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We Are Flying Solo

December 7, 2011

Me Vs. Me: The Internal Monologue Of An Inveterate Self-Critic

If I ride him just right, he will get it.

This is the thought that runs over and over through my head as I worked with Encore last night. If my position could just be a little better, if my aids were just a little more accurate, if my balance was just a little more consistent, then Encore would succeed in doing the right thing.

Self-flagellation is, of course, default mode after a ride that had some very frustrating moments. There was a section of the most incredible stretching at the trot, where Encore's whole body was an upside-down U of supple, lifted, connected engagement, with his nose down to his knees and elastic springs in his legs. I thought, just, WOW.

Statler: Well, that was different.
Waldorf: Yep. Lousy...but different!
But then there was a period of tension, rushing, and falling in through the shoulder. My irritation mounted as I thought, What am I doing wrong? If I was just a better rider, I could get my horse to do this. I am just going to end up with a crooked horse pointing the wrong way because I can't seem to communicate this correctly.

I was bone-tired, I've gotten far too much bad news this week, it was dark, and my temper was short. I will never let that out to Encore of course, but it still wreaked havoc in my head (a confusing, scary place at best).  Over and over, I wondered why I couldn't just be better

None of this actually improves one's riding, naturally, but it seems to be an inevitable destination for us at some point or another.  Perhaps there are people who can remain eternally cheerful, but I suspect that we all have our moments of exhaustion and weakness.  I remember when I didn't canter Solo for months on end, as I could get nothing but an unbalanced gallop out of him.  I told myself, you should just sell this horse, you have no business owning something you are not even capable of riding a basic gait on.  Dejected does not even begin to sum up how I felt then.

Looking back, I can see that I was wrong, of course, and those months were simply something we needed to both work through and learn from.  With the help of one very good clinician, we found our canter again and went on to many triumphs.  Objectively, I know that the journey with Encore will progress in the same way, but it can be hard to trust in that view of the forest when you keep banging your head on the tree in front of you.

My point to this musing is simply to share with you the internal argument between two of the voices in my head aspects of my brain.  So that when you are in your own dark, frustrated, jaw-clenching throes of a not-so-smooth training phase, you can remember that you are not alone.  If horse training was easy, everyone would win Rolex, but alas, it entails an indescribably complex lifetime of lessons that would probably take ten actual lifetimes to absorb. 

I have two choices:  I can (a) give up or (b) give Encore a treat for trying (he also did some big, voluntary stretching in the left lead canter, good boy), take a nap, and come back another day.  After that nap, it only takes one look into big, kind, innocent brown eyes to choose option b.

December 6, 2011

In Which I Discover I Have Jinxed Myself

My blankets are fabulous, I said.  My blanket never tear, I said.  Waaahhhhhh....

Yes, Solo saw fit to once again stomp my dreams to dust (ok, I might be a little dramatic). Twice, in fact. This was his attack:

Encore wears blanket. Solo bites Encore. Blanket loses.

The carnage.
That is Solo's blanket, the trusty 5-year vetran of Carolina winters.  Torn asunder by vengeful teeth.  I guess Solo did not like the fact that Encore was wearing his clothes.  Fortunately, I have exquisite seamstress skills.  In fact, I think I should probably quit my job now and become a plastic surgeon.

The repair.
Stop laughing.

It gets worse.  Solo, apparently still seething with rage, also exacted his punishment on Encore's new blanket a day later, so I had to mangle fix that with my peerless needlework.  The seam is sealed with my tears of sorrow for the disfigurement of blanket loveliness.  

They are generally so peacefull out there.  Everyone has been blanketed up with nary a problem.  What, did someone start a fiery debate about politics out there?  Thanks so much, guys. 

December 2, 2011

A Dark, Cold, Ecstatic Night

Encore is bored with my circles and I need to come up with new ingeniuos exercises for his quick little mind.  So he got last night off and I saddled up Solo.  Last time I rode Mr. Shiny, he felt like crap on toast and his canter was gone, but when I longed him last Wednesday, he had some spring to his trot, even though he still fell out of canter at times.  But he still needs to move and I looked forward to riding a trained horse with buttons fully installed.

He strode out and stretched down at the walk and trot well and I picked up the reins to work on some bending.  Imagine my surprise when he immediately lifted and carried himself on the bit at the walk (he HATES walk work) and then pushed off in a lovely trot transition.  With a cautious smile, I did a bit of lateral work and he was strong and forward (Solo code for I feel good).  As I bent him around the corner, he started cantering vertically, trying to pull the reins from my hands and find his hand gallop.

I was stunned -- this meant he felt REALLY good which pretty much...makes my heart sing.  With a giggle, I brought him back to trot (insert annoyed orange ears and gnashing of teeth here) and made him find his rhythm again.

Me:  Ok, buddy, NOW it's your turn.  I asked him for canter with a soft outside leg.

Solo:  WAHHOOOOOOO!!!  He lept into the air with a flip of his head, then twisted into an exuberant buck and launched forward.  Thank goodness he didn't do his trademark QH spin or I'd have been eating footing for dinner.

I couldn't stop myself from laughing out loud.  It was like coming home.

