Mid-Atlantic #4 – August 2019

August 6, 2019

MA4 was at a new location, the Horse Park of New Jersey in Allentown, NJ. It was a long and slightly frustrating drive for me, and tolls tolls tolls. But the grounds are very nice and I like the stall and barn design.

Since none of the arenas were big enough to run more than 5 lanes we were set up in a field on the cross country course. We couldn’t drive there so it was a time consuming walk, and since the PA was not able to work with the facility PA there was a gap in broadcast communications but it all worked out just fine and the grounds was super nice. Plus I love riding on grass.

The camping was very compact but this made it possible to visit with a lot of people and get to socialize with friends we don’t always get to socialize with.

This is the first competition in years that I have not been bustingly excited about. I think part of it was that new venues always make me apprehensive. But I have also been lacking confidence riding Possum and having some mild frustration about his slow progress. I have also been super busy wrapping up nationals and preparing for internationals and not able to really ride as much as I like so I felt out of sorts. Stupidly I have been letting myself stew in this lack of confidence. Lame I know.

Carly’s usual pony, Remy was at home with a brewing abscess so she was on Tommy’s pony Charlie. She rides Charlie but he is bigger than her usual Remy, and just not her normal ride. She rode him beautifully though and even hopped on Possum for a few races.

Friday we got in a nice little ride and a little hang out time with friends. And Saturday we were up nice and early and ready for our 9am session.

The session felt good. We all rode quite well and had a good time. We left sitting in fourth.

Next I coached Riptide in intermediate and then we worked the Open session. I was so hot after that and camp was in full sun at that time of day. It took quite a while for me to cool down and I suspect I was a bit heat strokey.

Because of this I opted to sit out an extra race in the second session and I sat in the shade while Riptide rode their second session.

Our second session was a little stronger than our first session. We finished again in fourth and with smiles on our faces.

Saturday night was a good opportunity to spend time with friends. We had a social dinner with the Campbells and then visited around with other groups of friends, chatting and laughing.

Sunday we were up and ready for the session three final which ran at 830.

It was our team’s best session of the weekend. We all rode mostly clean and quick. It was a lot of fun and we had good enthusiasm. We ended tied for third. The tie breaker was flag fliers, which we had just played and won, but even with a clean and quick run Infinity had a little leg on us and took the yellow leaving us in the fourth place we had held all competition.

Our sometimes teammate Tommy, who also happens to by Carly’s boyfriend, came and coached us. It was really nice to have him in the ring with us. And we can hear his voice when we are on the field too!

Possum was awesome. He had a few little oddness moments but was mostly excellent and in the third session I felt like I was riding a real games pony. He’s certainly stepping into his new role and starting to fill those shoes. He was moving out more and was still giving me Whoa and Stand like a pro. His turns are not horrible although still have to be ridden and need some more tidying up and speed added, but all in all he was fantastic. I think I’ll add a bit more speed at MA5. He is ready.

My whole team was fantastic and rode really well. I felt like we were united and having fun together.

Also exciting, friend Rebekah made her games come back on Simon in Novice on team Wait! what? And she did awesome. Her lovely boyfriend John caught some video which I have included a link to at the end of this post.

She rode really well and I think she made a fantastic come back. Simon really seemed to enjoy her too.

The playing field has a swarm of dragon flies on it. Nothing to get in the way or cause a problem, it was more surreal and magical if anything. Like little bombers hovering around. You can see some in the photo below.

I am pumped back up and can’t wait for MA5 now. Wooo! But first, there is a trip to England and Wales to experience.

Video of Rebekah and Simon

Games Practice – 07/06/19 – Round Hill, VA

July 24, 2019

It appears I never hit post on this post. It was from July 6. Nothing fancy.

A little video of our practice:

2019 MGAA Nationals – July 12-14, 2019

July 22, 2019

I always struggle to remember details after a competition. Nationals is particarly difficult since it’s so much longer and because I organize it so I am extra busy. But I am giving it a go.

Val and I arrived late Wednesday, settled the ponies in and set up camp. I really enjoy arriving earlier because we can enjoy a leisurely Thursday morning before everyone starts to arrive and I have to get to work sorting prizes and setting things up. Plus we get to enjoy camping and hanging out.

We got up Thursday morning and puttered around. Then we went for a nice little hack.

People started to arrive in the early afternoon and I got to work. But I managed to close up the office and spend some time socializing with friends in the evening as well.

Friday quickly arrived and I was up extra early to feed, muck (Possum is the biggest stall pig) and get the show started. On Friday we started the day with Intermediate so once things were rolling I ran into the ring to coach Riptide.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

The day was set with 30 minutes between sessions which lent plenty of time after intermediate to get my own pony tacked and warmed up for the first of our five sessions. We went into the ring and I felt ready to roll. Possum was relaxed. This is the first time he has not been tense for the first session. Progress.

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography

Unfortunately Possum being relaxed did not foretell a good session for him.

