ETS Obstacle Course – VA Horse Festival 

March 27, 2017 

On Saturday I went to the Virginia Horse Festival in Doswell, VA at the Meadow Event Park.  I rode Simon in the morning in the Performance Trail Challenge.  Then i walked around with Ellen, checking out the vendors which were more plentiful and better than in the past.  Woo! 

Then it was time to tack up for the afternoon event Simon and I had entered.  This was a trail obstacle course put on by Equine Trail Sports to benefit the Central Virginia Horse Resecue.  There were 8 obstacles put up in the arena with a judge at each one.  For each obstacle you selected which level you wanted to perform, one, two, or three.  Each level was more challenging but was also weighted for a higher score.  

The video included in this post is of the first five obstacles.  My phone memory ran out before I got to the last three.  

The first obstacle I attempted level 3. Ground tie and pick up all four feet.  Simon took a few steps. Wah wah.  

The second obstacle I also attempted level 3.  Weave through the balloon bags at a trot. This trusty mounted games pony that does a lot of pole bending and balloon popping found the flutter Mylar balloons to be a little scary so we did a nice wide weave and he skittered away from the final balloon. 

The third obstacle I attempted level 1. But I probably should have gone for level 2.  In this obstacle there are three barrels with a pile laid across two of the barrels.  Level 1 requires the rider to lift one end of the pole and walk it over to the third barrel while keeping the other end of the pole on the middle barrel.  Easy peasy.  Level 2 requires the rider to pick up one end of the pole and riding a full circle to replace it in its original spot at a trot.  Level 3 was at a canter.  

Obstacle 4 was simple.  Three bags spread out in a row down the arena.  For Level 2, which is what we did, start off at a trot at the first bag, pick up a canter just past the second bag and continue past the third bag.  Done and done.  Level three was canter to the second bag and do a flying change.  

Obstacle 5 is the last one on the video and it was bad. Like bad bad.  I ride Simon to the mailbox and pick up our mail about twice a week.  And he usually side passes all over the place but for this obstacle he really wanted to side pass the opposite way I was asking him to.  So we were all over the place.  Then as we were nearly finished the gate person called me over.  You can see it in the video.  She thought the other horse in the ring was about to finish and head in my direction and she didn’t want anyone to be spooked or hurt.  

So we continued onto the 6th obstacle.  This one was also not lovely and I would like to have been able to see it.   It was one of those black plastic garden tubes that you can put at the end of down spouts.  But this one was much larger, maybe a foot or 18 inches high.  I attempted level 2.  Step over the tube with the front feet and side pass to the right, pause and move on.  The sidepass was actually great this time but Simon was not so sure to step over the tube.  He was looking at it and approaching carefully until his hooves sprayed the front with dirt and it made a noise.  We did step over on after this and side pass off   But the whole obstacle was not pretty. 

And onto the 7th obstacle, the drag.  We judged on level 2.  Collect the rope and shorten it up to the mark, drag the ball to a mark and drop the rope.  So that went great and I racked on level 3 at the end with included a turn on the forehand and then drag the ball towards us.  Again, it went great.  Since dragging things has been a chellenge for Simon all along I was exceptionally proud of him.  

And the final obstacle was something entirely new to me. “Emergency stop”.  We did level 3 and I think we kicked butt at it.  We cantered o the mark and did a one rein stop (not one hand, one rein).  Then canter back and do a one rein stop with the other rein.  Woo! 

I am still waiting to hear how we did.  I was so worn out and it was quite a drive so I wanted to head out rather than wait two or three hours.  I did really enjoy this challenge and I like the ability to select which level I wanted to attempt at each obstacle.  It makes it possible to be successfully as you and your horse train up your skills.  I was proud of Simon and I. Yea! 

Again I was also surrounded by wonderful Rusty Stirrups members and had an excellent time.  Cathy and I chatted a bit afterwards and I am excited to join back up and have some more fun with that like minded group.  

Performance Trail Challenge – VA Horse Festival 

March 26, 2017

Saturday I took Simon and we went to the Virginia Horse Fesrival at the Meadow Event Park in Doswell, Virginia.  We were entered in two events.  The first one started at 11am in ring 1 and we were tacked and ready.  

