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.

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