Mid-Atlantic #3, June 2019

June 10, 2019

We are now officially half way through the 2019 MGAA Mid-Atlantic Series!  Installment four was the first weekend in June at the Grange Equestrian Center in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania.  I was there with Possum, and my team Gone Rogue.  Friday evening after moving in and setting up Matt, Jenny and I went for a little ride out and around the facility and then into the warm up ring, which for this weekend was the lovely indoor.  After a few steps into the indoor Possum came up critically lame.  I dug around and flipped out a nice big rock which had packed into his hoof with the fluffy footing.  Nuts.  We checked back with him an hour later on the grass outside and he jogged out fine.  Close one. 

Saturday morning arrived and we were mounted up and warming up for our 8am start time, and a few steps into the warm up ring and boom, he was off again.  I pulled him out, writing it off in the immediate as a stone bruise and went into the ring on foot to “coach” my team.  They were very supportive and took my coaching like the professional games players they are.  I was stressed about Possum but being able to still be in there and a part of the competition helped tremendously.  Val and Jon were working off only three hours of sleep and rode incredibly well considering. Gone Rogue finished second for the session, with a lot of really nice runs.  

After a session filling the role of referee, a friend who is much more knowledgeable than myself took a peek at Possum and also felt like it was a stone bruise. His soundness on the flat and flexing out soundly seemed to point in that direction. She suggested I grab some poultice from the vendor and pack him in hopes of a sound pony come Sunday.  I’m so thankful to have a friend I can ask for her knowledgeable opinion. By this point I had half talked myself into a much more dire prognosis for Possum and was already lamenting he was going to miss Pairs in a few weeks and finger crossing he would be sound by Nationals in July, if ever.

The lovely vendor had a selection of options and another games friend who just happened to be shopping pointed out her favorite.  So I purchased that, packed his hoof and tapped it closed.  Then I was off to the ring for a round of coaching intermediate team Riptide.

Photo L Horn

I was again on foot for the second session, and my team kicked it up even more, coming out in the lead for the session, just a bit behind in the overall scores.  Go Gone Rogue. It was a strong session and they were all four really on.

By the time the day of riding (or not riding for me), refereeing and coaching was over it was already quite late, and the rain was starting to roll in.  Val and I hung out chatting and were later joined by Matt before we all decided to call it a night. 

Photo: L Horn

I was up early Sunday, and ready to test out Possums freshly treated hoof for soundness.  I tossed on his saddle and rode into the warm up ring.  We walk, trotted, and cantered in both directions and he was solid sound.  Good thing or I was thinking Possum burgers for dinner.  I was done by about 530, way too early to get ready for our 8am session, so I untacked, and put Possum back in his stall. I scooped up some breakfast for him and then went back to camp for my own. 

A little while later our warm up was under way and a thunder storm rolled in.  Everything delayed, the race list was shortened, and we rode into the ring at 9am for our session start. 

Photo: L Horn

Sunday was not as good of a session for Gone Rogue, and we actually finished 5th in it.  I’ll take some of the blame; I was slow, flicked a handoff, and also had to circle a barrel, but I was not the only one having a rough go, and I was only in about half the races.  Some sessions everyone is on and some sessions everyone is not on.  We did hang onto the overall placing and finished the competition in second. We averaged 5th place in most of Sunday’s races which killed us, and kept us 12 points off the win. But the other all finish was solid and I will credit to my four teammates who carried me.

Photo: L Horn

For myself, I was very nervous that I was somehow going to hurt Possum.   A bit over the top I know, but he was attempting to buck, especially when I would push him out.  It was very unlike him and got me into spiral thinking that something was wrong.  I believe it was Val that pointed out that he probably didn’t like the mud hitting his belly, since it was sloppy after that heavy morning rain.  He eventually worked out of it, probably when his belly was liberally coated in mud (Jenny’s observation) and we ended feeling good about our ride. I also think Possum and I were not warmed up from Saturday’s sessions like everyone else and we were feeling a bit fresh and twitchy.  I have never been a nervous player, successfully compartmentalizing the nerves away, but this season I have been feeling it quite a bit more. I do need to recognize that Possum was still much better than he was at MA2 (which was a huge improvement from MA1) and although I was somewhat waiting for a pony explosion, he was fine. 

Photo: L Horn

My hand offs have also gone to crap.  I believe I am not focusing and following through on them like I should be, since I am more focused on my pony.  In the Ring Race, I got the hand off nice and clean from Carly, and then let it flick, like a rubber band being shot right back out of my hand.  We have pairs next weekend and I am hoping to work on some of this “trust yourself” and “just ride your damn pony” and “stop thinking” or maybe “start thinking” stuff there and try to convince myself to stop being such a twit.  Sometimes I tell kids I am coaching “head in the game” and I need to take my own advice.

My team was amazing, of course.  Carly takes home the most accurate award for, I believe, the third team competition in a row this year.  Her leaning and reaches were amazing and that little pony of hers has really come into his own and is racing faster and faster.  Jon was mostly accurate with a few bobbles.  He got “all five things” lined up for nearly every lean and mostly crushed them.

