do such a thing, I have no idea, but whatever).  Since then, they have put down a bunch more gravel on the lovely, smooth bridle paths which are usually just screenings.  Evil.

Both Solo and Pete are barefoot behind (I put Solo's old easyboots on his front feet).  It made for a long ride.  There were some stretches we could get some trot work in, but you had to come to a screeching halt and pick your way through some sharp-edged, hoof-poking #57 approximately every 5 minutes.  We decided to call it interval training and all parties were overjoyed to get back to the trailer.

I don't think Solo will ever let me catch him again, but Encore let me take off his wraps and hose his leg tonight, dose him with his SMZ's, and wrap him back up without complaint. 

Now, I am drinking a beer and I am considering never leaving the house again.

March 24, 2012

Tantrums And Tree Sex

I bet a get a lot of google hits off that title.  If I add the word "cat" I might be able to garner the entire internet to this blog!

It was hot yesterday evening as we rode Solo and Pete, the dynamic duo, into woods stained yellow in a tree-orgy of pollen.  Oh yes, it's that time of year. 

I had turned Encore out in his paddock, content to let him rest and eat another day while I took my Shiny Man out for what had always been his favourite, a romp in the woods with our best friends.

Turns out, a particular redhead had been enjoying doing not much at all much more than I thought.  He slowed and stalled and nipped at my toes and paused at every puddle we crossed, ostensibly to "drink" but I knew that old trick too well -- it was really an excuse to get me to let go of the reins and let him stand still. 

I had to be a little sympathetic, we'd taken the hilly trail and it was no doubt akin to forcing an obese man to run bleacher stairs for the first time in months.  Poor hippo pony.  I told him it was pretty pathetic that the six year old gave me a better trail ride than his opinionated butt that day.

It was quite the miracle though, once we turned for home, suddenly, he was all red fire again, charged with energy, bare feet no longer tender and delicate, but rather charging full blast down the trail.  It still made me laugh.

Sorry, buddy, I haven't forgotten a single one of your tricks or tantrums.

A trademark Solo-tantrum moment.
As we came to a big puddle that crossed most of the trail, we approached at the walk, but it was deep and wide enough, I KNEW he would jump it.  And when that red horse makes up his mind, you just get ready.  What I didn't know is that he would jump it, kick out, leap sideways, half rear, fling his head in the air, and make his bid for galloping freeeeeeeedommmmmm.  Right at a giant tree.  Umm.

The Solo trantrums never do give you any warning.

I yanked the right rein back towards the middle of the trail and kicked him forward out of the "up," my primary thought being, damn, if I run into a tree, I can no longer make fun of lifeshighway (Pete's mom) for running into a tree!  But we missed it and instead did a long, swinging trot up the hill, even after fatty got tired and begged to stop.

All walked home uneventfully after that, got a good hosedown, and were returned to their appropriate pastures.  Solo made me work a lot harder than I wanted to, but I felt like we at least burned some calories.  Someone also DEFINITELY needs to get a bit of a work ethic back!   

January 31, 2012

An Event Horse Isn't A One Trick Pony

It's no secret I'm a firm believer that an event horse MUST NOT be an arena baby.  They need to learn balance on uneven terrain, surefootedness, confidence in new situations, problem solving, and endurance.  They must be able to deal with mud, rocks, sticks, water, brush, dogs, crazed animals running around, golf carts, ATVs, weird buildings, rustling leaves, holes, and any kind of footing you can imagine.  I don't believe in manicured footing everywhere and I don't believe in protecting your horse from distractions; I think this makes a weaker athlete with a weaker mind and I believe it does a disservice to our partners.

It is well established in the world of physiological science that in order to strengthen a system, you must challenge it.  This goes for bone, tissue, respiration and brain.  So I take my horses everywhere and I welcome umbrellas and terriers and strollers and bicycles and rocky mazes and steep, muddy hills because all of these things are tools to to shape the animal that an event horse should be.  And I shouldn't have to make this disclaimer, but I will:  always handle yourself and your horse with SAFETY in mind.  Just...don't be a dumbass.