After a couple laps of insisting that he NOT gallop all-out at this point in time, he came back to a rather round, rhythmic canter.  We did a couple more transitions, er, caprioles, Solo celebrating the joy of motion and energy and fire, and I grinning ear-to-ear at my partner's rediscovered power, lost since springtime.  I dared not let him hop over a tiny fence as I was certain it would become a 6-foot leap followed by potentially unrideable acrobatics of glee.  But he finished with a big, powerful, sweeping trot, stretched and rounded nose to tail, lofting with huge strides over the ground.

I don't know that he is magically fixed.  All I have had to give him is time, so that is all that he has gotten.  Maybe it was just a good day and maybe it won't last.  Everything is measured one day at a time and it is impossible to predict or guarantee anything.  Nonetheless, I can't stop the little chirp of hope from singing quietly in my chest.  What if, what if, what if, its soft melody teases.     

We'll see, we'll see, we'll see...

Photo by Pics of You

December 1, 2011

Bits Of Our Past, Moving On To The Future

I wore the cross country vest through Solo's first cross country schools and flew through our first horse trials in its faded blue.  We never had a jumping penalty while I was wearing it.

Solo wore the brown and brass bridle on trails in the Carolina mountains and salty shore, as well as during his first dressage lessons.  The clinchers survived more than one red-headed temper tantrum, even though the cavesson didn't.

We sported the black bridle to our first dressage show.  With brown reins.  But we stayed in the ring and did the test in order.  Then we went on to do the same for many after that.

The white dressage pad lay on Solo's back during our first and only Training Level horse trial.  He felt fantastic in that dressage arena, even though I never got to show off his amazing extended trot; he was so exuberant that morning, he chose to canter instead.  My heart swelled with pride after that test and that weekend was both the high point and the end of Solo's hard-won but cherished competitive career.

As I mailed off these and other pieces from our tack sale, I was sending out pieces of Flying Solo history.  As my hands brushed leather and fabric, I couldn't help but reminisce where each item had been and let my memory cradle and admire the flickering slideshow of adventure each one represented.  I hope that all of them bring you good Solo-karma.  There has to be a little bit of luck in a chestnut hair lodged here or there. 

It may seem odd or overly sentimental, to wax nostalgic about selling some stuff that I am not using, but it does feel like the transition to another chapter, even moreso than bringing Encore home.  I know there will be many changes in the next year, some big, some small, but they will not diminish or make any less special the five years I spent pointing an orange Quarter Horse against the odds.   

The Fix Solo Sale of 2011 continues, although I have updated the sale listings, removing items that I have received payment for and shipped off.  Thank you so much to winter and Erica for your kind and generous gifts and once again, to everyone who has been a part of helping us raise some much-needed funds! 

Help Team Flying Solo And I Guarantee You Will Win Your Next Show

*All guarantees not necessarily guaranteed.
Oh yes, it's your chance to get your hands on some sweet Flying Solo karma. 

Do you need a new show coat?  How about some inexpensive schooling equipment to save wear on your nice gear or some horsey clothes?  Peruse at your leisure and drop me an email about anything you are interested in; make an offer.

I have done my best to accurately represent, photograph, and measure all items.  Everything is kept clean, nonsmoking, I have cleaned and conditioned all the leather, blah blah. 

Caldene english show coat -- Black.  100% wool.  Made in England.  I had the seams let out (I have big shoulders & monkey arms, so it could fit a 6 or a thin 8.  On hanger, measures 15" shoulder to shoulder, 28" top of collar to tail on back, 24" shoulder seam to end of sleeve. 

Single vent in back with two black accent buttons behind.  Three button front with seal grey lining.  Lovely & I am sorry to part with it.  This will have you set for dressage, hunters, eventing, schooling shows, and will last forever.  Drycleaned & ready to go.  Excellent condition.  Retail ~$200.  $75.

Beautiful tailored details on back

Gatsby figure-8 noseband -- dark brown, plain leather.  Brand new.  Horse size.  Retail $30.  $15.  SOLD!! 

Hunting breastplate -- dark brown, plain raised leather.  Lovely condition, nice leather.  Horse size.  Retail $100.  $40.  

Dover jumper girth -- dark brown with lighter brown inset.  42", measures 46" from tip of buckle to tip of buckle.  Stainless steel roller buckles, they don't make them like this anymore!  Retail $80.  $25. SOLD!! 

Zilco crupper -- beta biothane, very nice and new.  For your mountain getaways!  Brown with black, very soft, padding and brass toned hardware.  Horse size, very adjustable.  Retail $57.  $30.   SOLD!!


Big D dress sheets -- THERE ARE TWO OF THESE.  Blue/hunter/burgundy plaid with burgundy trim, very nice, hardly used.  One is a 74", one is a 78".  Leather-reinforced fittings with nice hardware.  Closed front.  Surcingle and leg straps on both.  The 78" does have a 1" tear near the butt dart, easy to stitch.  Retail $75.  $30 for the 74" and $20 for the 78".


Herm Sprenger loose ring snaffle -- German silver loose ring snaffle from the experts at HS with over 135 years of experience.  Anatomically designed for your horse's mouth.  5.5 inches, ~13 mm diameter mouth at end outside rings (thickest part).  Retail $86.  $50

The Gory Details

Shipping and handling: flat $8.00 in the US.  If you are in Canada or elsewhere, I'll have to figure that out.  All items will ship as soon as I can upon receipt of payment.

Payment: Check, money order or Paypal, email me for informationI will also take reasonable offers or do package deals.

Solo says thank you for looking!