Monday, December 17, 2012

Finish & Start

While the year is over as far as competing goes, it is also in full swing. If that is supposed to make any sense?  We have finished the year and all the scores have been tallied, prizes handed out and the party over and done. Since our weather rocks this time of year- we are still working towards getting ready for next season.

Kicking off in January is our first ADT of the series. I have already paid our membership for next year and am eagerly awaiting to see how we do since we have to move up. Our scores in dressage, the hazards and cones have been pretty much right in the middle of the pack for last years TL ponies. But since every show, every judge and sometimes every day is different- we could have a stellar, average or abismal year ahead of us. We just have to do our best and see how it plays out.

At the moment I am still searching for the perfect bit. The right one will make a big difference, or at least a better one will be an improvement. Looking at the photos from the Darby, I am not liking what seems to be a strong hold and what felt like at times a strong horse. Since Kat was going to be running, I went with the butterfly. I can usually signal him with the lightest of cues, feathering the reins with my little finger. Since driving can be the same as riding- your cues should be light and subtle. Sometimes I feel the butterfly is a bit too much.

On the other hand we have the snaffle. While he should be quiet and soft enough to work in that, be it at home or away- his mind slips out of his head at times and any kind of control can be a pipe dream. In long lines he is great in the snaffle. Driving in it can be iffy on a few levels. I am looking for something in between.

Part of the problem is also me. I can be heavy handed when he is being a twit and although I thought I was being light with the reins on course at the Darby- the photos show a different story.  My rein length is good at times, while at others, he is gaping at the mouth and being a bit too forward. Sometimes he was also being a little hesitant to slow down, while others he was racing along like a Crazy Pony!

It is all a matter of what is going on at the moment and when, but where he is bieng a bit forward and charging on, while gaping at the mouth- he should be slowing down some and have his mouth closed- accepting the tugs as cues and responding accordingly.  Seems we have some walking exercises ahead of us and will be working for a while at bringing it all back under control before we can reasonably move on. To read: Back into long lines and back to walking only- as if we were starting out again.  

Friday, December 7, 2012


As we headed into the area where the course was laid out, Katman needed very little prompting to take off and hit it! I kissed to him and off we went at a lovely canter.  My daughter Robin was my (willing subject/crash test dummy) 'gator for our maiden voyage in comptetition allowing the pony to run.  As he took off this time she said, "It's a lot smoother ride when he runs than it is when he is trotting."

Each time we lined up for the gates of an obstacle or cones, Kat brought it down to a trot on his own. Apparently he has things under control as well.  We whipped around and around in the Kokopelli pipes going through gates 1-4 pretty quick. 

*Photo credit goes to Jessie & Craig Zamboni*

Here we are coming thru gate 1 and Kat is giving the stink eye to the piece of foam laying on the ground on his right. This is supposed to be capping off the end of the one pipe.

We cantered to cones 5-8, trotting through them and followed by an exuberant burst of speed across the short space to the Poles for gates 9-12.  Number 9 and 10 were aligned perfectly so we could take it at an angle and go straight through them both. We circled around a pole to get to 11, circled around again to get through 12, a short canter to the cones for 13-16... 

another canter off to the gate going out of this area to the area with the Covered Wagons hazard for gates 17-20. At this point we had to go up the slight hill back through the gate and across the field to the middle and the start finish line. Once we were clear of gate 20, Kat took off again with very little urging on my part. He was cooking along at a nice canter going up the hill and through the gate.

As we came along the fenceline there was a person standing there helping to judge the course, reset the cones and balls as needed. I decided to cut loose and have a little fun. Why not? I put my reins in my left hand, leaned forward a bit, put my right hand and whip up and out and said "Charge!"  Pretty much everyone heard it and we all had a good laugh.

