Mid-Atlantic #3, June 2019

June 10, 2019

We are now officially half way through the 2019 MGAA Mid-Atlantic Series!  Installment four was the first weekend in June at the Grange Equestrian Center in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania.  I was there with Possum, and my team Gone Rogue.  Friday evening after moving in and setting up Matt, Jenny and I went for a little ride out and around the facility and then into the warm up ring, which for this weekend was the lovely indoor.  After a few steps into the indoor Possum came up critically lame.  I dug around and flipped out a nice big rock which had packed into his hoof with the fluffy footing.  Nuts.  We checked back with him an hour later on the grass outside and he jogged out fine.  Close one. 

Saturday morning arrived and we were mounted up and warming up for our 8am start time, and a few steps into the warm up ring and boom, he was off again.  I pulled him out, writing it off in the immediate as a stone bruise and went into the ring on foot to “coach” my team.  They were very supportive and took my coaching like the professional games players they are.  I was stressed about Possum but being able to still be in there and a part of the competition helped tremendously.  Val and Jon were working off only three hours of sleep and rode incredibly well considering. Gone Rogue finished second for the session, with a lot of really nice runs.  

After a session filling the role of referee, a friend who is much more knowledgeable than myself took a peek at Possum and also felt like it was a stone bruise. His soundness on the flat and flexing out soundly seemed to point in that direction. She suggested I grab some poultice from the vendor and pack him in hopes of a sound pony come Sunday.  I’m so thankful to have a friend I can ask for her knowledgeable opinion. By this point I had half talked myself into a much more dire prognosis for Possum and was already lamenting he was going to miss Pairs in a few weeks and finger crossing he would be sound by Nationals in July, if ever.

The lovely vendor had a selection of options and another games friend who just happened to be shopping pointed out her favorite.  So I purchased that, packed his hoof and tapped it closed.  Then I was off to the ring for a round of coaching intermediate team Riptide.

Photo L Horn

I was again on foot for the second session, and my team kicked it up even more, coming out in the lead for the session, just a bit behind in the overall scores.  Go Gone Rogue. It was a strong session and they were all four really on.

By the time the day of riding (or not riding for me), refereeing and coaching was over it was already quite late, and the rain was starting to roll in.  Val and I hung out chatting and were later joined by Matt before we all decided to call it a night. 

Photo: L Horn

I was up early Sunday, and ready to test out Possums freshly treated hoof for soundness.  I tossed on his saddle and rode into the warm up ring.  We walk, trotted, and cantered in both directions and he was solid sound.  Good thing or I was thinking Possum burgers for dinner.  I was done by about 530, way too early to get ready for our 8am session, so I untacked, and put Possum back in his stall. I scooped up some breakfast for him and then went back to camp for my own. 

A little while later our warm up was under way and a thunder storm rolled in.  Everything delayed, the race list was shortened, and we rode into the ring at 9am for our session start. 

Photo: L Horn

Sunday was not as good of a session for Gone Rogue, and we actually finished 5th in it.  I’ll take some of the blame; I was slow, flicked a handoff, and also had to circle a barrel, but I was not the only one having a rough go, and I was only in about half the races.  Some sessions everyone is on and some sessions everyone is not on.  We did hang onto the overall placing and finished the competition in second. We averaged 5th place in most of Sunday’s races which killed us, and kept us 12 points off the win. But the other all finish was solid and I will credit to my four teammates who carried me.

Photo: L Horn

For myself, I was very nervous that I was somehow going to hurt Possum.   A bit over the top I know, but he was attempting to buck, especially when I would push him out.  It was very unlike him and got me into spiral thinking that something was wrong.  I believe it was Val that pointed out that he probably didn’t like the mud hitting his belly, since it was sloppy after that heavy morning rain.  He eventually worked out of it, probably when his belly was liberally coated in mud (Jenny’s observation) and we ended feeling good about our ride. I also think Possum and I were not warmed up from Saturday’s sessions like everyone else and we were feeling a bit fresh and twitchy.  I have never been a nervous player, successfully compartmentalizing the nerves away, but this season I have been feeling it quite a bit more. I do need to recognize that Possum was still much better than he was at MA2 (which was a huge improvement from MA1) and although I was somewhat waiting for a pony explosion, he was fine. 

