Trail Report: Vepco, 240A Straight Hollow Exploring

April 28, 2019

I have dabbled with Vepco including plenty of rides on 240E Kritchie Mountain. This is where I have always parked, including on this ride. But one of my goals was to scout out a place to park farther in.

Vepco can be reached by driving down Little Dry River, keep going after it turns to gravel and it’s maybe a mile on the left. It’s marked with street signs and a 240 sign. It has a good road going in and shortly there is a concert creek ford that’s never been too high to easily cross.

Just past the ford is the Vepco marker.

After several twists in the road there is an open fire gate. And after some more twists there is a right hand turn which ends quickly at a circle (not suitable for trailers) and a closed fire gate. This is where I park. I pull past and back in and park on the side. It’s easy and smooth.

Usually I ride back 240E. But today I wanted to find a good parking spot further in. I looked a week or two ago but wasn’t solid on the spot I found and I had more time today so let’s explore. I rode off, continuing along 240 Vepco.

It’s level briefly then mostly grades down and up weaving back and forth under the power lines.

After a while there was another concert creek ford. Just after this, on the left, is a nice horse trailer sized back in parking spot. This is where I am going to park next time.

Shortly after the ford is 240A on the right hand side. There is another branch across from it and Vepco continues ahead as well. I began doing video clips from this point which are compiled at the end of this post. Here you can see terrain and footing.

We headed right onto 240A, Straight Hollow. It has a few creek crossing and some rocky areas but nothing poor or difficult.

This will be a nice place to ride in the hot summer. It was shaded and as mentioned, there was a lot of creek crossings. Although I suspect some will be dry come summer. Today was extremely windy but down in the hollow it was nice and calm.

After a short bit there is a branch off to the right with a camp area and the trail continues out the back.

I followed it for a while and it eventually came to some larger downed trees at a creek crossing. It was easy to work around it.

Here the trail continued ahead and to the left. We went straight until there was quite a bit of downed trees and then turned around. This is documented more clearly on the video.

Next we tried the left branch which counties on for a ways with some more downed trees at a creek crossing. I opted to turn around. Again, see the video.

Back to 240A we continued on.

It crosses some more creeks.

It is a lovely piece of trail.

Shortly there was a branch to the left, not as obvious as the others. I continued ahead and did not take the turn. Yet.

Just another bend and the road ended at private property and a closed gate so turning around I headed back to that left (now right) hand split I had just passed up.

This continued for a surprisingly long way.

It was very pleasant, a few creek crossings, not much down at all.

It was also pretty clearly marked by orange tags. Although the path was easy to follow.

It eventually came to a clustered creek crossing and some larger downed trees. The trail ahead, bending left, appeared clear beyond the downed trees but the ride was getting to the point of needing to turn around so I did.

The above photo is on the return from this side trail going back to 240A. So pretty.

Once back to Vepco I also hacked down the the trail opposite 240A. It was rather short and also ended at a closed gate to private property. Through the woods I could see an open fire gate along Vepco. This section is also documented on the video.

We hacked back up Vepco to the trailer and into the wind.

It was a nice ride. I’m looking forward to the new parking location and exploring further up Vepco. It eventually pops out at Gauley Ridge which can be easiest reached from the Turner Run entrance and which also connects up to Slate Lick and some other fire road networks. I have ridden from Turner Run to where Vepco connects so I am excited to reach this point from Vepco as well.

It was a good ride on a great pony with an amazing dog.

until the next adventure.

The video of this ride:

Lunging the Possum: Balance Work

April 27, 2019

Possum has crap balance, particularly to the right. And successful games ponies need to have outstanding balance.

I have been working on some light hill work and getting him to better carry himself. He has learned quickly and he has progressed considerably. He is learning to use his neck, back, and butt better and his top line is developing from it.

Friday I decided to step up the lunging. I put on a surcingle, bridle, and relaxed side reins. I could not find my regular length lunge line so I was working with a ground driving line I picked up at auction for tying Daisy in camp at competitions. Not the longest but long enough.

