Mid-Atlantic #5 – September 2018

October 5, 2018

The Mid-Atlantic series is almost over for 2018. We just finished up #5 and just have the final leg left later this month.

MA5 was held at our favorite grounds; the Grange in Centre Hall, PA.

It was a packed weekend. There was a special football game going on at Penn State so the majority of the fairgrounds was rented out to RVs and campers there for the game. They had food and merch vendors, music playing and they tail gaited Saturday like pros.

Mean while we played games!

I again coached Main Attraction in novice and really enjoyed working with this team. They are all so into it and receptive. They all rode amazingly. I was particularly excited about their incredible handoffs. I think they only had one hand off bobble all weekend!

This weekend was a particularly strange one for Gone Rogue. It was just Jon and I from the regular roster. We picked up Carly, Tommy and Katie. So things were a bit messy to work out.

We actually finished third in the first session but we went down to fourth and then 5th as the weekend progressed.

Simon was also particularly sluggish which was a little frustrating.

All in all not the best competition for Gone Rogue. But it was a good time with friends!

And, it didn’t rain! And it wasn’t super hot!

Games Practice 9/23/18

September 25, 2018

It’s still raining so we headed back to Frying Pan Park for another indoor practice session. This time Matt joined us on foot since he is still broken and unable to ride.

It was a good practice and my second one on Simon. I think we made some more headway, as he remains a whole new pony. He leaped some in the start but got over it much quicker this week. But about half way through practice he did run away with me bucking.

I wonder if he is having a midlife crisis or something. Like a 40-50 year old man that gets a sports car and a 20yo girlfriend and a bad combover. Is he trying to prove his youth and athletic ability are still going strong? But 12 seems too young for a pony to have a mid life crisis?

No matter, I love this pony. Leaps, bucks, unpredictability and all.

Enough about me, how about everyone else? Carly rode Quibble since she was scheduled for a second practice on her own Remi later in the afternoon. That Quibble looks like he has been playing all his life. And Carly rode like a champ. Paxton got a turn on him as well and sported a pink tutu that matched her helmet perfectly. That kid is always dressed to impress.

Jenny had her hands full with Bitey who was a particular jerk for practice. Jenny got after him of course, but it was surprising to see him be so uncooperative.

I mostly missed Zoe, Val, and Jon, being so focused on my own beast. But I will say Dice is looking like a real games pony, Zoe should be proud. And of course the Hokes were butt kicking.

I think we are as ready for Mid-Atlantic 5 this coming weekend as we are going to get.

Games Practice 9-15-18

September 19, 2018

With the hurricane predicted to make the weekend a nasty weather event we decided to hit up Frying Pan Park on Sunday for an indoor practice.  The hurricane changed tracks and it actually turned out to be a pretty nice day, so the indoor was a bit on the warm side with the lack of airflow in there coupled with the crippling humidity.

We had a nice group of seven and were able to run two lanes and kept things rolling for about two hours.  We managed to knock out quite a few races.

The usual crew of Val and Jon were there along with some of our newer practice recruits, Jenny and Britney.  We were also joined by Carly and Rachel, making for a really good time.

While riding I realized this is the first games practice I have really had on Simon in about five years.  I hopped on him in the spring when Poe was sore after having his feet done, but I wasn’t taking that seriously.

I have taken him to two real competitions (and a light trial test run at a pairs competition before hand) without putting in any training work on him.  No wonder if feels like I am riding someone else’s pony.

He really is like riding a whole new pony.  Nothing like he is for anything else, and not like he used to be for games pre-Poe either.  Not that I would remember too much from five years ago exactly how to ride him.

This was an excellent opportunity to work out some skills, figure out some timing for  checks, stuff like that.  I still need to put some work into my end turns, both poles and barrels.  He tends to drop his hip or shoulder into the turn, so figuring out how wide and deep to set my turn up is key.  I guarantee I keep my inside leg working hard too.

I started off practice in his hackamore, which is what I always played games with him in and I tend to do most of his riding in.  But I switched that to his bit after the second race.

He was downright fired up and leaping around, and actually ran away with me at one point.

I missed a few handoffs in the start because I was holding and keeping him straight when he was leaping around.  But in retrospect, he was leaping forward, and not so much to the side, which is what I was expecting.  So I would like to practice again and push him into those first few hand offs more and see how that plays out.  After a couple races (about half a competition session) he settled in, but working through those first few races in a competition is going to be key to sort out.

I was also doing a terrible job of coming in close when giving hand offs and really straining my teammates to reach out for them.  That was just me being sloppy.  Something to work on along with end turns.

After practice Jenny and I went for a little walk about around the farm.  It turned into quite a nice day!

Until next practice!

Mid-Atlantic #2 August 2018

August 23, 2018

MA2 was originally scheduled for May but due to extreme weather conditions it was rescheduled for August. This is the first time we have rescheduled a major team competition ever. It took some time to settle the new date and of course it dented the turn out but it was still worth the effort.

The Over25 division was stacked with 8 teams, although several of the teams were riding four man or riding with subs. Open was cut about in half and only had four teams playing for the weekend. The intermediate division sat at just three teams and Novice only had two teams. The Lead Line division came out in force and was at its largest with six enthusiastic players!

Sussex in New Jersey is a longer drive for myself down in Virginia. But it’s not a bad drive. The first four and a half hours are pretty much straight up the major highway I live off off. Pretty simple. Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey. The last hour and twenty is a bit daunting, twisting back highways through small towns and rural areas and then a sudden arrival at the show grounds. In reverse on the way home it is much more pleasant and seems to pass much more quickly.