This was the Performance Trail Challenge put on by Cornerstone and it had a few regulations and rules to adhere too.  This is why I found myself struggling with bitting Issues.  


So I could not use his normal Little S hack or his backup Myler Combination (without riding with one hand).  So we went with the Dr Cook bitless bridle. 

The top 10 we’re going through to the final on Sunday and I was not expecting to make the cut.  I was number 13 to go and after watching the first two riders, I had reaffirmed that no, we were not making the final.  


I did have a bit of luck and found several people from the Rusty Stirrups Riding Club were there, and a few mounted games extended friends and we had a cheering section in the crowd.  I was smiling like crazy at the cheers. And You know Simon ate it up too. And we got to ask some questions and for advice before our turn too.  It reminded me that horse people are good people.  

When it was our turn we started off and trotted through the poles, one tap, and then Simon bulked at the gate.  Weird.  Then he tried to check out the bucket that was hung right where his head was going.  He was pretty flustered and wound up at that point.  The gate was sloppy. 

We went right lead and did a clean simple lead change, and through the chute.  We stopped at the cone, pivoted and began the L back pattern.  It was not lovely.  See the video. 

On to the drag which actually went pretty well.  Simon wanted to look at it but we mostly went forward, around the bales, and we pivioted and backed.  But then we kept backing and in the wrong direction. I ended up having to drop the rope.  I still am really pleased with this obstacle.  It was a big improvement for us.  

The teeter totter I was not expecting issues at but Simon was not having it so we moved onto the bridges, which I was also unconcerned about. But nope Simon was not doing it. He saw that gap in the middle and nope. We did finished in time, completing the last obstacle by trotting into the box and doing a 360 turn both ways.  

We have work to do but I was so happy with Simon and I had so much fun.  The cheering and support really felt amazing.  


Bitting Issues.  2017 Part One 

March 22, 2017

Going back about 6 years when I first brought Simon home, in love with my new pony, i had no idea what bitting trials I would go through with the beast.  He had been ridden in a Tom Thumb, which is what I tried him in.  He was ok.  I didn’t mess with his mouth much and was riding him along a road surrounded by ice in the Ohio mountains along the West Virginia boarder.  Not exactly ideal conditions.  Plus he was four years old, coming five with not much more than trail time under saddle although he had driving experience.  

I got home and began the bit trials.  I started with an egg butt.  Nope.  I tried happy mouths, Mullen mouths, jointed, French link, three rings and even Mullen happy three rings.  Nope nope and nope. 

He just did not like tongue and bar pressure.  

I settled with a three ring (and I honestly do not remember what the mouth piece was) as the leverage seemed to help.  I had a running martingale and a flash on him to make it at all functional.  I hated it. He hated it.  I was forcing him to accept something that very clearly made him uncomfortable.  

I was at a competition complaining about his stupid mouth and that I was out of ideas when a friend, Zoe, said hey, I have a Myler combination bit and it sounds like it will work for you.  It works on nose and pole pressure before tongue and bad pressure and the mouth piece is joined in a way so there is no “nutcracker” action.  So I shoved this supposed miracle bit on his face and climbed on.  

It was instant success.  He relaxed, dropped his head and I hardly had to touch his face for a response.  Happy pony, happy rider, I ordered this expensive piece of magic as soon as I got home.  

About a year later, his steering perfected, I moved him into a Little S hackamore and he has been one happy pony since.   I throw him back into the Myler combination bit on occasion when I don’t feel he is as responsive as I like, but generally we go about in his little blue hack and he is a dream.  

Flash forward to this spring.  I signed up to do a horsemanship trail challenge for this coming Saturday.  I am all excited and working on our flying change and dragging the dang log around (which is still proving to be the scariest part for this former driving pony).  On Monday I got an email with my ride time and the general info and rules.  I read through it all and realized that I can’t use his hackamore (no mechanical hackamores) and I cannot ride in my combination bit unless I choose to ride with one hand and not switch hands throughout the course.  (No shanked bits u less you ride one handed).  Well shucks, Simon neck reins just fine, but I am not skilled enough to do all this one handed (and not switch hands!). 

