Monday, March 30, 2015

Touch of Class (Part 3)

Shadow and I went thru the starting line at a swift canter. As I lined him up for cones 1, 2 & 3, he picked up a little speed. The cones were set up so they led you right into Gate A of the Hazards. Coming out of Gate D, you were lined up for the next set of 3 cones. Although I had not walked the course at all, it just flowed and Shadow and I whipped our way around it.

Into Gate A at Hazard 1, straight thru B and out between the barrel and the wall to make a right hand circle back around to go thru C, then out A to make another right hand circle to go back in thru D. Out thru A to cones 4, 5 & 6 and into hazard 2. There were times I felt the cart sliding thru the turns and as before with Kat, I found myself standing on the rails of the cart, leaning my weight over the wheels to keep them on the ground.

Hazard 2 was two left hand circles. In thru A, circle around and thru B, circling around thru C, out thru D and turn left for the next 3 cones. Going thru cones 7, 8 & 9 I felt Shadow picking up speed, but since there was a slight curve to the right to make Gate A on Hazard 3, I had to slow him down. Problem was, he didn't want to. Shadow was having a blast out there too!

We made it thru Hazard 3 and I let him go whizzing out and thru cones 10, 11 & 12 because Hazard 4 was simply two right hand circles. One circle going in thru A, out thru B, widening it to go in thru C and come out of D with a straight shot to the finish line. Once we made it thru D I leaned forward and let Shadow go. I didn't have to push him or encourage him much, Shadow just dug in and took off. Once we crossed the finish line, I heard the people in the stands start to cheer. I let him make two laps of the gazebo while easing back on him to slow things down. He had done his job and as we came towards the stands I leaned forward and said "He did all the work" Peggy announced our time of 2:00:39, the fastest time and we were the winners. The cheering and clapping got really loud right about then.

I drove Shadow out the gate and back over to JoAnn. She knew he still had it and as I jumped off the cart, I went up and hugged the little guy. He had done an awesome job and we both had fun out there. As quick as that it was over and we needed to tear things down, getting it all moved out of the arena for the next classes. We all thought it went rather well and talking to Jim later, he said the people watching were thrilled watching me go thru it so fast. I told him "That's what is exciting, that's what they want to see. You gotta give them what they want and that's exactly what we did."

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Touch of Class (Part 2)

With the last class finished, ribbons handed out and horses out of the ring, we set up the last Obstacle, #3 consisting of jump standards and ground poles, dropped some cones on the ground in place, slipped the numbers and letters on things and we were set to go. Peggy, Jim and I headed into the gazebo in the center of the ring to watch, announce, time, judge and keep 'score'.

First up was JoAnn Souza with her mini who's name escapes me. I think it was Shadow??? Peggy was announcing and explained how there are two levels, training and expert. Training level can go no faster than a trot and expert they are allowed to run. JoAnn and Shadow cruised thru the course, with a little cantering here and there and turned in a time of 3:19 and change. Next up was Ann Kosin with her mini Joker(?) and they completed the course with a bit more cantering and turned in a score of 2:43 and change. Then it was time for Lisa Schultz and her mini to try their luck. Their time was also in the 3 minute range and speaking to her afterwards, her mini was getting squirrelly on her every time they headed into a cone or gate in front of the wall. He wasn't too sure about that.... Next up was Kelly with her mini and as she was coming in, I seen another club member Bretta had climbed on a cart and was warming up.

As Kelly finished up her course I made my way down out of the gazebo and over to the gate. Jim asked Peggy- "Where's she going?" As Bretta was getting ready to come in the arena, I made my way out and asked JoAnn if she still wanted me to drive the course? "Sure!" So as we quickly exchanged my hat & sunglasses for her helmet and the reins, I asked her the important question- "Does he run?"

Shadow and I got a short chance to figure each other out as Bretta went thru the course. She hadn't really walked it, just help set it up, so she managed to get lost at one point, but found her way back on course and completed it in a little over four minutes. Before we knew it, we were up.

