Lost Bags

July 16, 2018

I checked my duffel bag at the gate in France for the trip home. This was a special duffel I always tuck into my suitcase incase I am overweight on a trip, then I can just toss some my stuff into the bag and carry it on. Easy.

I planned to be over weight this time because I was purchasing a four flag holder, my “big trip purchase”. I put the four flag holder, my empty little backpack (purse), my Dublin river boots, my MGAA jacket and rain coat, my IMGA rulebook, a few clothing items and my very important “brain book” in the duffel with the holder.

My brain book is this small note book I keep in my daily bag and have running lists in, random notes, important information, odd passwords or user info (nothing anyone could decipher or “hack”), etc. It’s what I run my day to day life from and what I use to keep my brain straight.

It’s been a bit of a struggle since this bag has been lost to keep my life smooth and everything in order. Ah, no brain book! And of course I have wanted to play with my four flag holder!

My bag was lost on June 28th. It did not make the transfer in Ireland with the rest of the bags. It was found later that same night, the 28th sitting in Dublin. It sat there for over two weeks. I called the airline many times and was told it was still sitting in Dublin. I did some googling and it appears the baggage belts were broken in Dublin the day we went through and were down for quite some time. I was instructed to file a claim, which I did. It does take 60 days to hear back about that so we shall see what happens with that come September.

I called this morning and was told my bag was on its way to me and I was given a tracking number.

Oh yeah.

And I got home to find it sitting and waiting for me, not much worse for wear.

The bag itself was a prize I won at MGAA Nationals 2011 and a pretty significant piece of memorabilia in itself. It’s a decent little bag too and has held up well with lots of world and local travel. It now as a small rip in the stitching along the top but nothing a little sewing won’t fix good as new.

Hopefully I’ll be able to assemble my four flag holder later this week and put it into action!

UK Trip 2018 – Day 14

June 27, 2018

The last full day of our trip. We admittedly slept a little late, only because last night’s bike ride ran so late. But before too late we were on the metro and headed for brunch before the catacombs.

Might as well share some food photos. This was goat cheese, peppers and bread.


waiting and waiting and waiting for our check so we can leave. And waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

The line for the Catacombs was really long.

Like 3 hours long. Emma and I ended up waiting in line. The girls took turns going for fruit and ice cream and sitting in the shade. These two photos were taken before they went off in search of food and shade.

But we did finally make it inside.

It started off with some information.

and then you entered the real part where all the bones are.

No flash photography.

I got two shots of the team with the bones.

The photos did not come out great. But I think you get the idea.

They are organized with markers of when and where they are from.

And it just goes on and on and on.

I kept wondering what it was like to be the guy who’s job it was to stack them.

Catacombs video

In the end the team decided it wasn’t that great and they wouldn’t recommend it to others. We asked if it was just because of the wait to get in and they still said “nah, it just wasn’t that cool”. Emma and I both thought it was really neat. But Emma and I both read some of the information (which was in both English and French) and enjoyed the history around it. The kids informed us on multiple occasions they do not like or care much for history. So I can see why this was just not their thing.

Because of their lack of excitement of the Catacombs and everyone’s exhaustion we decided to ask if they wanted to go to the Louvre instead of just taking them there. They all told us flat out “NO” they did not want to go. When asked individually if any of them did want to go, because Emma or I would still be happy to take one, or a few of them every single one of them assured us that NO they did not want to go and to please not make them.

So we agreed to go have dinner on the lawn near the Eiffel Tower and then go home to shower and pack and get a decent. nights sleep for our early departure tomorrow.

I am currently typing this while watching our bags, laying on the lawn, under the tower, while they pick out dinner.

I think we are all exhausted and just plum worn out. It has been two weeks of go go go. And this sudden warm French weather has shocked us after the wet cold Welsh days and nights. I am also currently struggling not to nod off while I type this.


A little fun on the lawn.

And a little fun in a fountain

I realize there are multiple very similar photos of these two but I could not decide which one I liked best.

They are all three memorable photos.

All of us were laughing it up watching them.

And entertained us all.

For the record we were told that playing in the fountains was ok and acceptable. And we witnessed plenty of other people doing the same.

It was a warm day.

We tried for a few typical photos and were not very successful.

Then we did a little last minute souvenir shopping.

And sorbet.

This one is black current and mango with a raspberry macaroon.

Caroline got the traditional flower looking cone.

Exhausted we made our way back to our apartment on the metro, which is dog friendly.

Now we are showering and Netflixing and preparing to pack for our return trip tomorrow.

And this is what our packing explosion looks like in the living room.

