May 5, 2018

Today was the local Judged Pleasure Ride, part of the Crystal Crown Series, hosted by my local trail club, the Shenandoah Trail Riders and Horsemans Association. This is my favorite ride for a couple reasons. It’s the closest, it supports my trail club, it’s a nice length, and I also really enjoy the laid back vibe and easy fun feel of the ride.

I have met Val and Zoe here before and we had a blast, and some years this ride has conflicted with Mid-Atlantic #1, which takes precedence. Last year I came on my own and poor Simon was a mess all alone. And honestly, it’s not so much fun with no companions. But I was befriended by Andrea and Lacy who were the pair ahead of me on the course. They offered me to join them and I felt like we hit it off. See last year’s blog post for details on that. Click here for it

This year I was going to be headed out on my own again so I reached out and Andrea was also headed out on her own and happy to join forces. Woo! Simon and I met up with her and her big boy Quinn and we had an awesome time today.

Obstacle 1: The Chainsaw Massacre. Stand on a plywood platform and be approached by a chainsaw. When you horse moves the chainsaw is stopped. The closer the chainsaw gets the higher you score.

I was happy with Simon although he gave in quick, he was sensible. This was our lowest score, 4.

Quinn was like a rock! He stood there without a care. I am pretty sure he rocked a solid 10 here.

Although this was my lowest scoring obstacle it was also one of my favorites. It was unexpected and different. I have not seen an obstacle anything like this one before. Pretty neat.


Obstacle 2: Off Side Mount. Have your horse step their front legs over the log so they are straddling it. Dismount, leave your reins, walk around behind your horse to the off side, and remount.

This went well. Simon did great. I was a little sloppy but I still managed to remount from the offside way better than I expected. Score: 10

Quinn was a goof here. He walked off when Andrea went around him, like “haha”. So she reattempted and he did this silly jump to heave his front end over. It is so cute. She mentioned he ground ties and in retrospect she should have dropped his reins on the ground.

I liked this Obstacle a lot too. Simple but also different.


Obstacle 3: The Gate. The typical rope gate obstacle. Pick up the rope by the knot (not the loop), only use one hand, don’t put it over or under the neck of your horse or let it touch the ground, go through the gate and close it.

Andrea killed this one. I am pretty sure she got a 10. Quinn was so chill.

Simon impressed me here. Last week he was moving so fast on this one and just backed off of it and I had to drop the rope before closing it. I had a moment of confusion at the start deciding which hand to use and switched from left to right at the last second, but all went well except for me letting the rope touch the ground. I believe a judge made the comment that being on a short pony is an advantage on some obstacles but on this one it put my rope closer to the ground. Ha-ha yep. I am super pleased with how this went. Score: 9

This is a classic obstacle and I have no excuse for not having worked on it at home. Note to self – work on this at home.


Obstacle 4: Back up. Back up the hill through the zigzag pole pattern and through the red markers.

We did super well at this. I started off backing up next to the course then started over on the actual course and it went super super well. Like surprisingly well. If we had only started off on course! Go Simon. Score: 8

Quinn was so big for that course. I doubt Andrea could see the poles around his belly. Be tried though and got most of it. I really think there was just a little visual issue because it was really not bad.


Obstacle 5: Soccer. Pick up the broom, use it to push the big ball across the yard and out the end in 60seconds. Re approach if you pass it.

I expected this to go pretty poorly with Simon’s weird aversion to big balls but it went surprisingly well. He was a bit quick, and we had to re approach once, but we finished in 30 something seconds. He was apprehensive of the ball. And it was heavier to push than it appeared. Score: 10

Quinn was doing ok but Andrea accidentally bopped him in the head with the broom and then he was audibly upset with the broom, snorting and all. But he was actually pretty good for being unhappy. He did bust out the side of the course, but all in all was reasonably “freaked out”. He did not care about the ball. And Andrea mentioned he eats brooms normally so I assume he was just that offended at being accidentally bopped by it. Reasonable. Andrea did get the ball half way across which was a decent feat.

This was another cool obstacle. I really liked it.


Obstacle 6: sidepass mailbox. Step over the rail on the left hand side by the flag, side pass along the rail to the right, open the mailbox, remove the box and hold it over your head, shake it, return it to the mailbox and close it. Side pass back to the left along the rail.

This was our second worse obstacle. Not a bad obstacle set up either. And Simon is a good lateral mover. He was rather concerned about that flag, which is just silly, and too busy looking at it to focus on what I was asking. So he backed off the rail instead of side passed. Score: 5.

