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We Are Flying Solo

December 7, 2010

Words To Live Up To

Today I sat down and read Kevin Baumgardner's last letter as sitting president of USEA.  His term ends on December 11th and Brian Sabo will take his place.  Normally, I don't spend too much time worrying about what the heads of our sport ramble about, but I was curious, as I have previously been impressed with Baumgardner's eloquence and thoughtfulness (and I give him kudos for his strong support of the long format events).  He wanted to share his thoughts on what he'd seen and where he felt the sport of eventing stood today.  And did he ever.

I wasn't sure whether to nod my head in agreement or cry at the passion bubbling out of it.  So I did both.  Then, I copied the link so I could share it with you, those of you who haven't already seen my link on Facebook.  Go.  Read.  Absorb.

It is not enough to turn in a technically flawless performance.  Our sport is about joy.  Joy in the partnership between horse and rider.  Joy in the freedom of riding across country.  Joy in the simplest sense of celebrating each day. 

THAT is why I get on my horse and THAT is why I love this sport so deeply. Thank you, Kevin, for putting it into words so well.

December 6, 2010

Just Call Me Snow Plow

Although I'm not sure that would have been Solo's choice of moniker, it became so when lifeshighway and I attempted to ride yesterday.  Final score:  snow-dumping trees:  257, eventer79:  0

December 4, 2010

1.5 Years + Magical Dressage Trainer = Whole New Solo

This is what our barn looks like right now. promised me light flurries with no accumulation. Me no happy.

We never saw it coming. This morning, we had a wonderful dressage lesson with P in the sunshine. Warmup started with a marching walk, bending and arcing around cones and jump standards, bringing Solo's respiration up slowly in the cold winter air to avoid the lung burning effects of sudden exertion on a chilly day. As his back and neck softened, we moved to a forward trot and it soon became obvious that my horse, already made more sensitive by the weather change, strongly objected to my spur-wearage today and I shed them after he skittered forward on his butt during a canter transition.

Suppled up, we stopped for a contact response check. A year and a half ago, when P asked Solo to give to the bit on the ground, it took some finangling and a full minute of persuasion. Today, it was instantaneous and I couldn't hide my grin.

Then it was time to move to the next step. Forward was good, now we needed to be clear that half-halt meant half-halt NOW, not half-halt in five strides after you express your own opinion and we argue about it. So we worked transitions within the trot -- lengthening and compressing the stride.

Solo made it clear that since we had stopped earlier, we CLEARLY were supposed to be done and expressed his dissatisfactiion by throwing his head about in protest as we trotted. P mollified my laughing reprimands by letting me know that even though he threw tantrums, his ab and back muscles were flexed, engaged, and correct in their work. A year and a half ago, he didn't have ab muscles.

We finished with some transitions between gaits. Walk/trot/walk, trot/canter/trot.

"Well, look at him, he's starting to become quite the little warmblood. Why don't you try some walk/canter transitions?" P suggested.

"I don't know..." I responded, "We've left those alone because he'd just run onto the forehand and fall into it."

"Give it a try, get a nice marching walk, be soft, sit tall, and visualize your canter."

So I did. And in two steps, he was there. Not only was he there, but he came forward through the transition, soft and on the bit, stepping under into a lovely canter that made me feel like I was sitting on my own version of Ravel.

I couldn't help it, I grinned like a fool. A year and a half ago, "on the bit" was not even in my horse's repertoire.

And Solo, my dressage-hating shiny beast, was even enjoying his canters and I think his solace came in finally beginning to understand what I was asking him to do. He finally was comprehending the structure I was asking him to fit into and with his comprehension came security and appreciation of a job description he figured out how to read.

I thought to my red horse, "We've come a long way, baby."

I hope we still get to go a lot further.

December 2, 2010

Adventures In Hack Land

I've always wondered if Solo would jump well in a hackamore.  They seem to work really well for a lot of jumpers and eventers, so it's been on my "Things To Try" list for some time.  Some things on that list happen more quickly than others; for example, "ride a whale shark" is rather opportunity driven.

Well, since we are now in a barn where all of us are horse accessory junkies (the SO says "hoarders" but if he owned a horse, he would totally get it), I borrowed an English hackamore last night and buckled it onto a bridle.  It is usually worn by an Oldenburg mare with a head the size of a Tyrannosaurus, but thankfully, it is highly adjustable and I got it into approximately the right place.

So, how did it go?

Solo: Ok, time to trot, let me come down onto the bit. Hey, WTF, where is the bit. Mom, I am trying to do the right thing. Mom....? How about stretching? Ok, I can still stretch, now let me return to the bit...what the...where is it, what the heck am I supposed to do?

Me: Trotting. Now I will just...uh...well, I can't keep pressure on this thing so I will use leg and...uh...WTF, I hate this.

Lifeshighway (riding in the ring with us): *laughing* Solo doesn't look like he is too thrilled about this experiment.

Pete (lifeshighway's horse): Arrrrr, I am going to bite Solo! (he never can stay on topic)

Apparently, the hack is not for us.

December 1, 2010

Discover Eventing

First off, I must say THANK YOU!!!!! to everyone who voted for us in the Life's Highway Fantasy Yard Art contest -- WE WON! Which means not only does Solo owe you dressage karma, I also owe you fantastic photos of Solo leaping flamingo shaped obstacles. Ahhh, the possibilities.

I also wanted to share with you a fantastic resource USEA has made available in the form of Have you ever wondered just what the heck is three-day eventing? Needed a checklist for braiding or a first aid kit? Curious about what to expect at your first event? Well, it's all there and more in a well-organized introduction to the sport and all its rules and terms. I highly encourage giving it a good browse, especially if you are new to the sport or just curious about how it all works.  If there are any questions you can't get answered there, feel free to shoot them this way and I'll be glad to make up carefully research an answer for you!