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We Are Flying Solo

March 21, 2014

Notes From The Madhouse

Be forewarned:  an unbelievably horrific three day long work assault meeting has left many brains crippled, so sense is not to be expected in any of the following statements.  And I hope CHP doesn't mind me borrowing a couple of their awesome graphics!

Dancing Dining With The Stars
TFS will be packing up and heading south this evening to participate in the long-awaited and tantalizingly star-studded Carolina International CIC*** and Horse Trial entrance onto the world stage!  Not only is it a qualifier for the 2014 Adequan Gold Cup series, but it brings a spotlight to our very favourite competition grounds, the Carolina Horse Park, about which I've written so many times.

Bruce Sr., Torrence Watkins, J. Michael Plumb, Karen Stives, and The Wofford
Alongside BFF and Solo's (hopeful) new minion (oh, what should her nickname be???  Blog Stalker?  No, that sounds too negative, although I love blog stalkers -- She Who Longes Children?  LOL), I'll just call her Erica, for goodness sake, we shall oogle and analyze the FEI*, **, and *** XC riders as jump judges.  If you haven't checked out the entry list already, well, what, do you live under a rock????!  Becky Holder Event Team, Colleen Rutledge, Kate Chadderton, Jan Byyny (currently sitting in first place after a lovely dressage test -- follow the link for video), our Carolina Will's, Faudree and Coleman, our new 'neighbour', Doug Payne, along with Arthur and Tate and Shiraz and Teddy and Wundermaske and William Penn and Pirate and Catch A Star and...dinner with the 1984 Gold Medal LA Olympic Team (Jimmy Wofford, Bruce Davidson, Karen Stives, Michael Plumb, and Torrance Watkins)!!! *fangirl implosion* And many many more eventing friends and 'family' that, well, we are hoping will wander by our chair on their coursewalks, because frankly, judging 300+ horses, I can tell you from experience, doesn't leave a lot of time for social calls.

(left) Can't Fire Me (Teddy) watches as Courageous Comet gives Dad a lesson at the winter farm in 2013; I bet I won't catch Teddy lying down on Saturday!

Related Online Crap
To the best of our ability, TFS will be live-tweeting (oh my cod, I'm so embarrassed I just typed that) from the event tomorrow, so you probably want to go ahead and follow us now so you don't miss out on the unmatched randomness and hilarious dorkiness that is our trademark!  Oh yeah, and The Becky StalkingI've also started a series of sometimes exciting, sometimes ironic, always entertaining #farmownerdiscoveries, as those of you who follow us on Facebook have probably discovered.  Like/follow/click/tap (take your pick from our media shortcuts in the sidebar) and join the insanity!  

Flying Solo Farm Stage:  Implementation
Crossties are up and fence tape is charged and mats are down and feed is stored and neighbours are supplied with excessive amounts of emergency contact information.  The door, my friends, at long last, is not only open, but strewn with bits of hay and mud and cat hair.  In addition, speaking of cats, one of them puked on the carpet recently, so I guess it's definitely home now. 

Blogger Mental Health & Plans For The Spring Season
The former is long lost.  The latter:  try not to starve, dream of times when you could purchase diesel, fatten up orange bellies after move stress shrinkage, remember how to ride a horse, learn our new trails, annoy visit with new neighbours...

And above all else, drink in the moonrise over MY east line of oak trees while a grey fox yips, at least four species of frogs sing across the pond, a great-horned owl greets the stars, and a brown bat makes adorable swoops after the first tiny insects of the year.  Through the bone-deep fatigue, those long-missed melodies are indeed balm for a great many things. 

Sunset over our creek pasture

March 14, 2014

How To Make Your Own "Soft Ride" Boots

Remember when I posted useful articles on this blog?  Me neither.  However, today, I actually do have something useful to offer you!  Do try & hide your shock.

soft ride boots
Soft Ride Boots:  the hottest trend in trailering when they hit the market two or three years ago (or less.  or more.  I lose track of time generally.).  "Reducing fatigue, enhancing performance, & helping treat & prevent injuries," these boots promise to pretty much eliminate the need for a vet, trainer, & sleep all at once!

Ok, perhaps I exaggerate a bit for effect, but while the concept of absorbing concussive shock traveling through the trailer frame to the floor & your horse's feet is a good one, marketing, as often occurs, goes a wee smidge over the top.