I found out later from Jim, that as I made my way into the arena, he turned to Peggy and said "Thank God she's last!" I don't know if he was expecting me to crash thru it and tear stuff down or really ramp things up and get the crowd going but the 3 of us had a good laugh about it. As we came into the arena, Ron asked me which level we were doing? I told him, "Whatever the horse wants to do- we're doing that." We entered the arena, I saluted Jim and as he put his hat back on I seen him shake his head almost as if saying " Oh dear Lord here we go..." He blew the whistle, Shadow and I made a circle around to pick up speed and went thru the starting gate at a swift canter.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Touch of Class

Over the weekend the AMHA- American Miniature Horse Association and MHAA- Miniature Horse Assoc. of Arizona hosted their 28th annual Touch of Class Miniature horse show. Since a lot of people who are in the driving club also show their mini's in hand and fine harness, a couple of the members spoke to the show staff and offered to present a Darby during the lunch break for entertainment, but also in hopes of drawing in some new members for both the ADCS- Arizona Driving & Carriage Society and the two mini clubs.

Back in December at the ADCS club Christmas party, volunteers were asked for to help set up, drive and take down the course. We would have an hour to do it and hoped there would be enough time to get it all accomplished. Of course I volunteered to help. Having done the jump crew for a few years at the Arabian show, this was right up my alley.

Jim designed the course with a little help from the Souza's and I and it included 12 cones and 4 hazards with 4 gates in each hazard. Driving it, the course was 3 cones and a hazard, 3 cones and a hazard and so on. Originally I was asked to drive a mini and not only help organize the course, but compete too. We never really worked it all out and then the morning of, I forgot my helmet so nothing more came of it....

The lunch break wasn't until after class 44 and we were told it could be anywhere between 11:30-12:30 or as late as 12:30-1:30, so most of us arrived around 10:30 so we would all be on hand and able to help organize things to get it all in the ring and set up in as little time as possible. Set up almost Always takes longer than tearing things down. It was almost 1pm by the time they were on class 30. A few of us had slipped out to the food vendors over by the hunter-jumper show going on outside. Some of us coming from hunter-jumper backgrounds, lingered a little to watch what we could as we made our way back to the Equidome.

After finishing our lunch and discussing our plan of setting up, we flagged a lady down and asked where we were in the schedule, if there were any scratched classes and how much longer we were looking at? They were on class 33 with classes 35-40 all being scratched with no entries, so it was getting close. Since the remaining classes were all halter & in hand, I asked if we could begin setting up our obstacles and cones on the far end, hoping to give us a little more time doing so. With the green light to proceed- everyone came in the arena and started moving fence panels, cones, barrels, poles, fake trees, jump standards, putting up numbers and letters and knocking it out. A couple of the drivers started walking the course- or at least what there was of it so far.

There had been a steadily growing number of people in the stands and thru the last few classes and the announcer kept saying to stick around and watch the ADCS presentation. Personally, I think setting things up while the other classes were still going on, helped to pique the interest of everyone in the stands of "What are they going to do????"

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

In the books

Another CDE is in the books, over and done. Although I sat this one out again like last year, the girls and I did get to go watch at least a few drivers whip through the cones course. We also got to watch the awards after the cones and speak to several people we always enjoy seeing. Even though the sun was out, the wind was blowing and it was dusty. but for some reason, when you were inside the main tent, the air was still and calm.

It seems a lot of the people I know, won their classes and were happy with not only the results, but more so how the horse performed. I didn't hear of anyone E'ing out so that was good! and another lady I met at Dale Creek last fall, had her first CDE with her pony and they did really well. Well enough in fact that she didn't realize how well she had actually done. While she not only won her class, she thought she had the best dressage & cones for her class. She actually had the best overall dressage score for her level and the best overall cones score for her level respectively. Not a bad haul for the first big show with a new pony. Her husband is a good man and has a wicked sense of humor. When I asked him to extend my congratulations to her, he responded that "There will be no living with her after this"

Another competitor was in third place going into cones, but when it was all done, she had won her class as well. She was happy as well as surprised and said, "It just goes to show, it's not over until it's over." No, it's not. Which is why you always compete right up to the end and give it everything you've got. You just never know.

One thing I didn't see there was the big orange semi belonging to Gerard Paagman of Ideal Harness. Trust me, you can't miss it and he has a LOT of stuff inside, begging to be purchased and taken home... He's also a really nice guy to deal with and takes the time to speak to his customers to make sure you get what you need, it will fit properly and everything will work like it should.