Photo: L Horn

My hand offs have also gone to crap.  I believe I am not focusing and following through on them like I should be, since I am more focused on my pony.  In the Ring Race, I got the hand off nice and clean from Carly, and then let it flick, like a rubber band being shot right back out of my hand.  We have pairs next weekend and I am hoping to work on some of this “trust yourself” and “just ride your damn pony” and “stop thinking” or maybe “start thinking” stuff there and try to convince myself to stop being such a twit.  Sometimes I tell kids I am coaching “head in the game” and I need to take my own advice.

My team was amazing, of course.  Carly takes home the most accurate award for, I believe, the third team competition in a row this year.  Her leaning and reaches were amazing and that little pony of hers has really come into his own and is racing faster and faster.  Jon was mostly accurate with a few bobbles.  He got “all five things” lined up for nearly every lean and mostly crushed them.

Photo: L Horn

Matt really needs to work on his general steering around turns and steering with his end turn vaults.  He improved throughout the competition but I don’t think he is aware of how wide he is going at times. He also really needs to look to his team when he is riding anchor for instruction to push home, vs looking at the competition (when his team is already yelling for him to push, push home!).  He loses valuable seconds looking to see who he is racing when he could he pushing instead.  I will give him, he is pushing his pony much more effectively.  More so than I have ever seen him do, so go Matt.  Val was her usual rock star self, although BabyFace had some regression.  Thinking about it over the past week, we had him starting nearly every race, which he doesn’t normally do.  He would instantly get worked up as soon as the starting equipment was in Val’s hand, backing into the rest of the team and generally sporting a more intense then normal deer (or lama) in headlights face. So by the end of the weekend Val was starting way behind everyone, somewhat backwards, or shimming side to side up towards the line. Although she was making up that time, it was still time lost.  He also started to Flintstone out at the equipment or at the top of the ring, getting stuck for a second.  He would then turn and fly home, but again, time lost.  I still don’t know how Val pulls off the skills she does on that pony going so fast.  And she was pulling it off. But he had stompy moments and was just not up to his current standard.

Mind you it’s been over a week, so I am sure I am forgetting or confusing some major points here. But when I was on the ground Saturday and not distracted with my own riding and pony it was much easier to follow everyone else’s faults. 

Objectively, and my final take aways; I don’t feel Matt is in his strongest position when he goes last. His skills are stronger in other positions and it’s a waste to have him riding anchor.

Photo: L Horn

Second, I don’t feel BabyFace is in his strongest position when he goes first.  Just like with Matt, BF has strengths we were not using and instead we were stunning his poor lama brain. Lesson learned.

Third, I need to man up and stop being a pansy.  “Head in the game Krista, head in the game!”

All notes for the next competition.   

On a non rising fun note, Daisy got to use her new tent in her Daisy pen. I got it to protect her from the sun and rain.

Shenandoah Trail Riders – May 19, 2019

May 19, 2019

Today I went on a lovely little ride with the Shenandoah Trail Riders at Uncle Tom’s Park.

I should start by saying I was LATE! If you know me somewhat well you know I am always super early, like way too early, and that I start to panic when I am just running on time. But I have been working on this because no one needs to be 40 minutes early for a doctors appointment.

Today this back fired and I pulled into the camp ground at about 7 minutes after ride out time and everyone was gone! Ahhh. Luckily I was already tacked up and just needed to tighten my cinch and put on my helmet. Simon is simple and an excellent trail pony so no worries there, and off we went with Daisy happily loping along.

We cantered up the road and onto the trail and when it wasn’t too rocky we moved out until we caught up with Ellie at the back of the group. She was on new dog duty, making sure the new dog learned the ropes. It took maybe ten minutes for me to catch up and we were still in the woods part of the trail.

Its a lovely ride with several water crossings, shade for the majority of the ride, and of course, excellent company. I chatted with a few people, making sure to enjoy that good company.

Most of the riders in this club are on gaited horses, and those that are not are still on taller, more athletically built horses, leaving Simon as one of the few stubby legged mounts. So I usually end up trotting, walking, trotting, walking a lot. Sometimes he will roll into this nice leisurely western jog that manages to keep up but today we were walk/trot.

Uncle Tom’s Park is a neat location I probably would not know about if not for the Shenandoah Trail Riders. My history on the location is subpar and I should probably ask someone for details but after some googling I found a neat article by STRHA member Susan on Equitrekking.com where she gives some details about the location, including that it opened in the 1930s and was popular until the 1970s.

I absolutely love the pool that still has its old ladders attached. Today it was nice and full of that cold mountain spring water and looked very inviting after our ride since it was one of the first hot days of the year. But just as the covered dish lunch was being set out, and with blue skies, the rain poured down. Refreshing.

