MGAA Nationals 2014 – The Rider

July 25, 2014

MGAA Nationals 2014.  My rider prospective.

 

Before I talk about my ride, I need to reflect back two weeks before nationals, to a team practice where I fell off Poe and onto my head. In the fall I hurt my back, among other parts of myself.  As Nationals drew closer, I was still unable to ride comfortably.  I found walking on horseback to actually feel good.  But the slight jarring of the trot and canter caused a lot of pain.  It was not the motion of posting, or the use of my back, it was the jolting on my back that hurt.  I could manage in two point, but sitting down and using my seat was out of the question.

 

I discussed this with my teammate, Averi.  She offered to rotate ponies with me, so I could ride Simon.  She would ride Poe, and we could lend her pony Ms. Sparkles to our Canadian friend, Colin, who was planning to ride Simon.  This would make it possible for me to ride Simon, who does not require much use of seat, and give me a safe sturdy pony.  Poe, who is faster than Simon, requires me to really use my seat to ride, and that was not going to happen.  This swapping would make it possible for everyone to ride and would also keep Poe’s speed on our team.

 

I took Averi up on her super kind offer and lunged the ponies to keep them going, but gave my back the next few days off.  I also informed the rest of the team, and was relieved to get some encouraging support, but was not surprised to also get a little displeasure at having Simon on the team.  This swap meant our team was going to be severely handicapped.  Not only would Averi and I be on different ponies, but Linda’s usual pony Blue, was out, and Linda would be riding Carol Ann’s younger mount, Ginny.  We were trading in most of our speed for pony shaped snails.

 

As I have always been taught, being part of a team means making compromises, looking out for and helping each other, being supportive and knowing what your teammates need physically and mentally, and also, rolling with it and making the best of a situation.  You have to be able to work as a team in all situations, not just when things are going well.  That’s what makes a team more than just some people riding together.  In mounted games you work together as a team to complete tasks.  If some ponies are swapped around, you probably need to swap your race orders around to accommodate that.  Or choose to sit out races or ride in races you normally wouldn’t.

 

With the team facing a challenge, I drove up Wednesday, and prepared as best I could for the coming competition.  Thursday I got on Simon in the early afternoon and took a short ride.  It still hurt.  It still hurt quite a bit.  But it did not hurt as much as it had on my last ride a few days earlier.  This left me feeling somewhat hopeful.  That night we did our race orders for the following day, with me only riding in a few races, less than half, in each session.

 

Friday’s two sessions were interesting.  Poe was a total butt for Averi.  He challenged her every move and she quickly, but lovingly, dubbed him, the “Hateful Little Creature”.  He kept his ears pinned and continued to give her the evil eye as he tried to swing his butt into everything they went past.  She rode him like a true equestrian, and took each challenge in turn.  I was really afraid she was going to hate me for giving her this snarky pony to ride.  Simon was his usual spitfire self, with flames shooting out of his hooves.  Not.  He was pretty much as predicated, slow but he took care of me.  I rode mostly in two point, and he stopped when I said woe, and did not expect me to sit down for a check.  Although we were not fast, I did not make any mistakes, and felt like I did my best in the few races I was in.

 

Linda, in her second race, took a spill.  She was a little forward and gave Ginny a kick.  Ginny bucked, and Linda went for a tumble.  Linda had the wind knocked out of her and took a moment to get up.  Scary.  But she did get up and got back on for the next race.  She is a tough one.

 

Carol Ann and Kim rode as they usually do.  Perhaps a little less steady than usual, although I think they may have been feeling the strain to make up for the lack of speed Linda and I were bringing to the team.

 

Friday night we did our orders for Saturday’s sessions, and I was only in 3 of the morning session races. I was riding clean, and felt I had proved myself as a steady rider for the weekend, so this was a little daunting. But I was on a slow pony and I was willing to take one for the team. We rode the morning session, and Ginny was slugging along, and Linda, feeling sore from her tumble the day before, was riding stiff. Averi continued her battle with Poe, which she was winning, and I rode my three races cleanly. All in all there were quite a few mistakes though, and our team did not perform well, even taking the slow ponies and aching bodies into account.

 

We squeaked in as the last team into the A final. It was a close one. But that’s all that mattered at that point, making it into the A where points were erased and we could start clean. As a side note, the B final ended up being extremely well matched, finishing the first session of the final in an across the board tie!

 

We had the first of the two session final on Saturday afternoon. I was listed in more races than the previous three sessions, which made me feel good. Although I was not fast, I had not made any mistakes, so at least I had steady on my side, which in truth, our team was lacking in this competition. I think the team was pushing for the speed we did not have, instead of going with the steady we could have had. It’s hard to change tactics but I think a refocus was our only option. We needed to work with what we had. And Steady is what we had.