Of course I had to hunt down Gary and speak to him... He did well and won his class too, driving a pair of black Morgans. It as good seeing him and then we had lunch with Jim the cones course designer & JoAnn another competitor with minis. She won her class too, so that was cool. The girls got a ton of compliments for their hair and we heard a lot of "Oh my gosh. They're really growing up." As it is, they may be 'gators in training, until they are old enough to take the reins and compete on their own... Scary thought, I know. But when the day comes, if driving is what they choose to do, I may be the one taking the back seat on the cart and being their 'gator. That would be all kinds of awesome!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Time off & time out

After our last performance at the ADT, I have been thinking about a few things in regards to the horses and mostly where Kat is involved. He deserves some time off. He's been good, done his job and put up with a lot from me as far as my driving styles for work, pleasure and competing. He needs some 'down time' and he certainly deserves a break.

His failure to fire at the ADT is uncharted territory. He's never done that and I'm not sure what the root of the problem was. There was no change in diets, routine or anything else that might make someone say, A-Ha! That's it. So I'm not sure what's up with that, but maybe he is a little burnt out on the whole game.

So then, what to do? What to do?

The girls want to ride. Period. True to his Welsh pony nature, Kat loves them and allows them to fuss over him while he just. soaks. it. all. up. They hug him incessantly. Want to brush every last inch of his body and could care less that he's shedding right now and it 'snows' brown hair with each stroke. He's always been that way. When he was a baby and still intact, my daughter used to go in his stall with a hoof pick and clean all four of his feet, brush him, dote on him and he absolutely loved it. Obviously he still does... The other night I caught one of the twins hanging off his neck with her arms wrapped around him in a big hug while she had both legs wrapped around his front legs to 'boost herself up'. He looked at me and blinked as if to say "I love this! They're awesome! Where'd you find them? Can we get more????"

So the first order of business was to get them boots. What they picked out is sparkly, pink and covered in bling. Nothing I would ever wear, but it's what they wanted so that's what they got. And damn are they cute wearing them! They also needed socks to protect their legs. A two pack each, one pink pair with horses and a blue pair with horse shoes. Jeans- they still fit into a few pairs from before, but sooner or later will outgrow them or wear them into shorts. Helmet? I still have the old one that my daughter used when she rode as well as mine and the spare I bought for having a navigator on the cart. They can use these until I find the perfect helmets for them so they're covered in this department as well.

I have asked them at different times if they want to ride English or western. Since they don't really understand the whole concept yet, I phrase it so they can. Do you want to jump or do you want to barrel race & chase cows? First they both want to do one, then the other, then it's split, then they swap and somewhere in the mix they want to be jockeys and race, so around and around it goes... For now, they are just happy to be ON a horse. No matter how big, small, spotted or not- they are thrilled that they even get to ride. I can remember that feeling.

They hold the reins while I lead Kat around and have done everything at a walk as if they were born to be up there. Both girls have let go of one rein and put their hand on their hip, then their head. Then both hands on their hips, then on their head and all the while Kat walks sedately on like a champ, never missing a beat and happy with his new job. As they progress and start to move up, then I will encourage them both to try everything- dressage, jumping, eventing, trail, saddleseat, western pleasure, barrels, penning, sorting, roping, driving, whatever, whenever, wherever, just give it a shot and see if you like it. When they figure out what they want to do, then that's what we will do.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

ADT #1

The ADT has come and gone and I have been kicking this post around in my head for a while now. Bottom line- little man wasn't firing like his normal self and we didn't exactly do so hot, all things considered.

He warmed up well enough, almost as to what is typical for him. Nothing exciting, soft on both sides, stops, turns, responsive, no fussing, no calling, nothing out of the ordinary. So when it came time to go into the ring and Kat to start his "I'm so done with this bullshit" behavior as expected, you can bet I was a bit surprised with what I got instead. He was flat and pretty much a deadbeat, throughout. the. entire. test. WTH? He just had no energy and no desire to be there, let alone, no fire under him to do anything.

Our lengthened walk? I don't recall any lengthening going on at all. None. The lengthened trot, same thing. He extended a little, but for what it was? he may as well have been doing a collected trot and only picked things up to his working trot. He just had nothing to give and wasn't putting out much effort at all. Our score was a 50. something and while it wasn't one of our best scores, it certainly wasn't the worst either. It definitely reflects that he just wasn't feelin' it.

