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.

Monday, January 5, 2015

All things considered

A few posts back, Kaede had commented about people trying to stir the pot between me and someone else, by telling me that this other person had claimed to have trained my pony for me. Let me clear things up for everyone, as sadly it wasn't the case of anyone being jealous or starting crap between two people, just to start crap. None of the people I heard this from, had any idea otherwise. They had all gotten their information from the same sole source.

It wasn't about anyone starting a riot or stirring the pot. Instead it was about this person inflating their ego. How dare me for being good at something? How dare me for getting any attention for it, let alone praise or a few "Good Job!" acknowledgements. How dare me for being in the spotlight once and taking it away from them.

Considering this person had also told me once, "Driving just isn't my thing" and then turned it all around and was Pouting about not getting to show the pony in any classes because I didn't pay the entry fees or fill out the forms FOR them...  Yeah. Nice touch there, isn't it? I hope someone has a box of tissue handy for the crocodile tears when they cry us all a river.

As I said before, when confronted about this a couple of months later, (yes I let it stew for a while, while I thought about everything and how I would handle it) this other person got pissed off and said "That's Bullshit! Total Bullshit!" I agreed with them because yes, it is total bullshit. They even took it a step further and asked me who I had heard that from? When I replied "Several different people" the guilty party snapped at me and said "I'd like to know where everyone got that idea." I rolled my eyes because the answer to that was standing right in front of me.

Before anyone thinks I'm bitter about all of this, I'm not. I think it's pretty sad for them, that they have to stoop to such levels, to try to make themselves look or feel good about something they have had little or nothing to do with. How pathetic and ultimately-> hypocritical of them, that they have to try to steal the thunder from someone they consider to be 'beneath them', yet they couldn't let me have even a moment in the spotlight. It's all good.

IF I did need their help, IF I truly suck at driving and my pony is a piece of crap, then why have we been able to improve our scores under the same judge, even when Kat was tired from competing the day before? Why did Kat and I move up a level after there was no more interaction between us? Good questions, wouldn't ya think? It all stands to reason because apparently I don't have a clue... *insert massive eyeroll*

For the record, while this person was involved on some level, their part in training Kat, was not a big one. I had trained Kat to be a 'solo pony' from the beginning because I knew much of my time spent driving would be on my own, by myself and I wouldn't have much help. Kat had to know to stand still while putting to and unhitching from the cart because I would be doing it by myself 95% of the time.

It may come as a surprise to some of you, who this person was. Suffice it to say, I have lost all respect for them. No longer being associated with them has been a relief. At least when I make a mistake, learn something new or figure out the way to solve a problem, I know it's all on me and I did it. I can take credit for bombing out in cones or accept the compliments when someone says, "This respected person in the sport (____________) was Very impressed with the way Kat looked at the ADT."  That's all on me. I did that. No matter how well we do or don't do, I'm still proud of my pony and how far WE have come.

Friday, December 19, 2014


Let me try this again with photos...

Saturday, December 13, 2014


ADS doesn't so much like calling them Hazards anymore, since Hazards leads you to think it could be Hazardous. It's probably something to do with the insurance... lol

Obstacles were the same for both days too. It was easier since you seemed to get a Do-Over if you had competed the day before. You also may have seen someone else take a different route thru the gates and tried it their way, shaving time off your score. Or you drove it once, figured out a better way and tried it, improving your time in the hazard. It also gave your pony a chance to go thru things without being afraid of decorations in the hazards. All of which worked in our favor and thankfully things went smoother for us the second time around.

Obstacle 1 was barrels decorated like Easter eggs with stuffed bunnies sitting on top of them. Straight in to make a right  by the wall and go thru Athen back across the paddock to make a left and go thru B. You could either slow down and make a U-turn to the right then another U-turn to the left to go thru C, or you could circle around B on the left and line up for C. Saturday we did the U-turns, Sunday we did the circles. Coming out of C you make a U-turn to the right and head thru D that was behind you. Doing this put your horse on the right lead and you could go thru D and veer right to go back thru the Out gate.  Don't forget to thank the volunteers on your way out!

Obstacle 2 was back in the corner and decorated for Halloween. Kat wanted NO part of it. Huge tree trunks with shiny banner letters strung between them. High enough horses could go under them, but still... bird cages with fake rats in them, a scarecrow and several other things I don't remember- it was all enough to keep the little guy on his toes. He reluctantly went into the Hazard. Kat did well enough, but he wasn't to thrilled with the idea of this hazard. Coming OUT of the hazard? He was all for it!

Saturday I had talked to Jim (cones course designer and judge) briefly before going on course for the Hazards. He was talking to Paul Sidwell who had judged Dressage. I had asked him if anyone else had destroyed the course the way we did? Not even close! Well as it happened, Jim and Paul were still talking when Kat and I came GALLOPING out of #1 headed to #2 and were standing by watching as we came FLYING out of #2 headed to #3. Paul asked Jim- "Are those two always like that?" Jim replied- "Only when she's driving!" and they had a good laugh over it.