So much for an early night to sleep. It’s nearing 1am and we need to be out the door before 8am. So signing off.

Hope this one is better typed than the last few. I write these as I go about the day. So they may go out in segmented thoughts – since that’s how they are written. Yesterday’s I was falling asleep trying to capture their bike ride and had to go back and edit some bad typos this afternoon. I have not had a chance to do that for many of the other posts yet.

I’ll try to find time to reread them soon. For now I am literally typing out thoughts on my phone so that you can have an as updated experience of the trip as possible. I am literally putting in hours of screen time to make this possible.

And now I am rambling. 😊

Good night from France 🇫🇷

UK Trip 2018 – Day 12

June 25, 2018

Time to say good bye to our camper and to the UK 🇬🇧 and head to France 🇫🇷 for a few days.

We left the show grounds bright and early at 430am. There were deer and fox playing as we drove away. We hopped on some major roads and dropped our camper off near London. Then caught a ride to the train station for a few hours of travel on trains to Paris.

At our first train station waiting – Leighton Buzzard.

As promised yesterday, video of the Open A final, two parts.

Southerns Open A final part 1 of 2 video:

Southerns Open A final part 2 of 2 video:

We are currently waiting to board our Eurostar train to Paris.

It’s crowded but customs was easy. We could even keep our drinks in our bags and our shoes on. We did have to check our passports with the UK and then the French/EU customs.

While we wait I want to take some time to express our gratitude to the pony owners that made our competition possible this past weekend.

Tanya Upshall lent us the lovely little firecracker Max that Steph rode. She answered our post on Facebook looking for ponies for loan without knowing us. When she told me about Max I immediately had Steph in mind. He is exactly as she described. We got to meet Tanya the weekend before at Future Stars and she is a lovely women which made meeting Max even more exciting Friday night of the competition. He was an absolute asset to the team and I hope we were able to ride and care for him to her satisfaction. He is everything we hoped he would be. Thank you Tanya.

Sian lent us her furry child Wispa that she has had for just a year. Still a novice, this was Wispa’s first team competition and Sian fully disclosed her concerns about Wispa’s lack of hand off experience, her over all minimal experience, and her slight weight issue. But having known Sian for quiet a few years now, and being a bit of a Facebook stalker, I have followed Sian’s adventures with Wispa and I felt she was not giving herself or her pony enough credit and I also felt Eliza would be an excellent fit. This turned out to be the case. The pony was amazing. I cannot thank Sian and Juliet enough for bringing her over, perfectly packed in all matching blue gear, and cheering us on.

Finally, Mel. What can I say? Mel and Andrew do so much for us. They lent us three amazing ponies. So let’s start there. Gem, Smokey Joe, and Jazmina are all three very different but outstanding ponies. They each ride completely different and each fit a different rider, and really only fit that one rider. I was excepting Jaz to fit Caroline best, and I had a feeling Gem and Fenya and Sadie and Smokey would click but I was not as sure about these three matches as I was about Steph and Eliza. I also didn’t say anything to the riders before they all got a chance to get on the first three so I wouldn’t lead anyone.

Jazmina is fast. That little mare can cover some ground. And she has amazing breaks. Oh if Caroline just had another session on her, I feel like she had just got her really figured out on Sunday.

Sadie rode Smokey like a sports car. He was strong, more so than last year. Gem was sensitive, and again, I think more sensitive than last year. All three of Mel’s ponies, and like all her other ponies, are amazing. Still novice to a degree, they do require the rider to actually ride, but they are just amazing. The last race of the weekend was Windsor and Sadie on Smokey, rode up at a canter to the bucket in fourth position, swooped down, grabbed the ball from the bucket, still cantering on, did a minor S turn and placed the orb on the top of the turret and pushed over the line for home. That pony rode on like he had riders doing that from his back on daily basis. Champ.

Mel and Andrew had us to their house and let us come and go and made us part of their home. We played with their dogs and their kids and their other ponies too. We ate with them and laughed with them. And we already miss them. This trip would not have been possible without them. They let the team see what it’s like to live in Wales and what a real Welsh family is like. They got to step out of just being tourists and really experience the real Wales that’s to this amazing family. This is an invaluable experience that they will always remember and will take with them through life. I hope our presence can give some of this to their family in return and I also hope when their girls are ready they will come over and let us return the same favor.

Same to all of our pony lender friends. And really all the friends we make over here. We realize the schedule over here is packed full, but we would absolutely love to host more riders at our competitions. So hit us up and come have fun on our side of the world!