Quinn is not a lateral mover and you have to watch him on the video it’s so cute. Andrea is trying to move him over and he just stands there like a rock. He also stands like a rock for the mailbox. Such a good boy.

This was a good obstacle but eh. I don’t have a good reason to not love it accept we didn’t do well at it. And it was a pretty typical one so we should have done well. We have side passed to and from mailboxes before. Maybe that’s why it was meh. Been there done that, but did it better before. I guess they can’t all be winners.


Obstacle 7: The Tire. Walk through the tire. The tire was filled with bottles.

Quinn yet again killed this one. He just marched on through like a champ. Done and done. I am sure he got a solid 10.

Simon was a bit apprehensive but listened. He was not nearly as smooth as Quinn. Score: 8.

You know, this one was cool. There are only so many things you can do with a tractor tire and this was cool. Simple and cool.


Obstacle 8: The Tunnel. Ride through the tunnel.

Quinn walked on through. Simple and perfect. Beasted.

Simon also crushed this one.

I believe we both got a 10.

Probably too easy but I liked it. I think this would be a good #1 obstacle to get them warmed up.


Obstacle 9: Step Up. Ride up the steps.

Quinn killed this one too. It’s a crap video but I am sure he walked off with a 10.

Simon ducked a bit on the second step but nothing too bad. Score: 9.

This is a cool built in obstacle and this is the only place I have seen one. We have gone down it once before too.


Obstacle 10: The Pond. Get into the pond, pull in the whale. Keep your horse in the water until the whale hits the water.

Quinn did so well at this one. He is such a solid boy. He really did a great job at this one.

Simon did so much better than I expected. He really wanted to run but he held it together until just when that whale hit the water. This was such an improvement for him and any type of dragging. I am super proud of him. Score: 8

A challenge. I like this obstacle. They always have something here and it’s always a challenge. But it’s always a good one.


I had so much fun with Andrea and Quinn. We chatted the whole time and it was so much fun. I felt completely at ease and myself and I think she did too. And Simon loves Quinn. He was constantly nose bumping him and giving him sniffs. Quinn was such a calming body for Simon to be with and a had a similar pace too. Two cute ponies.

I hope to ride with Andrea and Quinn again. 😊

2014 Crystal Crown #2

May 7, 2014

This past Saturday was the second Judged Pleasure Ride in the Crystal Crown Series. It was hosted by the Shenandoah Trail Riders and Horseman Association and held near Woodstock, Virginia. I brought Simon and met Zoe and Val at the grounds.


The first obstacle involved standing in a narrow muddy creek and dragging a drainage tube towards you. You did not want your horse to back up. We all performed mediocre at this task, with Val doing the best.


The next task was to open a gate, go through it, close it and then open it back up, come back out and reclose it. I thought this one would be easy since Simon is good at gate opening, and planned ahead which hand to use to make it the most efficient. I was wrong. It was not so easy. The gate had a chain attached that was rather long, and made it difficult to close. The ponies kept thinking they were supposed to go through the opening the chain left, and with the gate sitting so far out, it made it hard to get close enough to the post to hook it. Zoe and I both had a messy but somewhat successful run. Val showed us up and whipped through that drill like it was nothing.


The next obstacle was narrowly set grounds poles, laying out a twisty backup pattern. I thought this one was also going to be easy for Simon, since he is a good backer. But nope. We backed up all over the place, but not so much in the pattern we were intended too. Zoe pretty much did the same. And Again Val kicked our butts, backing like she knew what she was doing.


The fourth obstacle was a looky-loo one. It had some blow up pool toys attached to a barrel, with one of those singing fish that is motion activated. On the barrel was a child’s fishing rod. The rider needed to pick up this rod, and then ride over to a kitty pool, that contained a blow up pool ball, and a bunch of plastic fish. The Fish had little magnets at the end of their mouths and the goal was to fish up one fish. Simon showed us his backing skills again as he backed all around this obstacle, before pulling up at the pool for me to get my fish-on. And my fishing skills sucked. Although I “hooked” a few fish, I was not steady enough to lift one out of the pool without it dropping back off. Yack.

