2 Lanes of Bending Poles

I posted a few weeks ago about getting bending pole bases for our local Blue Ridge Games.  https://blueridgepony.wordpress.com/2012/02/01/games-equipment-for-the-not-for-profit-group/ 

Since then I have been working on getting the poles that go into the bases, painting them, and then assembling the poles into the bases. 

I already had a bucket of blue paint I picked up last summer to paint the balloon boards.  I figure it will be the unoffical, official, Blue Ridge Games equipment color. 

I got the poles painted in blue two weekends ago.  Which took a lot more time than one would think. 

Next I added some yellow electric tape to the poles, in a candy cane like fashion.  I think this really made the poles look a lot fancier.  Side note, the electric tape did not stick to the painted poles nearly as well as I expected.  I wonder how well it will hold up over time and in weather.  I suppose we will see! 

Once the tape was applied the poles were ready for the final step, screwing into the bases. 

Yesterday, Rich helped me finish the process by screwing two screws per base into the poles.   It only took a few minutes, and then they were done! 

Now we have two lanes of five poles, assembled, loaded into my trailer, and ready to go to the first practice of the year this coming Sunday!  Wooo! 

Packing for Next Weekend – Already

Last night I started to pack the games equipment up for our Blue Ridge Games Clinic and Open Practice Session next weekend.

Yep, it’s over a week in advance, but I tend to plan ahead like that.

I loaded the smaller stuff into a giant tote and piled most of what was left into the stacked barrels.  I still have a few items I need to pull out of the field but the majority is loaded into the passenger side pony stall in my trailer now.  Ill have to rearrange a little to fit in the bending poles, which still need to be screwed into their bases, but that shouldn’t be too hard.

I am getting pretty excited about next weekend.  It should be a lot of fun!

Litter Training Meets the Draft Brain – 2012

Simon is a slightly slower learner than previous ponies I have had. He tries his best, but things just don’t sink in as quickly. With most of the previous ponies I have trained for games, they seemed to pick up a skill or pattern immediately. With them I would start their first time through bending poles at a trot and by the time we turned around the end pole to bend back, they were already cantering through them.

Not Simon. Granted he is built more like an 18 wheeler and weaving is harder, my previous ponies were more like Moseratis so it was a tad easier for them, it’s been a year now and he still seems a bit confused going through the poles. After we complete a run through them I imagine his brain, “so you want me to change which side of the pole I am running on? Are you sure about that?”

Simon's first competition last April - Bending poles end turn, not pretty

Last night we were doing a little practice and went through the poles at a steady, slow, almost plodding canter, and before we made it to the 5th pole we had already knocked down two. I employ all of my bending skills with him. I neck rein, I direct rein, I throw my weight, I kick with my heels (I even had spurs on last night) and he does move over, just not nearly enough. The second pole he took out was almost smack in the middle of his chest.

I righted the poles and tried going through them again and we did a bit better, managing to leave all the pole standing, although I don’t know if it was physically possible for Simon to go any slower and still maintain the three beat canter. He often trots faster.

His end turn has really improved over the past year though. I give him that. He is developing a nice turn on the haunches. I even had to grab the pole to keep it upright when we turned around it the second time. Go Simon!

Next we worked through litter race some. This is another race that has been a particular challenge for Simon. In litter, the rider starts at the A line and rides up the field to a neatly lined up “pile” of cartons. For MGAA we use water bottle like containers with the end cut off. The open end is facing away from the A line. So the rider must ride behind the containers, turning to face the A line, and using a little stick (4 foot dowel rod), scoop up one carton. The rider then rides back to the A line, dropping the litter from the stick into a trash can that is sitting in the middle of the field. (up and back).

Simon's first competition last April - walking his turn to face the litter

All of my previous ponies quickly learned to gallop up, canter a tight turn around the cartons, leaving me enough space to lean and scoop up one littler on the turn, and gallop back with me depositing the litter on the run.

May 2011 - Pick and Run

Not so easy for Simon. Last year we cantered up, trotted a turn, stopped, I scooped the litter, and then he galloped home. Although Simon seems to have really grasped how to complete this task, breaking down to a trot and then stopping even for a second, really eats up time. So I have been making an effort to teach him to continue moving through his turn.

We have been working on this pretty rigorously for the past month and are getting mixed results. Most days, the first four or five times through the race Simon does not quite understand that I am asking him to turn completely and he turns half way. Eventually he gets it and continues through the turn although then we are still left trying to get the size of his turn perfected, which is disconcertingly inconsistent.