Kat responded by kicking it up a few notches and really letting go. He started to gallop pretty strongly forward and we were blasting across the grass. It was amazing and so much FUN

And as always, all good things must come to an end. We made the turn heading towards the finish line and I was slowing Kat down. I didn't want him blasting through the finish line, straight through the gate and out into the 'holding area' where everyone else was at. I managed to slow him down, circle around to the right and bring him back down to a walk before leaving the course.
Peter Atonna, our timer and club president joked that as we brought it down to mach 10 and left the arena the last entry would be ready to go.  At the awards banquet it was announced that I had not only won the event for the division, for which we were awarded a cake, but I had the second fastest time on course behind one of the mini entries.  Yeah, we were tearing it up!
For the ADT series we also placed second with Reserve Champion. We were awarded an organizer that fastens to the stall front with two huge pouches on it. Inside the top one is several pockets for brushes, fly spray, etc. The bottom pocket is huge and has room for storing blankets, sheets and in Kat's case a lot of stuff!
Something else was also mentioned that I hadn't thought of. Of the entries for TP-GD (Training Pony Green Driver) I also had the best dressage score average with a 54 or 57 point something or other. I didn't catch the number and haven't found it online anywhere... I had focused on the year end points that I hadn't even thought about our dressage scores other than how they compared to the next level up. This was a pleasant and unexpected surprise.  
Our first ADT for next year is January 26th in Coolidge again. The Goree family is generous in hosting it and the CDE in March. Both events promise to be a lot of FUN! Although there is no galloping or even cantering allowed in training level or prelim, Kat and I will be working on that as well as something else a couple of club members and I had casually discussed that sounds like a wicked amount of fun.  Besides, I was reading online on some of the ridden dressage blogs/forums about their 'disastrous' training level scores for horses who went on to later be PSG and upper level mounts. Some horses seem to really flourish as the work becomes more intensive. I am thinking Kat is one of them.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Ready, Set...

Despite my friend Sharan advising me all along about making Kat walk when he gets amped, make him walk when he wants to speed up, make him work when he is whinnying and being obnoxious about it, I entered the Darby at Expert Level. For the Darbys there is two levels of competition, Training and Expert. Training you canot go faster than a trot, expert you are allowed to canter and gallop as you may. Bear in mind safety is at the top of the list (ALWAYS!) but if your horse can handle the speed, go for it. Boy did we ever!

I am trying to get the course map downloaded and posted here. For the most part it was stretched out over a bit of ground covering 3 hazards with two sets of cones in between. You entered in the center and worked your way from left to right, coming back to the middle where you would exit through the start finish at the center again. It was a hazard with four gates (1-4) to the far left, a set of four cones (5-8), the start finish in the middle another hazard with 4 gates (9-12) to the right, another set of four cones (13-16) then you went out a gate into another section of grass area for the last hazard and gates 17-20. After clearing gate 20, you head back through the gate and along the backside of the course to the middle and the start finish line. 

Before we were on course, ponyman had already a group of followers. I heard a few of them saying things like- "I am waiting to watch Him go", "I wanna see Him do this", "He Looks like he wants this" and a few other things. He was content to stand around waiting, would walk back and forth outside the fence in the holding area, but he was warmed up, quiet, locked. loaded. and definitely ready for action. As it was we were the next to last pony to be on course so there was a bit of waiting around for us and his fans. 

We milled around to keep his muscles loosened up, but would stop and stand, waiting our turn. Kat was quiet, settled and alert, watching the minis and ponies before us each taking their turn. When we were finally called, we waited for the previous pony to clear the gate and headed in...

Friday, November 30, 2012


With the Darby this weekend and the year end awards banquet, it is sure to be a lot of fun. Each year, the Darby is free to enter and there are no prizes, just your time on course if you don't screw up and E out.  Last year if any of you were reading then, you might recall our blunder on the course? If not, let me refresh your memory or bring you up to speed.

Coming through the poles- power poles set well in the ground, we went through #1 and made a hard left to spin around and come through #2. That was the plan anyways... I tried to get Kat to make the sharp turn, but he wasn't responding so well. Looking back he may have had his tongue over the bit? Hmmmm  Anyways he wasn't as responsive as he could have been, we didn't make the turn like I had planned and suddenly it all came to an Abrupt and unplanned for STOP!  The right shaft of the cart had slammed into the pole and we weren't moving.  Yeah, that was fun! Feel free to laugh here. I did then and still do now thinking about it.