The grounds are pretty nice. The camping is on grass. The barns, bathrooms, and riding rings are all central. The stalls are nice, the rings have excellent footing and the arenas, although not the widest, are nice and long.  All and all, well worth the effort, although its worth leaving earlier on Friday to head up.

This weekend Gone Rogue was again four man, with the foundation of Val, Jon and myself, and joined by the new Rogue recruit, Britney.  We started off with a pretty decent first session, clean and really rather smooth.  Our second session followed suit and we were pretty confident with our place in the A final before the second heat ran.

Our last competition, MA4, our first competition as a four man team with Britney/Nicky and Simon was a little messy, but this one we seemed to have gotten our act together.  We rode like we knew each other and how to play.  I am tentative to say, incase of some voodoo jinxing, we got all of our hand offs!  Not a one hit the floor.  Which is usual for Gone Rogue, but with our team switch ups, both Nationals and MA4 were a mess of fallen handoffs.  It was nice to be back on point with such a vital skill.

I still feel like I am riding a borrowed pony on Simon.  I am not sure what he will do on some instances.  Not that I feel like he will duck out or buck on me, but more that I am unsure how much WHOA or check I need for a skill, or if he is going to drop a shoulder into a turn, or lean into my lean to take something out.  And he is not as sensitive as some ponies, so a little leg does not go a long way on him.  Holding him off a barrel turn for example, is not just “be prepared to throw on a little inside leg”.  So I am overly setting up some of my skills. Playing too cautiously. My turns are deeper and wider that I probably need them, and my checks for skills, like an association put down, tend to be early and conservative.  I know some of them are too conservative, and checks is one of the places I can and should push out on more now.  This is my first big spot to work on. Turns might take a bit more time, but checks, I do need to trust myself on more.  The pony does have fab brakes.

Simon did have one complete “WTH” moment.  I could feel him going for a poo as Jon was bringing me a hand off and thought, “oh no”.  Simon did not want to move on from a stand still.  Now, we DO move when we poo at home.  We don’t get to stop and take a bathroom break, so this was extra frustrating.  I mean, come on, poo fast at least! I felt like he was about to break out the Sunday paper.

Sunday we were warmed up and about to go in the ring when Simon yanked a back hoof up in pain and pulled up lame.  No idea what happened, I assumed a boulder lodged itself in his hoof, since when it happened we were simply trotting in a straight line across the perfectly worked amazing all weather footing.  But no boulder, or pebble was found and some swelling in his ankle began.  Bomb Squad rider, Cindy took a peek and agreed with my move to pull him.  And she helped steal him up for the long drive home while I coached the next heat after ours.  I am so grateful for this and everyone else’s quick hop to and concern.  Simon has never been off before and having my pony pull up so suddenly was a real shocker.  My team went in HC, while I went to untack and cold hose.

Since we were in the A final we finished in 5th, last in the A, being HC.  But it was a real bummer since we were really riding well in this competition and were all (of course) looking forward to a real ride em out with our fellow teams.  How frustrating.  But we choose not to have a 5th pony along knowing this is always a possibility.  Its a gamble and we rolled those dice.

The team looked good off in the end lane riding 3 man with one rider going twice.  I think we would have really given the other teams a real bit of added competition had we been actual contenders.

I am sure excited Gone Rogue brought it together for this competition and had our stuff worked out.  I am really enjoying riding with Britney.  Her bubbly personality fits in so well, and that Nicky, I have always loved that pony. The pair of them pulled it together for MA2 and rode well. Britney is easy going and can pop into any order pretty much where ever and she did seamlessly. She also pulled off some pretty nice vaults!

I think every time I write a competition post I rave about Jon and Val, both amazing accomplished games players that I couldn’t be happier to ride with.  So lets just rave once more here, WOOO they are freaking amazing.  Jon is so level and clock work dependable.  He is making Jeeter really work and be a real upper level games pony. He got the hand off issues that came up at Nationals sorted out and is getting tighter turns too. His only handicap is reach. Being on such a big horse he has to really lean and sometimes he still needs to lean just a tiny bit more. I am still surprised when he pulls off some moves from way up there.

Val is a monster out there just whipping out craziness.  But like last competition, she reined it in and has been putting Babyface into controlled schooling mode and it is paying off. BF still has a lot of legs to get sorted out and his butt is still all over the place. But it’s all coming into line slowly. Somehow she keeps him from hitting stuff. I am honestly not sure how.

So now we have a few weeks off until MA5 back at Grange.  Which is good so Simon can rest up.  I did have my vet out and he checked Simon out and declared him to most likely have rolled his ankle and that he strained his suspensory (using some Latin-esk words) ankle part, no tears or anything major.  So a solid week off, cold hosing and bute, and then back into light easy work.  I decided to pull him from pairs the following weekend (after two weeks off) and give him more time off to play it safe.  No sense in pushing him and causing damage we don’t have at this point.

Simon is loving his pampered life in the yard paddock, with lots of extra attention, and twice a day feedings (to administer bute).  He loves greeting us when we pull into the house, when we walk out of the house, when we go into the bathroom (he can see in the bathroom window) and pretty much whenever he can see or hear us in or near the house.

I am hoping to get in a real practice with Simon before MA5 where I can really work on my turns and checks and hand offs. I can drill some skills at home but hand offs needs assistance. My team is usually all for practicing, we just have limited opportunity in the summer season so we will see.

Thanks K Mahoney and J Hicks for photos.

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.

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