Spring 2011 - Stand and pick

Sometimes I ask him to turn and he drops his butt and turns nice and tight on his haunches. Other times he makes a big sweeping arch of a turn and we wind up three lanes over. Sometimes he gets distracted by a bird or a tree branch and makes the turn but with his head in the wrong direction and his body bowed awkwardly. This inconsistency makes it frustrating for me to determine just when and how much force to use to ask for the turn. Too much and he runs over the litter, too little and they are out of reach.

I am told that this is a draft brain. That drafts are generally known for their willingness and interest in pleasing their rider, but are a little slow on the uptake.

April 2011 - He knows to gallop home at least!

We are going to keep working on this particular skill and eventually we are going to get it right. Hopefully before the competition season gets going!

Mounted Games DEMO ~ PA Horse World Expo

Friday we worked the MGAA booth at the Pennsylvania Horse World Expo, and Saturday we returned to take part in the MGAA demo.  It was slated for 4pm on Saturday  in the large arena and we had a full hour.

Simon at Kelly's getting dressed to leave.

Leading up to the demo day, Simon got to stay at our friend Kelly’s barn for the weekend, where he soaked up her loving hospitality. 

Simon loves stalls, and would prefer to be stabled part of the time versus a full time pasture pony.  So he loved having his very own stall for a few days, although he did follow their pony, Nicky’s example and let himself out Thursday night to frolic around. 

Kelly bathed, fed and let Simon in and out of his stall for the weekend and he was in pristine order when I arrived to pick him up Saturday morning.  I had my wash bucket in hand and found him still squeaky clean.  Since I had some time to burn I lunged him for a bit to get out some bucks and then got his wraps on in advance, before loading up and shoving off for PA.

On the road

We arrived in a three trailer convoy and managed, after much deliberation, to get parked awkwardly at the end of the lot, but still near the majority of the other MGAA trailers. 

After parking our group went in to visit the booth, which was hopping with Saturday expo goers, and joined in inviting spectators to come watch our demo and cheer us on.

Stopping for gas

Before long it was time to tack up and get dressed in our navy and yellow gear.  Linda, Kim and I combined our team, Old School, with two riders, Nancy and Phyllis, from the pink and black team, Time Flies.  Together we were representing the adult, “fossil” division.  Once tacked up, we spent a bit of time trying to figure out how to get into the venue with our ponies.  This was surprisingly difficult as the venue did not have signage or people out to offer direction.  We eventially found a people door we were suppose to take our ponies through and then made our way to the holding area. 

We spent about 40 minutes on deck just outside of the arena as other horses entered and exited for their demo events.  Everyone was nervous, ponies included and we were told the house was packing in and there were already 2000-3000 spectators in the arena with more entering.

Simon and I - Carton Race (photo: R Crowley)

Simon and I - Carton Race 2 (Photo: R Crowley)

When it was time to go, Linda led the entrance with me and Simon just behind her.  Linda’s pony Blue did not hesitate as we reached the opening to the arena and we pranced into a packed house.  The other riders all followed and everyone lapped the arena a few times for warm up as our fantastic ring crew prepared the equipment, and a few short minutes later, we were ready to roll.

Simon and I, Kim and Gwen - Pony Pairs (Photo: R Crowley)

Simon and I - Litter Race (Photo: R Crowley)

We started off with speed weavers, which is a pole bending race.  Riders cross over the start, or A line, and weave up through a line of 5 poles, turn the end pole and weave back.  The incoming rider passes a baton to the outgoing rider who repeats the same pattern, leaving all poles standing.  During the set up our announcer encourage the crowd to cheer the riders on and named off the teams describing the difference in age and level of play each team represented.  The crowd came through when the team next to us dropped their baton and the arena filled with a united bellow of “OOOOOHHHHHHHH”.

The next race was my favorite, Mug shuffle.  It requires the riders to race along the side of a line of four poles, moving a mug from the top of the first pole to the second pole, and then picking up a second mug on the third pole and moving it to the fourth pole, ending at the opposite side of the arena at the C line.  The next rider on each team will repeat the same action, but from the opposite direction, there by returning the mugs to their original poles.  This race is generally run at a full canter or an all out gallop depending on the rider’s skill.

