Guest Blogger – Mid-Atlantic Pairs #1, June 2019

June 19, 2019

Guest Blogger Val Hoke on her ride at Mid-Atlantic Pairs #1.

Groppits made a return at the Pairs I competition this past weekend, hosted by Stacey Angelo. Groppits was a name that Jon and I came up with years ago when we first transferred out of open into O25, a decision based on the retirement of Jon’s games pony (Pony) and our wanting to train his new pony Jeeter in a division well known for staying in their own lanes (rather than intermediate, which, at the time, was unreliable on lane management).

True to form this year, I managed to get a few hours of sleep before the competition, having overbooked myself with three am & pm petsitting gigs, pairs, and three pony ride parties.  Two of the parties I would have employees handle (yay) for me, but the third was on me (not yay) as well as the feedings for the animals under my care.  Added to the fun mix was the unexpected need for travel papers due to a livestock show at the same location.  Of course, they are always required, but usually I gamble.  Luckily, I had a heads up and a great relationship with my vet, so we arranged to meet the on call track emergency vet in Charlestown at 7am (an hour before we were scheduled to ride). 

Rocking on with a 4am alarm, I managed to get everywhere I needed to in the morning, and Jon wrangled sleepy children into clothes and we pulled out of our house at 6:15; shockingly on time since Jeeter was surprised by our early arrival at the barn and allowed a quick catch.

First session we were scheduled to ride against Carly & Thomas, our fellow Gone Roguies teammate and last years sub at Nationals and a few others and Hot Minute (Krista and Leigh Anne), also a fellow Roguie and sub.  

I had gone into this competition after a rough one at MA3, so was not especially looking forward to starting every race again with Babyface, who, at MA3, starting spinning as soon as the equipment touched my hand.  This, paired with 8 lanes of set up, got us both angry and twitchy (and dizzy) by the time the race started.  I had planned on trying to trot things, but with Babyface and my own love for running, Jon just advised me to not push Babyface.

Our first session breakdown (in quick recap mode):
Bending: 3rd, I totally got in a face fight with Babyface and we shouldered over a pole.  This is where Jon told me to stop holding him back so much.  I know this, its always a thing, but apparently I need a regular reminder.
Association: 1st, Jon started with a silly stop lazy set, but Jeeter worked that QH butt and pulled some lovely turns and got back with time for me to get Babyface sorted.  He doesn’t care which direction he runs, so turning back after completing an action is never a problem.  This definitely helped us pull forward, plus Babyface remembered his barrel turns (something he forgot at MA3)
Hug A Mug: 1st, easy, smooth race.  
Tool Box: 1st, My initial set down definitely bought me time to mess around at the other end.  Babyface did a great stand, wait! For me, and my dunk was smooth.  Jon did his crazy stirrup while moving thing, and had time to pause and pick the box.  
Carton: 1st, Jon pointed out my pole was leaning towards C line, so with that I gave a slight check and an exaggerated pull to keep the pole up, Babyface did perfect low turns, I placed rather than tossed both cartons.  Again, having a pony willing to gallop in any direction came in handy.  Jon was chased by Carly/Thomas, but Jeeter’s large stride got us across first.
Litter: 2nd, I turned too tight on my first and skimmed over it, then did a stand correction with an inside turn to dunk and head back.  I turned too tight again, but did get the litter, but was not straight and Babyface’s head bopped my stick and knocked it off again.  Poop.  Jon had smooth two picks, but my mistakes gave Carly and Thomas the chance to take the win.
Pony Pairs: 1st, I started and picked up Jon.  Babyface had a good butt swing turn into Jeeter, who is a great wall to bounce off.  It was smooth from there since the ponies are such buddies.  Jon lets me ride two handed and neck reins through.  We discuss room throughout and the communication is very helpful.
Sock: 2nd, Jon started and missed his initial dunk.  Quick correction, and he was back fast. I was chasing LA, but unlikely to catch her, especially after I missed my initial dunk too (completely wiffed it!)  Babyface did stand for my mount, and I remembered to lean to dunk on the way home.
2 Flag: 1st: I don’t remember much from this one, but I probably started. Babyface must have gone straight for me! Jon must have gotten low for his put and pull.
We ended the first session with 25 points (which was the same as Full Tilt & Flying Rogues from the other session)  

