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.