Note:  This post does not apply to use of any kind of boot for veterinary or therapeutic hoof issues which require daily wear.  I speak only in the context of booting a trailered horse for comfort.  Hopefully, those are obviously different scenarios to be addressed on a case by case basis.  

Not to mention, as with all normal things (human shoe inserts or foam cut-outs, anyone), give it a special horsey name & hint that it might knock a few points off your dressage score all while keeping Dobbin sounder, & you can mark up the price by approximately 4000%.  So, a gel pad that you stick on your horse's hoof which he will promptly stomp in his own poop can be yours, in a pair even, for around $200.

*pause for personal need to repeat hysterical choking sounds*

The Epics: great for non-forgers
Now, Soft Ride folks, my apologies if you are miffed at my badgering, but it does not carry any ill will nor even am I suggesting you have an unhelpful product.  I own a pair of both EasyBoot Epics (they did work when they stayed on...) & Cavallo Sport Boots, the latter of which I adore & are worn by Solo every time he is ridden off grass.

Both have had foam inserts for cushioning while riding as well.  Although both paid for themselves by replacing horseshoes.  And EasyCare has done the same thing as Soft Ride with the EasyBoot Rx hitting you up around $150 a pair, though they avoided some of the grandiose verbage.

I am simply offering an alternative solution for those of us who live down here in the real world (or even worse, my poverty world) where we have to actually CHOOSE which things we spend money on instead of just buy them all.  There certainly is value in convenience sometimes, but it doesn't have to be unreachable. 

If you are anything like me, every time you feel & hear that 'clunk' of your trailer coming down after a lump or hole, you murmur an apology to your horse that he is never going to get Air-Ride (unless HE comes up with $6,500).  But given what I ask my horses to do, I do want to lessen that series of a gazillion impact waves (particularly on VA cheese-grater roads) traveling up through the joints of his fetlocks, hocks, stifles, & back.  I just did not have & was not going to throw $200 at it.

Straight out of the bag
Enter the Hoof Wrap:  a step above buying a foam pad alone or cutting one out of insulation board & duct taping it on (duct tape tends to be single use only).  These are basically reusable (& extremely durable, it turns out) ballistic nylon foot napkins with a lot of velcro.

They also come with their own 1.5" thick EVA foam pad (replaceable for only $7 or you can double up) for cushion & if you want more (I do in VA!), you can add a gel pad (which even smells like odd incense thanks to an infusion of tea tree oil).

All components are reusable; I don't use the gel every time I use the wrap, but it's been on at least four long trips.  Want to go hog wild?  Mix & match all kinds of thickness & density pads for $14 & just cut to a fit you like.

And at $20 per foot for wrap & foam pad, you can instead spend $80 & come out with TWO pairs (I only outfitted his hind feet for a mere $40).  Like any type of hoof boot or wrap, they take a few applications to get used to.  But the straps are numbered in the order in which you should attach them (THANK YOU!).

If you make sure the foot is centered & you pull the velcro tight, they even stay put in the trailer.  If you like, add a strip of tape (hello, colour coordination!) around the foot for backup.
With gel pad added.  It had an odd aromatherapy...

Encore models
I would say it takes me a total of about four minutes to apply both hind wraps & I only use them for trips of two hours or more (or if I'm entering VA, period).  But effectively, it creates the same device at 1/4 of the price (1/2 if you add gel pads, but still...and hey, that rhymed).

And yes, I did observe a marked reduction of stiffness & let-down time coming off the trailer when I use them vs. prior long trips in just horseshoes.

You're welcome.

March 11, 2014

I Rode A Horse...Or Two!!

We don't work no more!
It's true, don't believe the rumours -- I sort of remembered how to ride and I didn't fall off!  And it was sunny!!

The horses were caught quite off guard, having come to consider me merely as She Who Bringeth Foods.  So when I put Solo in the cross-ties (I HAVE CROSS-TIES) and put the saddle pad over his back, I could hear his mental, "Whaaaaaaa?"

I think both were pleasantly surprised though -- I finally rode Solo on Flying Solo Farm and It Was Good.  The boys once again dropped a bunch of weight in the move and lost most of their muscle and feet from standing in the mud all winter, but I have lots of hay and finally, daylight!

Solo and I hacked around the top field, said hello to Trainer Neighbour, even did some trot and canter over a telephone pole fencepost I'd brought up.  Mr. Shiny and I thoroughly enjoyed ourselves, although I regretted not putting the spurs on, I really should know better after 8 years!!!!