I have lunged Possum a few times, so we have the logistics worked out between us and he went right to work.

I started off to the right, on the flat. Well, relatively flat. I have what I call “the riding field” which is just a field with a semi level section. So slightly angled with some rolls in it which is where I started. I switched direction after a while and eventually walked the circle over to the side of the hill in the other section of the riding field. This part of the hill has a mild grade, and also a minor dip coming into and out of the hill portion of the circle.

Adding in the hill on a lunge line was a suggestion of Jenny’s. She initially mentioned the technique when I was telling her how Possum was throwing his head into a mini leap to go up hills. I did utilize it at the start of his hill work. Unfortunately the footing was so terrible at the time that lunging with even some speed on a hill was a bit too slidie. Now is a good time to add this back in since there is better footing and with Possum having developed somewhat improved balance.

We eased into the hill, adding a bit more with each circle. Possum did a great job and moved decently. Eventually we eased back off the hill and then reversed direction.

Possum is particularly stiff and unbalanced to the right so I wanted to give that side a bit of extra focus. After a few nice circles to the right we worked back onto the hill for a while before coming back to the flat and calling it a good session.

I’ll continue throwing some lunge session into Possum’s training and will shorten the side reins a little. I may also move over to the steeper part of the hill too.

Brief video:

The above was on Friday. Today (Saturday) I linger again. This time I did bring in the side reins one loop and moved to the steeper part of the hill.

Again he did excellent.

He listened better to my cues and worked even harder.

*it is extremely hard to lunge and take a photo and or video.

a clip of today’s work.

Trail Report: Tom’s Park, Old Man Run 1117

April 26, 2019

After work on Thursday I rushed out to get some mountain riding in. Daisy and I Loaded up Possum and zipped out to Little Dry River Rd in Fulks Run to Tom’s Park. It started to drizzle right as I pulled over to park. But it was warm enough to handle a little drizzle.

I hopped on Possum and off we went. It appears they have been working on the first section of this fire road and it was quite a bit smoother and certainly an improvement.

At the split there was a very large culvert that appears to have been freshly replaced, with the old bent up one sitting on the side of the fire road, presumably for future removal. It was shaped like a pony eating monster, and was quite a bit taller, wider, and longer than Possum. He was weary of it but he did push on past and we took the right hand branch of the fire road. The road improvements appear to have ended at the culvert replacement.

We rode on a bit longer before turning around and starting back. The ride out was primarily on an incline and therefore the return ride was mostly down hill. I rode for about two hours. It drizzled until the last thirty minutes or so, which is when it started to down pour. By the time we got back to the trailer all three of us were soaked.

Notable, this was Possum’s first solo trail ride and I was very happy with him. He marched along confidently and he happily splashed through water. He did look at oddly placed rocks with a weary eye but he didn’t spook or bulk at anything.

We did a lot of walking and some cardio trotting. Possum was a bit concerned about trotting. It didn’t feel like laziness, more like he has always walked on trail and was unsure why we would break the usual protocol. After a little encouragement he agreed trotting was acceptable. Cantering on the other hand was a different story. I felt like he was sure only bad ponies canter on trails and he was not going to be a bad pony. Unfortunately I didn’t have on spurs or a crop with me. I kicked quite a bit to get him into a canter which he kept breaking. I did manage a short but nice canter with me asking him to slow back down rather than him choosing to. After that I decided to stick with just walking and trotting for this ride and work on the canter when I have spurs on. You know, pick your battles.

It was a really nice ride and I plan to keep trying to get him out about once a week if possible. I feel the diversity is good for him (and all horses) and he really seems to enjoy and to be extremely comfortable on trails. Plus the mountains can kick a pony into shape mighty quick.

I just wish my trail saddle fit him. It is quite a bit more comfortable than my English saddle.

* I have not been using my Trail app to track my rides because it doesn’t work while I listen to podcasts. And recently listening to podcasts has been winning over mapping my tracks.