So I present to you, the "wild, hot, crazed" OTTB who at 6 years old goes on his first "off-road" experience (our trails at home are, shall we say, a bit tamer) and I actually remembered to turn on the helmet cam.  With us are Louie, a big chestnut Irish TB who is an ex-steeplechaser turned Training Level eventer; a gorgeous mover who has just come back from a suspensory injury at 22 (or somewhere around there).  We also have Buck, a 15-ish-year-old bay OTTB who also competes a Training Level (although I heard a rumour he may give Prelim a shot) who can rack like a Saddlebred -- who says TB's aren't versatile?

PS I am not responsible for the helmet habits of my friends.  The rider's names shall not be mentioned for the sake of privacy and avoidance of public shaming.  That includes you, commenters.  

PPS The videos are in HD but I can't get YouTube to default to that.  So after you push play, click the little button on the bottom video bar that looks like a gear and you can increase the resolution/video quality to it's HD awesomeness.  And if you want to hear the inane commentary, you have to turn your volume all the way up.  I'm still messing with mic levels on the helmet cam.

Encore goes all-terrain and Louie reluctantly follows.  Encore actually loves water but he does NOT like super soft squishy mud, which is why he has so much hesitation on the bank.  He is not a fan of his hoofies sinking!

Our canine companions.  Oh yes, the terriers really are named Jack, Russell, and Pumpkin.  I kid you  not.


Louie and Encore jump a massive log.  Louie does a very amusing dance when he gets excited, like when horses pass him.  Or trot in front of him.  Or when it's Wednesday.  But I never did really capture it, dangit.

Just a nice canter in a beautiful field.

October 17, 2011

I Feel Pretty

At least that's what Encore sings.  He finished our FIRST solo (not to be confused with Solo) trail ride together and he did a great job.  He got a bit anxious and quick in the second half, but he still listened.  After a post-ride snack and a shower:

Check out that trademark Flying Solo shine!
I am pulling my hair out trying to find time to get ready for the big trip up to Waredaca's Training 3-Day this week.  I absolutely love volunteering at this event, it has taught me an incredible amount of information to add to my "competing an eventer" knowledge files.  Both Stephen Bradley and Tremaine Cooper will be working closely with competitors and volunteers this year and I especially look forward to Tremaine's insights on the course, since he designs courses himself.  And of course, Brian O'Connor's entertainment is not to be missed.  Then's Encore's first Horse Trial!!!

October 15, 2011


This forest has been cut over multiple times.  In the clearing where Solo and I stopped, I could see tertiary growth, immature pine trees at close ranks, the usual suspects in recolonizing slashed hardwood stands.  Except for one:  a solitary oak, half dead limbs, half tiny leaves, hanging on at the top of the hill, gnarled boles refusing to give up the last gasp.  It has survived at least two clearcuts, the only thing standing as far as I can see that is more than ten years old.  Perhaps it knew the original denizens of this ridge and I wonder how it got lucky and weathered the storms and the saws and the years.

An autumn wind rushes through the tree tops; its sound is the soft roar of surf on sand.  I close my eyes, blocking one sense to open the others.  Solo shifts his weight beneath me, grazing on his favourite weed and the leather of the saddle creaks.  There's a soft jingle from his bit, the grind of his teeth and a muffled stomp as he discourages a torpid, late-season fly.  A few fall grasshoppers chirrup in the trees and I can hear the footsteps of a young buck who passed by moments ago as he moves among the already-fallen leaves.  All else is beautiful silence. 

And the air.  Cool, but sun-warmed when it hits your skin, it smells of Forest, it smells of Life, of the clean, sweet breath of the woods that is Home.  You can almost hear a patient sentience in that air, of the intricate and vitally alive, yet so incredibly quiet many-geared mechanism that is that ecosystem.  To participate in that and to breathe in that sense of being is a gift that grows no less cherished with numerous givings.

Turning for home, Solo swings readily onto the trail and part of the spell is broken as I must open my eyes and duck the spiderwebs that are too high for his bright ears to break.  But it's still a treasure, shared with a best friend, the memory of which will tide us over until the next visit. 

October 10, 2011

Yield, Sir, Yield!

I confess to weariness after a long week and a busy weekend.  My boss and I ran a three day fish meeting in the mountains and that was enough to do us in twice over.

