October 25, 2013
Two weeks ago, during the Mid-Atlantic #5 mounted games competition, the final leg of the Crystal Crown Judged Pleasure Ride (JPR) series was also scheduled to take place. I have been wanting to take part in one of these for a few years now, but they all seem to be scheduled the exact same weekends as the Mid-Atlantic series. But it rained so heavily, the parking lot the Crystal Crown series was riding out from could not handle the rigs, and to keep people from being stuck, they decided to postpone the ride until the following Sunday.
So I got Simon and I signed up and last Sunday we headed to our first JPR.
JPR competitions are set up to test the partnership between rider and horse, by requiring them to navigate cleverly designed trail like obstacles set up along a predetermined course. Simon loves trail rides, coupled with his mounted games skills, sounds like a great fit, right? And we did do that Saddle Doctor trail fun day in the spring, which Simon excelled at. So I went with expectations that we would have a fun day.
Upon arrival I was parked next to a nice lady named Judy, who turned out to be my friend, Zoe’s Aunt. Pretty neat.
I picked up my ride packet, which included a number to be pinned somewhere on me or Simon and a dialog that recited the basic story of the Wizard of Oz. I read it diligently, tucked it into my saddle bag, and got me and Simon outfitted in our trail gear and headed to the checkout point.
The first obstacle was right there, which did not give us time to relax, and move out first, and Simon was still busy nickering to the other ponies and taking in the whole situation. We watched the two ladies ahead of us go through, one successfully, and the other, not so much. And then it was our turn.
The obstacle consisted of a collection of jump standards with jump poles sticking out like spokes on a wheel, and laying at angles onto the ground. There was a scarecrow in the middle holding a basket, and some pinwheels stuck throughout. The object was to circle around, stepping over the poles, progressively winding in towards the middle throughout three turns around, drop a stuffed dog, dubbed “toto” into the basket, and then wind back out. We were pretty successful, although Simon was not too keen on the scarecrow, and I had to give him a moment to sniff it before he allowed me to drop the dog in. We scored a 6!
We hit the trail, and quickly arrived at the second obstacle behind the same two ladies again. It turned out one of them, Jeanie, and her horse Rockie, were experienced at the sport, and her friend was rather new. They invited me to join them and I decided to take them up on the offer.
At the second obstacle there was a blue barrel with ruby slippers laying on it. There was then a zig zag path set up with step in poles and caution tape that led to another scarecrow and basket. The object was to collect the slippers, ride through the zigzag, dropping the slippers in the basket, and then back back out of the zigzag to the barrel within a 1 minute (or maybe it was two minutes).
We easily collected the slippers, no big deal for this games pony and rider. We walked through the zig zag, Simon snorted at the scarecrow but allowed me to quickly drop the slippers into the basket, and then we began to back up. Simon’s butt quickly caught a pole, bending it down and allowing him to step over the tape, which then popped back up and under his hind leg. He was nervous but remained still while the volunteer unconnected it, and then he continued to back out of the pattern as asked. We still needed to relax into the ride, but I really liked this obstacle. We scored a 5.
We began the ride to the next obstacle with our new friends, when the less experienced lady turned back because her horse was not feeling well. We continued, just Jeanie and myself.
The third obstacle was one of my favorites. It started with a barrel with a weighted balloon on it. The rider collects the balloon, and rides to a tarp laying on the ground. The tarp was painted like a yellow brick road, and had a square in the middle of it that the ride must stop with the pony’s front hooves in, pausing for 5 seconds. Then the rider and horse continue over the tarp, and deposit the balloon into a basket on a scarecrow. Jeanie cruised through the course, showing us how easy it can look, and then Simon and I stepped up.
Of course picking the balloon up was no issue at all. Although Simon did pause with a snort at the tarp before stepping on, stopped in the square and stood, and then finished crossing it to the scarecrow, whose head he tried to rip off with his teeth. We received a 5.
The next obstacle was just a short distance ahead, and required the riders to bend through poles while hopping over poles, and then deposit a brain into a basket. Simon and I kicked butt at this one, cruising on through, and were awarded a 9. Which we also received at the next obstacle, which required riders to hop over some poles on the ground, and deposit a heart into a basket held by a tin man before returning. We were told that a hoof tapped a pole, which kept us from a 10 at both obstacles.
The sixth obstacle was really easy for us. There was a trail on the side of a hill marked off in caution tape that had a few poles laying on the ground, and at the end was a truck with the tail gate facing away. Riders were given a Mardi Gras necklace, which they had to take to the tailgate and put around a large stuffed lions neck before returning in under 1 minute. Simon and I cruised through that course using our games skills to drop the necklace, turn and return. We were told we had the fastest time all day, which was not the goal, and we were awarded a full 10 points!
After obstacle 6 we had a nice long ride across a creek and up into the mountains to reach the rest of the course.
Ostastacle 7 was a backing up skill, that had riders backing their horses up a slight include and navigate to align next to a hitch rail. This should have been easy for us, but I got Simon moving too quickly and a little off course so we only achieved an 8 on this one.
The next obstacle was a written test about the Wizard of Oz, found in a bucket along the trail. It was pretty easy, but I am still glad I brought the dialog sheet along. After filling it out, riders carried it with them to the 9th obstacle to turn it in.
The 9th was probably my favorite obstacle. It was set just after you came down the mountain and required riders to pass through several slited tarps hanging down like sheets, and then depositing the written test into a scarecrow basket. Simon came off the mountain hot and was pawing as we waited impatiently for our turn. When it was time to go, I actually had to hold him back to keep him trotting through the skill, with not a flick of his ear. We got a 10!
The course retraced itself for a short ways, back through the creek and almost to the end for obstacle 10. Simon jigged most of this snorting in excitement. He continued to paw and dance around while we waited our turn, and he was nowhere near settled when it was time to go. The object was to side pass over a mattress (which was rather flat), while facing a specific direction. Simon was dancing and not interested in listening at all, but after a few seconds, he clicked in and side passed across it. We were given a generous 7 on that one.
It was awesome. I had a great time, and Simon really enjoyed it too. I really hope to find some to take part in next year that are not in conflict with my games season. It was a great bonding time with Simon and I really enjoyed working together to complete the tasks.
The final scores came out, and we received a total of 79 out of 100 points, placing 36th out of 67 riders in total. We also placed 5th in our age group and in our breed group (grade). We placed 4th in novice horse and 3rd in novice rider! Not bad!