Litter Scoop Work

April 24, 2019

Litter Scoop is a new race this year. It’s a pretty good race and once everyone gets it down it’s going to be sweet. I really like it although I am not exactly sweet at it (yet). I did a little practice on Sunday at it. Canter up, whoa, scoop, go. Possum was a little “WTF, go stop, go?” Being new to games still he is still working it out. And he still needs much steering which is still direct rein vs neck rein. Working on it.

I found I was best when completely stopped, scooped, went.

I also didn’t realize until watching the video, how little I was leaning. Glad I did a little video!

Mid-Atlantic #1 – April 13/14, 2019

April 22, 2019

Two weeks ago we kicked off to the 2019 MGAA season with the first installment of the Mid-Atlantic Series in Doswell, VA at the Meadow Event Park. We love this facility and it’s people. It is further south than the other venues we use so it makes a nice venue for the early and late ends of the season. We also have a massive field to ride in with near endless run off. Years past this field has drained really well and maintained excellent footing even with some wicked weather but this weekend that was not the case.

Reminiscent of last year, the rain started up about 15 minutes before I got home from work to hook up, load up, and leave on Friday morning. But I jumped to it and ran back in the house right before I pulled out for some additional dry clothes.

I arrived, had the ponies set up, met up and helped some friends, and moved into camp well before dark. The rain lulled for a while and gave everyone a little time to hang out and chat before it picked back up and then started back up making sure we were all in bed at a reasonable 9pm adult bedtime.

Saturday morning we were the last to ride so I started the day off coaching intermediate, then working Open, then helping in Leadline where Possum got his warm up. Then it was our turn for session 1.

Unfortunately I set Possum up for a very rough start by keeping him in the ring to adjust his tack while all the other ponies left, including Simon. I managed to get his bridle back on by the time my division rode in but by then he was rearing up and just acting like a fool. Val came over with Babyface and a few other lovely by-standards stepped up and I managed to get on, and just kept him moving. He was so tense and very worried.

(Photo: M Johnson)

We went over to the the last lane, number 8, and after a bumpy warm up bending he settled enough for me to take part in the first race of the season, speed weavers (bending). It went ok, clean but not spectacular. We did finish second through so clearly my team carried me.

We rotated to lane 1, next to the speakers, for race 2, Bank. He was scooting around and would not stand still so I opted to sit that race and Jon jumped in. Unfortunately since I was then out 5th I had to get off and go hold the bank board. Getting off was not ideal but it had to be done. My team won the race in clean style and when I got back Possum was rearing up and dancing around in Brea’s hands like the foolish pony he was pretending to be. It took a moment to get back on and Brea questioned him being afraid of the speakers. Which I flipped my hand at, just thinking he was still worked up from earlier.

Next up was Litter Scoop, which is a race I’ve been feeling strong at in practice. But in Session 1, I was tense and so was Possum. He was being very light on his front end and I was apprehensive to get a good lean. So I flicked the litter around a bit before carrying on which cost my team. It certainly could have been worse, and honestly I did not see how the rest of my team did since I was very focused on Mr P.

Four flag went surprisingly well. I opted for an outside turn vs my usual inside since Possum’s navigation and my leaning were both not up to their usual standards. He hopped a little but I don’t remember it being bad. We finished third so I suppose it was not horrible. This is a race that generally runs amazingly efficiently across the whole division with little to no pausing for the put in.

The next race I was in was Ring Race and Possum felt like he was going to duck out on taking a hand off so I over corrected and yelled for Jon to “ride into me”. But Possum did not duck out and there for I set us up for a collision. Possum did a little rear-turn to avoid the collision and Jon significantly slowed down so the actual collision was mostly avoided and was more of a friendly bump. I held on with all I had but I ended up on my backside in the mud. Jon was right there though and I was back in the saddle and onto the field in no time to finish up my portion of the race cleanly, although slow. We pulled a third here too so I suppose it wasn’t as awful as it felt.

Jon’s years of games really shows in these types of situations. He moves confidently and quickly with smooth precision and everything is perfectly thought out. It’s one of those – time stops – types of situations. And everything is fixed and moving on again in the most effective and efficient manner and nothing truly feels rushed.

