Mid-Atlantic #4 – 2018

August ,2018

It’s August which means it’s time to head to the hot humid eastern shore part of New-freakin-Jersey for MA4. MGAA hit up the Gloucester 4-H Fairgrounds in Mullica Hills for another round of hot games action.

Before digging into this post – it is all about my own team.  I often comment on other teams and divisions but this time I am only focusing on Gone Rogue, and even more specifically on myself.  Maybe a little self indulgent, but in the end, this blog is really a journal for myself, I just choose to share it with whoever wishes to read it.  So if you are hoping to catch a recap on your own team, or to see what I thought of the Open division or my reflections on the intermediate riders’ growth, I don’t want you to waste your time reading about Simon’s end turns.  This is all about Gone Rogue, and me regrouping with Simon.  I’ll most likely be back to reviewing other divisions and teams at the next competition but for this post I felt like a more personal focus was necessary.

Gone Rogue was a bumpy mess of a team with only three of our usual riders; Val, Jon, and Krista, and two of our usual ponies; Babyface and Jeeter. I sold my trusty games master Poe, and have moved onto my backup pony Simon, which is a whole new world.

For the rest of the season Britney and her solid steed Nicki have joined the Gone Rogue team, making us four strong for this competition.

Before heading out for the weekend we discussed the need to regroup and step back. With so many changes and so much foundation to build this is a good time for us to slow it down and set some structure up.

Although it’s not obvious, this is Jon’s first year back after a several year hiatus. And although he is amazing and rocking that field, he is actually just getting his real groove back. Watch out you all. For real.  And Jeeter too. This is the most stepped up and *for real* his game has ever been. So while these two are fantastic, they are just warming up.

Now we all know Val is nothing short of amazing. And BF is one deer-lama-kangaroo-cheetah racing pony out there, BF has a lot of learning to do yet. And his amazingness is just cracking open and is going to keep getting more and more wicked.  So Val is thinking its time to slow things down a touch and work on some finesse and fine tune some of the more technical aspects with him.  She went slower at MA4, she didn’t race home even when the opportunity presented itself, she let him coast in.  You cannot even imagine how impossibly hard this was for Val with her “need for speed” and having all that race car-esc horse power under her… much restraint was administered.  She did a fantastic job.

I think this was probably Babyfaces best competition yet, he had a lot less spinouts, and hardly “Flintstoned” at all.  I don’t think Val made any mistakes either.  She was the rock of the team this competition.

And me, I feel like I am starting over on Simon. It’s been five years since I competed on him and although he knows the games, he has been playing at the Novice level for these past five years and he needs to rework some skills and I need to remember how to ride him.  Also, no mater how good I do with him, he is still not that fast.

So while Jon gets his groove back, Jeeter steps up his game, Val slows BF down and teaches him his job more smoothly, and Simon and I work out some kinks, we decided to all three try out different positions and switch up our orders. And we are working in Britney and Nicki to the orders as well. So lots going on there. And we started it all at MA4.

So Simon.  This guy came to me about 8 years ago.  I had decided my former Open pony, Osh Kosh was about ready to retire and I had started in on a new mount, Maya.  We were about a year into her training and going strong when we had an accident together that laid me up pretty roughly.  When I was able to get back on again I needed something to rebuild my confidence and that would stand like a statue for the mount.  I found Mr. Simon.  He was a 4 coming 5 year old driving pony, fresh off the mountain in Ohio, and just started under saddle.  I fell in love at first site.  No joke.

It was an icy wintery day when I went to try him and they had to ride him down the mountain since the roads were too icy and I rode him on the side of the road right there and said, I’ll take him, and into my trailer he went for the six hour drive home.  I still stand by that he was the best purchase I have ever made and I didn’t dicker about price either. He has been my heart pony ever since.

That all said he was not a made pony and was a lot of work from the start.  He didn’t steer, bitting him was like trying to build an upside down triangle before math was discovered, cold weather gets a hair up his butt, until he was about 8yo I had to lunge him to ride him in the winter, and he is still to this day wonky about taking handoffs.   Luckily he caught on quick and is always happy to please me.  He has also always been safe and stable and has always taken excellent care of his rider.

