2018 MGAA Nationals

July 22, 2018

photo: poster designed by Jamie Baggio – amazing!

MGAA Nationals is a full three day event that took place last weekend, and it’s taken me a bit to recover and get it written up. It’s one of the most exciting events of the games season and I absolutely love being able to settle in and enjoy the extended competition.

photo: Poe ready for session one.

As Co-organizer for the event I arrive even earlier than most so I can be there to check everyone in and also so I can organize and set up. Since this takes all day Thursday I headed up after work on Wednesday, getting in at almost exactly 10:30. Val was wonderful and met me up there. I am so grateful for her help unloading and setting up my ponies and all of the prizes.

photo: Daisy waking up on Thursday morning.

Prizes, that’s one of the things that makes Nationals special. There are a ton of prizes. Not just for the over all winners, but rather nice prizes for everyone, as well as race prizes too! These are generally sponsored by businesses, teams, competitions and individuals so that the team that wins a particular race gets an additional prize. These prizes come in all types; gift cards to major businesses like Amazon and Starbucks and also smaller businesses like MGAA owned business, Stable Hands that gives equine massages, large products like Prolite pads donated by Hastilow Saddles USA, specialized prizes like fancy wooden handled scrub brushes with the MGAA logo and “Nationals 2018” engraved on them, water buckets, horse shampoo, MGAA shirts, local maple syrup gift packs specially prepared by teams from their home turf, first aid gift packs for our Over25 division, and so many more wonderful fun, useful and creative prizes. Sorting all of these prizes is literally an all day ordeal.

photo: Daisy being a barn dog Thursday morning before everyone arrived. Fresh from rolling in a nice clean stall.

I also really enjoy being able to start this long intense competition out at a slower and more relaxed pace. Val and I slept in a little on Thursday. We leisurely fed and mucked out our ponies. We met up with our Canadian friends who also arrived Wednesday. And we were introduced to our new, New Zealand friends who came down with them.  But it wasn’t long before the competitors started to roll in, Carl arrived with more prizes, the shirts, and the very important equipment, and things got busy.

photo: Open Individuals briefing before the final session.

Sticking to the organizer discussion of Nationals, this event is always hectic. There are so many aspects to keep up with.  There are the usual aspects of running a major competition, but there are added aspects specific to MGAA Nationals.  I already mentioned all the prizes, which includes sponsors.  These sponsors can also dictate specific races so this can mash up the race lists making them different for each division.  I do try hard to keep each division the same while including the sponsored races to simplify things.  And I try to keep the races streamlined for set up for ring crew.  And keep the lists exciting for riders so its not a slew of flag races, or mug races in a row, or in the same session, and since its five session I try to keep the amount of vaulting races, and speed races down so that our riders and our ponies are not over taxed.  Although this manipulation of the race lists does end up being like juggling pots of water, oil, and fire all at the same time, and mind you, I don’t know how to juggle.  This year I took last year’s race list and tried to edit off of it.  Which seemed to work surprisingly well.  Except when my team was making race orders I noticed the very last race of the entire competition was pony pairs!  What the heck!  What stupid organizer planned that? Right?

photo: team Gone Rogue after the final session.

The work schedule is also a bit of a challenge because Open runs individuals on Friday instead of teams.  which leaves one division drastically short of help on Friday.  Open is also a division I tend to pull some of the heavy hitters from for some of the major jobs like Ring Crew Chief, First Aid, Chief Referee, etc.  For those jobs it needs to be people that will be there for the entire event, and not just Saturday and Sunday.  I admit I sort of threw my hands up on the work schedule this year when it came to ring crew workers for the Over25 division on Friday and we ran rough.  This was totally due to me getting a little frustrated and thinking, “Okay, I’ll have to come back to this issue later.” and then completely forgetting about it.

photo: Poe and I after the final session. He is a beast.

Another challenge is the par-tay.  Saturday night we have a party for everyone.  Luckily Wendi and Carl handled nearly all of this.  The main part for me was to arrange the entertainment part which was mostly done in advance.  This year we got a ninja warrior style inflatable obstacle course.  It was 90 feet long with two shoots down it, designed for all ages but used primarily for adult functions.  It had calls to climb, slides to go down, things to go over and under and through.  It was a lot of fun.  The company arrived Saturday, set it up, and came back on Sunday to take it down.  Wendi and Carl handled the pot luck part and cooking the burgers and dogs.  I extracted myself from this aspect of the event as much as possible.

photo: Jenny and Lindsey diving into the ninja obstacle!

