Being on a Team is Awesome

Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography 2009

I mention my mounted games team, Old School, a lot on this blog.  My Old School teammates are a major part of my life and I consider each one of them to be a special friend and part of my family.

Competition calls for high adrenaline and brings out all sorts of emotions including both fear and aggression.  Which means teammates learn about each other on an emotional level, and how to influence each other for the best.  The bond a close team develops is unique and extraordinary.

In a world where a rider works to bond with a horse to form a partner team, teaming up with other riders in the same way is not the norm.   Very few equestrian sports have a place for teams, and in the ones that do, a team competes independently.  Each teammate performances on their own and their score is combined with other team riders’ independent performances for a total score.

Mounted games is unique, requiring riders to work like a team in a more traditional sense.  Riders coordinate to select an order of rider and pony, to come out with the fastest race completion.  Riders hand batons and flags from one to the next, requiring the selection of ponies and riders that match up the best at the highest speed.  Deciding where to stick the steady and the speedy in race orders or who handles the start and the drag position pressure the best becomes essential to a cohesive and competitive team.  A teammate may navigate a race leading another teammate’s pony, or holding a rope linking one rider to another.

Blue Ridge Games September 2008
Linda on Bailey and Carol Ann on Zeke
Carol Ann’s very first time playing games!

A strong team learns each other’s physical and emotional weaknesses, how far to push each other to achieve a top performance, and what type of support each other needs.  Does a teammate that is messing up do better if they can sit out of a few races and collect their self?  Or does this time out make them insecure and ensure they fall apart?  Does a teammate ride better if you yell encouragements, or does hearing their name make them feel too much pressure?  If you instruct a teammate to ease up because they have the lead, will slowing down mess up their timing or will they over estimate your signal and slow down too much?

Krista on Osh Kosh and Carol Ann on Zeke
Mid-Atlantic #2 June 2009

Having a strong team bond can really improve a team’s performance, and give them the added edge they need to take it up a notch.  It is a special emotional state that not many equestrians get to share in with other equestrians, and its one of the things that makes mounted games such a special sport.

Guest Teammate Lauren on Niki and Kim on Jerico
Mid-Atlantic #2 2010
Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography

I have had team Old School as a central part of my life for four years.  We have ridden together through those years, with pony changes, guest teammates and an upgrade in our team gear.  We have traveled to at least eight different states to compete against an array of different teams.  We have had body parts banged up and broken both on and off the field.  And we have stood by each other through it all with high fives and smiles on our faces.

Krista and Osh Kosh
Mid-Atlantic #3 2009
Photo: Genevieve of EquiStar Photography

When I reflect that it’s been four years, I think “really, only four years?  No way, it’s got to be more than that?”

Being part of a team is awesome!

Old School’s first competition
Carol Ann and Zeke, Krista and Osh Kosh, Linda and Ace, Guest Rider Cayla and Niki
Mid-Atlantic #1 2009
Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography

Monumental Mall Madness (on the DC Mall) ~ June 2009
Guest Rider Lindsey on Rose, Carol Ann on Zeke, Krista on Osh Kosh, Linda on CC, Guest Rider Michelle on Tease
Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography

Mid-Atlantic #4 November 2009
Krista on Maya, Carol Ann on Zeke, Kim on Jerico, Linda on Blue
Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography

Mid-Atlantic #1 2010
Guest Rider Lisa, Krista and Maya, Kim and Jerico, Guest Rider Tommy and Ace, Linda and Blue
Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography

MGAA Nationals 2010 – New Jersey July
Linda and Blue, Kim and Jerico, Guest Rider Genevieve and Pepper, Carol Ann and Zeke

Mid-Atlantic #2 June 2012
Kim and Gwen, Linda and Blue, Carol Ann and Zeke, Krista and Simon, Guest Rider Zoe and Cheyanne
Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography

Mid-Atlantic #3 August 2012
Linda and Blue, Kim and Gwen, Krista and Simon, Carol Ann and Zeke
Photo: Genevieve of EquiStar Photography

Mid-Atlantic #5 October 2012
Kim and Gwen, Carol Ann and Zeke, Linda and Blue, Krista and Simon
Photo: Genevieve of Equistar Photography

Litter Race Progress

I blogged a while ago here that I had been working with Simon to improve our Litter Race.

The litter Race requires riders to ride to the far end of the lane with a 4 foot dowel in hand.  At the end of the lane are a line of 4 litter cartons with the open end facing away from the start line.  Riders circle behind the litter, scoop one up on the end of the stick and then ride back up the lane, dropping their litter in a trash bin on their way.  They then hand the litter stick over to the next rider who repeats the race sequence.

I am sure this all sounds a lot easier than it is.  I challenge you to give this a try at home.  If you do not have any MGAA standard litter, you can use a tennis ball tube or really any drink container that has the end cut off.