It was another lovely ride with some super people.

Almeda Play Day – May 18, 2019

May 18, 2019

In interest of making Possum a well rounded and successful games pony he needs to have more experiences, see as much as possible, and get out and about. He also needs to do different things. So when Heather invited me to join her and Joan at Almeda’s play day I jumped at the chance. Normally this would have been a Simon thing, but Possum needed the experience more.

I should mention that Heather did an amazing job videoing Possum and I. But I SUCKED at videoing her and Joan. I ended up doing that thing where I thought I hit record, but when I hit stop recording I was actually starting the recording. So I ended up with a lot of video of my pocket and not much of Heather and Joan.

Video of the obstacles in the outdoor ring

We started off in the outdoor arena. Going into the ring there was a green sheet of wood with a black target on the center. The obstacle was called “The Black Hole”.

Tucker marched right over it with Heather. Joan dismounted and managed to get Angelina over it as well. Possum was not having it. I got off and he wouldn’t even lead over it. So we started with a Fearless Tucker, a Let-Me-Look-First Angelina, and a Nope Possum.

In the ring I introduced Possum to a few of the scarier obstacles from the ground with little success. Heather and Angelina were also on the ground showing their ponies the scarier obstacles. We eventually mounted up and Heather and Tucker continued to succeed. Joan and Angelina accomplished obstacles with a bit more introduction, making leaps and bounds. And I turned Possum to some of the obstacles I didn’t think would bother him and we hit on some success.

There was a flag obstacle. Pick it up from the standard, ride down and around another standard and return it. Easy peasy.

The pin wheel, which is a base with poles sticking out that you ride over and around. The goal is to not hit the poles. We successfully navigated the pinwheel but we did tap the poles.

Next I rode Possum over to the large ball so he could check it out (think yoga/Pilates ball in extra big size). He smelled the ball and then started to push it around with his nose. He got really into it and pushed it all over all on his own. This was a break through for him.

Next we all worked on the outdoor noodle obstacle. We made it a bit wider and started on foot. We eventually led the ponies through and then we all managed to ride through.

Heather rode over the bridge and teeter totter, Tucker was being such a pro! She also rode the long zig zag over the tarp. Joan led over them but Possum was still unsure. None of us were particularly successful with the water obstacle. I believe I have heard it called a sleuth box but I could be wrong. There is a board with holes in it that allows it to sink and water to push up when it is stepped on.

We took a brief break for water and to grab some pony treats and then moved onto the field obstacles.

Video of the obstacles in the field

The first obstacle was a gate which we all three crushed.

The second obstacle in the field was the car wash. We let the ponies check it out and eventually touch noses through the gaps from opposite sides. This seemed to help Possum and he marched on through. I quickly rewarded him with a treat. This began the rewards which seemed to make a marked difference in his success.

We moved onto the dragging obstacle. It was a rather large heavy pole and I was pleasantly surprised that Possum did this obstacle with out a thought. Heather also pulled it around with Tucker.

Next was another noodle obstacle. This one involved three hanging barrels with noodles sticking out of them. None of us were particularly successful here but all three ponies sniffed and checked out the obstacle. Possum pushed the barrels some and I wondered if that’s because they are the same white barrels his hay is fed out of.

We moved on to the natural obstacles. There were quite a few. A water trap which Tucker splashed right into as did Possum and Angelina. There was a section of dirt filled tractor tires that Tucker climbed up and down and Possum and Angelina did as well to a lesser degree.

There were a couple obstacles that involved walking through logs and branches. We were all successful here. And another tarp! Tucker crushed this one and Angelina succeeded next. Possum was back to Nope.

There were also a few narrow bridge type of walkways and a turn around box which we did not mess with much. But we did spend some time with the noodle car wash! These noodles had bells on the ends and included a tunnel. Possum watched Tucker and Angelina go through and then he rode on through himself like a brave pony.

Then we moved onto the third section, the indoor.

Video of the obstacles in the indoor

In the indoor there were a bunch of obstacles. All of us crushed the mailbox (Which was filled with carrots). Both Possum and Tucker were too interested in the carrots to be afraid.

There were three bridges here, one of which was tall. Heather and I led and then rode over them successfully while Joan started to tackle the noodle obstacle. Heather and I joined her and after some work all of us succeeded.

We also navigated the tarp obstacle, the pinwheel, the extra tall ball and cone, and the raised zig zag. Heather was the only one successful with the ball pit.

finally we headed back to the outdoor ring and redid a few of the obstacles that challenged us early on. Tucker seemed like he had had enough at this point. But Possum redeemed himself by taking on the water obstacle like a pro, first on foot and then mounted. He did all the bridges without a second thought, including the teeter totter and crossed the zig zag tarp.