 

I continued this slow and steady performance during this session as well and felt pretty good with my ride. As a team though, we stunk up the place and finished the session in 4th place with 21 points, to the lead team, Time Flies, 34 points. Ouch.

 

The highlight of this session though was a fun, non-scored race, the Margareta Race. It involved each team’s 5th rider, Averi for us, being a bartender, while each rider, in turn, helped to build a Margareta, with the 5th rider then drinking it down to end the race. It was so much fun and left all of the teams laughing and cheering. The spectators also loved it, and I hope we plan to play it again sometime in the future. At the end each team was awarded a pitcher of Margareta, which certainly brought a little stress relief!

 

The next day was the second part of the final, this one with 15 races to take points in. Happy for me, I was in a lot of races for this session. Although there were no sparks shooting off Simon’s hooves, I again rode cleanly. As a team we had a mixed performance, but we did manage to take second in the session! Although it was not enough to make up for our shoddy performance the previous afternoon, combined with the way the rest of the teams fell out, and we finished the competition in fourth.

All in all I felt we did rather well with what we had to work with and I am looking forward to our next team competition.

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TBT – 7/24/14

July 24, 2014

I am moving house next week, which is exciting, but also a little unexpected.

While packing my sewing room I ran across my old USMGA (United States Mounted Games Association) team jacket. I wish it still fit! But it was a little on the tight side when I got it nearly 20 years ago. I also found a white polo shirt from World Team Championships in Ireland in 98′ and an Irish MGA polo shirt. Very cool.

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MGAA Nationals 2014 – Organizer

July 21, 2014

MGAA – Mounted Games Across America’s National Competition was held June 10-13, 2014 in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania at the Grange County Equestrian Center. I signed myself up to play a few different rolls at this event. I was the main organizer, with a lot of help! I was the masters division chief referee and I was also a rider on my usual team, Old School, in the adult/fossil division. I have been debating how to attack this blog post, and have decided to write it from different perspectives.

 

Today – Organizer, dun dun dun.

First and foremost, no organizer can get her job done successfully without an outstanding fleet of volunteers. And I was not short in this department. Nancy, fellow competitor and good friend, was co-organizer. Last year I filled this roll for her and it is a valuable position. Not only did she pick up the slack on organizer tasks, but she kept me in line, “did you do such and such”, and “I already took care of such and such”. And she also took care of “Krista, get down off that ledge” type of support. Nancy was also extremely essential with the organizational decisions, like how many teams per final heat, scheduling every aspect, and the ever difficult task of finding other volunteers that suited different tasks. And that was just in advance of the event!

 

My other biggest volunteer was Wendi. Initially she signed up to “help with sponsorship and awards” but boy did we develop that job into more than that. She helped with paperwork, she manned the check in booth, and she played hostess, in her apron, making sure all the busy officials were fed and watered. And don’t let me get started on how many sponsors she got! Apparently she has a knack for calling places and saying “hey, do you guys have some old stuff in your warehouse you wouldn’t mind donating”. And for some reason, people listen to her!

 

Another volunteer that cannot go unaccounted for is our par-tay hostess, Ashleigh. Nancy and I had a few things set up in advance (the music, DJ Shorty Rock, and the mechanical bull) and we fed Ashleigh some ideas. She enlisted Wendi, and then took the party and rolled with it.   The girl set up an ice cream bar, (with Wendi, in apron, serving) she spray painted a giant twister board on the grass, she had corn hole boards and a table of raffle prizes. And one of my personal favorites, she had a backdrop with the MGAA Nationals 2014 logo on it, and Wendi brought a bunch of funny hats to take photos in. Ashleigh and Wendi set up a row of potluck tables, and table and chairs for people to eat at. It was amazing. I did not think twice about this part of the event, and being able to enjoy myself was fantastic.

 

Of course an event of this size also requires a host of other valuable volunteers; announcers, scorers, referees, scribes, assistant referees, ring crew chiefs, a TD, and other people who step up to run and pick up more lime, fill in a job without being asked, unload trucks, and top off pony water buckets (thanks Colin!).

 

Running this event was something I really did enjoy. I like planning things and making them happen, and seeing how great it can be. I really had fun with the matchy-matchy-ness of the prizes. And the feeling of all the pieces coming together was outstanding. It’s our organizations Nationals event, and I wanted it to not only be amazing and memorable, but I wanted it to stand out as the best and biggest competition of the year.