At this point we had been riding around several large fields from one obstacle to the next which was a bit boring. Luckily the path led us into the woods and we got to follow a fun woods trail for a while. This is where the obstacles turned more in our favor. The first wooded one we came to was a cut in half tractor tire laying on the ground. You had to ride into the tire, and then ride the front legs out, and then side pass around the tire, keeping your horse’s back legs in. And boom, Simon was a pro, getting our first 10 point perfect score. Val also completed this skill pretty smoothly with Sprite simply tripping his way in and out but turning nicely. Zoe, riding Petal, was a little less successful, with Petal being unsure what to do, but eventually giving it somewhat of a go.


One of our favorite obstacles had us riding up a hill and going up three large “steps”. This was one of our favorite obstacles and we cheered each other up the hill, and then asked if we could go again. The judges said we were the only group not to complain about the obstacle and that in the future we may need to go back down it. Since there was no one waiting behind us they allowed us to all three hop up and down the steps a few more times.


Some of the other obstacles included riding through some woods, off the trail, riding past a bike, umbrella and some other spooky stuff, and riding into a box on the ground made out of sticks, and turning a tight circle inside of it without touching the edges.


The final scary obstacle was a large black plastic sheet with some slits in it that you were supposed to ride through, and then through some pool noodles. This was Simon’s worst obstacle. He stood with his nose touching the plastic, and would not budge. I think if there was a breeze rippling the tarp, he might have gone through, as he has done in the past, but this time he had no interest. After my attempt I asked to be led through, simply to have the experience, only scoring a 2. Of course Val showed us how to do it, and Zoe followed behind her with just a little hesitation. We noticed some other riders wearing spurs and I think next time I’ll equip myself with some of those for a little encouragement.


There was a brief ride back to the parking area along a back road, and we arrived at the tail end of the lunch which I have to say was really disappointing and pretty much gone. The three of us enjoyed a little breather while we waited for the results and discussed how much fun we had.


Each rider had selected three divisions to be placed in and we were happy to clap for Val as she received a first, a second and a sixth in the three divisions she had selected. Sadly, Zoe and I have some work cut out for ourselves, and did not receive any ribbons. Our points were something along the lines of Val – 84, Krista – 64 and Zoe – 62. Give or take a few points in either direction.


Other than the crap, mostly nonexistent lunch, and an extreme lack of information ahead of time, it was a fantastic competition. We all agree it was an awesome day, and we hope there are some more that do not conflict with the games season so we can take part in those as well. We did look and the 3rd JPR in the series is during MGAA Nationals so that one is a bust.























Crystal Crown Judged Pleasure Ride

October 25, 2013

Two weeks ago, during the Mid-Atlantic #5 mounted games competition, the final leg of the Crystal Crown Judged Pleasure Ride (JPR) series was also scheduled to take place. I have been wanting to take part in one of these for a few years now, but they all seem to be scheduled the exact same weekends as the Mid-Atlantic series. But it rained so heavily, the parking lot the Crystal Crown series was riding out from could not handle the rigs, and to keep people from being stuck, they decided to postpone the ride until the following Sunday.

So I got Simon and I signed up and last Sunday we headed to our first JPR.

JPR competitions are set up to test the partnership between rider and horse, by requiring them to navigate cleverly designed trail like obstacles set up along a predetermined course. Simon loves trail rides, coupled with his mounted games skills, sounds like a great fit, right? And we did do that Saddle Doctor trail fun day in the spring, which Simon excelled at. So I went with expectations that we would have a fun day.

Upon arrival I was parked next to a nice lady named Judy, who turned out to be my friend, Zoe’s Aunt. Pretty neat.

I picked up my ride packet, which included a number to be pinned somewhere on me or Simon and a dialog that recited the basic story of the Wizard of Oz. I read it diligently, tucked it into my saddle bag, and got me and Simon outfitted in our trail gear and headed to the checkout point.

The first obstacle was right there, which did not give us time to relax, and move out first, and Simon was still busy nickering to the other ponies and taking in the whole situation. We watched the two ladies ahead of us go through, one successfully, and the other, not so much. And then it was our turn.

The obstacle consisted of a collection of jump standards with jump poles sticking out like spokes on a wheel, and laying at angles onto the ground. There was a scarecrow in the middle holding a basket, and some pinwheels stuck throughout. The object was to circle around, stepping over the poles, progressively winding in towards the middle throughout three turns around, drop a stuffed dog, dubbed “toto” into the basket, and then wind back out. We were pretty successful, although Simon was not too keen on the scarecrow, and I had to give him a moment to sniff it before he allowed me to drop the dog in. We scored a 6!