The equipment aspect was totally and completely handled by Carl.  I did next to nothing with this.  Carl was amazing and handled nearly all of it.  I cannot even begin to explain how much of a weight off this was.  The equipment is a major aspect of any competition, and not having to be knee deep in equipment preparations, worrying about lime vs. line paint, rubber bands and balloons was amazing.  As per the usual, Carl is a life saver.

photo: Jessie and I after we finished the obstacle!

All in all the organizing aspect of this event went about as well as can be expected.  I am pretty darn happy with it. There were some bumps and some confusion, but nothing major and nothing that couldn’t be worked around.    So success.

photo: Thursday morning, Poe all set up and ready for Nationals to start.

Now down to the team aspect.  Gone Rogue was a bit slap dash this time around with Val, Jon and myself scrambling with Lauren and Tommy.  This ended up being a super fun combo, and I would love to ride with this make up again.

Lauren was a lot of fun.  She has excellent skills and they complimented our own well.  Her pony Dusty is a tried and true games expert and still has plenty of speed. Lauren rides her like a pro. They are a top games pair. And Lauren was fun! Which is most important.

Tommy is also a barrel of laughs and fit in well.  His pony was off on Sunday and he stepped up to coach, which ended up working out super well.  We could all hear him yelling instructions from the field which was really helpful.  This was an unexpected and delightful surprise. Tommy used to join us for winter practices but it’s been a while. I almost forgot how much fun he is! I hope he keeps coming out.

Photo credit: M Brown. Lauren in Toolbox.

For our usual three, Jeeter was being a bit different than usual, ducking out on a few handoffs.  This is not his usual, and I think took the three of us off guard completely.  Jeeter has been playing for a little while now so its not something you expect to change.  Although when I thought about it after the fact, he has not consistently played at this level and speed in competition in a while, although it feels like he has.  I am not sure.  Other than that though he was amazing.  He really is a nice horse.  And I think since he is usually so push button it really did shock us that he was not being his usual Mr. Perfect self. Jon was amazing as always. And just as calm and cool, no pressure as always. He really adds a nice presence to the collective team attitude.

Photo: M Brown – Jon in Tack Shop

Babyface was about what was expected, which was to be a little unpredictable (lol).  He still has some “Flintstone” moments where he sort of spins out or runs in place, but these are becoming less frequent with each competition.  His head got in the way a few times when Val went to perform a skill, but not consistently, just on rare occasion.  Which is the thing with playing 50 games over 3 days, there are quite a few chances for “rare occasions” to occur.  But improve he does, with each competition.  This pony.  I just shake my head.  He is becoming one amazing pony. And Val. What can I say. She just pulls it off. She was also our team captain and had to do all our organizing and planning. Which was a bit of work with how scrambled up we were.

Photo: M Brown – Lauren in a Mug race

Poe was his rock star self.  He has been on the field for 5 years now and I would expect nothing less from him.  He was tired by Sunday, but otherwise he was amazing.  I think we over shot the four flag holder on day one when I forgot to add in the “WHOA!” voice command, but otherwise I have no complaints.  Its nice to ride a pony you can trust and depend on and you can just do your job and not worry about.  That’s Poe.  Simple.

Our first few sessions we spent trying to figure out the best orders and who should hand off to who.  I felt like we finally got it worked out by the final session and then Tommy’s pony was off and we had to scramble around again.  But with him being able to yell instructions to us it really did make a difference.  We came second in the first and last session of the weekend and I believe third in the second, third and fourth sessions and finished third over all with cumulative points for all five sessions.

I had a really good time.  I really enjoyed riding with my team.  I felt I did a good job.  I screwed up my pick up in Sword in the fourth (I think) session, but was actually super pleased with my correction, remounting in the ring with the sword to be specific, even if we did loose the race.  And I believe I had to circle for a hand off.  There might be another mistake in there I am not remembering, it all gets fuzzy a week later.  I know I wasn’t always the fastest, which is something I do need to work on; pushing it just a little more, particularly between skills.  I know at some points in the weekend I got sort of too quiet and too calm.  Which is something that I know happens to me, and I tend to go slower and less smooth when I get like this.  I think I was feeling this way Saturday afternoon in particular.  Also A-line timing is not my best skill. I kept hitting it this weekend and having to slow down to take a hand off.  It was killing me.

As always I can’t wait for the next competition!

#pumpthemonkey

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