Mid-Atlantic #4 – 2018

August ,2018

It’s August which means it’s time to head to the hot humid eastern shore part of New-freakin-Jersey for MA4. MGAA hit up the Gloucester 4-H Fairgrounds in Mullica Hills for another round of hot games action.

Before digging into this post – it is all about my own team.  I often comment on other teams and divisions but this time I am only focusing on Gone Rogue, and even more specifically on myself.  Maybe a little self indulgent, but in the end, this blog is really a journal for myself, I just choose to share it with whoever wishes to read it.  So if you are hoping to catch a recap on your own team, or to see what I thought of the Open division or my reflections on the intermediate riders’ growth, I don’t want you to waste your time reading about Simon’s end turns.  This is all about Gone Rogue, and me regrouping with Simon.  I’ll most likely be back to reviewing other divisions and teams at the next competition but for this post I felt like a more personal focus was necessary.

Gone Rogue was a bumpy mess of a team with only three of our usual riders; Val, Jon, and Krista, and two of our usual ponies; Babyface and Jeeter. I sold my trusty games master Poe, and have moved onto my backup pony Simon, which is a whole new world.

For the rest of the season Britney and her solid steed Nicki have joined the Gone Rogue team, making us four strong for this competition.

Before heading out for the weekend we discussed the need to regroup and step back. With so many changes and so much foundation to build this is a good time for us to slow it down and set some structure up.

Although it’s not obvious, this is Jon’s first year back after a several year hiatus. And although he is amazing and rocking that field, he is actually just getting his real groove back. Watch out you all. For real.  And Jeeter too. This is the most stepped up and *for real* his game has ever been. So while these two are fantastic, they are just warming up.

Now we all know Val is nothing short of amazing. And BF is one deer-lama-kangaroo-cheetah racing pony out there, BF has a lot of learning to do yet. And his amazingness is just cracking open and is going to keep getting more and more wicked.  So Val is thinking its time to slow things down a touch and work on some finesse and fine tune some of the more technical aspects with him.  She went slower at MA4, she didn’t race home even when the opportunity presented itself, she let him coast in.  You cannot even imagine how impossibly hard this was for Val with her “need for speed” and having all that race car-esc horse power under her… much restraint was administered.  She did a fantastic job.

I think this was probably Babyfaces best competition yet, he had a lot less spinouts, and hardly “Flintstoned” at all.  I don’t think Val made any mistakes either.  She was the rock of the team this competition.

And me, I feel like I am starting over on Simon. It’s been five years since I competed on him and although he knows the games, he has been playing at the Novice level for these past five years and he needs to rework some skills and I need to remember how to ride him.  Also, no mater how good I do with him, he is still not that fast.

So while Jon gets his groove back, Jeeter steps up his game, Val slows BF down and teaches him his job more smoothly, and Simon and I work out some kinks, we decided to all three try out different positions and switch up our orders. And we are working in Britney and Nicki to the orders as well. So lots going on there. And we started it all at MA4.

So Simon.  This guy came to me about 8 years ago.  I had decided my former Open pony, Osh Kosh was about ready to retire and I had started in on a new mount, Maya.  We were about a year into her training and going strong when we had an accident together that laid me up pretty roughly.  When I was able to get back on again I needed something to rebuild my confidence and that would stand like a statue for the mount.  I found Mr. Simon.  He was a 4 coming 5 year old driving pony, fresh off the mountain in Ohio, and just started under saddle.  I fell in love at first site.  No joke.

It was an icy wintery day when I went to try him and they had to ride him down the mountain since the roads were too icy and I rode him on the side of the road right there and said, I’ll take him, and into my trailer he went for the six hour drive home.  I still stand by that he was the best purchase I have ever made and I didn’t dicker about price either. He has been my heart pony ever since.

That all said he was not a made pony and was a lot of work from the start.  He didn’t steer, bitting him was like trying to build an upside down triangle before math was discovered, cold weather gets a hair up his butt, until he was about 8yo I had to lunge him to ride him in the winter, and he is still to this day wonky about taking handoffs.   Luckily he caught on quick and is always happy to please me.  He has also always been safe and stable and has always taken excellent care of his rider.

So anyway, after a few years of confidence building on Simon, I was ready for something a bit faster, and a new training project.  So I found Poe.  And what an amazing find he was.  This post is not about Poe so I’ll hold off here, but for the next five years, Poe was my first string number one games master and Simon helped newer players and sometimes newer riders get their groove in O25 and Novice.  Now Simon has to step back up.

While Simon needs to step back up, I also need to figure him back out.  How early to WHOA, how late to push into turns, how deep do I need to drive into turns?  All those little bits that make a games player.  My first session I felt like I was asleep.  I did not use my voice a single time.  Not a single WHOA or TURN or STAND came out of my mouth.  That’s a total lack of a major aid.  I pushed with my body, seat and legs, but not as aggressively as I could have, I allowed Simon to coast into turns and ease up to stops much easier than necessary.  I played like a passenger not a rider.

I also knocked a pole in the first race.  I am not going to lay blame on this taking me out of the session.  But it did certainly throw me off.  I am not one to make many mistakes and starting off the session with one really just ripped me.  I also went into the session with a really upset stomach, again, its no excuse, a real rider pushes through, but it did add to my demise I am sure.  I won’t go into extensive details about my illness as it is just ridiculous, suffice it to say, look at what you are eating, don’t just blindly shove food in your mouth, but I felt like I was going to barf or poo myself, and I was violently burping throughout the entire session.  Getting back on when that pole fell, well, it was just not going to happen.

My second session I felt a little more on.  I rode better, I used my voice more, I pushed and rode up to things.  I expected more out of Simon and out of myself.  By the final I felt much more like a normal player and I was satisfied with my performance.  I still have things to work out, certainly.  I still don’t feel I have my end turns sorted back out on Simon to my satisfaction, but for the most part I do feel I have most of the rest of our ride put back together to a degree.

I also want to say that riding Simon is a full body workout.  Legs, seat, body, arms, voice, it takes everything to keep him going.  I was so exhausted Saturday night.  Probably partly from my temporary illness and also from the work out Simon gave me, I was out cold by about 930!  Which says a lot since these competitions are my big social time.

In preparation for the rest of the season I am going to try and not play games on Simon between competitions.  I think he will burn out easy, and he likes diversity.  So I am hacking him around the farm, letting him gallop up the hills and ride around checking fences, the fruit trees and the property in general.  I plan to get him out on some mountain trail rides which are his favorites, and maybe some obstacle JPR rides if possible.  I do want to work on our GO vocal cues though.  I am not sure how much that will help but it can’t hurt.

I am also looking forward to continue building up our team in preparation for the 2019 season.  I like the idea of working on different positions and skills.  It should all be good fun and with people I love riding with!

Riding photos taken by G Honeycutt.

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