Photo: Genevieve of EquiStar Photography

 Previously, I had to stop to pick up my litter because Simon was having issues making his turn at speed when I leaned over to scoop my litter.  I was working to improve this portion of the race so we could pick the litter up while moving.

scooping on the move
Mid-Atlantic #2 June 9, 2012
Photo: Genevieve of EquiStar Photography

Sadly, the progress on this skill has been slow for Simon, but we are now picking our litter up at a walk, and on occasion, a slow trot.  Not exactly a flying pick up, but we are moving, and that’s a big step.

and off we go
Mid-Atlantic #2 June 9, 2012
Photo: Genevieve of EquiStar Photography

MGAA Team ~ Old School

This weekend was host to the second competition in the MGAA (Mounted Games Across America) Mid-Atlantic Games Series held in Centre Hall, Pennsylvania at Grange Park. 

It was a fantastic weekend, which I’ll blog about later, but for now, I wanted to leave you with my new favorite photo taken by the amazing, Genevieve Arens. 

Photo: Genevieve of EquiStar Photography

This is MGAA Fossil Team, Old School, directly after the final session on Sunday. 

Kim, Linda, Carol Ann, Krista and Zoe. 

4 of my favorite people, and myself.  And Simon of course.

MGAA Mid-Atlantic #1 ~ 2012

Team Old School
Zoe, Carol Ann, Linda, Krista, Kim
Photo: Genevieve Arens

 This past weekend was the big season opener for the east coast mounted games season. We kicked it off with the first edition of the MGAA Mid-Atlantic Series held at the Price George’s Equestrian Center in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. Simon and I rode with our team, Old School, including usual team members; Linda, Kim and Carol Ann. We also asked our friend Zoe to join us for the weekend with her pony Cheyenne.

I started off the weekend with a lengthy hack around the grounds and then joined up with teammates and friends for a a nice little practice on Friday afternoon to help work out some of the silliness.

Photo: Genevieve Arens

Apparently it wasn’t enough because the first session on Saturday started out with Simon a little full of himself. This is typical of Simon, and something I just need to expect and work through until he grows out of it. He did a few little rears (I suspect his hooves are only going one or two feet off the ground) and some leaping starts and a few slow take offs when receiving hand offs. We also took out the end barrel in bottle shuttle, which I am blaming on Simon’s silliness and lack of focus. I managed to reset it relatively quickly without needing to dismount, and proceeded on. The rest of the session was pretty clean with very few mistakes team wide.

Photo: Genevieve Arens

Simon took a little lunch time nap in his portable corral while I took my turn as an assistant referee for the intermediate division.

Nap Time
Photo: Me

Photo: Genevieve Arens

We returned for the afternoon session with Simon in full effect. He moved out, he stopped, he turned, and I felt like we were a well matched pair with great communication and a worthy member of our team. I did miss a flag put in the 3 Pot Flag race. It was totally my fault and Simon was right there, ready to help me pull off a quick correction. Otherwise the session was pretty clean for Simon and I, with just a few other mistakes throughout the team.

Zoe lookin good in Navy and Yellow
Photo: Genevieve Arens

That night we had a fun potluck and social affair at our camp site. We got in lots of laughs and took down some good eats. We also took the moment to invite Zoe to be an official member of the team and she accepted! Yea!

Simon first off the Line
Photo: Ashley Desjardins

Zoe fits right in with the four of us and is such an upbeat, easy going person. She is fun and a real joy to have around. She is also a good rider and an asset to have in races. I am thrilled she accepted and is going to be sporting navy and yellow with us. So yea, Old School is now a 5 man team!

Hand off to Kim
Photo: Genevieve Arens

Sunday we woke up from a night of rain to a warm sunny morning. We hit the field feeling good and the team rode very well. Simon and I had a snafu in the Ball and Cone race, which is generally a pretty strong race for us. He is a true fossil pony, and will stand nicely for me to complete technical tasks like balancing tennis balls on the tops of cones. But Sunday, although he was stopping and standing, he kept turning to face the cone when I would lean over to place the ball, thereby putting it out of my reach. We were eventually successful, but it took a few attempts to reach the cone and ate up too much time. I was rather disappointed in this race, but overall, we had a very clean session with just a few mistakes team wide.

Simon waiting for the call to the start line
Photo: Ashley Desjardins

The 15 race session blew past in no time and we found ourselves in a solid second place at the end. The other teams were fantastic. Particularly our friendly favorites, Time Flies, who rock the pink and black gear. They are a fantastic well practiced team, who have a few members that can pull off vaults and reach items floating in buckets of water without dismounting. Two important skills our team very much lacks. Time Flies gives us a real challenge. They push us to try harder, practice more, and push for additional speed and accuracy. And the best part, they are fun and friendly and nothing but enjoyable to ride with. Which is common in the adult division where teams cheer each other on, compliment well pulled off skills and give occasional high fives amongst each other.

Team Time Flies
Photo: Ashley Desjardins

An excellent weekend, with lots of friends, fun, ponies and games. Old School grew in members, and together we have a real challenge to push for this season.

Simon and I got home late Sunday, but I decided not to take our customary Monday off, and we had a nice hack and got in a little technique practice for myself.

