SUBSCRIBE TODAY Smiley face  Get updates via email! 

We Are Flying Solo

December 9, 2013

I Promise It Will Be Over Soon!

Ok, so bringing TFS into something close to 2014 has been a teeensy bit more involved than I thought. Something akin to a first grader deciding to read Dostoyevsky. It made RSS look like "See Spot Run." *insert crossed eyes here*

Feel like this?
Truly, my deepest apologies for any confusion, broken things, and craziness you may have witnessed. For the unintentional beta-testers, I hope you will forgive a rainy weekend's nibble that turned into a choking incident.

If not, errrr, nothing to see, move along...

As a woman who hates change, it probably seems (is) insane that I jumped into it at all. I'm still not crazy about the whole thing, and there are still pieces to find, delete, tweak...once I can poke around in the alphabet soup of template code and even find which bits go together. Let's just say that "revert changes" is an excellent button.

But along with the unveiling of the new logo, all of Blogger's changes (they did it first!) and my trial-and-error revamping and embiggening of our feed and social integration (hey, it doesn't mean I have to do the latter in real life), I learned that there have been a lot of changes to blog and search world since 2008, which is when our last template code was written. So off I merrily went, messed everything up, and now am finally getting close to returning things to a semblance of working order.

The claim is that the new code-set is more widely compatible, as is the new feed, enabling even email subscriptions, more browser support, and, say, a search box that actually WORKS with Blogger's new format.

So, hopefully, I won't have to say it again, but please alert me to any issues you may have with the main tabs or article displays. Stupid floaty label boxes and things in weird places...I'm still working on it. Here's to leaping in to ideas merely half-developed...

December 6, 2013

Want The Most Amazing T-Shirt Of All Time?

Well then, as always, my dear friends, I am here for you.

But like everything here at TFS, we can never do it alone.

This project probably started several years ago, floating around in my very strange head associated with good intentions, but it never bumped into the two necessary reagents to complete its synthesis (wow, bad organic chemistry flashback):  time and motivation.

I wandered deeper into the magical forests of Bloggerland and met new people with new ideas and as our ideas began to co-mingle, opportunity came knocking.

Is your heart pounding in your chest with suspense?  Have you caught your breath waiting for the curtain to open?  (If not, well, you need to go look up some LOLcats or something, you are taking life far too seriously.)

Without further ado, then, I bring you....

Yeah.  If you steal it, I find you in your sleep.  Just sayin'.
Yes, it IS an Official Logo, designed cooperatively with the most amazing, patient, creative, thoughtful, and professional Kate at  You may know her better from her musings on her adorable mare and her gorgeous, hand-painted saddle pads featured on The Adventures of Lucy blog (yes, apparently she does sculpture as well, there appears to be no end to her talent).

Now I fully admit to being an OCD art snob, and as previously mentioned, I had a very definite vision.  This is most likely the definition of the designer's worst nightmare.   I had watched Kate's artwork for a while and there was an undercurrent of true talent that caught my eye (if you have not checked out her sketchbook, GO THERE).  I saw a distinct identity, but I also saw the ability to explore different media and stylistic modes and do it well, which is rare, so I decided to entrust her with my brainchild (probably much to her later chagrin). 

It gets better.  Since I was recently contacted by Beck Jordan from Allied Shirts (a sister brand to Build-A-Sign, who printed my license plate and bumper stickers, and Printcopia, who...well, now's their chance!) with an offer to print a shirt with the graphics of my choice for online review.  So, with a frantic email to Kate (who had already been working with me on the logo) after finding out I had eight days to pull together my dilly-dally-ing and order, we channeled our collective energies and out came this!

Ummm, yeah, in my own totally valid humble opinion, it turned out amazing.  Allied had offered us a shirt from their basic line, which is printed on Gildan shirts (there are endless options, including Hanes Beefy-T's and girly little things by American Apparel).  To be honest, I expected one of those super-thin, square, shapeless things you get from cheap printing companies, you know the ones I mean! 

