Mid-Atlantic #4 – August 2019

August 6, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Video of Rebekah and Simon

MGAA International Team 2019 – Training Camp

July 25, 2019

This past weekend we kicked off the 2019 MGAA International Team activities with a training camp. The Radford family stepped up to host everyone at their lovely home in Lovettsville, VA and we were able to arrange some gracious ride time at the Carpenter’s arena in nearby Round Hill, Virginia.

We knew from the start that teammember Sadie was not going to be able to make the weekend and we missed her crazy antics and amazing personality but we had a fantastic time even without her. Jesse was also only able to take part in the first ride session and daytime social time but we took what we could get. Abby F, Abby R, and Mikayla were all in for the long haul arriving Friday evening. I joined them at the ring for the first ride session Saturday morning.

We had a nice assortment of ponies including four of the Radford’s, my two, my teammate Matt’s pony Hero and although we didn’t need more, my other teammate Val also offered all of her ponies. Matt and Val both know how important it is for these riders to get on as many different ponies as possible. And also how important it is for me to see how they handle different ponies and which ones they are most comfortable on.

This weekend was important for me to also get to know the riders better. I regularly coach Abby F and Mikayla on their usual MGAA team, and I also coached Sadie last summer. But I have not worked with Abby R or Jesse. So getting to know them under saddle, especially on different ponies was extremely helpful. It was also an excellent opportunity for the riders to get to know each other and how they interact, and also get to know me as a coach.

I noted how they handed off with each other and who seemed most comfortable riding which ponies and doing which skills. So lots of good stuff there.

We started off with a nice two hour practice with me mostly observing them and their riding. They made very few mistakes and all rolled along nicely.

Did I mention it was ridiculously hot and all sorts of events were cancelling for the extreme conditions? Well these girls, and our ever helpful ring crew of Heather and Beth labored through the heat without a complaint.

After the first session we took a nice long relaxing break and enjoyed a refreshing and delusions lunch provided by Heather. We also spent a good few hours together making some reservations for the trip. The team helped pick out the hotel we will be staying in for the one night we are staying somewhere hotel-ish. And then we researched and found a camp ground in Northern Wales in Snowdonia where we will be exploring for a few days before the competition. The team was very helpful and Abby R is the one that finally found a camp ground for us.

Eventually we were back out for session two of riding. It was still wicked hot but by the time we were tacked up a storm was pending and pushing in much cooler air, forcing on a nice strong breeze and it even decided to rain lightly on us. It was all welcomed as the girls ran through another hour and a half of races before we called practice because of lightning. In this session I picked a few skills I saw that needed a little work and gave out a little home work for when the riders went back home. It was another excellent practice.

Back at the Radford’s house we dove into some pizza and then I was surprised with a delicious birthday cake and lovely presents from everyone. It was my birthday and it was so appreciated that everyone made me feel special. I can’t wait to show off my gifts and it really showed how much they all know me!

Right after cake I showered and then went right to sleep. That heat sucks it out of you. Plus I needed to rest up for the fun mini scrimmage back at the Carpenters the next day. And to avoid the heat we were starting early.

Sunday we were tacked up and ready to roll nice and early. Matt, who is a Pony Club Horseman is about to go to Pony Club Champs East, as were two other friends, Virginia and Grace. So they agreed to scrimmage with us. And Val joined us and flipped back and forth between the teams filling in as the forth rider for two teams.

We rode for about two hours rolling through races with Heather and Karen schlepping equipment. I am so proud of the team. They did an excellent job and rode well.

The whole weekend they were nothing short of fantastic and did an excellent job of jumping on a new pony and galloping off in a race whenever I said “switch”! There was not a single complaint and we did have a nice variety of build and personality in our ponies for them to show their skills on.

I am very much looking forward to the trip we have coming up in less than two weeks. I think this team is going to be extremely fun and will have an excellent time.

We hope you will join us in our blog posts and cheer us on as we share our adventures with you.

Here is a compilation of video clips from the second practice session and the scrimmage. Sorry, I did not think to get any video during the first session. And I also forgot to get a photo of everyone at the scrimmage.

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

July 24, 2019

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

A little video of our practice:

2019 MGAA Nationals – July 12-14, 2019

July 22, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

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

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography

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

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography

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

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

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

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

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

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

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

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

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

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

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

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

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

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

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

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

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

Photo: Genevieve Arena Photography

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

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

Photo: Genevieve Arens Photography

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

Some video from our 5th session:

Possum goes to Boot Camp

July 5, 2019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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