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We Are Flying Solo

October 29, 2011

It Only Takes 30 Minutes To Feed The Horses

Especially on a cold, rainy evening.  There's only six of them, easy, right? Bring horses in, dump the feed, turn them back out, done!

Except the water on the beet pulp's gone cold and I want to run some hot water in there.

Except since it's raining and 45 degrees, I want to put a rain sheet on Solo.

Except he's got festy gnat bites on his belly that won't heal and I want to clip around them and spray tea tree oil on there.

Then I decide to go ahead and clip his back white foot because the fungus is always attacking.

Then I need to smear some more desitin on that foot anyway.

Then I need to take Solo's rain sheet off of Encore and put it on Solo.

Now Encore gets Solo's mid-weight blanket because it's not QUITE cold enough for his winter blanket but he's skinny so he needs more than a sheet.

Then Danny needs his sheet because it's wet and cold.

Danny and Solo can finally go out but now I have three leftovers.

Tigger's pasturemate is out of town and he can't stay alone. I can put Tigger with Pete and Encore but now they all need their own hay piles.

Except there are no open hay bales so now I need to climb the stack in the extra stall and roll a couple down.

Then I need to take hay out to each horsey so no one feels left out.

Then I have to scrub all the feed buckets so they are ready for the next morning.

Then I discover Tigger and Pete both left presents in their stalls for me.

Then I need to sweep up fallen hay and make sure everyone has water.

An hour and a half later, I can finally go home.

October 27, 2011

T Is For Training

3D is for Awesome.  Together, they make Waredaca T3D, the phenomenal long-format event run by our very own Area II Adult Rider program, which I had the distinct pleasure of volunteering at most of last week.  Exhausting, yes, but exhilarating and educational.  I first experienced this event in 2009 and had made it my goal to achieve with Solo.  We didn't make it, but the quest taught us a great deal about ourselves and I went back to work the event this year with a new perspective.

It did not disappoint.

The terrible shack I had to stay in, also known as my friend, Beth's beautiful house -- the picture doesn't show the delicious hot tub in the back...
Waredaca is in the heart of Maryland horse country, NW of Washington, DC.
A groomed area awaits the first competitor.
Wednesday was the first jog-up and I stewarded each horse to the indoor arena gate in the windy drizzle.  It rains at least one day every year at the T3D, just like Rolex!  The point of the T3D is not just to complete a long-format event, although that would be more than adequate motivation to come!  It is also built as an educational experience, with lectures, clinicians, vets, and farriers on hand to offer assistance, coaching, and years of wisdom to nervous riders.  Dinner that night included a talk from the event vet, the ever-helpful, ever-cheerful Dr. Julie, on what to expect in the ten-minute box between Phases C and D on Friday and a raffle.  I would like to note that I LOVE THE T3D RAFFLES.  Simply because it is the only place ever that I actually win stuff and I am now the proud owner of 5 free bags of feed and an awesome Cosequin bucket.

Thursday, I was in charge of the dressage warm-up ring and bit check before riders entered the ring at A.  You can see the little "C" I marked next to each rider after I felt up their horse.  Horse's mouth.  Ha.  No edges, no rollers allowed.  But I had no rule-breakers and I sent each one up to the ring with a smile and a "good luck!"

After dressage, riders switched off their tack and went off to meet Stephen Bradley and Tremaine Cooper for steeplechase practice.  I ate lunch and lounged in the stables to regain my strength for Friday!

"What happens Friday," you ask?

Only the pure awesomeness of endurance day of a true 3-day event.  Explanation here.

Thursday afternoon, I'd also participated in a coursewalk with Tremaine Cooper, who just so happens to build a lot of courses, including the Prelim and higher courses at our very own Carolina Horse Park.  I learned how to better read terrain on a course and to really think about how it will affect your horse's gallop.  He stressed multiple times, don't be yanking on your horse two strides out from the jump; do your balancing 10 strides out, then soften and go forward to your jumping effort.