Supposed to be one-sided; they let me add a back tribute for Kate!
I did not realize I knew the brand until I got the shirt and saw the tag -- we have used the same brand for our field t-shirts for the state agency I work for.  Well, I can tell you, I have hiked, snorkeled (which includes dragging myself across rocks and sand on the river bottom), sweated, and rolled in those shirts; they can take some abuse.  I usually end up (a) getting outboard grease all over it, (b) staining it a remarkable shade of blotchy brown from ground in mud and rock slime, or (c) sweating in it so much it assumes its own form (hey, NC summers are even hot underwater), all well before the shirt has any structural failures!  Ours are usually grey with a black logo, but they don't fade or shrink when washed either.  Point:  this ain't a wussy shirt.    

An even awesomer surprise (and I mean this in a nice way, you never know what you are going to get online) was the quality of the printing.  The colours were perfect and saturated and the Solo-orange even has a tiny bit of a metallic bronze or something to it, really making it pop.  I don't even want to wear it because I don't want it to get dirty...

As of today, I have not had a chance to wash it.  I did try it on, I had ordered a small since the sizes were listed as "unisex," which us ladies know usually means "square man-sized" and I have plenty of experience with that due to work uniform orders!  It fit perfectly. 

So while I can't tell you yet how it will fare with use, I can tell you -- that plate and sticker mentioned above? -- one is on the front of my truck, the other on the back of my trailer.  They sit outside all year around and travel to multiple states.  I wash the truck maybe 4-5 times per year (not counting rain) and the trailer...never.  Both, I just observed last week, are pretty much perfect after two years of neglectWe won't discuss the bumper it's mounted under...  The black graphics on the plate have faded just a little, but in Carolina UV/heat, I'm not sure that's avoidable!  My hope is that this printing will live up to that precedent! 

Yes, yes, I will be riding around with my horse's name plastered on everything I own.  Your point?

I have to give HUGE props to Kate for putting up with my 10 million tweaks, my nit-picky questions, and my completely unpredictable schedule followed by 'OMG WE HAVE EIGHT DAYS, GO!'  She made it happen, even when we had file-type conflicts and, errr, operator error.

And THANK YOU to Allied Shirts, for doing such a great job printing our design (fast, it was in my hands in days) and letting me say thanks to a designer who went wayyyy above and beyond!  Go try it out for yourself!  I am now pondering going forward with a related project which would create goodies for you, lucky readers... 

Most of all, thank you Kate, for capturing and bringing to life my vision of a unique way to honour my very special buddy and also, to represent our future adventures at...

December 3, 2013

That Other Horse Trial That We Mostly Did

You may flog me.  It was almost a month ago!  But hey, on the plus side, perhaps I can actually tell the story concisely now (AHAHHAHAHA!).  I sort of vaguely remember what it feels like to ride my horse...

Huge thanks to Cabin Branch Tack Shop for sponsoring!
If you missed it, Encore & I did our last event of the season in early November at the Carolina Horse Park.  Their Cabin Branch Event Series of schooling events has really taken off & I extend a huge thanks to the organizers & course designers, Marc Donovan and Andrea St. Hilaire-Glenn.

Oh yeah, & I moved Encore up to Training level there.

*insert pause for giddiness*

But let's not get ahead of ourselves.

I did have the same problem I had at FenRidge in October:  our jumping time was 40 minutes after our dressage time.  Sigh.  Serious pitfall of one-day event.  But I resolved to just be as efficient as I could & this time, I was not going to short-change my horse's warmup no matter what.  I certainly couldn't have pulled it all off without the help of once-again awesome crew!

Thank cod I was able drive down the afternoon before to walk the XC course, since I was riding my dressage test at 8:30 in the morning.  I walked it twice before it got dark, decided it looked fun, with great questions, & just right for Encore.  Thank you, Andrea!!!

After a night with good friends & as much sleep time as could be managed, we made our way back to the Park & got ready for dressage.  Warmup was uneventful but not spectacular.  I'd use the same words to describe our test.  Encore got tense at entry & I tried to ride it out but he never let the tension go; his trot work was choppy & tight, but he did give me some canter that I quite liked!  Baby steps.  So our 39 was very fair.