So anyway, after a few years of confidence building on Simon, I was ready for something a bit faster, and a new training project.  So I found Poe.  And what an amazing find he was.  This post is not about Poe so I’ll hold off here, but for the next five years, Poe was my first string number one games master and Simon helped newer players and sometimes newer riders get their groove in O25 and Novice.  Now Simon has to step back up.

While Simon needs to step back up, I also need to figure him back out.  How early to WHOA, how late to push into turns, how deep do I need to drive into turns?  All those little bits that make a games player.  My first session I felt like I was asleep.  I did not use my voice a single time.  Not a single WHOA or TURN or STAND came out of my mouth.  That’s a total lack of a major aid.  I pushed with my body, seat and legs, but not as aggressively as I could have, I allowed Simon to coast into turns and ease up to stops much easier than necessary.  I played like a passenger not a rider.

I also knocked a pole in the first race.  I am not going to lay blame on this taking me out of the session.  But it did certainly throw me off.  I am not one to make many mistakes and starting off the session with one really just ripped me.  I also went into the session with a really upset stomach, again, its no excuse, a real rider pushes through, but it did add to my demise I am sure.  I won’t go into extensive details about my illness as it is just ridiculous, suffice it to say, look at what you are eating, don’t just blindly shove food in your mouth, but I felt like I was going to barf or poo myself, and I was violently burping throughout the entire session.  Getting back on when that pole fell, well, it was just not going to happen.

My second session I felt a little more on.  I rode better, I used my voice more, I pushed and rode up to things.  I expected more out of Simon and out of myself.  By the final I felt much more like a normal player and I was satisfied with my performance.  I still have things to work out, certainly.  I still don’t feel I have my end turns sorted back out on Simon to my satisfaction, but for the most part I do feel I have most of the rest of our ride put back together to a degree.

I also want to say that riding Simon is a full body workout.  Legs, seat, body, arms, voice, it takes everything to keep him going.  I was so exhausted Saturday night.  Probably partly from my temporary illness and also from the work out Simon gave me, I was out cold by about 930!  Which says a lot since these competitions are my big social time.

In preparation for the rest of the season I am going to try and not play games on Simon between competitions.  I think he will burn out easy, and he likes diversity.  So I am hacking him around the farm, letting him gallop up the hills and ride around checking fences, the fruit trees and the property in general.  I plan to get him out on some mountain trail rides which are his favorites, and maybe some obstacle JPR rides if possible.  I do want to work on our GO vocal cues though.  I am not sure how much that will help but it can’t hurt.

I am also looking forward to continue building up our team in preparation for the 2019 season.  I like the idea of working on different positions and skills.  It should all be good fun and with people I love riding with!

Riding photos taken by G Honeycutt.

Val’s Games Face

August 8, 2018

This is the best thing I have seen all day.

Matt took this photo at MA3 in June and posted it to Facebook this morning. It’s me handing off a balloon stick to Val.

Look at Val’s awesome games face.

Look closer and it gets better

That is games-face-strong here.

I laughed so hard I cried.

And that there, will make the rest of today a good day.

Krista’s Birthday Bash Competition

July 26, 2018

Last Friday I turned 40. I am not a big age equals numbers person but this one sort of got me. 40 is a real adult, no excuses, middle aged, full adulthood adult.  So Val took the opportunity to throw me a birthday bash games competition!  Seriously, what better way to roll into real adulthood than playing games with your friends? I sure can’t think of a better way!

Val went official and rented out the Woodstock Equestrian Park arena, set up an online entry form, ordered t-shirts for everyone, and even organized a nice long pizza lunch break party and everything.

So many friends turned out, and we even had a crap forecast for the day. It was dry while we set up, but by the time we had most of the arena set, it started to rain.  In the photo above you can see Eliza peeling the score sheets apart, and this is before we got riding and it really started to rain!

A bunch of people got held up just before they got there due to a train being stopped on the tracks.  But that was just a bump in the road (literally).  We were playing it cool for the day, and rolled with it.