So I tried him in an egg butt on Tuesday.  It sucked.  I was on a trail ride so I wasn’t using much contact (or even holding my reins the whole time) but when I did touch his mouth he was so unhappy.  I needed to back up a few steps at one point and it was almost pointless trying. His tongue was out, his ears were back, and his head was twisted and in all the wrong directions.  

So I stopped at the amazing VTO on my way home. I took his Myler combination bit inside and one of the employees helped me pick out the closest possible bit without shanks.  I ended up with a level 2/3 loose ring.  Nearly the same mouth piece.  


Wednesday I tried the Myler loose ring.  And fail.   Simon bucked multiple times, ears pinned and tongue out.  He backed but it looked so sloppy.  He was unhappy and so was I.  I will say though it was better than he egg butt but still not a success. 


That night I took to Facebook and called on my horsey friends to help.  And my friends did not disappoint. So much amazing information and ideas were shared.  

I quick, Amazon Primed a jumping or hunter hackamore.  This is essentially a nose and with reins on the side.  Think riding in a fitted halter with a lead rope tied on. It comes tomorrow afternoon.  I have ridden Simon in one of these many years ago.  When I was ready to move him out of his Myler combination I borrowed one of these jumping hacks and an English mechanical hackamore from my friend Linda to try.  Simon liked the simple jumping hack but I get the English hack was a but better.  And in the end I ordered him the Little S that is his normal bit.  I am hoping to be able to ride him in it when it comes in the mail to see what I think.  


I was also offered to borrow my friend Dale’s Indian Hackamore. Unfortunately this particular hack is not allowed (no rope) for the even this weekend but I could see Simon liking it so I swung by his place and picked it up today and gave it a spin this evening.  


(Photo compliments of Dale) 

It has a mixed review.  I do think it is, at this point in the trials, the best option, although it’s not allowed.  But Simon was a little strong in it.  For walking and trotting we were good.  But when I had him pick up a canter he got a little excited and may have galloped away with me for a few strides.  He is super responsive to seat and legs so I tend to be very light with my hands with him but he still got me for a few strides.  Then he realized he could graze pretty easily and I started to feel like a little kid in need of grazing reins.  


I am going to ride in this again and I would like to take him on a trail ride with it.  And I actually wonder what Poe will think of it.

Also in retrospect I think I should try lowering it on his nose a little.  Looking at the photo above I think it might be a tad high.  

The Facebook post also got suggestions of the Dr Cook bitless bridle.  There were mixed reviews of these some people raving and some people less than impressed.   This morning I noticed a response in favor of these contraptions from Sam at the other semi local tack shop, Mad Tack.  Samantha has been super amazing and I totally value her opinions.  You may remember about two years ago I was having saddle fitting issues with Poe and she fitted him in a saddle and I love it and ride in it still.  She worked easily in my price range and was just amazing.  When I called to see what they had in stock she said, bring your pony here and we will get you sorted.  And she has been nothing short of amazing since then. 

So anyway, back to the topic, I called Samantha today and we talked and I am taking Simon in tomorrow to fit in him a bitless and give it a go.  Since they work on pole and nose pressure which I know he likes, it’s just if he is cool with the jaw pressure.   I am very hopeful that he will like this contraption and that it might be even more effective than his Little S.  

I’ll be reporting back with an update in part 2 soon!  

Trail Report: Bluehole Top Loop 

March 20, 2017

Today I went back to Bluehole (big surprise) and I found a second loop, and I love it.  It is such a nice ride.  I need to figure out a tiny part towards the end still but it’s an awesome loop. 


I started out on the main road in. I rode past the logging areas and made the first major left to follow Grove Hollow.  I stayed on this even though I was super tempted to check out some of the side trails until it came to the three way fork.  The left is for the shorter loop.   It is through logging areas and has amazing views.  To the right is a lesser pronounced trail, more of a 4wheeler path.  I have not gone this way yet.  