After that session, I jumped on Angelina, the Peruvian Paso, and rode with Greg Honeycutt.  Angelina needs miles in games, and needs to remember that she doesn’t actually know everything and doesn’t control the rider.   We worked with all that, and I think by the end she had consigned herself to listening and maintaining her gait rather than trying to canter around everywhere.

Second Session was shuffled and we rode against Full Tilt and Hot Minute. We had a pretty clean sweep of the board, only getting second in Agility Aces, due to my slow  mount.  Other notable moments for us were Quiots, where Babyface gave me a perfect turn so I grabbed from the bucket, Sword where Jon took my terrible handoff and raced home, Hi Lo, where we both got our picks and mine I remembered to let Babyface go so he would straighten, and Canadian, where Jon’s polo past really comes in handy. We ended the session with 29 points, and the day with 54, in first by 2 points over Flying Rogues.

A Finals would be Groppits, Flying Rogues, and Full Tilt.

Finals was interesting.  Nobody really was “in comfortable charge” of the session, we were all pretty even throughout.  Quick recap of races:

Bending: 2nd, Jon had a weird squabble after his end turn with Jeeter and Carol Ann beat him home.
Bottle: 1st, Solid set by me, solid pick by Jon
Association: 3rd, This one was comically bad for Jon.  If it could go wrong, it did.  He got on and off at least 3 times.
Quoits: 3rd, Babyface turned too tight at the bucket so I couldn’t lean, I reset him for another turn and it was too wide. Had to dismount and grab the ring, so was dead last back, which was way too much time to make up.
Sword: 1st, great hand off, Jeeter stretched for the finish
Joust: 1st, our big, leggy ponies are no match for the 13 hand ponies
Ball and Cone: 2nd, I started, which isn’t something I usually do.  I tried to do an end turn style put down, but I pushed it a bit too hard trying to take the speed of Babyface’s turn out of it and knocked it off.  Quickish fix, and was back second.  Too much time for Jon to make up, so he played it smart.
Hula Hoop: 2nd, Jon held Babyface like a champ.  I forgot myself and held Jeeter when I should have let go and almost cost us 2nd.  Luckily Jon somehow did a running stirrup up (still not sure how that’s a thing)
3 Mug: 1st, Babyface had some really nice turns and some really odd butt swinging skitter turns. We worked it out and got back first but barely.  Jon was chased the whole time, but he went for the set and the others paused so he got the win.
3 Pot: 1st, We had to restart this one since my flags were clumped together.  After reset, it was a clean race. Leggy ponies for the win.
Sock: 1st, Both Jon and I concentrated on our dunks.  Jon had a great mount and was back first. I raced Full Tilt for the double dunk, but put some extra effort into my lean and really got down.
5 Flag: 2nd, I missed my end put, and even leggy ponies cant make that up in pairs! Jon had a great end pick.

We ended up in first with 28 points, followed by Flying Rogues with 23, and Full Tilt with 21.  I want to point out that Flying Rogues and Full Tilt were tied at the last game, so second and third was decided by 5 flag.  

All in all, I’m super proud of Babyface.  He was standing for the equipment set up, with me holding the equipment.  He was not relaxed, and I could feel  his heartbeat, but he was standing!  I think at Nationals I will have my team hold the equipment until it is time, or dismount and hold him.  Anything to get him to relax and not worry about when it is time to be running.  Jeeter was a champ, he gives Jon 100% and really tries hard for him, no matter the situation.  Love these ponies, and super proud of the Gone Rogue team, which was in attendance in full!

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