I am sure Encore felt the same way last night, as he spent the weekend hard at work.

Saturday, we met P for our second dressage lesson.  We are attempting to coerce Encore into a shape resembling a leg yield with about 50% success -- either he gets it...or he doesn't.  (Ha, sorry, old statistics joke)

Tracking right, he is beginning to get the gist of things (I recommend full-screening all videos if you want to see what's going on and you have a 'net connection faster than a dead tortoise).  You start on a 20 m circle, then spiral in to encourage the horse to bend.  Make one revolution of your smallest circle, then give the aids to leg yield.  The idea is that the horse will WANT to move back out to the larger circle, as it is much easier.  Use physics as your aid!  I have introduced the concept on the longe and Encore's done reasonably well with it. 

To the left...not so much.  On the circle, it was a FAIL, despite using every aid I knew (if I remember, I'll upload that video tonight).  However, P's bag of tricks is bottomless, so we asked for the leg yield at the walk heading up the quarterline.  While I gave the aids, P walked next to Encore's shoulder, using her energy and a light touch to show him how he was supposed to respond.  With the ground-person-aid, the young 'un finally went Ohhhhhh!  I get it! and lick, lick, chew, he got it and stepped over to the track.

I'm also introducing small bits of canter at the end of a session, just to start building the muscle and balance.  It's certainly not pretty (or comfortable!), but it will be fun to compare three months down the road!  He has a solid right lead, while the left is tougher, as per normal for racehorses (who work to the right, race to the left and are often taught to break from the gate on their right lead, swapping in the first turn).

We used a crossrail with placing poles on both sides, trotting in and cantering out to attempt both leads.  Clever boy would land and if he was on the wrong lead, would swap in one step over the placing pole so he was correctly balanced to turn.  This one is going to be handy with his feet on a jump course!

He reinforced my suspicions when we trailered one county over on Sunday for a trail ride with lifeshighway and Pete.  We got into some steep hills and it only took Encore one slope to figure out how to lift his back and balance on his butt on the way down.  He was careful and patient, never crowding Pete when I asked him to wait, finding safe footholds and making smart decisions.  As he picked through brush and fallen trees, he never panicked at the branches around his legs (face/belly/butt/chest), even on a tough slope where we lost the trail.  Despite catching the terrifying scent of ZOMBIE DEATH COWS around the property, he steadily followed Pete over scary bridges (even the steel ones) and sometimes even led the way with a confident stride.  A fat, juicy bucket of beet pulp, alfalfa, timothy, and rice bran was a well-earned reward back at the trailer!

Sunday night = sleepy pony, sleepy rider.  Alas, no bucket of treats and day off awaited said rider.  Ah well, one out of two's not bad.

October 6, 2011

Shout Outs And Miscellany

PetAg nutrition is sponsoring an awareness campaign for National Pet Obesity Awareness Day (I don't think they mean just NOTICING your pet is fat, but rather noticing the detriment to their health that goes along with it!) which is October 12th.  Now this is a topic near to my heart -- when I was a sophomore in college, I dissected a very fat cat in my zoology lab.  I will never forget the sight of his heart and all his vital organs encased in individual fat cocoons; it was horrifying.  I realized that allowing your pet to be obese is just as irresponsible as allowing it to become emaciated; both caused damage to internal organs and physiological systems, shortening your pet's life and increasing your annual vet bills.

PetAg has chosen five pet bloggers to interview for the month of October and Solo was chosen to represent healthy horses everywhere!  But we need YOU to help us win the prize -- a gift certificate we can use for tasty treats or giveaways!  What to do:  go to the blog post here and like/+1/tweet/comment/email it (your choice) in the lefthand column.  Whoever has the most clicks wins the prize! 

I also have some shout-outs that I have been remiss in posting! I first wanted to say a huge CONGRATULATIONS to lifeshighway and Pete, our riding buddies. A few weeks ago, they completed their FIRST 50-mile endurance race up at Biltmore Estate. Not only that, but they actually went 60 miles -- and we are not talking walking, it's a race! Now THAT is a serious accomplishment and they deserve a standing ovation. They have worked hard, doing it the RIGHT way, keeping Pete safe and sound, and I am so proud of them!