Moving into the changeover box for the start
Photo: Ashley Desjardins

In general I am seeing improvement in Simon.  After the first session I was very pleased with his starts, and noticed in some photos that he was out front of the other ponies quite often.  He also has picked up the pace since last year and made the end of the lane in line with the other ponies, and even ahead on some occasions.  His end turns have improved and he has not lost any of his excellent stopping or standing skills.  He has also improved slightly in bending poles, which is one of his worst races.  This weekend he did not drop his shoulder into any of the poles and he even had a lead change around one of them.

The next two weeks I will be going heavy practicing Ball and Cone, flag puts and turning around barrels.

With the first installment of the series behind us, we have four more to up our game and catch Time Flies.

Photo: Me

Finding a Good Team Fit

May 2010 - Linda and Krista (Tommy and Lisa in the background) - team Old School

Not many horse sports are team oriented, and of those that are, not many are as team extreme as mounted games. 

Mounted games is almost exclusively a team sport.  With the exception of a small amount of individual competitions, most work on a two person/pony pairing or a team of 4 or 5 riders and ponies.  Unlike in some team horse disaplines where a rider’s individual score is combined with his or her teammates’ scores for a placing, in mounted games, riders must work together to collect the points as one unit. 

Spring 2011 - Linda, Carol Ann, Krista

late 1980s - Frederick Pony Club Games Team
Krista, Margie, Mollie
Sarah and Jenny

Mounted games is set up in relay race fashion, with a whole team needing to complete a race for placement and subsequent points, teams must select an order of play that will best utilize each rider pony pair in the teams best interest.  Teams must communicate during races and instruct riders in a race of their standings and how to proceed.  And in some races, teammates must work together to complete a section of the race as a single unit. 

In some races riders may need to ride together holding a short length of rope between the two while navigating a course, or lead and hold one’s pony while the other completes a task.  Riders must also hand off objects from rider to rider, often at high speeds, so determining who’s pony may not get along with another’s is paramount. 

Around 2004 - My sister Kerri and I competing together

Some races require different riders to complete different tasks, and determining which rider and pony pair is best for each obstacle, can significantly determine the outcome of a race.  Some ponies may be slow but better suited for tasks like standing still for a rider to complete a technical task, where another team mount might not stand still, but might have a lot of speed and fast turns that are best utilized in covering distances. 

1993 - Krista and Mollie

1997 or 98 I think
Krista and Kennth
Canada

Some riders and ponies may have better starts and do well under the pressure of first position, while others get nervous in that situation.  Other riders may actually perform better when they are in a pinch, and are good at bringing up the tail in last position.  Some may do well regulating the need for speed and if they need to push or restrain when riding in the last position, depending on the other teams completion of a race. 

  Having a good mix of riders that fill in these positions best, and a good mix of ponies that include both steady and fast will help determine a team’s success.    Finding the right team can be challenging.  Not all riders want to be as dedicated or intense as others.  Some people tend to be less dependable or lose interest quicker than others.  Some people work better in a team environment than others and some people have personalities that tend to be controlling and independent while others are aloof or lack communication. 

1991 or 92 - Christine, Krista and Jenny
Meadowland, NJ

A successful team should have a mix of personalities that get along well, with some strong and some laid back, so the mix works together and doesn’t clash.  A successful team will also have riders that want to be as competitive or who are not worried about being competitive as each other.  Having one rider who doesn’t care how they do mixed in with three that are cut throat and looking to win, is not good for anyone involved. 

Summer 2006 - Christine and Krista
we both got married that year so we rode as "the runaway brides"

2003 or 2004
Krista and Kerri

Riders on a team also need to be of a similar level and experience when competing.  Having one teammate that is just learning to ride and is not confident to break out of the trot matched up with a team of riders that have been competing all their lives at top speeds will only discourage and frustrate everyone. 

I have been playing games for nearly 25 years and have been on an array of teams.  Some were good and some, not so much.  Some were competitive and some were just looking to have fun.  Some teams selected a list of competitions to take part in at the start of the year and were dedicated to those, and other teams were thrown together last minute.  But for the most part, I have always enjoyed being part of a team.  It gives you someone to share the experience with and creates a bond that is unique and special. 

Fall 2011 - Blue Ridge Games
Old School, Scramble, Aftershock

My current team, Old School, competes in the adult division.  This will be our forth year as a team.  We are a dedicated, enthusiastic, competitive team, that tends to lean towards the intense side.  We currently ride as a four rider/pony team, although we have had guest riders on occasion and probably will in the future.  Being a passionate team with several strong personalities, finding a permanent fifth rider could be considered a challenge.  But, of all the teams I have been a part of, Old School is by far, my favorite team.  I value my teammates who I consider among my short list of best friends.  We have bonded through our riding and I not only enjoy time in the saddle with each of them, but I also look forward to other activities and being a part of their non riding lives. 

Finding a team that really meshes well is difficult, but if it can be done, it is also one of the most rewarding relationships one can have.   

March 2012 - Krista and Kim - Having way too much fun!

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