Simon and I - Mug Shuffle (Photo: R Crowley)

Simon was very pumped up and when it was our turn, instead of his usual plodding canter, he ripped up the field at a full gallop, performing like the games pony I have been hoping he could become.  After that the races started to blur together.  The crowd performed lots of collective “OOOOHS” and “AHHHHHHS” and  a few “EEEEKKKK” type of reactions.

Simon and I - Mug Shuffle (Photo: R Crowley)

Sadie and Truffles - Mug Race (Photo: R Crowley)

The star of the show was 8 year old Sadie.  A tiny little thing, on a cute 11 and a half hand pony, Sadie has been playing games for a few years now, and is a determined and fearless rider.  She did a fabulous running vault onto her pony and the crowd cheered uproariously loud.  At the end everyone wanted to speak to “the little one”.

The other crowd favorite was Mackenzie on her leopard Appaloosa Inky.  Mack and Inky are amazingly fast, and work together like a clock work team, with Mack vaulting on and off, and performing all of her skills at a full gallop.  The striking appearance of Inky certainly caught spectators’ eyes and after the event I repeatedly heard interested individuals asking about the “Dalmatian pony”.

Mack and Inky - Bottle Race (Photo: R Crowley)

Simon was so proud of himself and clearly liked performing for a crowd.  He had his tail up through the whole event and although he was very nervous, he listened to me and worked to put on a good show.  He is really becoming an outstanding games pony.  I hope I can figure out how to get him to bring out that speed at our regular competitions.

We  completed 16 races before our hour was coming to an end and we used the last few minutes to ride around the edge of the arena and speak with the spectators still in the stands.  I spoke to two parties personally and both told me it was the most exciting event they had seen at the expo.  How awesome is that?

Kim and Gwen - Carton Race (Photo: R Crowley)

We left the arena full of adrenaline and returned to untack and blanket our hard working ponies and return them to their trailers with plenty of hay.

Before taking off for home, we went inside to see how the stand was going, and as expected, it was booming with interested spectators.  Half a dozen MGAA representatives were speaking with groups about games and brochures were being handed out.  I stuck around for a while and helped out, before I decided I needed to go before I was too tired to make the drive home.  On my way out I was stopped two times by spectators that had seen our demo and were on their way to our booth to get some more information.

Simon all done and ready to go home

It was a really cool experience and I really hope it helps MGAA grow and gives more people the opportunity to try this fantastic sport.

If you would like more information on mounted games, MGAA or Blue Ridge Games, feel free to post a comment, send me an email kristashine@hotmail.com or click on one of the corresponding links in the side bar on the left.

MGAA Booth ~ PA Horse World Expo

The Pennsylvania Horse World Expo was pretty cool.  My teammates, Linda and Kim and I went up to Harrisburg to work the MGAA booth all day Friday along with friends Genevieve, Tommy and Annie.  It was a really good time and the booth was pretty busy.  The video running, the photos on the blue display board and the big joust board out in front of our booth all attracted people and we spent most of the day chatting about mounted games, MGAA and telling people how they could give it a try.

I spoke to some jousters, as in full metal jousters, eventers, hunters, barrel racers, trail riders, pleasure riders and people of all ages.  I talked to people who traveled from as far away as New Hampshire and also people down in my own area in Virginia!  We gave them info about clinics in their area, directed them to our website and invited them to watch the demo we would be performing the next day.

Kim and I walked around the venue, taking in the sights and did a little shopping.  I picked up a trailer aid, which I have been wanting to get for my trailer, and a new set of blue cotton reins for Simon.  There was a lot to see and just about everything equine you can imagine to purchase.  We stopped by the event rings and round pens and got a feel for the whole venue, which took hours.  My feet hurt.

Our friend and fellow games rider, Kyley, had her booth, Painting Pony, across the aisle from us.   Kyley’s pony, Minnow, was in the booth and performed painting demos several times throughout the day.  Minnow Is Kyley’s retired games pony, come painter and trick pony.  He is a Chincoteague Pony and he is also adorable.  He hammed it up for the crowd climbing up onto his pony stand and reaching over the corral to greet passersby.  Check Painting Ponies out at http://www.paintingpony.com/

It was a day well spent.  I am pretty enthusiastic about mounted games and can ramble on about it all day long.  But, the only thing better than talking about mounted games all day, is actually playing mounted games all day.  Which is what we did on Saturday.  But you will have to wait until tomorrow to read about that!

If you would like more information on mounted games, MGAA or Blue Ridge Games, feel free to post a comment, send me an email kristashine@hotmail.com or click on one of the corresponding links in the side bar on the left.

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