We finally made it to Paris, got the subway from our train and then walked to our Air B&B. That’s one of the paintings on the wall. It’s not in the nicest looking neighborhood but it is so nice inside. And let me just say – the shower – amazing. We all got cleaned up, and then ran out and grabbed some pizza and some pastries. Now we are eating and watching some Netflix before calling it a night. It’s nearly 1130 already and it’s been a very long day and we are hoping to pack in plenty of adventures tomorrow. So I am closing this blog out. Good night from Paris!

This is the Pastry I picked out. And here is a quick view of the selection. I am sure there will be more over the next few days.



2018 UK Trip – Day 11

June 24, 2018

last night (Saturday) was the party at the competition and the team was awesome. They checked in every hour as asked, and every check in they were bubbling with excitement and rambling incoherently about some exciting detail of the festivities. I gather that the silent disco was a huge hit with them. From my point of view it was genius. Yes people were singing loudly but it was still so much quieter than it probably would have been. Having an activity helps keep the party going in s fun and positive direction too. I really liked this idea. I wish we had enough people to putt it off too.

We were woken up at 730 this morning by a call from Amy that the ponies were not secure in their corrals. I said “ponies are loose” and all five of the team were out of bed and out the camper door in under 30 seconds like true equestrians. Apparently it was a chain reaction of one pony getting shocked and spooking another who then got shocked and it rolled into ponies running through fencing.

Musketeers Session 3 video clips

Grace only had one session today but her team finished strong in third. She looked great on Tilly and rode strong off lead. Way to go Grace!

Our Session 3 was also strong. We have improved with each session as we get to know our ponies better.

Video of our session 3.

I also ran into this wonderful old friend, Marilyn Hackman. I met Marilyn way back in the early 90s when I first started traveling with USMGA. She has been forever supportive and friendly and a welcome sight since then. I was so happy to see her and get a hug. We got in a nice chat and catch up too. I truly enjoyed this part of my day.

Krista and Emma were able to watch the Open Premier A final while the team tacked up. See tomorrow’s blog post for video. No time to compile it for today’s blog post.

Nikki also reminded Krista to get some photos of the joust board for Carl and had a quick mini equipment chat. Carl will be proud.

Then it was time for our session 4, which was ten races long. This was by far our best session. We actually finished third in it! If it had not been cumulative points we would have done pretty darn well! But we are still happy with our 5th over all. Woo!

Session 4 video – Emma thinks they might have missed s race or two.

I am so proud of the team. They rode really well. Each pony fit one rider rather well and only one rider. And each rider seemed to really enjoy their pony. If we had a few more sessions I think they would really be rocking and rolling. One comment I got a couple times was “they can really vault!” Which is so true. This is a vaulting team.

Each one of them brought some awesome skills to the team and surprised me more than a few times.

Fenya really stepped up as the youngest rider. She listened really well, always looked for instruction, and followed suit. She learned how to ride Gem, that did not mesh well with any of the other riders, and really used her legs, seat and VOICE well. Gem is a pony you have to ride through every aspect of the race and Fenya did. She had excellent vaults and I knew I could count on her in those races. Easy going, and laid back, Fenya stepped up. I am excited to watch this kid take her experience home and apply it to her regular games play. She is young and still has so much room to grow and improve but has such a strong foundation already to build off of. She really impressed me.

Steph was mostly consistent and dependable. She rode well and had excellent vaults. I liked her on Max, who matched her riding style very well. I was happy to see she did look and respond to my hand signals during the last session when she rode in the fourth position a few times. When I gave her the “you have time” signal she took it slow and didn’t rush back in. Which was noticed and relayed over the PA system along the lines of “New Forest sees that they have time and they are playing smart” or something to that effect.

Eliza was easy to work with, receptive and appropriately confident. She rode Wispa beautifully. Another excellent pony rider match that I couldn’t be happier with. Always polite she really has matured and learned to take coaching well. She hit the field like a professional and it showed. She is not just a games rider and has a lot of solid riding foundation which came through in her riding on Wispa. She made the ride look easy. I feel like I could put her on anyone’s pony and feel confident they would be happy with her ability.

Caroline had a tough pony in Jazmina, that also didn’t suit any other rider and Caroline did a great job with her. Very different from her usual ride at home it took her a bit to get the hang of her but once she got the pony figured out it really came together. She is the one I would most like to have seen have a few more sessions. I think her next session would have been killer. She is a very coachable rider and works hard. I think she got a lot out of her rides and I am interested to see how she transcribes it when she gets home. This kid is about to take off. Look out MGAA Open teams.