It's hard to take a picture while trying to look like you are not taking a picture.
"Your horsey needs to go over, like this..."
Michele, my hard-working co-volunteer, works it for the camera.
But it was Friday now, which meant time to get geared up and send some horses out of the start box!  Michele and I were the starters and finish timers for Phase D, the cross country course and Beth kept communications going.  By the time horses and riders got to us, they had already done Phases A (Roads and Tracks I, aka lots of trotting),  B (steeplechase!), and C (Roads and Tracks II, aka more trotting).

It takes a lot of gear to run the start box.  We have to have sychronized timers and backup timers for both the start and finish line.  Then we need a radio to talk to Jim, aka Master Of The Timers, and to Brian O'Connor, announcer and XC control.  Add to that scoresheets, pencils, chairs and...

A LOT OF CLOTHES.  Hey, that wind was cold.

The view I long to have.

5..4..3..2..1...Steve Fulton and Ticket To Ride get the countdown from Michele.
Barbara Bloom and Fabulous Fiction are on course!
We were rejoicing as the morning rolled smoothly along.  Most horses went clear with only one or two runouts and the cool weather meant everyone passed the vet box with flying colours.  I think we jinxed it.  Right at the end of the day, the second to last rider, Steve's charming daughter, Savannah, on the flying chestnut, FMF Royal Guest, took a nose dive into one of the water jumps.  We held our collective breaths and bent straining ears to the radios -- icy water, a cold wind, and a hard fall are not a good combination.  Everyone breathed a sigh of relief when she was loaded safely into the ambulance and her mare walked back to the stable.  Although Savannah ended her day in surgery for her broken arm, we were all glad it was not a broken neck or a head injury for this gutsy young rider.  The last rider, after a long hold, was eliminated shortly thereafter for a missing a jump, but she got to complete the course and at only 13 years old, riding a horse trained by Phillip Dutton, I'm sure she'll be back to try again soon! 

After all of that, Saturday was almost uneventful.  I had walked the course the evening before with Stephen Bradley and was interested to see how it rode.  After the Saturday morning jog, I was again warmup steward and gate master of the stadium ring and was thrilled to see all the remaining riders successfully complete the event with just a few rails here and there.  Mountains of prizes were handed out, including Best Conditioned, Oldest Horse, Oldest Rider (I mean, "Rider Farthest From Junior Status" as Brian so tactfully put it), Best Groom, Good Sportsmanship, Most Cross Country Enthusiasm, and Best Turned Out.

I cannot stress enough the value of getting out and volunteering at events like these.  Not only do you get to benefit from lectures, course walks, etc, but you get to meet members of your area, check out courses, watch warm up rides (these can be very enlightening), listen to trainers, see what types of riding strategies work or don't work....the list of benefits is nearly endless.  And this doesn't even include the fact that eventing NEEDS you.  When you compete, crowds of people are there working, for free, so you can ride.  Turn the tables and give back because events can't happen without the labour of love that is volunteering.

When I pulled into my driveway Saturday evening, I was exhausted (although I still had to go ride Encore and pack for our horse trial) but excited.  With a little education and mileage, I could already envision Encore rocking that it too early to send in my entry??

October 24, 2011

The Most Fun You Can Have On A Horse

It's the first time they experience cross country, the way their whole body comes alive with excitement when they realize that, hey, my job is FUN!  It's impossible to hide my ridiculous grin when I feel that joie de vivre pulsating beneath me and the exuberant leaps over tiny logs hardly worth a step.  A horse's first eventing experience is indeed an exercise in uninhibited glee.  But I will let the pictures tell the best stories -- thanks to lifeshighway and our friend, Cindy, who both manned media recording devices to capture the Encore debut.

Someone thought my hairnet wearing skills were hilarious awesome.

The unicorn is all ready for dressage.


I can't say I was overly thrilled with some of the judge's comments -- I get a little irritated when they write "could be rounder" on an Intro test.  The point of the Intro tests as marked on the score sheets and judging guidelines is a horse who moves forward into a steady contact with a clear rhythm.  If they know how to go round, then they should be at a higher level! 

