Game Face

August 8, 2014

Most people that participate in sports have a “game face”. Mounted games riders are no different. Nor are our ponies. Poe has a real hard games face.

My friend Abby took this photo at MA3 this past weekend. I love that Poe and I both have our game faces on. My dad saw it on my facebook and said my game face looks just like his “war face” from when he was at bayonet practice when he was in the Marines.

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Some other good game faces from this past weekend:
Photo credit to Brenegan and also G Arens from EquiStar Photography.

 

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Mid-Atlantic #3 – 2014

August 6, 2014

 

This past weekend was the Mid-Atlantic #3 competition in Mullica Hills, New Jersey. I missed this competition last year because I was in England for an MGAA trip. In the years prior to that, this competition had been hit or miss. Going back to my Masters team days, one year I got eaten up by baby wolf spiders, which I had allergic reaction to. Another year my pony, Osh Kosh, popped a splint. There have been people that have been flipped over the less than desirable chain link arena fencing. One year, my friend Val’s pony, had a collision in 3 Mug and had to be taken to the horse hospital. I believe it was last year that the rains were so intense that campers were flooded out, and the Sunday riding had to be cancelled. This competition has tended to hold an unknown factor that always makes me just a little weary of it.

 

This competition is also usually HOT, as in high temperature, high humidity, and strong sun. This year the weather actually worked out better than could have been expected. The temperature stayed mostly in the low to mid 80s. It was generally overcast, and cloudy. There was rain at night, but not too much to make the arena too mucky to compete in, and no tents were seen floating away. For the most part, it was dry, although humid, during the day. One of the features this grounds has, that makes it excellent for camping, is about a half dozen large covered pavilions. Tents can be set up under them, and campers can socialize under them, safe from the sun and rain.

 

Our group took advantage of this and set up at the pavilion by the barns. Our tables and chairs stayed dry at night, and we had a nice large lighted hangout area for socializing. Excellent.

 

For the actual competition, team Old School was a little mixed up. Carol Ann opted out of the competition, and we were planning to go at it as a four man team. But we got lucky on the Thursday night before the competition and managed to pick up rider, Kristin and her pony Tex, from Pennsylvania. She brought along her cheery personality, and laid back attitude and made a perfect addition to the team. Linda was on her new pony, Diamond. Linda had just purchased this mare, and she was very new to the sport, although she did excellent, and Linda and her are going to be amazing as they grow together. Averi also rode a different pony, this one a long time games pony, Ducky. Kim was on her usual, Chip, and I was on Poe.

 

There were eight teams in our division, splitting us into two heats. The divisions were staggered, so riders could watch the other heat of their own division, which was really enjoyable.

 

We went into our first session on Saturday at about lunch time, and rode really well as a team. I was impressed with how well we meshed. We did not set up race orders in advance, although we did select who was out of each race. We figured with so many unknown ponies, we would be better to work the actual orders out as we went. And I was surprised at how well this flowed for us. I don’t think we ever felt rushed, or uncertain of who should go when for any of the races. Linda did excellent on Diamond. She kept the pony slow, so she could teach her the skills, and Diamond appeared to be listening and enjoying her new sport. The pony is built low in the front, which is different than what Linda is used to. Linda is already working to bring her off her forehand, to help improve her turns, and knowing that she was not the best at turning, Linda took that into account when selecting races to be out of.

 

My challenge was my back and neck, that were making it hard for me to reach far and turn sharply, I was in Carton Race in the first session, and realized that was a mistake, because the big swing from the carton pull, hurt, and I had to slow up significantly to get my dunk at the end of the arena.  We took this into account for the rest of the competition . This included taking me out of Bottle Shuttle, where I would have to lean and reach across a barrel at speed. Poe and I were well connected. He was listening and had his game face on. I said “woe” and he woed. I was very happy with him and myself.

 

Our second session went very similar, with us all smiling, high fiving and cheering each other on. We had a few mistakes, that killed a few races for us, but we also had some wins when we were accurate. I think we were mostly pretty spot on, although the other teams were all hot, and really pushing faster and more accurate as well. The competition in this division is just getting better and better. Our Saturday did go pretty well considering, and it was just enough to squeak us into the A final as the 5th team.

 

Saturday night (as well as Friday night) was a fun event, with socializing, shared dinner, roasted marshmallows, and a lot of laughing. We had a fun little camp set up with myself and Averi along with some of the riders on Groppits, and visits from riders on Red Solo Cup, Time Flies and a few others. This is always one of the best parts of competition, spending time with friends.

 

Sunday we entered the A final, with all teams starting back at 0 points. We rode well, and continued to have a fun time, with lots of cheering. We were tied for second place, three races from the end, but a few mistakes were all it took, and we ended in a close point 4th place. Time Flies held the lead by about ten points. They were followed by the other four teams, with just a few points separating each, with Red Solo Cup in second, followed by Border Patrol, Old School and then Groppits.

