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We Are Flying Solo

November 30, 2010

It's Good To Be Home

Yes, I am back from the family vacation. And of course, the first thing I did when dropped off at my house was to drop the suitcase on the floor, feed the cats, then leap in the truck and hightail it to the farm. Where Solo consequently got hugged to within an inch of his life and stuffed with treats in my effort to reverse my advanced case of Equine Withdrawal Syndrome.

I'm sure many of you are familiar with EWS. It strikes down the horse owner during any extended period of separation from equine company. Symptoms include headache, nausea, irritability, fatigue, loss of appetite, excessive sighing, rampant daydreaming, and moon blindness. Or at least most of those. The only treatment is deep breaths of horse ambiance.

Last night was my first ride back in the game. Also my first ride post-hock-injections, which Dr. Bob brought out to us on the 17th.

Damn, that horse felt good. I always question whether I am doing the right thing pre-injections, but then, when I feel the change, I KNOW I did the right thing and it becomes worth every penny.

And you know what? He was so excited that I was back playing with him. It was pretty darn cute. As soon as I asked for trot, he pushed off with his back end into a forward, swinging trot, came down onto the bit with his little ears working like mad, and I could just feel glee (no, he did not sing any Top 40 hits). I laughed out loud when I asked for a bigger trot and he popped into a big, rolling canter. I let him grab a nice rhythm and rode it while we both giggled.

I have never before felt him just enjoy a dressage school so much. He was nearly bursting at the seams with try and energy and it was quite simply joyous.

What a lovely homecoming gift from my most beloved friend.

Do you have any Thanksgiving horsey adventure tales to tell?

November 29, 2010

No, Actually I Have No Shame Whatsoever

None, none at all, really.  I want a glowy yard flamingo.  It calls me with its glowiness and sparkle.  So....

Vote for me!

I am entry #3 with the purple unicorn. All you have to do is click the little link below the thumbnail pic.

If you vote for me, you will automatically get a better dressage score at your next horse show. Solo promises. And you will get to see a picture of Solo and a glowing flamingo. Because what could be cooler than that???

November 21, 2010

Longer And Harder

That's what she said.

Ahhahaha, I crack myself up. But moving on...

Tonight, Flying Solo is coming to you live from the beaches of Maui, Hawaii! I only get to go on vacations when other people pay for them (thanks, mum!!!). But even in Maui, my thoughts always wander back to the rhythm of hoofbeats.

Because I was totally talking about eventing in the title. I don't know what you were thinking about, but that's just wrong. ;-P I am talking about the long format, i.e. what events USED to be and what USEA is trying to help us hold on to.  There is even a group (logo at left), formulated in the brackish depths of the Chronicle of the Horse forums, dedicated to just this cause.

I had several folks write in and ask just what do all the phases of a classic (long) format event entail? Well, tonight (ok, it's probably morning back home right now) your life's deep burning questions shall be answered.

I won't go into the detailed and controversial change from long to short format. That would be far too long a post for me tackle mid-jet-lag. But here's what the classic has that the short format doesn't:

Endurance day.

The true test of your horse's conditioning that I wrote about briefly here. So, here's what happens.

You get a ride time for each phase (A through D). Phase A is your first roads and tracks. It's basically a mapped trail ride over rolling terrain, where you follow a marked route. This should be done mostly as a nice, brisk trot, maybe a little canter -- you are warming your horse up for Phase B, the steeplechase. Phase B usually consists of 6-8 brush jumps taken from a gallop that is faster than your cross country pace.

Once you and your horse have both reached the top of your adrenaline peak on Phase B, you move on to Phase C, another roads and tracks. Much like A, it's a trail, but you go slower, cooling your horse out from his gallop on B. You need to bring his pulse and respiration back down because when you cross the finish flags of C, you enter the 10 minute box.

Once in the box, the vets take your horse's TPR (temp, pulse, respiration) and make sure he drops quickly back to normal levels (this is where your conditioning tattles on you). If all goes according to plan, your horse recovers and then hits the start box of Phase D, the cross country course.

Here, of course, you gallop your heart out, collect the bugs in your grin, and cross the finish line and know that you successfully tackled the true challenge of eventing and are all that much richer for it.

A summary then:

Phase A: Roads and Tracks I, warmup for steeplechase
Phase B: Steeplechase at speed
Phase C: Roads and Tracks II, cool down for XC
10-Minute Box
Phase D: XC

Sum Total: Complete Awesomeness (yes, I make up stupid words when my brain can't figure out what time zone I'm in)

November 18, 2010

OMG, Something Actually Worked!

Red blood cells:  found!
Remember August?  Yeah, well, neither do I.  But that is when I started Solo on his SmartVite in hopes of boosting his hematocrit back to normal levels (for geek-out explanation of hematocrit, click here).

Our much-loved Dr. Bob was out yesterday to do our hock injections for the winter and so I had him pull a blood sample and run a CBC to check our progress.

Result: Success!!! Solo's back up to healthy red blood cell levels and ready to carry on. I have noticed that his respiratory recovery times had improved and Dr. Bob observed that he carried significantly more muscle yesterday, so I think we're looking good!

Thank you, SmartPak!

November 15, 2010


They say that saying something out loud makes it real.  Well then, let me make real the overarching goal that has been driving me to bring Solo along and making the fire in my belly.

It started a year ago when I drove north to volunteer at Waredaca's Training 3 Day Event (T3DE) in Maryland. The 3DE series is one that is steadily growing with support of USEA. These are full, long-format, "classic" events, the way Rolex used to be before FEI and the Olympic committee had their way with the sport.

This means you not only do your three phases, but cross country day is a TRUE endurance day, starting with Phase A, Roads and Tracks, Phase B, Steeplechase, Phase C, Roads and Tracks II, and Phase D, Cross Country.

I spent my Waredaca weekend running scores, setting up arenas, running the start box on Phase D, and keeping the jog up running smoothly. The cross country course blew my mind, it was so amazing and the grins I saw at the end of endurance day were unmatched at any I have been to.

I was also watching and learning and participating in all the educational stuff that was offered for competitors and volunteers alike. As I drove home that Sunday evening, one thought burned in my mind:

I WANT TO DO THIS. This, this one incredible event, this will be MY Rolex, MY endgame, and my goal for Solo.

So here we are a year later. Solo has made fantastic strides this year, progressing far more than I could have imagined. After our jumping lesson on Saturday, I was talking with a friend and suddenly, it dawned on me:

"I think I have a Training Level horse," I murmured. "Excuse me, I have to go throw up."

The problem with T3DE though, is that you can't just sign up; you have to qualify. This sport has no mercy for poor people like me. If the soundness gods smile upon us, we somehow scrape funding together, and I stay on my horse, my goal is to qualify for Waredaca in 2012. Solo will be 16 and I don't want to push my luck any farther than that.

So, to qualify, here is what we have to complete in the next two years:

Four recognized Training Level events (we take donations of any type, thank you!), with "Nationally Qualifying Rides:"  
  • Dressage score under 50
  • NO jumping penalties on cross country (yes, this means no run outs, no refusals, no falling off)
  • 12 or less stadium penalties (4 rails, no refusals).
What could possibly go wrong???