After my pony looked back at me to give me the wicked stink eye, I backed him up a step or two, moved him over and off we went to finish the course.  Things went well enough, but I went through #9 the wrong way and E'd out. Considering that was only our 2nd Darby/fun event, and Kat's 5th time out and about in harness, I was still getting the hang of things which could only mean- anything could happen. I have looked at the map for the course this year and it has the poles on it again. I am NOT planning on slamming into any of them this time around. Considering I entered at Expert level, so cantering is ok for us? Hitting anything is going to really do a number on things.

After this, it is on to the first ADT of the year, which will be at Goree's in Coolidge. Always a fun event and next year- we have to move up to Training Level and compete with a lot of other people. That group is generally pretty large and competitively fierce. Which is why I have been watching our scores and comparing them to their scores. We have always landed right about in the middle. At the last ADT there were 4 entries but for the year end, there is 8 competitors. Combine that with the 4 of us who gave it a whirl at Green Driver (two of us have to move up), so there can be 10 of us or more at any given event. It should be fun!

Monday, November 19, 2012


After unhitching Kat and putting him in the stall so he could relax, drink, pee and catch his second wind, I walked back over to the cones arena for the news. Had I completely blow it or did we manage to save our butts by going through #12 the right way and correcting it before going on?

It turns out Jim, the course designer and judge, checked with 2 other judges to be sure. I had been Eliminated or as it is known in the driving world- E'ed out.  In the obstacles it is okay to rearrange the alphabet (which I did at the CDE if you remember), but in cones it is one time through them and only in the right order, right direction or forget it, you're done.

Kat got a decent break between the cones and obstacles.  For him it was a much needed rest and even though we were eliminated, we still complete the course and have fun.  And fun we had!
It was a good thing I had walked the course on obstacle #1 earlier in the day. Once horses are 'on course', you cannot walk them for obvious reasons. 

As it was, I planned to make all left hand turns. After coming through C, if I had whipped around to the right? It would have been Game on!  There was a nice, big, brightly colored tent not too far from where we might have gone around a stump heading back to the "In/Out" gate.  I'm not sure how many drivers attempted aiming their horses at it and how many of those that said "Oh Hell NO!", but I was just not risking it. Another day- maybe, but we can wait for it until that day comes.

We went through all of the obstacles clean and whipped out some amazing times even though they wouldn't count for us that day. I still like to look at the next level up and compare notes to see where we will stand when we move up next year. Comparing them to all of the horses competing, we were pretty much smack dab in the middle. Some horses were fast than we were, others were slower. Some E'ed out in the obstacles, a few of us did it in the cones.

One thing fellow blogger Nuzzling Muzzles noticed was that as each competitor exited an obstacle, we all verbally thanked the volunteers.  Upon exiting the cones arena, same thing. You salute the judge on the way in, the way out and thanked him before you leave.  As I mentioned before, our volunteers are well recieved and highly appreciated. Without them- we wouldn't have our ADT's. They are fed, given drinks and at some of the bigger events (CDE's) they are given T-shirts. I still have mine from volunteering at the CDE several years ago, long before I got to compete there.

And for having 40 some entries in the ADT, we were started in dressage at 9 am and done with the obstacles by around 2:30 or 3pm. This included a break for lunch in there as well. After unhitching, packing everything up, cleaning up, loading the pony, checking in at the office/table to make sure there was no outstanding class fees to clear up, I was on the road and headed home at 3:45. Not bad for two days competing.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

ADT #6

With the show over and done, I decided the game plan for the ADT was to do our dressage test for whatever it was worth and knock it out in the cones and obstacles. We could really rip around on both courses and Kat had a blast in the games anyways so why not? He gets a bit jacked up like a monkey on crack, but if I could keep him under some level of control- we were good. If I can manage to remember to keep the red letters and numbers on the right- we will stay in the game.