These two cracked me up all. day. long.  They showed up in “Flossy Posse” shirts complete with chains on to represent the movie “Girls Trip” that they watched about 100 times on our UK trip this June.  I laughed so hard.  “Dina” and “Lisa” even made me a little key chain gift.  They were also joined by Elise and yelled at me hilariously when I rode. I am lucky I didn’t pee my pants laughing. So funny.

Val organized us into two divisions.  “Osh Kosh” rode first and “Simon” rode second.  Osh Kosh was my former Open pony and Simon is my slower Novice/Intermediate/O25 pony.

Most of us scrambled with someone new.  I rode in the Simon division, on Simon, appropriate right! haha, with Jenny on her giant Bitey.  Jenny was way fun to ride with. She’s picked so much up so fast. And Bitey is at that point in his training where he “knows” what to do, and maybe needs a little “oh no you don’t”. Mean while Simon needed to remember he can keep going when I lean over and he needs to stand while I get on. It was a good training session for both of us.

We had a break between divisions to change out ponies and ring crew.  It was a ton of fun and very laid back.  Oh and wet.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

After session 1 we took a fun lunch break.  The grounds were nice enough to allow us to use the garage so we could sit down and eat in the dry.  It was really fantastic.  Carol Ann made cupcakes.  The pizza was huge!  Fred brought watermelon.  Lots of chatting.  It was a regular party!

Then we mixed it back up and combined into one heat of dedicated players and hit the field.  While we were partying it up in the garage the rain had turned the ring into a bit of a pool.  Although I will say, the footing was still pretty decent.  Not nearly as rough as many of our venues!  And games players, most of us just carry on.  And so we did.  Back into the rain we went.  We decided to skip the scoring and just played for fun.

Tommy took on the Refereeing job, and as you can see the scoring area was a little wet.

But everyone was still smiles and having a blast.

Lots of laughing, catcalling and having fun.

It felt a lot like being in the UK, but warmer!

And we figured it was good practice for the next wet MA Competition we have.

The edges of the ring got soupy but the middle wasn’t nearly as bad.  We still decided to cut sock race.  Eh, not necessary.

It was really an amazing amazing time.

And by far the best birthday I have ever had.

Thank you everyone that came out and took part.

Those that rode and those that just came out and helped!

and mostly, thanks VAL for putting it all together!

Feelin the love.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography.

2018 MGAA Nationals

July 22, 2018

photo: poster designed by Jamie Baggio – amazing!

MGAA Nationals is a full three day event that took place last weekend, and it’s taken me a bit to recover and get it written up. It’s one of the most exciting events of the games season and I absolutely love being able to settle in and enjoy the extended competition.

photo: Poe ready for session one.

As Co-organizer for the event I arrive even earlier than most so I can be there to check everyone in and also so I can organize and set up. Since this takes all day Thursday I headed up after work on Wednesday, getting in at almost exactly 10:30. Val was wonderful and met me up there. I am so grateful for her help unloading and setting up my ponies and all of the prizes.

photo: Daisy waking up on Thursday morning.

Prizes, that’s one of the things that makes Nationals special. There are a ton of prizes. Not just for the over all winners, but rather nice prizes for everyone, as well as race prizes too! These are generally sponsored by businesses, teams, competitions and individuals so that the team that wins a particular race gets an additional prize. These prizes come in all types; gift cards to major businesses like Amazon and Starbucks and also smaller businesses like MGAA owned business, Stable Hands that gives equine massages, large products like Prolite pads donated by Hastilow Saddles USA, specialized prizes like fancy wooden handled scrub brushes with the MGAA logo and “Nationals 2018” engraved on them, water buckets, horse shampoo, MGAA shirts, local maple syrup gift packs specially prepared by teams from their home turf, first aid gift packs for our Over25 division, and so many more wonderful fun, useful and creative prizes. Sorting all of these prizes is literally an all day ordeal.

photo: Daisy being a barn dog Thursday morning before everyone arrived. Fresh from rolling in a nice clean stall.