 

I am very happy with my riding, and Poe’s performance. I did hold back in my bending quite a bit, and probably could have pushed him a little faster, particularly going away. I did circle the cone in Ball and Cone race one time, and I did not make a handoff on Saturday with Kristin in joust. It was my fault that I did not ride in close enough to her to make the reach. But otherwise I rode rather clean and went home very happy with my performance.

***riding photos***
Compliments to A Brenegan
And thank you G Arens of EquiStar Photography.

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Changes are Coming

July 31, 2014

As much as I have loved riding with team Old School for the past six years, I have decided it is time for me to move on.  I value the friendships I have made with my teammates, Carol Ann, Linda and Kim, and I want to remain close friends with them.  This has become a little challenging for me, based on us having different directions we want to go in with a competitive games team.  It has been a difficult decision, but after MGAA Nationals, I decided it was time to make the decision.  I picked friendship.

We five, Carol Ann, Linda, Kim, Averi and myself, will be finishing the season out together, competing in the last three parts of the Mid-Atlantic Series as team Old School.  I think this decision will help us to end the season on a good note, and will actually strengthen our friendships.  It will allow those remaining on OS to push for the team they want, and will leave myself to find my own spot on a team interested in the same things I am interesting in right now.  Averi, not to be left out, has decided to break off with me.

This was a good time to make the team change decision, because it would give Averi and myself, as well as Linda, Carol Ann and Kim, all time to decide what we want to do, and make it happen before too many other teams start to scramble around and assemble for the 2015 season.

My new team, which has already come together in the short few weeks since this decision was finalized, came together with ease and simplicity.  Theses other riders were also thinking about joining a new team and we all fell in together quickly.  We are still working on the team name, we have a list of possibilities, and the team colors will be disclosed at a later time.  Right now we are pleased with the formation of this new team.  And I will confess, I am also interested in seeing how all the other teams shake out, and what we have on the playing field in 2015.  It should be an extremely exciting season.

Drum Roll Please…………
(I am reading this, in my head, in an announcers deep voice, with some electronic drum beats in the background)

Coming in 2015
A new Adult/Fossil team will be hitting the MGAA Games scene
Riders:
Matt Brown
Averi Zaccone
Val Hoke
Zoe Edington
Krista Wilson Muldoon

WOOOOOOOO!

additional details coming soon!

 

 

MGAA Pairs

July 30, 2014

This past weekend was the big MGAA Pairs competition hosted by Stacey and Anita and the Summer Sizzler crew.  Stacey and Anita always provide a top notch competition.  They host the laid back friendly Summer Sizzler series in northern Virginia, as well as #2 and #4 competitions in the Mid-Atlantic Series.  I can say, hands down, they are my favorite organizers.  I really feel they take every aspect into clear consideration to provide the best competition for all competitors.

Pairs was held at the Jefferson Fairgrounds in Ranson, West Virginia.  This is a location MGAA used when the competitor base was quite a bit smaller, and looking back, I have no idea how we pulled it off.  The site offers a limited number of stalls, requiring some people to commute in and others to use portable paddocks.  The latter being my preferred choice.  The ring, which seemed adequate for a small team competition a decade ago, now seems dangerously small for a pairs competition.  But the drive, for me, is an easy one, hanging around the two hour mark.

For this competition, I was excited to be paired with my long time friend, Val. Val and I grew up playing games in Pony Club and the old USMGA, and although we have been trained by the same people and always ridden in the same circles, we have never had the opportunity to ride together.  Back in the spring we decided it was time to break that streak, and we made the commitment for this weekend.

As expected we meshed super well together.  Both of us brought a chill, ‘lets have fun’ attitude, and we both were very supportive and encouraging of the other.  I found I was a little nervous in the beginning that I would let Val down and I rode very conservatively.  But as the competition went on, and she continued to show support and confidence in me and my skills, I started to relax and ride more like myself.

I was also a little nervous with Poe, since I had only ridden lightly, one time in the past two weeks, trying to heal up my back.  This is not my style, and I was concerned Poe would feel this and put it to his favor.  But he was an excellent pony, and although a little rough on Saturday, by Sunday he was right there for me.

It was also really interesting and, in a way, simplistic, to ride with someone that has the same games training basics as myself.  Our decisions about order, were easy and quick, with us both thinking along the same strategic lines.  Our handoffs were spot on.  We did not even come close to dropping one.  We rode like clockwork, and I felt myself starting to push Poe out more when receiving a hand off, knowing I could trust Val to get it to me.  We both had similar giving, taking and follow through techniques, with eye to hand contact all the way through.

All of that awesomeness stated, I did go into the competition in a mixed mental state.  My back was really feeling rough, and I could not reach nearly as far as I would have liked.  I knew I would have to significantly pull up for drunks, with me performing more of a ‘drop’, vs dunking my equipment, and things like reaching across a barrel to pick a bottle or mug, were going to be tricky.