 

One of the things I should have thought about more logistically in advance, was the size and weight of the prizes. I wanted every competitor to get something awesome with the special logo on it that only competitors at nationals would get. And the more of one item I ordered, the less expensive per piece it was to order. So I thought, what the heck, how cool is a camp folding chair with the logo on it? Flipping cool, right? Right! What I did not think about was how I was going to transport 130 of these flipping cool camping chairs, along with everything else, to the event. Cool, yes. Logistically, not so much.

 

I also ordered everyone a plastic tumbler cup with a straw and screw on lid with the logo. 2nd-4th place got Beach towels with the logo, and all competitors welcome packets came in a cotton tote bag with the logo. 1st place received saddle pads with a sponsor logo, plus the MGAA logo embroidered on them. And 1st and 2nd place also got leather key fobs with the competition and title engraved on them. I really liked this item instead of an engraved plate. There were also various race prizes, mostly from sponsors like Kerrits, A Horse Box, Mootugs, VTO Saddlery, the Summer Sizzler competition series and Mid-Atlantic #1 and Mid-Atlantic #3 competitions. Just to name a few. Everyone went home with lots of cool stuff. But note to self, and any future organizer, think about space and weight when transportation of prizes is necessary.

 

Two of the things that took extensive amounts of time was the stabling assignments and the work schedule. Most people have a preference of who they want to be stabled with, which is complicated because those people also have other people they want to be stabled with, or that they are traveling with, or that they do not want to be stabled with, or a specific aisle they want to be stabled in, etc etc. And to complicate it, we had people staying over an additional night, and then competitors coming in early for the next competition that same night. But that was easy compared to the work schedule. At a normal competition, you might see some of the specific positions assigned, but most are left to be more easily filled by teams assigned. For nationals, particularly with so many teams, 3 days of competition and on a tight schedule to maintain, we needed to not only make sure we stayed on time, but that no one was over worked, while others sat on their butts. This required scheduling everyone. And diligently keeping in mind, who is good at what job, and who is not, who works best with who, and who does not. Having a mix of experienced and not experienced people working together was essential, so we are training new people, while still keeping the pace moving. Keeping in mind who tends to zone out while assistant refereeing, and who gets too talkative when they are stationed with specific others. The list of factors goes on.

 

These two tasks were interrupted when last minute rider changes were made. But things happen, and if having to scramble for one more person to work a job, or being short one body for a heat was the worst thing that happened during the event, I think we were doing pretty good.

Some of the other endless tasks that go into planning an event I this size includes enlisting a vet to be on call during the competition. And also scheduling a vet to complete pony jogs. Unfortunately this task fell apart two days before the competition. I also attempted to schedule an EMT to be on grounds but was unable to get confirmation with the local squad so I utilized one of our own members who just so happens to be a professional Paramedic and Nurse. Ironically the local unit did end up showing up anyway.

There were shavings to accounted for, commemorative shirts to be designed and ordered, the games equipment needed to be prepped, race lists created, and then adjusted for sponsored races, camp sites ordered, endless email and phone calls to be dispatched and replied to, riders in need of teams and teams needing riders, ponies to be sorted and all of this required last minute changes.

There was an Australian team attending which I had a lot of help organizing ponies, accommodations and information for. There were contracts to sign and ring watering needs to arrange, insurance to get, checks coming in the mail, cogins and entries and more and more emails. And let’s not forget the information collected for the program (which Genevieve did an outstanding job putting together) including sponsors and ads.

 

A lot of people needed something special at some point during the competition, there was always at least a dozen things I needed to be doing at any given time, I felt like a spinning top, answering questions, and even more frustrating, answering the same suggestion multiple times in a row. Late nights, early mornings, long days, and add a several hour solo drive on either end (with a major storm on the way home). It took me this full past week to recover.

I spent massive amounts of time organizing this event. The last four weeks I spent several hours a day and woke up several nights remembering something I had forgotten. But I think it was worth it. I believe nearly everyone attending had a fantastic time. I hope so at least!
 

Ok so this blog post was probably really boring. Who cares about all the logistics and technical details? We just want to hear about the fun! Ok, Ill talk about that in a future blog post.

TBT – 7/17/14

July, 17. 2014

This is a throw back to last summer at MGAA Nationals, which was the last competition I rode Simon in until this year at MGAA Nationals.

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MGAA Nationals 2014 Teaser

July 14, 2014

Just a quick teaser while I recover enough to blog about this amazing event.

The first session was scheduled to start at 730a Friday morning. I was standing at the gate to the arena at 7am returning texts and answering emails and the fog dropped down onto the field. Luckily it burned back off just in time for our start. If you look closely you can see some bending poles out there.

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