Obstacle 3 was a little trickier. It was up by the front gate and decorated for Christmas. There were 4x4 wooden posts in the ground, wrapped with sparkly red garland to look like candy canes.  Gates A & B were in these poles and on Saturday as we came thru A and circled around to go thru B, Kat and I had a conflict of interest on where we would go thru the posts. I figured we would go between these two and he decided to go between the posts before it.

Kat came Reeeeeaaaaallllllyyyy close to taking a header on one of the posts. Dang near smacked into it with his forehead!  As it was, he stopped with his head and neck turned to the right and the post between him and the shaft at his left shoulder. We were within inches of taking it down. Typical! Hahaha  We backed up a few steps sorted things out and continued on. Gates C and D were no problem after that. Sunday Kat was more than willing to let me make the call on those poles although for the most part, we had very little to no right turns.  Both days we came galloping out of hazard, full bore.

Obstacle 4 was behind the one barn and decorated for Thanksgiving. There were turkeys all over the huge tree stumps, more glittery letters in hanging banners and Kat had no problem with these. We would come galloping in make our way to the far end and a hard right between two huge stumps going thru them for A. Continuing the turn to go thru B that is behind us, going up past it on the left and making a U-turn to come back thru it and down and around for C which is in front of us but needs to be taken in the direction of coming back towards where we are. Gate D was back up behind B and again, coming thru the same direction we went thru B. It was a sort of ribbon candy effect with all of the back and forth, circling around, but at least coming out of D you were headed right for the out gate and Kat fired hard both times, galloping thru it with no problems.

As usual, walking back to the barn and passing several others who had yet to go, already gone or were between obstacles, everyone was buzzing about how fun it was and "Can we do it again?" Sometimes it just doesn't feel like 4 Hazards are enough. Maybe it's because we aren't the ones pulling the cart or carriage. There are a few of the horses that really enjoy it, Kat obviously being one of them I know when he's feeling good and running full bore, I have to admit, that's an awesome feeling and it's about as close as I'll ever get to being on him for it.

Friday, December 5, 2014


Kat was ready for this one and so was I. We both look forward to cones as is gives him a chance to just tear around like mad and I can't say I'm opposed to the speed aspect of it either. Now that I know he can run like that, has the speed he's got and I'm comfortable with it... I'm diggin' it!

Jim met us at the gate and informed me he had nobody to reset the balls so I was not allowed to knock any down. I responded with how I thought it was a matter of knocking down as many as possible and we had a good laugh over it. I think he gave me a look of (You'd better not!) for that one, but it was hard to tell between Kat getting revved up and Jim getting back to the truck to time us.  There were a couple of volunteers on course to reset balls, but I let Jim know I would call out which ones came down as we plowed our way thru the course.

NUMBER 6 IS DOWN!!!  THERE GOES NUMBER 8!   TWELVE!  FOURTEEN!  And so on for the duration of the course. We had 6 balls down by the time the dust finally settled. It was a Helluva rush doing the course. Although there were people saying they watched us but couldn't see much because of the vapor trails... we weren't the fastest on course for the day. There were a few others who were not only faster, but had gone double clear as well. Not our best performance, by any means.

What was really fun about it though, was the fact that about half way thru the course I found myself standing up on the outer rails of the cart as I shifted my weight back and forth over the wheels as we turned, trying to keep them both on the ground. Not only was I standing in the cart, but I also found myself leaning way out over the inside wheel as we slid sideways thru the turns as well. I probably ate a fair amount of dirt doing cones. WICKED FUN!

Sunday was an improvement, both on our time and leaving the balls up. We went faster though it didn't feel like it and we only took down 3 balls this time. I said it was an improvement, not that we were perfect... lol  Again I was standing on the rails of the cart, sliding it around the corners, dirt flying, pony galloping and me encouraging him.  He was tired from the day before and although he did break down to a trot a couple of times for a couple of strides, he put his best effort out there and gave it his all.    

Afterwards, Jim made a suggestion to what type of cart I needed for cones. Not so much a cart, but he said I need a Chariot. That way I'm standing in it the whole time anyways. My friend Cheryl has a HyperBike which is similar to a racing sulky. I can only imagine we would be a lot faster with one of those. Apparently they are working on longer shafts and a stitch taller bike, more for the B mini's, but something that would likely fit my pony.  Oooooh banish the thought.... 

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Dressage scores

Saturdays ATD was judged by British World Champion Driver/Clinician, Paul Sidwell. Our judge for Sunday was Rachael High, who was the same judge for our ADT in Coolidge the end of March.