Photo: L Horn

Matt really needs to work on his general steering around turns and steering with his end turn vaults.  He improved throughout the competition but I don’t think he is aware of how wide he is going at times. He also really needs to look to his team when he is riding anchor for instruction to push home, vs looking at the competition (when his team is already yelling for him to push, push home!).  He loses valuable seconds looking to see who he is racing when he could he pushing instead.  I will give him, he is pushing his pony much more effectively.  More so than I have ever seen him do, so go Matt.  Val was her usual rock star self, although BabyFace had some regression.  Thinking about it over the past week, we had him starting nearly every race, which he doesn’t normally do.  He would instantly get worked up as soon as the starting equipment was in Val’s hand, backing into the rest of the team and generally sporting a more intense then normal deer (or lama) in headlights face. So by the end of the weekend Val was starting way behind everyone, somewhat backwards, or shimming side to side up towards the line. Although she was making up that time, it was still time lost.  He also started to Flintstone out at the equipment or at the top of the ring, getting stuck for a second.  He would then turn and fly home, but again, time lost.  I still don’t know how Val pulls off the skills she does on that pony going so fast.  And she was pulling it off. But he had stompy moments and was just not up to his current standard.

Mind you it’s been over a week, so I am sure I am forgetting or confusing some major points here. But when I was on the ground Saturday and not distracted with my own riding and pony it was much easier to follow everyone else’s faults. 

Objectively, and my final take aways; I don’t feel Matt is in his strongest position when he goes last. His skills are stronger in other positions and it’s a waste to have him riding anchor.

Photo: L Horn

Second, I don’t feel BabyFace is in his strongest position when he goes first.  Just like with Matt, BF has strengths we were not using and instead we were stunning his poor lama brain. Lesson learned.

Third, I need to man up and stop being a pansy.  “Head in the game Krista, head in the game!”

All notes for the next competition.   

On a non rising fun note, Daisy got to use her new tent in her Daisy pen. I got it to protect her from the sun and rain.

Mid-Atlantic #2 – May 4, 2019

May 13, 2019

MA2 was held in Augusta, NJ at the Sussex County Fair grounds. This is a longer drive for me but the grounds are lovely, with two arenas in use, stabling and comfortable camping all close together.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

I took that Friday off so I could hit the road pretty early. Once I arrived I got Possum settled in and camp set up, then Matt and I got in a nice little ride, joined by some friends. It was early to bed that night since we had our first ride at 730 the next morning. Teammates Val and Jon arrived at some point after the rest of us were asleep.

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography of Val and Babyface.

We were up and ready nice and early and I was about to tell Possum how great he was being, but just before I mounted up he reared up at me. Twice. I walked him off for a moment then climbed on and he was fine but it did throw me off for our morning session. He was fantastic but I kept anticipating him to be a handful and was not very well focused on my game. I missed two hand offs and was slower than I should have been. Jon snd Val were not their usual selves either and Matt also had a rough race. Carly, unlike the rest of us, rode amazing. Not a typical session for us, and we finished second in our heat, third over all. It felt way tougher than that though.

It’s notable that we had two heats of o25 teams at this competition. The two arenas were only wide enough for five lanes and since we had 7 teams in our division we had a 3 team and a 4 team heat in each session. We were in the four team heat both times. I prefer this because it is a lot more fun with four teams and our scoring system accounts for uneven heats thanks to member Sophie who worked out the scoring process, so there is no advantage to being in one heat or the other.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Jon and Jeeter

Our session two was a whole new reality, and much more our normal. I don’t think anyone made a mistake except me. And even my mistake was to circle the Windsor cone for the turret placement. Sloppy, but not too bad. I ended up going last quite a few times and the team had a tidy lead by then and I was even able to trot a lot of my skills. We came out on top of our heat in the second session, and pulled tightly behind the second place team over all so we were still sitting third going into the final for Sunday. But we were also feeling much better about our performance.

Saturday riding ended late, and it was a rush to get ponies taken care of and dinner in. We followed this up with a camp fire and some socializing and to bed a little later than was ideal.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Matt and Hero

And then the rain started. It didn’t seem that bad but when we got up Sunday morning the officials had a meeting to check out the footing and it was a bit flooded. That arena just does not drain.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Val and Babyface

The decision to cancel Sunday was made, to great disappointment, and I was packed up, loaded, said good bye and was on the road before 9am.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Possum and I in three pit flag.

My team was disappointed as was I personally. I really wanted to ride, and an additional session would have been super good for Possum. We did finish Saturday strong, but it still sucks to drive so far, spend so much money, and then not get in the full ride.

Possum made huge improvements from MA1 to MA2. He was not completely distracted and was able to play his game. I tried the ear plugs in session one but I think he had shook them out and into the bonnet pretty quickly so I didn’t bother for session two and he seemed fine.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Me and Possum

His lack of neck reining got me in litter scoop when I couldn’t fine tune navigate him and found myself too close to the litter. This is something I am working on and that I have no doubt will come with time. He also looked at the bank cone, slowing down significantly in advance, but did go up and allowed me to select my number. Both of these were in session 1 and as mentioned above I was anticipating him to bulk and cause trouble, and I was distracted and did not have my head in the game. His bulk at the cone was actually super minor and if I had been more mentally present I think I wouldn’t have let him literally walk up to it and would have pushed him to it more.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Matt and Hero

I should also note that Simon stayed home for this competition. His rider for the year, Laura, was not there so I opted not to lend him out to anyone else. I do think having Possum there alone was a big help. He wasn’t looking for Simon or worried about him.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – me and Possum

As for my team, they all came together for session two but admittedly session one was rough. Val and Jon are usually clean players (we all are) and they both made a few mistakes, which is very out of character. Their ponies are the fastest on our team, Babyface especially. When Val starts and she is “on” she rocks up and back faster than anyone. Last year Babyface would Flintstone at the tuen sometimes, loosing that speed lead he had acquired, looking around with a deer in headlights expression . Now his turns are getting smoother and smoother gaining him a tidy lead.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Jon and Jeeter

Matt’s litter scoop was a road show attraction with his litter initially being knocked by his pony’s head, but then he continued to flick it all over the place, into the next lane, and back. He also made a lot of wildly wide turns, generally on the end vault, and needs to work on steering with his Hero to bring him around quicker. But really, that’s not bad for having the past year off due to injury.

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography – Carly and Remy

And to repeat again, Carly rocked it. Her carton was hilarious and the only race she really messed up in. And it wasn’t even an actual mess up. Remy jumped the bucket, but she still got her dunk, thought she missed and near fell over his head checking. Hilariously it was all caught on camera by Genevieve Arens and makes a great photo series. Remy and Carly make the best faces.

So it was a rough start, but an ass kicking finish on Saturday and a giant bust for everyone on Sunday. And now the long wait till MA3.

Check out this photo series of Carly in carton

This photo series by Genevieve Arens Photography

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.

25 Rider Practice

April 8, 2019

Saturday was calling for gorgeous weather and the season starts next weekend so it was just right for a good practice session.

Val did the planning and made it an open invite. On Thursday it became clear that the numbers were high enough that it would be best to rent the ring so we could have it all to ourselves for the duration and not have to work around Or move any jumps or the dressage ring they often have set up at one of the ring. And we wouldn’t have to share the ring with any non games riders.

We were headed to the county facility, Woodstock Equestrian in Beallsville, Maryland and they were kind enough to process Val’s reservation through last minute. As mentioned in previous posts, Woodstock has a massive ring, decent parking, water, and there is cross country schooling and over 600 acres of trails. Anyone wanting to ride at the facility would still have access to all of that, as well as the ring before we started and after we were done. In fact non games people rode horses into the ring as we were pulling out.

We ended up with 25 riders from Open, Novice, Intermediate and O25. Some people started later than others and some finished earlier than others so we only had all 25 in the ring for an hour or so. But with 6 lanes set up and running everyone had a game to play and people to play it with.

Although we have been practicing all winter, we have only had one practice with the whole team mounted. Val, Carly, and I made nearly every Sunday practice, and the two of them managed quite a few other sessions as well. Jon made quite a few, bit Matt was not cleared to ride until about a month ago so he attended a few practices on foot and helped with equipment. We were lucky on Saturday and our whole team was able to take part mounted.

I brought Simon along for a newer player to ride. He seemed to have a really good time and Simon always enjoys working with newer riders. Possum was a bit wound up and screamy in the beginning. During and between games he would look for Simon but he came back to focus when I asked and still played his game. I am not sure how much of it was having Simon there and how much of it was being in a ring full of other ponies that had him charged up. He still pawed and did not always stand quietly but he quieted down after about 20-30 minutes. This all made it an exceptionally good practice for Possum and I on a distraction level.

We rode for about three hours. He started to slow down after about two hours and towards the end he was done done. Like get off now. The footing there is a bit deep and it was a lot of work to walk across on my own two feet so I know he was working.

Carly and Remy looked good. That pony cracks me up. He is bubbling with personality. Carly mentioned he was in isolation at home for causing trouble with the other ponies and they needed to prevent anyone from getting hurt due to his shenanigans.

Matt and Hero looked good as well. You wouldn’t know Matt has been out for nearly a year and just back on for a month.

Jon and Jeeter also looked good. Jon’s leans looked like they were particularly on point. And of course his mounts are just amazing.

Val and Babyface were lama-rocketing around like champs. That pony has really come along and Val looks she is still in her prime. Of course some of that is natural and some of it is experience/muscle memory, but Val also practices and rides everyday. She works for it and it’s showing.

So yeah, basically the whole team looked good. I might be a bit bias but again, the work being put in is shining through.

So that’s it, the last group practice for myself and Mr. P. before MA1. It’s crunch time! Packing and hacking all week!

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