I also have a shout-out for Ashley, who came up and said hi to us over at Encore's first dressage show -- it was great to meet her and see a friendly face at the show!

I have more product reviews for you coming up, as well as a report once Encore has his second dressage lesson this Saturday. I have been gone at a fish conference all week, so he has been on vacation. He did hop over our black and white gate last night, which made me very proud, and successfully went up and down our 2' bank. Progress!

October 1, 2011

Track To Trail

Stardate: 1st of October in the year 2011. 

The scene:  Umstead State Park, site of 13 miles of lovely bridle trails, located conveniently about 30 miles from the farm. 

The players:  Pete and Encore, on his FIRST off-site trail adventure.  Accompanied by two gaited paint mares to add friends to the fun.

The verdict according to Encore:  Bicycles - meh.  Hikers - meh.  Runners - meh.  Dogs - meh.  Stream crossing - meh.  Trotting through the woods on a perfect, 65-degree day - BEST ACTIVITY EVER (To be fair, he hasn't experienced a cross country run yet). 


Yeah, I rocked it.  Whatevs.

September 29, 2011

He's Still There

The setting sun makes a bright corona around orange ears as we ride directly into its fierce shine.  The light brushes seedheads and the leaves of volunteer corn stalks with an auburn glow.  A familiar, muscular neck defines my view of the edge of this cutover field.

When I last rode Solo on Friday, he felt flat, tired, depressed.  It made me feel ill and I couldn't summon the energy to let it go.  Determined to prove to him that his life wasn't over, we struck out on the trails on this heart-stoppingly gorgeous evening in early fall.

It only took two steps of trot to breathe the life back into him.  It was like watching a cardiac patient gasp their first lungful of air after resuscitation.  And it felt great.  I let him strike into canter in the next field over and he rolled proudly along the treeline with the easy stride I know and love so well.

Fixed?  No.  He remains just trail sound.  But my buddy, my partner, is still in there.  He is not lost or gone, he is just a bit sad because he thought the fun had ended.  It filled me with joy to show him he was still The Man, he could still explore the world in a swinging trot among the tulip poplars and the bottomland sycamores we both live to experience.  It was a dose of much needed medicine for us both and I, too, feel like I can breathe again.

September 11, 2011

First Dates

Encore is used to having a job, so I decided to spend the weekend introducing him to our trails around the farm.  We've got hours worth, winding through woods and fields, so it should keep us busy for a while!

I met up with a friend on Saturday so that her horse, Diesel, could provide Encore with a steady buddy. Not that he seemed to need one! He trucked right out in a huge TB walk -- I could feel his shoulders swing out beneath me in a smooth, open stride, what a feeling! With steady steps, he booked right by cars, mailboxes, dogs, shady woods, fallen branches, dead leaves and quite willingly dipped his toes in the ponds. Until....


As we came around the corner where a herd of Herefords were calmly dozing in the shade, Encore suddenly grew to 18.2 hands and stopped, shaking and blowing as if his life was over.  I quickly decided that since he wasn't going within 50 yards of them and he had only known me for a day, I was dismounting.  Poor little bugger was convinced they would leap the fence and fang him to death.  We just hung out and watched them for about 30 minutes, until Encore returned to normal size and started breathing less like a steam engine and more like a horse.  He dropped his head and licked his lips a few times, although still keeping a careful eye on the beasts.  I felt that was very good progress and I certainly wasn't going to pick a fight or drag him past them, so we turned around, remounted and headed home.

Project Cow Terrors filed for future work.

Today, we headed out with lifeshighway and Pete for a brief ride just to stretch everyone's legs.  Encore was fantastic and led the way most of the time with eager curiosity.  He seems to thoroughly enjoy exploring new places -- as soon as we got on a trail we had not ridden yesterday, his pace tripled!  When we got back, we walked over two small jumps, a tiny crossrail and an 18" bright green and yellow vertical with flower boxes.  As soon as he hopped the cross rail, he said "WHEEEEE, JUMPS, YAY!!"  He peeked at the vertical but jumped readily over, even remembering to pick up his back feet.