Our judge for dressage was the same one from the show. Eyeroll, sigh and a big whatever. She didn't like Kat and I yesterday, I didn't hold out any hope that she changed her mind overnight. One of my friends reminded me that for pleasure and main ring type classes- The arena is the devils judges’ playground. We headed in to do our test with the intent of just getting it done and out of the way. Kat must have sensed my mood because he was pretty stoic in his personality in the ring.

I had chosen to use our butterfly bit again- just added measures to ensure we had brakes and may actually stop at X this time. Remember last month we galloped into the ring and I was hauling on him hard to stop? I didn't want a repeat. I had also lunged him before putting his harness on. Everything combined- Kat couldn't give much of a swish of his tail either way. He wasn't pushing anything, wasn't challenging my cues or leadership, he just went about his way and did as I asked.

On two parts of the test we trotted right past the judge. As we went by the first time, I had a few rather *unsavory* thoughts going through my mind for her which caused me to start laughing. It was a tension breaker for both me and my pony. Was it unprofessional on my part? Maybe, but I didn't speak it out loud, just kept it to myself and thought what I wanted. Had I said what I was thinking- well that would be a different story altogether. I have always used the phrase in the arena, "Smile like you have the best secret in the world. This time I did a little more than smile and for a reason.

As it was- our scores for every movement, were all either a 5 or 6. At least we were consistent! At the bottom, all of my scores were 6's with the notes of Needs consistent contact in both up and down transitions. With the butterfly bit, I was barely touching the reins and signaling for turns by 'feathering' my touch with them. Less is more and Kat was uber responsive. Had I taken a hold and had contact- he would have been behind the bit, gaping at the mouth and a host of other things we would have gotten nailed for. I would gladly take the lesser of the evils.

Our score was a 63.61 overall. Pretty much in line with some of our other scores and since this judge "wasn't giving anything away", I'll take it and move on. Which we did, heading over to the cones...

With two rings, both the minis and the horse/pony ring feeding into the cones, the organizers thought there may be a bog down at some point with competitors lined up for their turn. The cones have to be set one width for mini's, another for the larger horses/ponies and this took a minute or two to do each time. If there were 3-4 mini's lined up, they would set the cones and run them through, stacking the horses/ponies up for their turn after resetting the cones. This kept everything moving along fairly well.

There were also 3 sets of cones in the warm up area for practicing. This worked well because I only allowed Kat to walk through them. This kept him moving and loosened up without letting him get the idea he could run around and go berserk acting like a wackadoodle loon. As it was, once our turn came- he was doggin' on me bad. I had to really push him to get him to trot. We halted and saluted the judge, went through the start finish gate and were off to do our best.

This time there were only 15 cones since the arena space was smaller and a bit more limited. Usually there is 20 cones staring at you, trying to trip you up. I pushed Kat on and even told him he could go a little faster as long as he kept it at a trot. He never once broke gait and cantered, instead it was the opposite. He felt like at any time he would putter out and just walk.

As we went through cone #12 we were still clear with no balls down. Lining up for #13, I looked at it thinking red on the right and realized we had just gone through cone #12 the wrong way. I circled Kat back around and corrected it before going on, but as we went through the right way, I asked the guy by the fence- "We are pretty much dead for that one, aren't we?"
"Yeah I think so."
"Ahhh shit." I laughed it off and went on.

In the obstacles, if you go through a gate in the wrong order or direction, as long as you correct it before going through the next one, you are not eliminated, but you do get penalty points. I hoped the same applied to cones as we finished the course. As we passed through the finish line our time was 3 minutes flat. The time allowed was 3 minutes, 20 seconds. We were double clear, which means no balls down, no time penalties.  I saluted and thanked the judge as I waited nearby, to hear the guy by the fence say "She went thru 12 backwards."

Jim looked at me as I said, "Yes. We did do that! I corrected it and went thru the right way again before going thru 13. Are we out for that one?" He was going to check with the other judges to see if we were still in the game or eliminated and doomed. I kinda figured we were doomed as we headed back to the trailer to unhook and give Kat a break before obstacles in the afternoon.