Cones wasn't much different. Although I had him all decked out in new gear of leopard print everything- polo's, saddle pad, sleeves on the breastcollar & breeching strap and even included a helmet cover for me complete with ears (Oh yeah, it Rocked!) and wore a matching tan shirt & pants, our mantra for the day of "Channeling our Inner Cheetah" was a complete 180 of our effort. Little man wasn't channeling shit. The wind blew hard, pretty much all morning and they couldn't put balls on the cones, but the volunteers and Jim were able to tell when you hit one. We hit 4 of them! Kat just had no intentions of going fast and after whipping him once to wake him up and snap him out of his funk- he bucked and made it clear he wasn't going to be laying down any quick times on the course. All righty then.

Obstacles later on was the same thing. He had gotten plenty to drink, taken a leak, munched on his hay and hung out at the trailer, and was perky enough just being around him, but in harness he still wasn't up to it. He was flat all over again. No enthusiasm, no flash, no sizzle and definitely no pop. He wasn't giving it his all and I wasn't about to push him. He wasn't feeling it so there was no reason to ask for something that he wasn't willing or going to give.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Shame in the game

Over the weekend of competing my pony, I realized something. I have not been very fair to my pony when we are on course.

In an email to a friend of mine from the driving club, who couldn't make it down for the two ADT's, I explained something to her that I finally realized is happening out there.

I told her of how BEC runs barrels and one thing she mentioned a while back was carrying a notebook in her trailer, to jot down little things like "Finish your barrel". Applied to cones?---> Finish your cone, meaning go thru it before you start looking for the next one. This one I got down pat, no problem. May not always go as planned, but that's all on me. I admit it. It also goes along with don't look down at the barrel/cone as you go around/thru it, which 99% of the time turns into--->> running over it.

Speaking with Jim (the course designer for cones) and Maryann (another competitor who is also a driving judge) before cones on Sunday, Maryann mentioned standing in the middle of the cone, putting your arms up, hands together and pointing to something straight ahead to aim for. Like in any Showmanship pattern or even trotting in at A to halt at X- look at the judge and aim for them as if you're going to run them/it over.... This is about the best thing you can do for keeping your lines straight. This also goes along with looking where you want your horse to go.

My friend used to compete in jumping and eventing. She has competed both nationally and internationally and taken horses to titles on both levels and has ridden with some of the biggest names in the sport. I had only known her as a driver so had no idea that this is what her background was. She had mentioned a few things here and there, but I admit that I didn't take much notice at the time. In discussing the training of her up and coming pony, we related it to jumping. It's all in the approach. There are signals and cues to give the horse an idea of something coming and what it will be. Same with driving- something is coming, we need to be ready for it.

After emailing my scores to my her on Monday night, I realized something. Hell half of the time I aim Kat at the cones, aim for the middle and let him go. And that's about the time I mentally clock out. Seriously.

I'm not looking UP! Let alone aiming for anything in or out of the ring to 'center' us. Nope. I aim for the middle from a ways back and expect it to happen. I'm along for the ride and let the little man take over, giving him no guidance or support whatsoever. I try to keep him on course if he drifts, but otherwise, I leave him alone and let him do his thing. I'm a passenger and not much more than that, other than a weight shifting back and forth to keep the wheels on the ground. Obviously I'm not one to micromanage every step my pony takes, but finding a happy medium would be extremely helpful to him.

I also don't give him any kind of a heads up, we need to be on the left lead for the upcoming turn... no rein tug, bump, bump, verbal cue of "switch"- nothing. I just wait for it and then haul in on one rein or the other and tell him to 'get around' the turn and then GO! GO! GO!!!!! before I'm hauling in on the other rein and expecting him to make the next turn, line up for the cone, point and shoot and off we go. I know what the course is, or at least I have an idea. He doesn't. He hasn't seen the maps, walked the course, know his numbers or that red is supposed to be on the right... He goes where I only sort of tell him. Leave him guessing much? Yes, yes I do. How unfair is that?

Honestly, it was a "What the Holy, Ever Loving #(*&%^(#&$(@ do you Expect from your pony????" kind of moment. Talk about a personal "Come to Jeysus!" meeting. My little guy is a freaking SAINT for putting up with this crap from me and managing to do it so well for so long. He is obviously very forgiving AND very damn talented. Now it's obviously time that I change my strategies. My friend said "Don't to be too hard on yourself. At least you realized what you're doing and accepted that it needs to be fixed!" Now it's time that Kat gets the credit he justly deserves and the help he needs from me. I guess one of my resolutions for the new year is to be a better driver.