It was a really fun day, and we certainly got our money’s worth, riding for around three hours. We even ran into some Shenandoah Trail Riders friends. Katie was on her tall pony Tiny, who turned three today. First, wow for a three year old. And two, she is much taller than I thought. And I think Melissa may have talked me into the Shenandoah Trail Riders, St Jude’s ride tomorrow.

My final group conclusion is that we all need more noodle work.

It was a really good time. I am so proud of Possum. He did excellent and made major improvement from start to finish. He really is a smart pony. When I took him up to obstacles he engaged each one, initially just looking at them but he did progress to sniffing and pushing at them with his nose. He also learned quickly that he got a treat when he was successful and brave. Eventually he would stop after the obstacle and reach for a treat.

It was an excellent mental work out, and a good desensitization for him.

Mid-Atlantic #2 – May 4, 2019

May 13, 2019

MA2 was held in Augusta, NJ at the Sussex County Fair grounds. This is a longer drive for me but the grounds are lovely, with two arenas in use, stabling and comfortable camping all close together.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

I took that Friday off so I could hit the road pretty early. Once I arrived I got Possum settled in and camp set up, then Matt and I got in a nice little ride, joined by some friends. It was early to bed that night since we had our first ride at 730 the next morning. Teammates Val and Jon arrived at some point after the rest of us were asleep.

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography of Val and Babyface.

We were up and ready nice and early and I was about to tell Possum how great he was being, but just before I mounted up he reared up at me. Twice. I walked him off for a moment then climbed on and he was fine but it did throw me off for our morning session. He was fantastic but I kept anticipating him to be a handful and was not very well focused on my game. I missed two hand offs and was slower than I should have been. Jon snd Val were not their usual selves either and Matt also had a rough race. Carly, unlike the rest of us, rode amazing. Not a typical session for us, and we finished second in our heat, third over all. It felt way tougher than that though.

It’s notable that we had two heats of o25 teams at this competition. The two arenas were only wide enough for five lanes and since we had 7 teams in our division we had a 3 team and a 4 team heat in each session. We were in the four team heat both times. I prefer this because it is a lot more fun with four teams and our scoring system accounts for uneven heats thanks to member Sophie who worked out the scoring process, so there is no advantage to being in one heat or the other.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Jon and Jeeter

Our session two was a whole new reality, and much more our normal. I don’t think anyone made a mistake except me. And even my mistake was to circle the Windsor cone for the turret placement. Sloppy, but not too bad. I ended up going last quite a few times and the team had a tidy lead by then and I was even able to trot a lot of my skills. We came out on top of our heat in the second session, and pulled tightly behind the second place team over all so we were still sitting third going into the final for Sunday. But we were also feeling much better about our performance.

Saturday riding ended late, and it was a rush to get ponies taken care of and dinner in. We followed this up with a camp fire and some socializing and to bed a little later than was ideal.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Matt and Hero

And then the rain started. It didn’t seem that bad but when we got up Sunday morning the officials had a meeting to check out the footing and it was a bit flooded. That arena just does not drain.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Val and Babyface

The decision to cancel Sunday was made, to great disappointment, and I was packed up, loaded, said good bye and was on the road before 9am.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Possum and I in three pit flag.

My team was disappointed as was I personally. I really wanted to ride, and an additional session would have been super good for Possum. We did finish Saturday strong, but it still sucks to drive so far, spend so much money, and then not get in the full ride.

Possum made huge improvements from MA1 to MA2. He was not completely distracted and was able to play his game. I tried the ear plugs in session one but I think he had shook them out and into the bonnet pretty quickly so I didn’t bother for session two and he seemed fine.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Me and Possum

His lack of neck reining got me in litter scoop when I couldn’t fine tune navigate him and found myself too close to the litter. This is something I am working on and that I have no doubt will come with time. He also looked at the bank cone, slowing down significantly in advance, but did go up and allowed me to select my number. Both of these were in session 1 and as mentioned above I was anticipating him to bulk and cause trouble, and I was distracted and did not have my head in the game. His bulk at the cone was actually super minor and if I had been more mentally present I think I wouldn’t have let him literally walk up to it and would have pushed him to it more.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Matt and Hero