We hit the trail, and quickly arrived at the second obstacle behind the same two ladies again. It turned out one of them, Jeanie, and her horse Rockie, were experienced at the sport, and her friend was rather new. They invited me to join them and I decided to take them up on the offer.

At the second obstacle there was a blue barrel with ruby slippers laying on it. There was then a zig zag path set up with step in poles and caution tape that led to another scarecrow and basket. The object was to collect the slippers, ride through the zigzag, dropping the slippers in the basket, and then back back out of the zigzag to the barrel within a 1 minute (or maybe it was two minutes).

We easily collected the slippers, no big deal for this games pony and rider. We walked through the zig zag, Simon snorted at the scarecrow but allowed me to quickly drop the slippers into the basket, and then we began to back up. Simon’s butt quickly caught a pole, bending it down and allowing him to step over the tape, which then popped back up and under his hind leg. He was nervous but remained still while the volunteer unconnected it, and then he continued to back out of the pattern as asked. We still needed to relax into the ride, but I really liked this obstacle. We scored a 5.

We began the ride to the next obstacle with our new friends, when the less experienced lady turned back because her horse was not feeling well. We continued, just Jeanie and myself.

The third obstacle was one of my favorites. It started with a barrel with a weighted balloon on it. The rider collects the balloon, and rides to a tarp laying on the ground. The tarp was painted like a yellow brick road, and had a square in the middle of it that the ride must stop with the pony’s front hooves in, pausing for 5 seconds. Then the rider and horse continue over the tarp, and deposit the balloon into a basket on a scarecrow. Jeanie cruised through the course, showing us how easy it can look, and then Simon and I stepped up.

Of course picking the balloon up was no issue at all. Although Simon did pause with a snort at the tarp before stepping on, stopped in the square and stood, and then finished crossing it to the scarecrow, whose head he tried to rip off with his teeth. We received a 5.

The next obstacle was just a short distance ahead, and required the riders to bend through poles while hopping over poles, and then deposit a brain into a basket. Simon and I kicked butt at this one, cruising on through, and were awarded a 9. Which we also received at the next obstacle, which required riders to hop over some poles on the ground, and deposit a heart into a basket held by a tin man before returning. We were told that a hoof tapped a pole, which kept us from a 10 at both obstacles.

The sixth obstacle was really easy for us. There was a trail on the side of a hill marked off in caution tape that had a few poles laying on the ground, and at the end was a truck with the tail gate facing away. Riders were given a Mardi Gras necklace, which they had to take to the tailgate and put around a large stuffed lions neck before returning in under 1 minute. Simon and I cruised through that course using our games skills to drop the necklace, turn and return. We were told we had the fastest time all day, which was not the goal, and we were awarded a full 10 points!

After obstacle 6 we had a nice long ride across a creek and up into the mountains to reach the rest of the course.

Ostastacle 7 was a backing up skill, that had riders backing their horses up a slight include and navigate to align next to a hitch rail. This should have been easy for us, but I got Simon moving too quickly and a little off course so we only achieved an 8 on this one.

The next obstacle was a written test about the Wizard of Oz, found in a bucket along the trail. It was pretty easy, but I am still glad I brought the dialog sheet along. After filling it out, riders carried it with them to the 9th obstacle to turn it in.

The 9th was probably my favorite obstacle. It was set just after you came down the mountain and required riders to pass through several slited tarps hanging down like sheets, and then depositing the written test into a scarecrow basket. Simon came off the mountain hot and was pawing as we waited impatiently for our turn. When it was time to go, I actually had to hold him back to keep him trotting through the skill, with not a flick of his ear. We got a 10!

The course retraced itself for a short ways, back through the creek and almost to the end for obstacle 10. Simon jigged most of this snorting in excitement. He continued to paw and dance around while we waited our turn, and he was nowhere near settled when it was time to go. The object was to side pass over a mattress (which was rather flat), while facing a specific direction. Simon was dancing and not interested in listening at all, but after a few seconds, he clicked in and side passed across it. We were given a generous 7 on that one.

It was awesome. I had a great time, and Simon really enjoyed it too. I really hope to find some to take part in next year that are not in conflict with my games season. It was a great bonding time with Simon and I really enjoyed working together to complete the tasks.

The final scores came out, and we received a total of 79 out of 100 points, placing 36th out of 67 riders in total. We also placed 5th in our age group and in our breed group (grade). We placed 4th in novice horse and 3rd in novice rider! Not bad!












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