Monday, November 12, 2012

How did we do?

We went to the annual carriage driving and pleasure show this weekend. I had us down for 3 main ring classes and 2 of the games classes. When we got there, I added another main ring class and the third games class.

I didn't get as early  a start as I would have liked, but still managed to get to the showgrounds in plenty of time. Traffic was fairly light even though there was a race of sime kind at PIR nearby.  I got checked in, Kat unloaded and had time to breathe while we got ready. Classes were going along, there were no skips between the first class and our first class #6 Reinsmanship Single Pony. 

We tanked and got 5th of 5 which pretty much set the tone for the day. The judge came to speak to me and her comments were about the shafts not being level, which was causing me to sit fairly hunched over. Duly noted and we have been dealing with the shafts for a while now...

Between class 6 and 13 we had plenty of time so we went over to the 'Games' arena and licked our wounds. We were entered in Your Route- My Route, and Fault and Out which were both using the same set up for the cones...  we waited our turn and were ready to go.  To keep things fair for everyone, they only allow walking and trotting in the games classes. This is so that everyone of every level can compete with a decent chance. Not fair for the beginners to be limited to trotting and advanced being able to canter or gallop, so this is the reason behind the rules.

YR-MR is 10 cones. You take them in order, in the correct direction- red number on the right. When you pass through #10 you take all 10 cones again- in any order, any direction. Fastest time wins, clean round of course. We were clean, but I have no idea what our time was.  I wouldn't find out until later in the day how we did...

Since F&O was using the same course, I checked to see where the main ring classes were and slipped back into line for the games ring and our shot at F&O.  Fault and Out is pretty self explanitory. You go through the start/finish where your time starts. You go through the cones 1-10 in the proper order and directions. Once you pass through #10, you continue going around through the cones (proper order and directions) until you either knock down a ball or have a refusal. As we went through #10- down came the ball. Crap! Lol!  I looked at the judge Jim and said, "That did us in didn't it?" He looked back at #10 and smiled at me as we slowed to a walk and he said, "Yes, it did." I figured we were toast on this one, and would have to wait for the damage report later on.

Next up in the main ring was our Reinsmanship Open class, where again, we tanked and got 3rd of 3. This time the judges comments were to check his mouth when we unhitched. It appears his tongue is rubbing on a sharp tooth or something and there's blood.  I was using his butterfly bit, because I wanted to have steering, brakes and some level of control for the morning classes.  He was going fairly light in it and I have never had any issues with him or the bit before, but ok. I would look into it since I wanted to switch him to the snaffle for the later classes after he worked down.  They were calling for a lunch break so things worked out for us here.

When I checked his mouth, there was no blood, no bruising, no signs of any issues. Chalk it up to Whatever?!?! and go on. I put Kat in the trailer to pee, went and found him some water and went to hit the bathrooms myself.  I was settling up with the entry table when they said class 14 was in the ring, there were no entries in 15 and Uh Oh! We are IN class 16. I ran back to the trailer to harness up and put Kat to the cart, throw on my hat, coat, gloves and apron and get back to the arena. Lucky for us, the batteries in the show staff walkie-talkies had died and there was a hold-up while they were replaced. Whew!

We slipped into the holding area and waited for our class.  Working Pleasure Pony.  This time I'm not sure what the reason was, but again we tanked. 5th of 5.  There was no comments from the judge to give me any idea, but we took our ribbon and left the arena.

Again I headed for the games arena, since we had a little time and to go lick our wounds again. Kat was getting a little strong in the bridle on me with the switch to the snaffle, but he was still behaving fairly well for the most part and I chalked it up as a WTF? Day.  As in What The F... do you want from us?

The course for Reverse Psychology was set up and we slipped into line to wait. In RP, you take the course of cones in order , 1-10, going the right direction- red #'s on the right. After going through # 10, you drive it again only in the reverse order and directions. Red on the left, 10, 9, 8, etc. It is timed and balls down count as penalties. We had another clear round and no idea of our time... so we headed back to the main ring for our last class of the day.