The first session I certainly rode conservatively, both because of my back hurting, and because of my nerves.  I really did not want to let Val down.  But as stated above, she was so chill, which really brought the old, laid back me, back out from hiding.  We rode 8 races in the first session, one of which I had a fault in.  Hug-a-mug, we opted for Val to go first, and she quickly placed and grabbed her mug and charged home, giving me an excellent side hand off, which is my preferred mug grab!  On my turn, I got my placement, and reached the end, and did not have the reach in my back to grab the mug from across the barrel. So I played it safe, and circled once.  In retrospect, we should have had me go first, so I could have had the choice of the mugs, or had Val grab the father one. No biggy. It was just a circle.

In Ball and Bucket, a race I had been nervous about going into the competition, with dismounting and remounting hurting, and my mounting not being very strong to begin with, I did have a challenge.  We opted for Val to start out, deciding that since she still vaults, she could focus on that aspect, and not worry about a double dunk.  And since I would be stirrupping up, I would already be situated for a dunk. And, to my excitement, I did quickly remount and carried on for a slow double dunk. Go Me!

That afternoon session we had an additional 8 races, which went about as well as the morning.  I did not make any mistakes, and Val and I continued to connect on an expert level.  I did have an extreme FAIL situation in Quoits race.  Which is another race I was particularly apprehensive about, even more so than I was with Ball and Bucket.  And what I was afraid of happened; I could not get back in the saddle.  I jarred by back on my dismount, and when I went to remount, my saddle slid a bit, and Poe was moving a bit, and the combination just took its toll.  I had the whistle blown on me.  Super Lame.

We finished the session with big smiles and left the arena to prepared for dinner and social time, when we heard over the PA, that we were tied with South of the Border, for the last spot in the A finals and would have to run a tie breaker in the morning.  Two Flag.  Which is honestly one of favorite races, and I think is an excellent tie breaker race.  It is a race that is high in error, but also can run perfectly smooth with speed, when all the skills come together.

Sunday morning, before our 10 race final, we entered the ring for the tie breaker.  Honestly, I was not at all nervous, knowing that Val would not be upset with me, and I would not be upset with her.  This bit of support was all it took.  I started the race next to Lauren on South of the Border.  She is an excellent player, and back on her x-masters pony, Mazy.  The flag dropped and we both cantered to the first cone.  I got my placement and pushed Poe on for a quick pick and heard some “OOOHHHHHH” sounds from the crowd.  Lauren had missed her placement.  This left it wide open for Val to take my handoff, place and pick her flags, and finish smoothly, which she did.

So we stayed in the arena and took part in the A final.  And let me say, this was one hot A final of adult games riders!  The other teams consisted of some of the top riders in our division. Matt and Averi, making up Heads or Tails, Zoe and Carol Ann, riding as White Lightning and the pair in pink, Time Flies, Phyllis and Nancy, who I had predicted would clean the floor with the rest of us.

It was a good set of races, and I was feeling much more limber, and really rejuvenated by Val’s laid back support.  I think winning the Two Flag tie breaker, was another boost of confidence as well.  We rolled through the races, both Val and I riding clean and sooth.  I pushed more for taking handoffs, as well as giving them, and I also pushed Poe for a bit more speed between skills.  Although I still slowed up for drunks, and anything that involved reaching, and trotted my end turns, simply to save my back, I pushed him out and it felt great.  I did have two fail moments.  One was minor, in joust, a race I am usually smooth and clean at, I flew past my target, with a complete miss.  Luckily I was not the only rider to do this, and I was relatively quick to correct and cross the line.  The other was a repeat of the Saturday’s PM session’s, complete fail.  And it is how I ended the final race, which only made it sting more.  I could not remount for Sock Race.  I would like to say my saddle was sliding around, which it was not, or that Poe was running away from me like a wild pony, but he was not.  I do think the deep footing was taking the smallest bit of a toll on me, sucking my feet back to the ground, and perhaps my previous day’s mounting fail was heavy on my memory.  But bottom line, I could not get my leg back over the saddle quickly.  I finally did manage to mount a moment after the whistle blew, so I suppose I mentally redeemed myself there, although the last race was a bust.

Val and I were both extremely happy with ourselves, and grinning at each other.  They  rolled directly into awards, and we became more and more surprised as the other teams names were read out.  Nancy and Phyllis on Time Flies, who had an uncharacteristically bad run, came in fourth with 20 points.  Zoe and Carol Ann, took 3rd with 25 points.  At this point Val and I looked at each other, with a cocked eyebrow apiece, 2nd went to Averi and Matt, with 26 points, and we cheered knowing we had taken the lead, with 29 points, we won the division!  How exciting to go from the last team scratching our way into the A final, to taking the win.

It was a really exciting final, and in retrospect, there were a lot more errors across the heat than a normal heat for this division.  Generally these riders are all very clean, making few if any mistakes in a single competition.  Perhaps the pressure pushed a few to go too fast?  And maybe Val and I having so much support and confidence in each other, made the difference we needed?  I know for myself, that was a big part of it.  Val knew I could do everything, and told me so, “You Got This!”  Its nice to have someone cheering you on, and having confidence in your skills.

So WOOO!

Mostly photos of Poe. Thanks Kim B and Lauren for the pics!

 

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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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