Nonetheless, I was THRILLED with my boy.

For the photographer's caps of us, you can click here.  If that site gets you lost, we actually have pictures under #62 and #63 (62 was a friend of ours who scratched the day before, perhaps the photographer got confused?)

Now I'm jumping poneh.

Tying your own pinney:  always an exercise in contortion.

The blue stripey jump
Stadium jumping was quite the adventure for baby Encore!  He was so busy staring at the XC horses during our warmup that it took a few tries to get over the oxer, but eventually he managed to pay attention.  The course was VERY bright and colourful (you can see the jumps as expertly demonstrated by Solo here).  As Encore trotted into the ring, he was game to try but I'm not sure he'd really figured out what he was supposed to do yet!  Having never jumped a course before, I just wanted him to take his time and let the course educate him.  The second jump on course, though, was the one with the crazy blue striped sail standards (at right, with Solo at Novice) and here Encore picked up a baby stop, running out to the left.  I don't think he'd really focused on the task at hand, so I turned him back around to the right and represented.  He jumped it very willingly and then I felt him click and go Ohhhh, I get it now!  It's ON!  And the rest of the course.....went off without a hitch!  Giant daffodil standards, pink, orange, black and white spots, even a skinny on top of a mound -- no problem.  He had it all worked out.

Which left us....the start box.  That crazy Thoroughbred walked in, sighed, cocked a foot, and stood licking his lips as my favourite starter counted us down.  At which point I promptly forgot to turn my helmet cam on.  Devastated sobs.  But for most of the course, I looked like this (sorry for the blur.  And what happened to my breastcollar?):

And Encore looked like this:

My goal was to have him finish happily, but not run around like a crazy horse.  As Allie Conrad told me, with great wisdom:  A quiet mind is a trainable mind.  So we attempted to trot each jump (ok, there were a couple deliciously uphill canters) and upon landing, we would return to trot and sometimes even walk.

A few extra great candid shots of Cindy and her Percheron/Friesian Diesel (aka Big D) who also competed Sunday and landed a freaking SWEET 37!  We were so proud of these two, they have worked so hard and D is not an easy horse.  But he has a good heart, a fun jump, and a really great canter and they deserve all the success in the world!

Big D can turn on the charm.
I'm not sure if this is a smile or a grimace.  Oh wait, it's before dressage.  Definitely a grimace, then.
Not everyone can rock my awesome coaching boots like this.  Don't be jealous.
Big D and Mini D!  This pony was adorable.

Don't let the body fool you, this guy can JUMP.
Don't look so excited about the sandbox...
Remember to breathe....

See, mom, I can dressage....
This is what makes it all worthwhile....
 I couldn't be more thrilled with our day and I couldn't be happier with Encore's performance.  He came through those finish flags high on life (possibly egged on by me yelling GOOD BABY for the entire course, which reportedly could be heard back at the start box...ummmm....) and I gave him a giant hug.  I can't wait to see what happens next...

October 22, 2011

When Do I Get To Sleep Again?

Exhausted.  Training 3-Day at Waredaca was awesome yet again.  Many tales to be told.  All competitors made it around safely save one, who had the misfortune to fall and break her arm, but she is young and will heal with time, thank goodness.

Upon arriving home from the sprint from Maryland, I (a) thanked the heavens for sunny warmth, (b) slept for an hour, (c) ran to the barn to ride Encore, (d) leaped off to let farrier replace his pulled shoe, then (e).....zzzzzzzzz...what?  eh?  oh....uh, yeah.

Tomorrow!  Encore makes his horse trial debut at FenRidge Farm!  His dressage test is at 12:06, we trot into stadium at 1:54, then we wiggle around XC at 2:08. 

My hope is to let Encore have a fun, safe horse trial run, get the feel for how the day goes and just experience his first miles on jump courses.  I don't care if the score is 100 as long as he tries and has a positive go.  Our cross country will not be timed so we can take it easy and look at one question at a time.  With any luck, it will be a completely uneventful day! 

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!!!