Ladies to Drive entered the ring. There were 5 of us again and I felt Kat had a fairly decent go. Poor guy was getting a bit pooped out, but he still held strong and did his job. I should have known better as the ribbons were being handed out and placings called. The judge had come over to talk to the woman beside me, but before I could take our 5th place ribbon and head for the gate, she turned to us and stopped us. "I had to ding you on this one because, Traditionally, Ladies don't drive stallions." Heavy emphasis on the *Ladies* part there.

I looked at her and said, "That's ALL I drive." 
"Yes, but traditionally, *Ladies* don't drive stallions."
"Oh so a technicality. Nice"
"Yes, that and you are wearing jeans."

I was a bit disappointed about the last class, but figured Whatever?!?! again and headed back to the trailer to unhitch and tend to Katman.  He had done well and behaved for the most part, save a couple of small incidents, he listened and repsonded in the ring and gave me what he could.  Our day was done and it was time to let him relax. Besides, he needed his braids out and I needed food.

Over dinner, I decided she didn't like my pony for whatever reasons and yeah... rather than telling me he was too flat- it happens, inconsistent in his gaits- it happens, looked a tad tenderfooted- there were strides in the day he looked a little 'gimpy' here and there, I had trimmed him the night before due to time constriants leading up to the day.... Any of these comments, I would have gladly accepted. It is what it is and none of our performances in the main ring classes were absolutely perfect. 

My friends consoled me by saying he is a competition pony, not a boring round and round, main ring kind of horse. True, but...
When she said Traditionally *Ladies* don't drive stallions, did you ask her- "Who said I was a Lady????"  Well no...  but if I had, I may have dropped an f'bomb in there for added emphasis. (You know me!)

As it turned out, we had won Your Route- My Route, pulled down a 2nd in Reverse Psychology and still managed to place 4th in Fault & Out.  All was not totally lost and tomorrow is another day. We still had the ADT, the last one of the year in the series... We were sitting in second and there was a chance that if we scored well enough and won for the day, we would be tied for first in the year end standings.  Here's hoping!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

So much to do

If you notice, the show and ADT are this weekend.  For anyone in the Phoenix area, the easiest way to get there is I-10 to Dysart Road, north to Camelback, west to the entry gate.  Lots of fun and if anyone is interested in volunteering one day or both- please email the organizers either thru the club website or let me know and I can put you in touch.

I have been working Kat, mostly on the weekends due to time constraints and lack of lights. By the time I get home during the week it is already dark or soon to be. With no lit arena other than hauling to the horsepark, it just isn't happening. He is doing well enough though and I am not going to change things up on him right before the show. What he has been doing is working for the most part so why mess with it if it isn't broken?

I still need to clip him, trim his feet, braid him up, sort out the trailer lights and figure out lodging, food and a few other expenses. If it weren't on the other side of town, it may be an easier task. The CDE while still a bit of a distance away, was close enough that I slept at home every night. That was nice, but not always possible.

For those wondering, the show is $5 per entry office fees, $15 per class pre-entry, 12 classes Kat is eligble for), stalls are available at $20 per day, t-shirts available $10-$15 depending on size and sleeve length.  The ADT's are $40 entry, flat rate. Club membership is $25 per year.  The ADT's are usually hosted at different places around the state. Hopefully some are nearby, but not all of them are. This year they were as follows-
January- Sonoita
February- Apache Junction *
March- Coolidge *
May- Prescott
October- Paulden *
and November- Litchfield Park. *

The ones with stars are the events we attended. In the year end standings, we have 6 points and the leader has 8.  It could be a tie or I will remain in second, we just have to go out there and do our best... Either way, both of us have to move up to Training level next year, our times in the hazards will count and there is a lot of people in there to go up against.  I like to look at their scores now to see where and how ours compare. It gives me a good idea of how we are doing overall. But then every day, every show, every class... the horse has the opprotunity to either amaze everyone or pull something that will be remembered and talked about long after and keep us humble. 