I also really enjoy being able to start this long intense competition out at a slower and more relaxed pace. Val and I slept in a little on Thursday. We leisurely fed and mucked out our ponies. We met up with our Canadian friends who also arrived Wednesday. And we were introduced to our new, New Zealand friends who came down with them.  But it wasn’t long before the competitors started to roll in, Carl arrived with more prizes, the shirts, and the very important equipment, and things got busy.

photo: Open Individuals briefing before the final session.

Sticking to the organizer discussion of Nationals, this event is always hectic. There are so many aspects to keep up with.  There are the usual aspects of running a major competition, but there are added aspects specific to MGAA Nationals.  I already mentioned all the prizes, which includes sponsors.  These sponsors can also dictate specific races so this can mash up the race lists making them different for each division.  I do try hard to keep each division the same while including the sponsored races to simplify things.  And I try to keep the races streamlined for set up for ring crew.  And keep the lists exciting for riders so its not a slew of flag races, or mug races in a row, or in the same session, and since its five session I try to keep the amount of vaulting races, and speed races down so that our riders and our ponies are not over taxed.  Although this manipulation of the race lists does end up being like juggling pots of water, oil, and fire all at the same time, and mind you, I don’t know how to juggle.  This year I took last year’s race list and tried to edit off of it.  Which seemed to work surprisingly well.  Except when my team was making race orders I noticed the very last race of the entire competition was pony pairs!  What the heck!  What stupid organizer planned that? Right?

photo: team Gone Rogue after the final session.

The work schedule is also a bit of a challenge because Open runs individuals on Friday instead of teams.  which leaves one division drastically short of help on Friday.  Open is also a division I tend to pull some of the heavy hitters from for some of the major jobs like Ring Crew Chief, First Aid, Chief Referee, etc.  For those jobs it needs to be people that will be there for the entire event, and not just Saturday and Sunday.  I admit I sort of threw my hands up on the work schedule this year when it came to ring crew workers for the Over25 division on Friday and we ran rough.  This was totally due to me getting a little frustrated and thinking, “Okay, I’ll have to come back to this issue later.” and then completely forgetting about it.

photo: Poe and I after the final session. He is a beast.

Another challenge is the par-tay.  Saturday night we have a party for everyone.  Luckily Wendi and Carl handled nearly all of this.  The main part for me was to arrange the entertainment part which was mostly done in advance.  This year we got a ninja warrior style inflatable obstacle course.  It was 90 feet long with two shoots down it, designed for all ages but used primarily for adult functions.  It had calls to climb, slides to go down, things to go over and under and through.  It was a lot of fun.  The company arrived Saturday, set it up, and came back on Sunday to take it down.  Wendi and Carl handled the pot luck part and cooking the burgers and dogs.  I extracted myself from this aspect of the event as much as possible.

photo: Jenny and Lindsey diving into the ninja obstacle!

The equipment aspect was totally and completely handled by Carl.  I did next to nothing with this.  Carl was amazing and handled nearly all of it.  I cannot even begin to explain how much of a weight off this was.  The equipment is a major aspect of any competition, and not having to be knee deep in equipment preparations, worrying about lime vs. line paint, rubber bands and balloons was amazing.  As per the usual, Carl is a life saver.

photo: Jessie and I after we finished the obstacle!

All in all the organizing aspect of this event went about as well as can be expected.  I am pretty darn happy with it. There were some bumps and some confusion, but nothing major and nothing that couldn’t be worked around.    So success.

photo: Thursday morning, Poe all set up and ready for Nationals to start.

Now down to the team aspect.  Gone Rogue was a bit slap dash this time around with Val, Jon and myself scrambling with Lauren and Tommy.  This ended up being a super fun combo, and I would love to ride with this make up again.

Lauren was a lot of fun.  She has excellent skills and they complimented our own well.  Her pony Dusty is a tried and true games expert and still has plenty of speed. Lauren rides her like a pro. They are a top games pair. And Lauren was fun! Which is most important.