From there it was pretty much a mad dash to change outfits & get back to SJ warmup ASAP.  I was extremely glad I decided to put his studs in before dressage.  It was a bit nervewracking hoping Encore wouldn't step on himself, even though they were only my small road studs, but he was nice enough to keep his feet away from each other & it was a lifesaver.

I kept it short & sweet in the jumping warmup as fitness was my main concern.  He really hadn't been back in work after his feet healed for much more than a month, so I was on high alert for signs of muscle fatigue.  Not that you could tell when he turned into a jump-seeking missile after entering the ring.  His own feet couldn't even keep up.

We did make that crazy time though & only demolished the first one...because I stared at the stupid jump.  Will I never learn?  It was a tight, extremely roll-back-y course that caught us both a bit off guard & Encore has not mastered that technique yet. 

That day I learned I have the most honest, try-ing-est, generous horse ever.  Even though we lost most of our impulsion in the turns & approached some jumps with me squeezing like mad & Encore at nearly a jog, he never ONCE tried to runout, refuse, & he tucked his hoofies up over each one with intense care.  By the second half of the course, he had it figured out!

I was very proud & let him take a long, slow walk to catch his breath before XC.  You can see the pro photos here, thanks to High Time Photography.

After jumping a single wide bench in warmup there, we headed out to the start box in the middle of the steeplechase track.  Encore already had his game face on & practically dragged me to the starter.  The course had a bit of everything & a LOT of terrain, so I was very interested to see what kind of ride I would get.  At the same time, I was prepared to walk off if anything felt off.

I'm very sad the photographers did not capture any of the first four jumps.  They were all single fly jumps, including a table whose width the horse did not see until they were very close & a tall bench, which I personally hate.  Aside from a very small dip, they were all on a pretty level stretch.

I can jump whatevs, mom, no worries
Fly is exactly what Encore did.  He jumped each one perfectly out of stride, rocking himself back before the jump & clearing it like child's play.  It felt amazing.

Then we went downhill to approach the little coffin at 5, which you can see in the photos.  From the elephant at the end of my reins, I gathered that his butt muscles were beginning to tire.  I did an interesting tree-maze-dance to bring him back to a trot & rebalance before turning to the first coffin element.

He peeked, but with encouragement, he jumped through & then we picked our way down the steep hill to the GINORMOUSLY MASSIVE trakehener at 6.  I don't generally have a problem riding them & have never had an issue in competition.  At a schooling, sometimes I forget I'm supposed to use my legs, but on course, I'm generally good.  This thing was big, though.  BIG.

I  kept my eye up, applied all my aids, but Encore skidded to stop.  It didn't feel like a scared stop though, & he's jumped large ones before, it felt like an "wow, that is a really big effort & I'm not sure I've got that much in the tank" stop.  My red flag waved, but I decided to let him have one more try.  We gave it a big, positive ride, but he stopped exactly the same way.

I raised The Hand & walked off.  I was 100% certain he could do the rest of the jumps on the course without a problem; he had already shown me he had the heart & scope & we had previously practiced all the questions & then some.

But it was long & it was hilly & my game, VERY professional worker-bee of a horse told me loud & clear that his muscles were not up to it.  I may have been able to stuff him over the trakehener & continue, but to what end?  I really did not want to meet the EMT's that day, nor did I want to scare or possibly injure my horse.  They don't call me Safety Nazi for nothing.

Big picture:  I thought it was a great place to end his year.  We weren't able to meet the conditioning demands in the time we had, but that is easy to fix & a good winter project.  The skills are there, now we just finesse.  If I ever have any money to compete again!

So we'll spend our cold months in the woods, trotting up & down hills & enjoying the trails, after both our bodies & brains get a good break.  I don't know if we'll get to run any horse trials next year or not, but I still get to spend the winter with my TRAINING horse & that is, as longtime readers know, a pretty big damn deal.

December 2, 2013

What Do I Do With That Orange Rainbow (RSS) Thingy? Tech Time-Out

RSS feeds:  many of you may have heard of them, some not, but they have become a huge part of following blogs, podcasts, and other chronologically (sporadically, in my sad case) updated online media.  Now I've made that first link to the Wikipedia definition page, which is a good overview, but also in places, an eye-crosser.  So I shall, in true self fashion, elaborate excessively.