Thursday, October 18, 2012

ADT- Obstacles

After a break for lunch we got ready for the obstacle portion of the ADT. At the CDE's there is a whole day for this and there are longer parts to it including a walk session and there are of course, more obstacles involved.  No matter which event you are doing, the obstacle portions always seem to go too damn fast. It is all over and done in the blink of an eye and you want to do it all again, just because.

Having a horse that enjoys it as much as you do- isn't always a good thing. They can get a bit jacked up and not listen or be as responsive as you need them to be. It is a learned experience to go from just getting through the course, to going through correctly, with precision and accuracy while putting up a blazing fast time in the process. Thing is, the precision and accuracy lends itself to the faster times. You speed through without the thought of "I need to go fast" putting it's ugly head in the way and confusing your thoughts. You just DO IT!

While we were all supposed to take our turn at the obstacles in the 'order of go' as listed, it turned into more of- get in line and take a number. The person timing the obstacles had a list with your name, number and division so as you apprached, you called out to them, waited as they found you on the sheet and gave you an "OK" nod or signal to start. From there it was up to you to go through your gates in each hazard, in order and out through the out gate. In green driver, your times in the hazards don't really count unless it comes to the placings. Since I was the only one in TPGD, I could go as fast or slow as need be, even walking if that's what we had to do.

Obstacles found here.

The first obstacle had quite the line of competitors waiting at it, each eager for their turn to go.We got in line and waited and would be going after several of the mini folks went through. One of the more advanced level ponies was waiting in line when my friend Cheryl & her mini PJ came out of the obstacle right towards them. More advanced or not, this mini galloping right at them, made the pony have serious doubts about being where she was and she tried hard to spin and leave the area ASAP. Her driver handled it well and they stuck around with the rest of us.

When the pony went throught the obstacle- man was the dust FLYING! You could hardly see anything of their course because of it. They kept turning and churning up the dirt and the dust swirled into the air. Then before you knew it, out of the dust cloud they came. I had thought best of it to start walking Kat and circle him around so that when they came out of the 'out gate' he would be headed and looking the other direction and avoid him gitting the idea of bolting out of their way being a good one . It worked too I might add.

When it was our turn to finally go, the dirt was pretty loose and a few times we slid the cart sideways around our corners. I have always thought this was fun. Sometimes other people don't find the thrill in it that I do. My daughter Robin was my 'gator in the obstacles and she still hasn't said one way or the other if she thought it was fun or scary.  Our time on the first obstacle was 44 seconds, the two training level ponies had times o 42 & 56 seconds.

The second obstacle consisted of poles and winding your way through them. ne of the first people to go through it had effectively hit one of the poles and snapped it off not too far above ground level. This would be Gary Lowell and his horse Spritzer, who at the Darby in August, found out after completing the course with an increasingly 'springy' seat had discovered one of the welds on the cart had snapped.  Spritzer handled it well and just stepped over the downed pole like it was a nuisance to be there.  We managed to weave our way through the poles, literally at one point between gates B & C and out the out gate in one minute. The other two training level pony drivers did it in 52 & 69 seconds.

These first two obstacles were on the north side of the property and the other two were on the south side. Kat was feeling pretty proud of himself and we galloped most of the way in between, getting to obstacle #3, Fort Atonna.  I had plotted one course through here and walking it with my friend Sharan, she pointed out another option. Through A, back through the "In gate" around to B, sharp right and out through another opening which gave you a straight shot coming back in and right through C headed for the "Out" gate. We slid the cart sideways around the turn back through the In gate and whipped through the obstacle in 36 seconds. The only other horse to put down a faster time was Mary Jane & Mack in 35 seconds. From there it was 43 seconds, two at 45 seconds and longer.  Which only left the water obstacle on our list of things to do.