I went straight.  It wraps around and past some more logging, and eventually sort of loops around to the left into more of a field with an older looking 4wheeler type of trail through some fields.   This part is not marked on my gps tracker. 

It keeps going along the ridge, in and out of clearings, with a view of the road a ways off to the right.  It is a nice clear trail, hardly anything down, no branches in the way, pleasant and smooth.   I really enjoyed this stretch of the ride.  It eventually came to a private property sign, and I stopped.  

Looking at the my gps tracker I could see the shorter loop was running somewhat parallel to the left at this point and not too far away.  I opted to cut down through the woods, which were rather clean and easy to navigate and shortly I popped out on the lower loop trail.  I assume there is an actual connection that I missed or didn’t notice (since I wasn’t really looking for one.).  I am already super eager to go back and mess around with this part of the loop.  

I finished off with the big down hill that is a little hard to see.  I think I followed it better this time.  But I am also eager to go back and mess around with this section as well.  I am so tempted I might go back tomorrow.  

When I was driving into Bluehole a large flat bed passed me going out and when I got to the parking area it was clear that the dude spent some time turning that beast around.  While I was unloading Simon a white SUV pulled past.  I said hello and he told me they were done for the day, and were just dropping off equipment but we be back in there working soon.  So I suppose this will mean the roads are kept up.  

Again super excited to go back here.  This loop is just shy of 8 miles and there are a lot of areas to move out.  Actually almost the whole ride can be ridden with some speed.  All the way until the very end.   I saw some deer, and a small mouse like critter.  There are also quite a few ponds just off the trail.   And a nice little creek side ride at the end.  I also assume the bears are waking up.  I saw a lot of dog spots and freshly scratched up trees, and even some fresh bear poo.  This was mostly in the area where the fireroad sort of ended into a 4 wheeler trail near the first pond.  

I attempted to video a little of this ride, a clip in different parts so you can see the terrain.  Of course I did not think about this for the first two thirds of the ride, which is more prominent Fire roads.   



Please pass wide and slowly 

March 13, 2017 

We have a snow storm rolling in this evening.  The only one we are getting this winter so everyone is going crazy stock piling bread, milk and toilet paper.   I ran my normal errands and Costco was a mad house.  The parking lot looked like it was the Sunday after church rush.    

I managed to get home, and get my outdoor storm prep (stack more wood, find snow shovel, move bales of hay to the field, etc) with enough time to get in a nice road hack.  I have a couple road loops I can do from my house, mostly gravel roads, all about 4-6 miles long.  

I outfitted Simon and I in our safety gear – bright yellow – there is no way a car coming up behind us could miss us.  Heck, we were probably visable from outer space!  Decked in yellow, we trotted on out and got in a nice ride.  We passed cows, sheep, goats, other horses, scary plastic bags, pony-eating-farm-equipment, and plenty of dogs. Simon hardly blinked.  His most challenging part was a one lane narrow section of gravel road directly between two occupied cow fields.  Both herds ran along with us in their respective field.  Simon looked at them and I didn’t want to take my hands and attention away to take a photo, but it was no big deal. On we went.  

We came upon a school bus and four different pickup trucks.  All of which were amazing examples of vehicles coming upon a horse on the road.  I did encounter them all in rather narrow sections of the road, areas that would require a car to take care to pass another car going in the opposite direction.  They all came to a stop or close to it and waved and smiled politely.   

Shortly before the end of the ride a suspected high school or college aged girl came flying up on me, I swear she was picking up speed the closer she got.  I flagged her down and asked he to please pass horses slow and wide in the future.  That even if a horse appears to be comfortable with a car passing, something could cause the hose to startle (an evil leaf, a bird, etc) that horse might then jump in front of or into her car.  

I find it’s important to explain this in terms a driver can relate to. “You could kill me and my horse” *should be all that needs to be said, but it seems that it hits home for them more when you explain that their car and life are in jeopardy.  

I finished my ride, and grabbed the mail on my way up the driveway.  I even had a little more time to get in more wood before the impending storm.   

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