Oregon Trail Horse Competition

December 4, 2014

I am pretty sure this is the 2012 winner of the Oregon Trial Horse Competition.  Really neat course.

Christmas Day Hack

December 27, 2013

Rich and I had a nice breakfast and coffee together Christmas morning.

We noticed both dogs were bouncing off the walls. I was feeling unexercised, and Rich needed space to cook dinner. The decision was easy, I loaded up Simon and the dogs and we drove to a nearby trail.

Runkles Gap, also known as Cub Run, is one of the closest spots in National Forest for me to get in a quick ride. Although it is a little boring, it works well for a one or two hour hack.

Simon felt great and both dogs couldn’t have been more pleased. We got in a nice ride and were back in plenty of time for dinner.

Piece of mind, exercise, pony time, and exercised dogs, it was a great Christmas Day ride.

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Tillman Trail November 2013

November 25, 2013

Last Sunday my lovely non-horse-husband agreed to go on a trail ride with me. Rich and Simon get along great, and it made it possible for me to get Poe out on the trails with a rock solid trail pony to guide him. And of course the dogs love any opportunity to run through the woods.

So we loaded up and headed out to National Forest and up Tillman Rd to the Pet Cemetery parking loop. When we got there we noticed a new sign post naming it “Dog Grave”. Interesting.

We headed up the closed fire road behind the cemetery and made a right onto Tillman Trail. Shortly later it split and we turned right toward the Tower.

Up to this point it was a pretty simple ride. Rich and Simon led some, setting a hearty pace bobbing from walk to trot to canter and back. Rich had to stop once to stretch, which Simon found intriguing and Poe found annoying.

We passed some extremely polite cyclists who had a firm grasp of trail protocol. They pulled to the side of the trail and announced a friendly hello well in advance so the horses would be aware of them and pleasantly chatted for a moment as we passed. I have always found cyclists to have impeccable trail etiquette and these fellas were no exception.

As we continued along I kept saying to Rich that the trail had been worked on and was much more pleasant to ride. There were piles of rocks pulled to the side and areas where the larger rocks had been worked down into almost a cobble stone like path. There were still some places the ponies had to climb over or negotiate rocks but nothing treacherous.

Poe was a little uncomfortable at the rougher areas in the beginning, but quickly, like with everything else I have asked I him, he figured it out.

Eventually we came to a tree that had very recently fallen, effectively blocking the trail. It was also very steep above and below the trail so navigating around it was mostly out of the question. We dismounted and rich climbed over it, and was quickly followed by the tank named Simon.

Simon, who is excellent at trail blazing, managed to dislodged a large rock, inevitably opening a large, ankle twisting hole, just on the other side of the tree, making it worse for Poe. Rich and I leveled the area back out before we asked Poe to negotiate the obstacle. And I climbed over first. Poe was rather unsure what he needed to do initially but given a good minute, and a little direction and encouragement, he managed to clear the trail obstruction as well.

At this point the trail was very narrow, not leaving room to get next to your pony for a remount. Rich tried but was unsuccessful and somehow found himself behind Simon. Knowing he is lacking some common horse knowledge I asked, “you still have ahold of your reins, right?” And he said “no, but I have ahold of this strap”, meaning the crupper.

At just about that time Simon broke into a trot, and Rich, holding the crupper, began jogging behind him. But after a few yard Simon began to outpace and left Rich jogging after him.

So picture, riderless Simon trotting along the trail, both dogs happily following at his heels, and Rich jogging after them. I was laughing so hard I was unable speak.

Before too long, Rich stopped and yelled “Simon!” With authority, and Simon immediately stopped, and looked back at Rich with a “what are you doing back there” look. Simon stood with dogs around him, and watched as Rich walked the trail up to collect him. I was still cracking up.

As we neared the tower, there was a split in the trail with a fresh sign, neither of which I recognized. But there were quite a few reroutes in the trail and it had been a while since I had been on this trail.

We came to a particular reroute in the trail that thrilled me. It had originally been pretty dangerous, with some pointy rock ledges, a very narrow path over them, and a tree leaning at an impossible knee killing angle. The new route went through some large boulders with a semi cobblestone path that is an amazing work of nature. It made my imagination tick.

We popped out at the cell phone tower, which has a picnic table placed next to it, and took a short break.

There is a rather long fire road that ends at this tower, that starts out at my favorite trail head off Bear Trap Rd. But for our current loop we just needed to head a short ways down the road and make a right onto Tillman trail west, and back down to Tillman Rd. This is the part of the loop I am less than fond of. It is rather steep down and just not very friendly.

When we got to the trail, we found it was closed and clearly unkept. Where the trail sign had been was a notice announcing the trail had been moved. It was the fork we came to shortly before the tower. So we turned and worked our way back.

This is when Poe decided he was done. Pony with an attitude. He tried a few duck and spins, he spun and he kicked, he bucked and he bulked. But hey, we had a good four plus miles to go, and go we did. He continued to throw little fits every so often, including kicking at the dogs and once he directed a vicious double barrel round at Simon, the whole way back, although he put less and less effort into his attitude.

Simon, of course, continued to be the perfect husband horse he is, and kept up a pretty good pace with Rich riding and taking a break to hike on foot. Simon is such a gem.

The new Tillman west trail is three miles back to the road and is an extremely pleasant switch back and forth ride, never severely steep, with expertly banked turns, drain trenches and rocks cleared. Outstanding improvement that ended with a smooth creek crossing back to the road where new signs announced the trail improvements. Another 1-2 miles up the road and we were ready to load up and head home.

The trail improvements are outstanding. And I thank the Shenandoah Valley Bicycle Coalition for their hard work.

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Trail Ride: Slate Lick

November 3, 2013

Today I loaded up Simon and both dogs and we swung by and picked up Carol Ann, her pony Puck, and her dog Maggie and we went to Slate Lick for a ride.

It was Pucks first trail ride and he was great. He led, he followed, he went on a long rein. Good boy. Simon was great as expected.

It was a nice ride with great fall weather and views.

We did end up doing the loop once in each direction. This was not planned but became necessary when we finished the first loop and noticed Puck’s easy boots were missing. So we reversed direction and found them shortly before finishing loop number two.

It was good though. I love trail riding simon. And Carol ann was fantastic company. It was a great day.

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Riding simon “on the buckle”

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.
Score!

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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