Mid-Atlantic Pairs Series #1 – June 2019

June 18, 2019

Some of my favorite mounted games events are the pairs competitions that MGAA member, Stacey hosts at the Jefferson County, WV Fairgrounds.  For this weekend’s event there I paired up with long time games friend, Leigh Anne, creating the pairs team, Hot Minute, for some laid back games fun. 

The weekend started out with a social Friday evening.  After setting up Possum in his stall I was able to chat with friends, and enjoy some camp time.  In the evening Matt, Leigh Anne and I went for Ledo’s Pizza and were to bed at a reasonable hour, respecting a 6am wake up time. 

Saturday morning we rode in the first heat of the day so we were tacked up and walking our ponies around nice and early.  Somehow I managed to take a spill during this *just walking* time frame.  I think I might have been trying to shift my saddle and I could have possible kicked Possum and he leaped forward in response.  Since I was already in a compromised position, off I went.  Nothing bad.  But still a bit of a shakeup.  Leigh Anne and I did get a good WTF laugh out of it.  I climbed back on and we warmed up.  Possum remained a little tense and didn’t work out of it like I was hoping.  This was not from my tumble, but was how he was from the moment I mounted up. 

The first session was rough.  Leigh Anne looked good but Possum was trying to buck, then he put his head up to avoid my hands.  I realized he was “bolting” with me.  But I don’t think he is aware of going fast yet, so it was more of a runaway lope.  I could still pull him up and or turn him, but it was very lacking in the control and precision I am used to.  It was very much a slow motion bolt.  Annoying.  He also was nervous in the equipment lane which wasn’t too out of the ordinary.  

After session one, Leigh Ann, Matt, and I were able to put our three geldings out in the little paddock for a bit.  As expected the three were too busy eating to care about each other.  This seemed to really help Possum.  He was much more relaxed when I mounted up for session two.  I also added a running martingale.  The combo of pony mental break and martingale seemed to go a long way.  In the first race he hit the martingale and was like “OH” and on we went.  He was so much more focused and ready to work as a team.  Perhaps he just needed a session to settle in, which is not too out of the ordinary for a new games pony, but he better start getting his game face on quicker. 

Leigh Anne rode very well again and Custer seemed to be happy after his lunch break.  She worked on his standing in the ring and made him stand for corrections and gave him a treat on the spot immediately afterwards.  Previously Custer tended to have his head in the way and would move almost sideways into hand offs making it much harder to connect.  Leigh Anne has worked to correct this and we really had some nice handoffs this weekend.  I also think all the dressage lessons she has been taking on him and all of the flat work is really paying off.  The pair showed improvement since the last time we rode on a team together, and Leigh Anne should be happy with the progress.     

After the final competition session on Saturday Brett hosted a clinic.  I decided to join in so that I could see if she had any suggestions for Possum and so he would get another riding session in the competition ring under his belt.  Brett asked us what we each wanted to work on and I asked for her to look at my association.  In competition I have found myself going slower that I do in practice. I tend to slow up because on occasion he bows away from the barrel, and with my hands so busy with the container going slower gives me more time to correct this.  But he also tends to leap forward right about when I get to placement point.  This is very common, and if I were a bit more gutsy like I used to be or perhaps if he necked reined I wouldn’t feel the need to check up as much.  We started the clinic with this and Brett suggested a very dramatic S turn so he can learn the pattern.  This is a common technique and I have no idea why I and none of my usual practice crew didn’t think of it.  On my second run with the dramatic S he was so much better and I felt comfortable and confident at it.  This right here made the clinic worth it. 


While the rest of the students worked on this skill I went over to the equipment lane and rode past, with Possum shying.  Then I allowed him to check everything out, sniffing and nudging with his nose.  When he was done I rewarded him with a treat and then rode past it all again at a trot.  I did this several times getting closer and faster until we were cantering past it just a foot or so away.  I continued to reward him.  I was pleased that this seemed to stick with him for our Sunday session.  He did not bow away in that lane and was not particularly looky.  To me this shows that he is smart and retaining what I am teaching him.  I just need to make a point of finding a way to get things across to him in a way he can truly absorb and retain.  


I took part in a little more of the clinic although the skills the other students requested were not things I needed to particularly work on and find new techniques for.  I’m pretty solid in my flag pulls and have learned ample techniques for it.  Same for litter picks.  I used to do a moving pick up but as I have grown older and rounder I have returned to the older standing pick method and feel pretty solid at it, assuming I lean enough.  Brett agreed with my techniques for both and I decided that Possum had had enough for the day and cut out.  I am very happy I took part.  There are always things to learn, and I am certainly not above it.  I have taken and watched clinics and or been coached by many of the world’s top trainers.  I always find something to absorb.  Even if it’s a technique that does not work for me at this time, it is still valuable and something that might work at a different time and or situation. 


After the riding was complete I joined Matt, Leigh Anne, and Carol Ann for some board games before the whole crew headed out for tacos and margaritas.  We ended up with a much larger group than I originally envisioned and I really enjoyed the time sitting and chatting.  Eventually we headed back to the grounds and a few of us walked just a few yards to the back of the campground and spectated at the tractor pull taking place there.  It was loud and entertaining for a short stint before bed.  


Sunday dawned and we repeated the early rise and warm up before riding into the ring as the first heat.  Leigh Anne and I were in the B final against two other pairs; Alice and Lindsey and the pair of Carly and Tommy.  Possum was really good in this session as well and a complete joy to ride.  He was agile and listened to me, no bucking or slow-mo bolting.  The only race he was problematic in was Hula Hoop, in which he reared away from Leigh Anne while I was in the most compromised of mounting positions.  I did not give us and did manage to get on, while yelling “STAND”!  I believe he wanted to back up and when he hit Leigh Anne’s hand his reaction was to rear.  I have found him to do this multiple times when he wants to get away from being held, or wants to back up.  This is something I am going to have to work on in practice with some friends.  It is completely unacceptable and needs to stop.  Jon and Val both pointed out that, yes he was rearing, and I did good to stick with it.  I needed that bit of confirmation and reassurance as I have admittedly not being feeling super self-assured with my progress with Possum.  And both mounting and rearing are both fear points for me. 

We finished in a healthy second behind Carly and Tommy, which I was pleased with.  Both Leigh Anne and I were there for training and fun and we both felt we got that out of the weekend.  Leigh Anne was super fun to ride with and I am very much looking forward to doing it again.  We laughed a lot and I felt we were both super “whatever” and also extremely encouraging of each other. 

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