It was well into the 70's though, and none of us have any condition to speak of, so it was short and sweet, but the footing was excellent:  my soil shopping paid off indeed considering our Icepocalypse 27 on Friday.  Already on a roll, I simply traded horses and took Encore up on the longe to stretch his legs.  I expected racehorse, but he was rather pleasantly blase about it all.  Some stretchy trot, some canter that needs its butt back, and Bob's yer uncle.

But the best part of all (well, ok, maybe tied for best) was putting the horses up, throwing out hay...and walking 45 seconds to the back door.  Wow.  I went back up the to feed shed to get something and returned to the house again - just because I could.

My brain and body are fried.  Even writing this requires a pitiful dragging of each staggering sentence out of its slumber, but we're actually there.  Here.  Even the inside is starting to look a little bit more like a home.

Thanks, BFF, it never would have gotten painted without you!!

March 6, 2014

It Was A Dark & Windy Night In North Dakota

At least, that’s what it felt like Monday night as an assault of horizontally-driven snowflakes pelted my face and hands while I daisy-chained extension cords.

It was my first official work-then-home-to-farm day.  As of last Saturday, I am officially residing in the new house, although “moved” would be a strong word.  I have my bed, washer, dryer, and pets along with clean underwear and work clothes.  So we’ll stick with “residing.”

Gee, thanks, mom
My boss and I had spent the day in a project meeting about four counties south.  Having had no internet access, I knew the weather was supposed to be around 50 during the day with some rain and then plummet to 14 that night.  So I’d left the horses nekkid and figured I’d throw their blankets on when I fed that evening.


My first clue came as we drove south and all the DOT signs along I-85 flashed “WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM NOON UNTIL MIDNIGHT.”  Well, both the boys had their shelter from precipitation and it had been 70 all weekend, so things could only change so quickly.  Right?

Wolverine work truck
We did manage to wrap up the meeting around 2:30 pm so we could hightail it 2.5 hours home.  Our dubious entertainment was watching both whip antennas on Boss' work truck turn into icicles as the wipers’ Effective Clearing Radius shrank to a tiny rainbow of windshield.  The incredulous hilarity continued when we picked up my work truck in Durham and both of us chipped through solid ice with the corners of our scrapers so I could have a teeny patch of windshield to look through.  I was certain I’d break a window; even back home in the Ohio River valley, it was rare for the freeze to occur that hard, that fast.

By the time I arrived home, the roads had turned into skating rinks of flashing lights and crumpled metal.  So quick and unexpected had the severity of the storm been (it was LITERALLY 75 and sunny the day before), many people didn’t even have coats in their cars.

I’m certainly no stranger to winter horse care and have everything I need to do it comfortably, including my beloved heated watertub.  But none of it was set up, naturally, given that Sunday was summer.  Frantically, as the weak daylight disappeared, I threw out serendipitously pre-stacked hay as I curried icicles off the horses and dragged crunchy, frozen blankets over them, forcing frozen straps through buckles with fat glove fingers.

Plz no moar winterz
We finally got squared away though, and I spent the entire time mentally screaming gratitude for the wonderful Adult Rider friend who’d given us the cozy feed shed and brought her family over to help set it up, and to ACB for his tremendous assistance stacking hay, setting posts, moving pallets, and the gift of the beautifully blinding magnetic LED that lit up the whole shed and the curtain of lost blizzard that pushed its way around all three of us.

Tripping over my own boots as I took them off in the mudroom, and staggering to the nearest folding chair (hey, it has beer-holders), I caught my breath and tried to figure out when we’d been sucked out of the Carolinas and into some Midwestern version of hell. 

All I could hear was a sardonic voice in my head cackling, “Welcome home!”

February 25, 2014

Home At Last

Well, some of us.  In a flurry of superhuman attempts to beat the daylight all weekend, I did manage to get the boys onto that patch of grass, a match I have been pursuing since last May.  Can I really have done it?

They managed two steps before they dropped their heads in excitement over a long-lost green friend.  Definitely the most peaceful move-in I have ever experienced.

Approximately four seconds in
 When I can't ride anymore, I shall keep horses as long as I can hobble along with a bucket and wheelbarrow. When I can't hobble, I shall roll my wheelchair out by the fence of the field where my horses graze, and watch them.        ~Monica Dickens
Is this really for me??
And it was good.