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography

Possum and I were slow but our real demise started with the Tack Shop Race which is one of my favorite races. We were already suffering some mistakes and then I flipped my coin back out of the holder on my way out as our fourth rider. I forgot how to be a games player. It was just a messy correction disaster, I couldn’t get on, I kicked my broken finger, then stabbed possum with it, I thought there was just the one other team finishing up, but nope they were still in play, it was just every sort of bad and it was completely remedial games playing.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

The second to last race, four flag, Possum decided not to move out. And by not move out I mean I was struggling to keep him in a canter, and he broke to a trot two thirds of the way up the field and that was that. Possum and I are already slow slow slow so this even slower but was crushing. He was fine on the way back to A but still slow. This followed suit in Ring Race as well. He did not want to go forward with speed. He crossed the line fine but was just a slug.

During the break I felt very discouraged and frustrated with Possum. I discussed it with a few people and contemplated my actions if he continued bulking.

He has felt like he is enjoying his new job up to this point. Is this him beginning to sour? Is something hurting? Was it just another pony stunt like all the other ones he has tested out and failed at?

Luckily Possum redeemed himself in session 2. He was a bit bulky behind the line but after some self observation I think it might be manifesting from me starting and stopping him so much before our turn. I tend to ask my pony to step up then stop and then step up then stop multiple times as I prepare for my turn. I didn’t realize I did this until Possum started to bulk. Each time he was fine to go out in the end but would start to bulk on one of my first steps forward. In reaction I tried not to step forward until I actually needed to. And when he did get stuck all it took was a teammate to move past or along side of me for a few short steps for him to release. Not professional games pony but better.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

My session 2 was accurate and although slow (have I mentioned that Possum and I are slow?), Possum was moving forward and back to his happy games playing self.

I did leave the ring personally on a much better note and decided to call off the Possum burger cookout I had started to set up after session one.

Friday night was lovely with some social time and a decent bedtime. The Open riders had moved in during the day and Saturday morning rang early.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

Saturday we started off session three as the first session of the day. It was an ok session. We managed to move into second place but just by a point.

The afternoon brought session four and it was a total hit or miss. We had some wins but we had some losses. We did end the session tied for second and felt like we were going to bring our A game to the final.

But Sunday we did not bring our A game. Session five started off rough. We cleaned up our act for a few races in the middle but we started to bomb again towards the end. We finished in a sad third place.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

All the focus I have on my pony certainly detracts from my focus on my own skills and I am lucky that I am often reminded by my team “use your voice” when I clam up or “make sure you don’t check up too soon” and “remember not to kick when you’re doing your skills”. Which is forever helpful. But because I am distracted, it also means I am not as encouraging and as enthusiastic towards my teammates as I should be.

I am just way focused on myself and not thinking of my team as much as I should be. I realize my confidence is at rock bottom with new pony struggles, we’ve all been there, but that’s not an excuse to withdraw from showing my team support.

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography

I need to start asking for a little more speed from Possum. He doesn’t seem to have ever gone fast. And I don’t think he knows he can go fast. So I’m not sure how much is there. But certainly he has more than we are seeing now. When I train a new pony I get them experience before I ask for any speed and this has proven to work for me. And now I think we can start adding a little more speed with Possum. Let him start to learn about moving out a bit more.

I also need to keep working on Possum’s hand offs. Which are improving, but I am working with my legs and hands or keep him straight for hand offs and it’s causing me to get my hand out for hand offs late. When I did get my hand out earlier he drifted away from hand offs a bit.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

Possum also still needs lots of work on balance and carrying himself straight. I think this will help improve him all around. Flat work, flat work, flat work. And hopefully he will pan out to be the games pony I need.

Some video from our 5th session:

Possum goes to Boot Camp

July 5, 2019

“Possum goes to Boot Camp” sounds like a children’s book doesn’t it?

Since I have been trying to rest my broken finger so it can heal quickly and keep me in the game for MGAA Nationals, and because Possum has some pony moves that need refining he can’t have a full week as a pasture puff before Nationals. But I am lucky to have an amazing friend and teammate who offered to let him come stay with her and to put him through her rigorous boot camp. Val is the perfect person to kick his butt into gear and teach him how to be a grown up pony.

Possum’s life precious to me involved a lot of pasture ornament time and living the easy lazy life. While he has miles he is still very green to basic foundation work, generally manners, and important games standards like balance. I’ve been working on all of that and battling his “pony-tude” but Val’s help is immense. I am not afraid to admit when I can use some help and I know Val has the ability and skills to jump in and get stuff done. I am so lucky to have her as a friend.

It’s also really handy to have a teammate that knows your pony and can help decipher and discover issues and improvements.

You will note in the photo below that Possum is pooped out. Val probably had three other horses to ride that day.

Val has ridden him everyday, taking him for work outs on the C&O, splashing in the canal, and of course games practice. She has also gotten Matt and Abby on him at practice which is all valuable work.

We have been discussing his idiosyncrasies, lack of balance, laziness, and general improvements and things to work on. I’m finding it extremely helpful and I am so extremely grateful.

I also think it will come in handy when training together. Val can chime in at other first hand knowledge on what I might be doing right or wrong or ways to better work with Possum.

I am picking him up Saturday and getting in a practice session while doing so. I am so excited to get back on him and work on some of the things Val and I have discussed. Val has been updating me with videos and photos everyday. It’s quite exciting really.

Not only has my finger healed quite a bit this week, and Possum did not have the week off, but he had expert training from a pro games player.

I don’t think o can thank Val enough. She’s an amazing friend.

Video of various riders making Possum work: https://youtu.be/OcgJJlQPfXs

If anyone needs help with a pony, I highly recommend Val’s pony boot camp.

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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