Tommy is also a barrel of laughs and fit in well.  His pony was off on Sunday and he stepped up to coach, which ended up working out super well.  We could all hear him yelling instructions from the field which was really helpful.  This was an unexpected and delightful surprise. Tommy used to join us for winter practices but it’s been a while. I almost forgot how much fun he is! I hope he keeps coming out.

Photo credit: M Brown. Lauren in Toolbox.

For our usual three, Jeeter was being a bit different than usual, ducking out on a few handoffs.  This is not his usual, and I think took the three of us off guard completely.  Jeeter has been playing for a little while now so its not something you expect to change.  Although when I thought about it after the fact, he has not consistently played at this level and speed in competition in a while, although it feels like he has.  I am not sure.  Other than that though he was amazing.  He really is a nice horse.  And I think since he is usually so push button it really did shock us that he was not being his usual Mr. Perfect self. Jon was amazing as always. And just as calm and cool, no pressure as always. He really adds a nice presence to the collective team attitude.

Photo: M Brown – Jon in Tack Shop

Babyface was about what was expected, which was to be a little unpredictable (lol).  He still has some “Flintstone” moments where he sort of spins out or runs in place, but these are becoming less frequent with each competition.  His head got in the way a few times when Val went to perform a skill, but not consistently, just on rare occasion.  Which is the thing with playing 50 games over 3 days, there are quite a few chances for “rare occasions” to occur.  But improve he does, with each competition.  This pony.  I just shake my head.  He is becoming one amazing pony. And Val. What can I say. She just pulls it off. She was also our team captain and had to do all our organizing and planning. Which was a bit of work with how scrambled up we were.

Photo: M Brown – Lauren in a Mug race

Poe was his rock star self.  He has been on the field for 5 years now and I would expect nothing less from him.  He was tired by Sunday, but otherwise he was amazing.  I think we over shot the four flag holder on day one when I forgot to add in the “WHOA!” voice command, but otherwise I have no complaints.  Its nice to ride a pony you can trust and depend on and you can just do your job and not worry about.  That’s Poe.  Simple.

Our first few sessions we spent trying to figure out the best orders and who should hand off to who.  I felt like we finally got it worked out by the final session and then Tommy’s pony was off and we had to scramble around again.  But with him being able to yell instructions to us it really did make a difference.  We came second in the first and last session of the weekend and I believe third in the second, third and fourth sessions and finished third over all with cumulative points for all five sessions.

I had a really good time.  I really enjoyed riding with my team.  I felt I did a good job.  I screwed up my pick up in Sword in the fourth (I think) session, but was actually super pleased with my correction, remounting in the ring with the sword to be specific, even if we did loose the race.  And I believe I had to circle for a hand off.  There might be another mistake in there I am not remembering, it all gets fuzzy a week later.  I know I wasn’t always the fastest, which is something I do need to work on; pushing it just a little more, particularly between skills.  I know at some points in the weekend I got sort of too quiet and too calm.  Which is something that I know happens to me, and I tend to go slower and less smooth when I get like this.  I think I was feeling this way Saturday afternoon in particular.  Also A-line timing is not my best skill. I kept hitting it this weekend and having to slow down to take a hand off.  It was killing me.

As always I can’t wait for the next competition!

#pumpthemonkey

Games Practice 5/28/18

May 30, 2018

Monday was Memorial Day so some of us had the day off and we decided we needed to get together for a practice before Mid-Atlantic #3. It’s continued to rain on and off so we opted to play it safe and meet at the indoor at Frying Pan Park.

We had a nice group, including Katie and Laura up from Kentucky to try a pony for Laura! What a treat. Heather, Abby, Jon, Jenny, Zoe, Val, and myself also took part.

We set up two lanes and rocked through a good dozen races together. Laura beasted litter, Jenny kicked some handoff butt, Heather and Val had a tuffle with Heather’s pony, Zoe had a mean High Low pick up, Abby was rocking through some mug races, And John gave me such nice hand offs he wasn’t even aware he was chasing Simon down.

Katie and Laura tried out a new pony, Cupcake. She seems like a lovely pony and Laura really seemed to fit her well. I can’t wait to see how they grow together.

It was a good practice and a fun group. I think we all left feeling pumped for MA3.

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