I should also note that Simon stayed home for this competition. His rider for the year, Laura, was not there so I opted not to lend him out to anyone else. I do think having Possum there alone was a big help. He wasn’t looking for Simon or worried about him.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – me and Possum

As for my team, they all came together for session two but admittedly session one was rough. Val and Jon are usually clean players (we all are) and they both made a few mistakes, which is very out of character. Their ponies are the fastest on our team, Babyface especially. When Val starts and she is “on” she rocks up and back faster than anyone. Last year Babyface would Flintstone at the tuen sometimes, loosing that speed lead he had acquired, looking around with a deer in headlights expression . Now his turns are getting smoother and smoother gaining him a tidy lead.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Jon and Jeeter

Matt’s litter scoop was a road show attraction with his litter initially being knocked by his pony’s head, but then he continued to flick it all over the place, into the next lane, and back. He also made a lot of wildly wide turns, generally on the end vault, and needs to work on steering with his Hero to bring him around quicker. But really, that’s not bad for having the past year off due to injury.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Carly and Remy

And to repeat again, Carly rocked it. Her carton was hilarious and the only race she really messed up in. And it wasn’t even an actual mess up. Remy jumped the bucket, but she still got her dunk, thought she missed and near fell over his head checking. Hilariously it was all caught on camera by Genevieve Arens and makes a great photo series. Remy and Carly make the best faces.

So it was a rough start, but an ass kicking finish on Saturday and a giant bust for everyone on Sunday. And now the long wait till MA3.

Check out this photo series of Carly in carton

This photo series by Genevieve Arens Photography

Trail Report: Vepco 240A to 240C Bible Run

April 29, 2019

I had such a good time exploring further down Vepco on Saturday that I went back Sunday to continue.

As mentioned in the previous post the turn for Vepco is off Little Dry River Rd in Fulks Run and has road signs. It is a left hand turn, about 2 miles give or take after LDR turns to gravel and just before the “end state maintenance” begins. 240 is marked just after making the turn.

I drove in the 20 minutes it took to get to 240A Straight Hollow, which is where I turned my ride around on Saturday. As a reminder, Saturday I parked at my usual spot at 240E Kritchie Mountain which has a closed fire gate but is a simple and enjoyable ride I have frequented. Saturday I rode from 240E along Vepco all the way to 240A Straight Hollow and then explored those side trails.

The drive in was fine. For a fire road it’s pretty well maintained and although there are potholes they are not too extreme or excessive. It’s still slow going and takes a while. I parked just after the second (concrete) creek ford. On the left there is a small side shoot that appears to be used for camping. It was perfect for backing in and parking. It is just before 240A.

For this ride I continued on past 240A along Vepco. There is an open fire gate just after 240A, which appears to be open for the long term since the actual gate part is busted off and down the hill, although it is not completely buried or aged and probably a super easy and quick fix.

I probably would not choose to drive my trailer in further than I did. The road remains mostly maintained, with a few rutted and narrow sections but it also has some rocky areas. I would certainly drive my truck without the trailer though. It was also quite a ways before I came upon another place I would feel comfortable turning my trailer around, which is another factor.

Simon has front shoes, but since I have not gotten him out much in the past six months, more like a year actually, I do not have back shoes on him. Because of this he was sensitive in the back on the rocky areas.

It was a beautiful ride, generally shaded, rolling up and down the mountain, popping out to amazing views and down into lush hollows. There were flowers and fresh growth and spring everywhere. I did realize after a while that all the trees I was bumping along the edges of the road were puffing visible clouds of pollen. I caught a little clip on video (it was a challenge to video, shake the branch and maintain Simon at the same time and it’s not the best video. But it’s at the very end of the video log at the end of this post).

After a while I came to 240C Bible Run on the left. This was just after a (non concrete) ford. The marker was knocked down and graffitied with a blue and yellow WV (presumably by a WVU supporter). There were a few other places this was found including on a tree a few yards behind the fallen post. I took this path, which was gorgeous until it reached a closed gate and poorly marked private property.

Across from 240C there appeared to be a trail, although I did not explore here and instead headed back. Closer to where I parked there were a few other side trails. One on the left going down into the hollow and one going up to the right through the woods, probably reaching the power lines.

240C nearly reaches Gauly Run, and I admit I was very tempted to continue but Simon and I were ready to head back and Daisy is also still building up her endurance. Perhaps another day when we are all a bit fitter.

On this ride I passed several dirt bike riders. 3 groups/pairs actually. They were all very polite and followed trail etiquette, stopping and turning off their bikes as I passed. Thank you.

The video:

%d bloggers like this: