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

Trail Report: Vepco 240A to 240C Bible Run

April 29, 2019

I had such a good time exploring further down Vepco on Saturday that I went back Sunday to continue.

As mentioned in the previous post the turn for Vepco is off Little Dry River Rd in Fulks Run and has road signs. It is a left hand turn, about 2 miles give or take after LDR turns to gravel and just before the “end state maintenance” begins. 240 is marked just after making the turn.

I drove in the 20 minutes it took to get to 240A Straight Hollow, which is where I turned my ride around on Saturday. As a reminder, Saturday I parked at my usual spot at 240E Kritchie Mountain which has a closed fire gate but is a simple and enjoyable ride I have frequented. Saturday I rode from 240E along Vepco all the way to 240A Straight Hollow and then explored those side trails.

The drive in was fine. For a fire road it’s pretty well maintained and although there are potholes they are not too extreme or excessive. It’s still slow going and takes a while. I parked just after the second (concrete) creek ford. On the left there is a small side shoot that appears to be used for camping. It was perfect for backing in and parking. It is just before 240A.

For this ride I continued on past 240A along Vepco. There is an open fire gate just after 240A, which appears to be open for the long term since the actual gate part is busted off and down the hill, although it is not completely buried or aged and probably a super easy and quick fix.

I probably would not choose to drive my trailer in further than I did. The road remains mostly maintained, with a few rutted and narrow sections but it also has some rocky areas. I would certainly drive my truck without the trailer though. It was also quite a ways before I came upon another place I would feel comfortable turning my trailer around, which is another factor.

Simon has front shoes, but since I have not gotten him out much in the past six months, more like a year actually, I do not have back shoes on him. Because of this he was sensitive in the back on the rocky areas.

It was a beautiful ride, generally shaded, rolling up and down the mountain, popping out to amazing views and down into lush hollows. There were flowers and fresh growth and spring everywhere. I did realize after a while that all the trees I was bumping along the edges of the road were puffing visible clouds of pollen. I caught a little clip on video (it was a challenge to video, shake the branch and maintain Simon at the same time and it’s not the best video. But it’s at the very end of the video log at the end of this post).

After a while I came to 240C Bible Run on the left. This was just after a (non concrete) ford. The marker was knocked down and graffitied with a blue and yellow WV (presumably by a WVU supporter). There were a few other places this was found including on a tree a few yards behind the fallen post. I took this path, which was gorgeous until it reached a closed gate and poorly marked private property.

Across from 240C there appeared to be a trail, although I did not explore here and instead headed back. Closer to where I parked there were a few other side trails. One on the left going down into the hollow and one going up to the right through the woods, probably reaching the power lines.

240C nearly reaches Gauly Run, and I admit I was very tempted to continue but Simon and I were ready to head back and Daisy is also still building up her endurance. Perhaps another day when we are all a bit fitter.

On this ride I passed several dirt bike riders. 3 groups/pairs actually. They were all very polite and followed trail etiquette, stopping and turning off their bikes as I passed. Thank you.

The video:

Trail Report: Vepco, 240A Straight Hollow Exploring

April 28, 2019

I have dabbled with Vepco including plenty of rides on 240E Kritchie Mountain. This is where I have always parked, including on this ride. But one of my goals was to scout out a place to park farther in.

Vepco can be reached by driving down Little Dry River, keep going after it turns to gravel and it’s maybe a mile on the left. It’s marked with street signs and a 240 sign. It has a good road going in and shortly there is a concert creek ford that’s never been too high to easily cross.

Just past the ford is the Vepco marker.

After several twists in the road there is an open fire gate. And after some more twists there is a right hand turn which ends quickly at a circle (not suitable for trailers) and a closed fire gate. This is where I park. I pull past and back in and park on the side. It’s easy and smooth.

Usually I ride back 240E. But today I wanted to find a good parking spot further in. I looked a week or two ago but wasn’t solid on the spot I found and I had more time today so let’s explore. I rode off, continuing along 240 Vepco.

It’s level briefly then mostly grades down and up weaving back and forth under the power lines.

After a while there was another concert creek ford. Just after this, on the left, is a nice horse trailer sized back in parking spot. This is where I am going to park next time.

Shortly after the ford is 240A on the right hand side. There is another branch across from it and Vepco continues ahead as well. I began doing video clips from this point which are compiled at the end of this post. Here you can see terrain and footing.

We headed right onto 240A, Straight Hollow. It has a few creek crossing and some rocky areas but nothing poor or difficult.

This will be a nice place to ride in the hot summer. It was shaded and as mentioned, there was a lot of creek crossings. Although I suspect some will be dry come summer. Today was extremely windy but down in the hollow it was nice and calm.

After a short bit there is a branch off to the right with a camp area and the trail continues out the back.

I followed it for a while and it eventually came to some larger downed trees at a creek crossing. It was easy to work around it.

Here the trail continued ahead and to the left. We went straight until there was quite a bit of downed trees and then turned around. This is documented more clearly on the video.

Next we tried the left branch which counties on for a ways with some more downed trees at a creek crossing. I opted to turn around. Again, see the video.

Back to 240A we continued on.

It crosses some more creeks.

It is a lovely piece of trail.

Shortly there was a branch to the left, not as obvious as the others. I continued ahead and did not take the turn. Yet.

Just another bend and the road ended at private property and a closed gate so turning around I headed back to that left (now right) hand split I had just passed up.

This continued for a surprisingly long way.