TL;DR version:  RSS for Dummies

That is a great, simple article that I wish I had found a long time ago!!  But I wanted to include a couple of details so that you will be able to fulfill your extreme desire to successfully use the TFS feed.  Heh.  Small bonus:  it will now show my blog title normally and take away the annoying code and/or right justification when it shows up on other pages, like your blogroll, if you redo the subscription.

This is what you will see in the upper right.
Having even more cruelly linked my Blogger account to Feedburner (nope, don't really understand that either), I know (because it has happened to me many, many times) that you will click the RSS button, it will take you to the feed page, and some of you will go, WTF do I do now?  Being intelligent horse people, you will probably figure it out the same way I did -- click things and see what happens.  Not to take away from your exploration, but if you'd like, I can spare you the trouble!  Note:  if you are already subscribed, you have to do... nothing, because you are already awesome.  Unless the title formatting, as mentioned above, annoys you and you want to fix it.

When you click the rainbow, you have three simple choices.

(1)  If you use one of the feed readers shown in the icons or the dropdown menu, select, click, you should be set.

(2)  If you use a reader NOT shown (as I do), click the "View Feed XML."  On the next page, at the top,  you will see yet another dropdown list, which will allow you to select or navigate to your reader.  Select the one you like, decide if you want it to be your default reader for subscriptions, then just "Subscribe Now!"

(3)  If you are a lazy person like me and don't like to click and puzzle through 20 things, most mainstream readers have an option in their settings menu to add a simple "Subscribe" button to your browser bar, so you just click it while you are reading the blog, it automatically finds the page's feed, and adds it to your subscription list.  Like so in the reader I use:

I use the top "Bookmarklet."  You literally just drag it to your bookmark bar.  That is all.
I consider myself at an intermediate level of capability when it comes to using the interwebz to do what I want.  Basic HTML coding and reading (even rudimentary tables), multimedia types, uses, and storage, linking and organizing data, using FTP, all of these are fine.  Need a simple blog header that doesn't take up 2 screens?  I got ya covered.

Do the thingz I want, stupid internetz!!
However, I haven't the first clue how to use CSS, I am not a webmaster, I can't do servers. 

But back to RSS feeds:  I basically understand what they are, but the terminology and specifics still confuse the living crap out of me.  Totally.  Which probably makes you ask, then why the heck did you just add an RSS button to your blog (that's what the orange rainbow is), dork?

Because, even without really knowing it, almost everyone who reads online uses these feeds now.  Google Reader, RIP, was an excellent and very popular example of an RSS reader, which is any piece of software which gathers all the feeds you subscribe to and remembers and organizes them for your convenient reading, bookmarking, deriding, what have you.  I have found a new one I am very happy with, although it is sometimes a bit slow to load, called InoReader.  What I like is that it looks and works very similarly to Google Reader.  I hate change, harumph.

There are hundreds of other readers out there to fit all different types of devices, systems, and user preferences, so these days, it's pretty easy to search and find the one that's right for you.

Good luck, happy reading, and again, please feel free to email or comment with any issues or questions!  Unless you are trying to use it on an iPhone.  Then, bless your heart, don't bother, I don't do Apple.

Technology Fiddling: Warning

In an attempt to be a little more design-relevant (and ok yes, because I am a giant geek and love playing with geek things in an attempt to be as cool as BFF), you may notice small changes around the blog.

Content and feeds will remain (hopefully) unaffected, search though I may for a widget that gives me more time to write.

Really, I'm just apologizing in advance if you try to do something and it doesn't work.  Although I do try and be thorough.

Please do let me know, though, in an email or comment if you are having an issue with any teknology-interwebz-related stuffs!!  I work almost exclusively in Firefox, so I may not realize if there is a cross-platform or just an "I tried something out of my league" mistake.

Thanks!  As a consolation that you hopefully won't need, cute horse picture!  Ok, it's from 2010, but Solo never stops being adorable.  Although that blanket did get eaten by an equine pirahna a couple years ago, sigh.

Iz spring yet?