Finishing off the weekend, was a good scrub in the bath, a hair trim, and a brushing-out of everything.  The shine came out in the sun and he reveled in the hearty devouring of clover patches.

He might want to be a poser after all.
Inside of front leg.

Front of cannon.

Encore shows off his pinfire scars.  The theory behind this practice is that you use a red-hot bolt to burn through the outer layer of the cannon bone and stimulate the flow of blood and calcium to heal bucked shins.  Valid?  I'm not sure, but it sure looks insane!

I see shiny-ness!!!  Clover noms...

July 31, 2011

Just A Quickie

Field work has kept me away from both horse and computer for the past week as we've been out snorkeling Carolina rivers, in our endless quest for freshwater mussel population data.

This morning, Solo and I did get to resume our interval training, looping in a stretchy trot around cut-over farm fields.  Not entirely fun as it clearly demonstrated how much fitness we've both lost.  But we bulled through three 15-minute trot sets and a sad, single 4-minute canter set.  Gotta start somewhere and 95% humidity never helps.

On the walk back to the farm though, I was reminded why Mr. Shiny exudes awesomeness:  deer bursting through the woods?  Transfer truck jake-braking around the turn as it passes us on the shoulder?  Turkey flying at our faces?  Empty bottles of Sprite and flattened Natty Light cans crunching underfoot?  Hay tarps whipping off a passing trailer?  None garner even the flick of an ear from my seasoned campaigner.  I smile when a passing car honks, trying to elicit a spook from my horse.  Not gonna work, suckers, he's busy looking at a tree.

Coming up, I'm trying a couple exciting products that may just make our lives better.  We also see Dr. Bob in about a week for a check on Solo's injury and his fall shots -- who knows what fascinating information he will impart this time!  I am hoping for good news, as Solo's butt is much less lumpy when I massage, which means I'm finding fewer knots and less pain.  Stay tuned!

July 16, 2011

A Day At The Farm

First, if you didn't already catch it on Eventing Nation, I MUST share the utter brilliance fellow blogger Anastasia posted over at Team Taco!

The Five Stages Of Lameness

I think I am working my way through "depression" and on to "acceptance."  Well, if it's been a good day, LOL -- that means I'm almost to the part where the horse is healed, right???

Because today was a good day.  Well, it didn't start out that way, but it improved!  It was a beautiful summer day, the kind you don't think can happen in the Carolinas, with a perfect breeze and a marked absence of marrow-roasting heat.  Between hoofbeats, I caught the strange, heady scent of ripe, sun-warmed tobacco leaves as we trotted between the carefully planted rows of deep green.  Even the squirrels moved slowly, as if they to were trying to savor this unlikely weather.

Moxie and Danny:  Did you see that?
Solo:  Grazing time's a-wastin'.

Things IN the barn were not quite so peaceful. The yearly crop of barn swallows has nearly molted out and were demanding their insect lunches. As they perched precariously on nest and rafter edges, I warned sternly of the feline danger that lurked below. Kids. They never listen.

Nest mothers take a break for gossip.


We no skeered.  No need parentz.
I dunno, man, it's a long way down.
Yeah.  Like, really far.

If catz, he comez, I PECKZ himz.

July 4, 2011

It's Feeling HOT HOT HOT!

Brown grass crunches underfoot and I swat only half-effectively at deer flies.  Solo's neck stays permanently wet with a white crust of salt along his mane.  It's summer and in the Carolinas that means you do everything just a little bit slower.

Since we are both sidelined, it also means we take to the trails. I can't do much good in the dressage arena, but that doesn't mean I have to give up on fitness. And just because my knee aches and my back cramps in protest doesn't mean I have to stay on the ground!

So Solo and I redneck it in true style (oh yes, those ARE blue flames on the bareback pad) as we wait for rain (bring back the green!) and healing to find us both. A little time, a lot of stretching and a dose of muscle relaxers and magic tape seem to be moving things along in due course.

What are YOU up to with your ponies as the sun's rays go from "warming" to "bone marrow broiling" level?  Swimming?  Dashing through sprinklers?  Sweating contests?  Competitive fly swatting?  Do tell!

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!