Our dressage test for both days was Prelim 4

Since thee were two judges and the same test, I will put a P for Paul's scores and R for Rachael's. (My comments in parenthesis)

P- 6. Nice turn down C-LN Little wandering at X (he did)
R- 6 Some fussing in connection

P- 6 Little above bridle at M
R- 6 Slight head wag/counter wag

P- 7 Better paces shown
R- 6.5 straight, round, abrupt turn at F

P- 4 Nice O driven but break of pace before X (he cantered a few strides...)
R- 7 Slight counter bend

P- 7 Little late on the trans at D, good walk shown
R- 6.5 Wants to jigg. Unsteady connection (I don't remember him jigging, but he was pretty pooped)

P- 8 Good length shown (YAY!!!)
R- 7.5 Active walk. Clear stretch shown (I didn't push for his best walk and it didn't feel as good as the previous days walk. Still not a bad score and I'm Not complaining)

P- 7 Nicely driven shapes. Good reg w/trot shown.
R- 7 Right shoulder falling in on 2nd loop

P- 5 Break of pace before X, nice length shown
R- 7 Head wagging slightly but clear lengthening (apparently she either didn't see it or at least mark us down for the last few strides when he cantered)

P- 6 Good turn on C-LN little early on halt
R- 6.5 Slow to settle in halt

P- 7 Rein back nice
R- 6.5 Some stickiness in rein back

P- 7 Nice straight C-LN good halt at G but with a little resistance
R- 6 Head wagging

Collective Scores
P- 7 Nice freedom of movement and active working trot
R- 7

P- 6 Plenty of Imp shown, sometimes a little too much (Always better than not having enough!)
R- 7

P- 5 showing signs of res w/ mouth opening when contact is applied.
R- 6.5 too much head wagging. Needs steadier connection

Driver- P- 7 Nicely driven test
R 7 arrow to comment above >>> too much head wagging. Needs steadier connection

The scores under Paul are awesome to me even though it was a tad higher than the score on Sunday. I was glad to have done so well after both of us having so much time off and especially after having bombed out at the last ADT in Prescott. Although the score of a 4 for our circle and the comment about it being so good didn't make sense to me. Gary explained to me later that normally breaking gait like that might have gotten a score of a 3 or even a 2. Paul was being generous in giving us a 4 for it, or the circles were that good that they made up for the break in gait. So it could have been worse...

The lower scores per movement on Sunday under Rachael are nothing to sneeze at either. His dropping his shoulder in the serpentine, the head wagging and loss of connection were all signs of a tired pony as described by my friend who has been giving me pointers. She was mighty damn impressed with the scores for our lengthened walk as she has always stressed this one to me and thankfully we finally caught on! Comparing our score on Sunday to those under the same judge back in March, much Improvement was made! We went from a 58.25 to a 48.97 which is a drop of 9.28 points. Now remember, in driving you are looking for the lowest scores. So to make an improvement like that? Wahoo!!!!

Another thing worthy of mentioning is that way back at the beginning while at our first CDE, it was mentioned to me by a few different people that someone else had told them, they had trained my pony. Um, yeah. When confronted about this, their response was, "That's bullshit. Total bullshit." I agree. It is bullshit! I haven't worked with a trainer with Kat, other than getting a few pointers here and there from Gary, via photos and half assed descriptions in emails of what I thought I needed to work on. If it were true that someone else had done the work and trained my pony for me, why then are we still holding our own in dressage at the ADT's? Taking into account that we've also moved up a level and don't have a lot of time to put into training, (mostly our work consists of a LOT of long trotting on the trails for conditioning purposes) sure we are still getting our asses kicked by a couple other people, but our dressage scores aren't usually far off from theirs, so I have no complaints.

I'm still excited to see how far Kat and I take it. Shoot we've already gone from being total newbies in the sport and not having a clue starting out, to having done 2 CDE's placing 4th and then 3rd respectively and gotten Res. CH in the ADT series our first year out in the *Green Driver* class. Then we skipped pretty much everything last year, came back moving up to prelim and done well enough so far. We need to work on some things and I will be posting more about that later, but things can only get better from here. I'm looking forward to it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

ADT #6 & ADT #7

I haven't said much about getting Kat going, but for a change we got to compete over the weekend. It was fun to be able to get out there and give it a go again and since the ADT's were back to back it kept costs minimal. We were and still are in 3rd place in the year end standings, this just helped make it stick. We placed 4th both days, thru some error or another, but for the most part we had fun. Our scores under both judges were respectable and probably the best we have gotten so far. All things considered, how can I not be thrilled about that?

Over the weekend I had one of those A-HA! moments with my pony. You know when the light comes on and you finally 'get it' in relation to something that you're doing or not doing. That's when you know what changes need to be made and from here on out, it is going to make a HUGE difference in how things are going.

I was also complimented and congratulated on gelding him. And let me tell you... he was so much BETTER to deal with the whole time. There was not one mark on our dressage scores about him 'calling' and I think all totaled, he whinnied maybe 3 times over the two days. Big change there, BIG CHANGE!

As for the Katman, he's going strong. We have a play date to take a friend of mine out for a drive next weekend and then the following weekend is the Darby and Christmas party in Coolidge. We've also been invited to go caroling with a group from the driving club, but I'm not sure if we will be able to make it but it sounds like fun...