Luckily I still had Two Flag to play in, which went fine and we took the win. It was a good note to finish the session on.

Focusing on just me and Possum right now, and diving into Session 2, the divisions were rearranged and we had 30 minutes to untack, grab food, and get back to the ring to work Open. Then I coached intermediate, mean while (the lovely) Jeri tacked up Possum and (the awesome) Caroline warmed him and Hero up. Caroline said Possum was going well and warmed up nicely and no sooner did those words leave her mouth then he reared up at her as I was about to mount up.

(Photo: M Johnson)

I admit this rearing thing was starting to get to me, particularly as I was mounting up, but I did manage to get on without any further incident and into the ring we went.

This session went much better for me and Possum. The real warm up certainly helped and although he was still tense and I had to keep him walking, I was more aware of what I was riding.

We finished the day and were back to camp at close to 8pm and I believe we were all whipped. We ate, Val set us up a nice little fire, and we managed some social time before we all crashed out around 11.

Sunday the divisions were shifted again, this time having us riding first which is my personal preferred time slot. It also meant I got to tack up and warm up my own pony! I do believe this helped immensely. We went into the ring feeling much more collected and prepared.

My team grabbed the first lane and this is when we learned that Brea was correct and Possum was not having the speakers. He was nice and calm until Anita started to talk over the PA and then he tensed up and started to shake and scoot around. In warm up bending I could hardly keep him lined up as he shied from the side lines where the sound was booming from, so I sat out and Carly jumped in. It took a while to get him to relax but he did keep all four on the ground for the entire day.

I jumped in on Twitter, Windsor, pony express, and so on. The only real issue was in two flag. I was over checking and he didn’t seem to get it and leaped when I went to place my flag. Nothing drastic.

I was happy with my four flag place which was done rather smoothly, and before we knew it the session was over.

I would say the third session was Possum’s best. I think partly because I was able to warm him up, partly because I knew what to expect from him, and also because it was his third time on that field.

I am going to try some ear plugs at home and then at the one day pairs coming up. I did not want to shove them in his ears mid session and risk worse behavior. I also need to relax and ride and have more confidence in myself. He really was not that rough, and being able to recognize the things setting him off is helpful.

I suspect his rearing is a tactic he is trying to get out of work. It did not work and hopefully we are past that soon. Rearing is not something I am comfortable with or think makes a nice photo or anything crazy like that. It needs to stop.

So we have some work to do. And I also want to give him some time doing some other things like trails and other non games stuff. Let him clear his head. He has been in hard games training since mid December when I got him and a little more variety would be good.

My team was amazing. I am always proud of them.

Jon is such a solid rock. His experience and logical thinking come in handy and his calm presence is an asset. He is also crazy insightful which is always appreciated. He pulled off some of his crazy moving stirrup mounts and picked up a lot of my slack filling in on the low leaning races. I am both sad I was uncomfortable doing those since the I have been feeling strong at the leans, but also really comforted that he was able to jump in and complete them. The last thing I needed was to go out and totally bomb some races and get more discouraged.

Matt is so good to have back. Another rock. He’s always good to go and willing to do whatever. I think he was let down he was not cleared (by us) to be vaulting yet (after all his surgeries we just wanted to be sure he was clear to vault) but will be back to springing on by MA2.

Val and Babyface have really come into their own. They looked awesome last year but this year BF has his job down. His speed is just killer and he was making it to the C line ahead of everyone just about every time. Now that he has added in the part of – what to do next – he is going to be unstoppable. I think he has already earned Most Improved Pony for 2019.

(Possum was a pig in his stall)

Carly really stepped up. She made one small mistake all weekend and just cruised along like a professional. This was her and Remy’s first real competition on a more serious team and they were completely in the game. I was so proud of her. She pulled her weight and some of mine, stepping in when Possum needed to sit and not only getting the job done but getting it done smoothly.

So the season only has to go up from here. Here’s to preparing for MA2!

Thanks Kim T for the video.

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