Sadie was what I consider my clinch rider. Dependable and adaptable. I could put her in pretty much any position and she would do it. She was on the amazing Smoky Joe and she rode him like a sports car. Sadie was a little feisty to start with but was also coachable. And her worst was to be threatened to be pulled out of a vaulting race. She still has some growing (physically – I think she added a foot of leg over the past year, and mentally, she is only 15yo!) but she has some incredible potential coming on. She rides a lot like a boy, thinking of guts and gusto, but with more finesse. The one thing I think she is missing that I think will serve her well to develop is perspective.

All of these kids are really good and they still have so much potential ready to come out. They are really good and just waiting to be even better. BOOM!

I am so proud of this team. So so proud. They did such a fantastic job. Not just in their riding but in their socializing. They were an amazing team on and off the field. I really enjoyed this time with them and getting to know them better. The three I have traveled with before have grown and gotten more mature and really grown into more amazing people. And the two I have not traveled before wowed me even more then I expected. I could not be happier with this team.

It was another uncharacteristically warm and sunny day here in England 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿. I think Krista and Emma even got some color.

2018 UK Trip – Day 10

June 23, 2018

We started out our competition this morning with session one. We started off pretty well. Not wonderful but not bad. The first few races were a good test of the ponies and we got a feel for what we were going to be working with.

Now – let me just say before you click on any video link – if you do want to watch any video and you don’t plan to watch much, skip to session 2.

Your worst options are session 1 parts two and three. Really, just skip those. I am not sure I should even include them. But for the sake of full disclosure, record keeping, and I am not sure why, I did include them. But yeah, maybe skip over those.

Session 1 video part 1/3

Now let’s talk about session one in a bit more detail. We started out ok. Our speed weavers was not too bad. Sock wasn’t too bad and out hug a mug was passable. But our litter was a mess. We know that. But I am really happy with association. This race had a lot of disaster potential and it went pretty well.

Unfortunately it went down hill some from there.

session 1 video part 2/3

You might not want to watch the last two races. Our founders is not very pretty. Sadie had some navigating issues and Caroline took a tumble. She’s ok though.

I seriously suggest not watching the third part of session one. It’s only bank race and it’s just all bad. Us and another team got the whistle blown on us. Yeah, bad.

session 1 video part 3/3

recap – Session one started out ok but got bumpy, and then bumpier and then melted down. But we went into the ring not really knowing what to expect and we came out with a much better understanding and a game plan for session 2.

It is gorgeous out here today.

And we are parked right next to the ring!

And there are dogs to play with ring side while we watched Olivia play.

And now it’s time to tack back up for session 2. Grace is in for her session 2.

She is riding off lead this weekend! Go Grace!

Scores after session 1

video of session 2 – except for the first race / high low.

Session two was so much better. There were still some issues but all in all it was much better. The team was more relaxed and receptive. Their skills were cleaner and smoother.

I love this. Spectators view. Wine, dogs, sitting in the pony corral watching the games.

This pony looks a lot like DJ too.

And interestingly – this is our view from the camper slightly to the right. Slightly to the left is the ring! The gate to the ring is smack in front of us.

We swung by Gemma’s lorry to pick up a few goodies to take home for some friends. Very exciting.

Sian took this photo of Eliza on Wispa.

There was a little confusion when it came to picking out Chinese food. The menu is different from what they are used to.

Amy and I went to pick up the food, and we saw these trash cans. It reminded me of the bear proof trash cans near home. But in New Forest they have wild ponies instead of bears.

We picked up food for quite a few people.

It is now time for the (not so) silent disco. The team went and checked out head phones which seem to have a good range. They just checked back in at the camper (which is right by the ring, food stand, bathrooms and entertainment center) to show them to Emma and I. They have different stations and a light on the side changes color to show which station you are listening to. Really neat.

When I say not-so-silent I specifically mean that we are parked in the center of a very loud area with lots of singing and enthusiastic games people.

Of course I had to slip over and take a peek at the festivities and check out the fun for myself. I found the team with Amy, dancing and singing on the edge of the crowd, having a great time.

Now that I am looking at the photo I snapped of them I wonder if Eliza realizes that the backwards peace sign has an actual meaning over here? Something tells me she really did mean peace ✌️, she just had her hand backwards.

I have walked back to the camper to finish typing this and Cotton Eyed Joe must be playing on one of the stations at the moment. There must be 100 or more people singing it together. With a slew of heavy accents and headphones on everyone, let me just say, it sounds lovely. 😆

I think there are now 200 people singing along to the music with headphones on. That must mean it’s time to sign this blog off for day 10 and put my own headphones on.

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