It was very pleasant, a few creek crossings, not much down at all.

It was also pretty clearly marked by orange tags. Although the path was easy to follow.

It eventually came to a clustered creek crossing and some larger downed trees. The trail ahead, bending left, appeared clear beyond the downed trees but the ride was getting to the point of needing to turn around so I did.

The above photo is on the return from this side trail going back to 240A. So pretty.

Once back to Vepco I also hacked down the the trail opposite 240A. It was rather short and also ended at a closed gate to private property. Through the woods I could see an open fire gate along Vepco. This section is also documented on the video.

We hacked back up Vepco to the trailer and into the wind.

It was a nice ride. I’m looking forward to the new parking location and exploring further up Vepco. It eventually pops out at Gauley Ridge which can be easiest reached from the Turner Run entrance and which also connects up to Slate Lick and some other fire road networks. I have ridden from Turner Run to where Vepco connects so I am excited to reach this point from Vepco as well.

It was a good ride on a great pony with an amazing dog.

until the next adventure.

The video of this ride:

Lunging the Possum: Balance Work

April 27, 2019

Possum has crap balance, particularly to the right. And successful games ponies need to have outstanding balance.

I have been working on some light hill work and getting him to better carry himself. He has learned quickly and he has progressed considerably. He is learning to use his neck, back, and butt better and his top line is developing from it.

Friday I decided to step up the lunging. I put on a surcingle, bridle, and relaxed side reins. I could not find my regular length lunge line so I was working with a ground driving line I picked up at auction for tying Daisy in camp at competitions. Not the longest but long enough.

I have lunged Possum a few times, so we have the logistics worked out between us and he went right to work.

I started off to the right, on the flat. Well, relatively flat. I have what I call “the riding field” which is just a field with a semi level section. So slightly angled with some rolls in it which is where I started. I switched direction after a while and eventually walked the circle over to the side of the hill in the other section of the riding field. This part of the hill has a mild grade, and also a minor dip coming into and out of the hill portion of the circle.

Adding in the hill on a lunge line was a suggestion of Jenny’s. She initially mentioned the technique when I was telling her how Possum was throwing his head into a mini leap to go up hills. I did utilize it at the start of his hill work. Unfortunately the footing was so terrible at the time that lunging with even some speed on a hill was a bit too slidie. Now is a good time to add this back in since there is better footing and with Possum having developed somewhat improved balance.

We eased into the hill, adding a bit more with each circle. Possum did a great job and moved decently. Eventually we eased back off the hill and then reversed direction.

Possum is particularly stiff and unbalanced to the right so I wanted to give that side a bit of extra focus. After a few nice circles to the right we worked back onto the hill for a while before coming back to the flat and calling it a good session.

I’ll continue throwing some lunge session into Possum’s training and will shorten the side reins a little. I may also move over to the steeper part of the hill too.

Brief video:

The above was on Friday. Today (Saturday) I linger again. This time I did bring in the side reins one loop and moved to the steeper part of the hill.

Again he did excellent.

He listened better to my cues and worked even harder.

*it is extremely hard to lunge and take a photo and or video.

a clip of today’s work.

Trail Report: Tom’s Park, Old Man Run 1117

April 26, 2019

After work on Thursday I rushed out to get some mountain riding in. Daisy and I Loaded up Possum and zipped out to Little Dry River Rd in Fulks Run to Tom’s Park. It started to drizzle right as I pulled over to park. But it was warm enough to handle a little drizzle.

I hopped on Possum and off we went. It appears they have been working on the first section of this fire road and it was quite a bit smoother and certainly an improvement.

At the split there was a very large culvert that appears to have been freshly replaced, with the old bent up one sitting on the side of the fire road, presumably for future removal. It was shaped like a pony eating monster, and was quite a bit taller, wider, and longer than Possum. He was weary of it but he did push on past and we took the right hand branch of the fire road. The road improvements appear to have ended at the culvert replacement.

We rode on a bit longer before turning around and starting back. The ride out was primarily on an incline and therefore the return ride was mostly down hill. I rode for about two hours. It drizzled until the last thirty minutes or so, which is when it started to down pour. By the time we got back to the trailer all three of us were soaked.

Notable, this was Possum’s first solo trail ride and I was very happy with him. He marched along confidently and he happily splashed through water. He did look at oddly placed rocks with a weary eye but he didn’t spook or bulk at anything.

We did a lot of walking and some cardio trotting. Possum was a bit concerned about trotting. It didn’t feel like laziness, more like he has always walked on trail and was unsure why we would break the usual protocol. After a little encouragement he agreed trotting was acceptable. Cantering on the other hand was a different story. I felt like he was sure only bad ponies canter on trails and he was not going to be a bad pony. Unfortunately I didn’t have on spurs or a crop with me. I kicked quite a bit to get him into a canter which he kept breaking. I did manage a short but nice canter with me asking him to slow back down rather than him choosing to. After that I decided to stick with just walking and trotting for this ride and work on the canter when I have spurs on. You know, pick your battles.

It was a really nice ride and I plan to keep trying to get him out about once a week if possible. I feel the diversity is good for him (and all horses) and he really seems to enjoy and to be extremely comfortable on trails. Plus the mountains can kick a pony into shape mighty quick.

I just wish my trail saddle fit him. It is quite a bit more comfortable than my English saddle.

* I have not been using my Trail app to track my rides because it doesn’t work while I listen to podcasts. And recently listening to podcasts has been winning over mapping my tracks.

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