Since this ADT was at Atonna's and we have been there 4 times now, the last time actually getting Kat INTO the water WITH the cart, I had high hopes that he would go in with little to no fuss. It was the last obstacle of the day and I figured we would take our time and go in the water one way or another.  While watching the people in line before me go, I seen they were using another route than I had even thought of. They were coming in to the left side of B and making a left handed U turn to come back through it, essentially going around the pole of it.  I figured I would give it a look when we got closer to it on course and if there was a chance we could do it and get away with it- why not?

So we went up and over the hill through A, whipped around the pole on B and headed off to the end of the water to give it a shot at going INTO it. Which is right about where Kat stopped and then spun out to the left in his protesting answer of "Not just No, but OH HELL F'ING NO!" To which I responeded out loud, "I don't think so little man" as he was stopped. We circled back around to face the water again for another try. We were being timed, but it doesn't really count so I was determined that he was going in the water one way or another, no matter how long it took to get him there.

The second time we faced the water, Kat decided there was no point in resisting or refusing. If he did he was sure to be corrected andwe would end up right back in the same spot pointed at the water. He took a deep breath, lowered his head and walked right in. Everyone watching from the sidelines cheered as I praised him and we went in the water at a walk. Our time of 77 seconds was pretty much in the middle for the day as some people pulled it off in 40 seconds, 44, a few in and around the 60's while others took a minute or more and some didn't go through the water at all and would. not. budge.

After it was all over and the last horse had gone through the water, a few of us joined forces at the waters edge and played a bit of follow the leader going through it again and again. This time around, no pressure to perform, no frills and other horses going in in front of him, Kat went in without a problem. We went in the shallow end and out the deep end, even turned around and went into the water IN the deep end a couple of times and no fuss, no muss, pony man was gettin his feet wet.

I am proud of Kat and how he did even after his less than stellar start in the dressage ring. I mean, we can't all be perfect, all the time, every time and since we are both still fairly new to all of this, what more can I expect? He tries, he has fun, I let him express this when I can in hopes he will be a bit more in control later when I need him to be- it's all give and take. Enjoy it while you can.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

ADT #5 part 2

After leaving the dressage arena you head over to the cones course. You would have had plenty of time to look it over on paper and walk the course so everyone should know it, right? Well some of us still got lost. Namely me.

I also did a few things wrong, but when you are out there on course, you don't really have a lot of time to think. As you walk the course you need to look for long straight lines. Give your horse a chance to set up well in advance of going through the cones.  One thing I have learned from riding, blogging and also from watching others, Do not look back. Don't even look down at the cones. If you do- you will screw up and hit them.

In jumping you always look to the center of the jump. It's all in the approach. Ride to your fence and look past it as the horse goes over it. After you land, look for the next jump.  In cones- always look to the center of the two cones. It's all in the approach. Drive to and through the cone, looking past it as you go through it. After you are through the cone, look for the next one. 

Hardy Zantke told me at the CDE in March, in a very stern voice- Always halt to salute the judge. I halted and saluted the cones judge. She said I was only the second person to do that so far. Good first impression there. Link to the maps of cones and hazards.

When the course was set and ready I headed off through the in gate and through cone#1. After going through it, I SHOULD have turned around to the right giving Kat a longer straight shot at #2. What I did? Was ask for a sharp, hairpin left coming back almost across in front of 1, then a sharp hairpin right going back to line up for #2.  We were still clean going through the first two, but that little fudge made for time penalties later.

We were fine through #3 and #4, but as I came through 4 I forgot where 5 was. I looked around, cirling left and still moving, hoping to find it somewhere closeby. If I had circled right, I may have found it sooner and would have actually been better aligned for it too. Instead I now had to go back and figure it out while trying to make up for my error.

Kat was his usual light and responsive self, but I could tell he wanted to just take off and run. I have learned that if I want to have a clean round- a steady pace will give us just that. Letting Kat blast off between cones to cover the distance, even if it is an extended trot, it will be tough to bring him back and line him up for the next cone. We will take it out every time.

We wound our way around and through the rest of the course without any more issues. No getting lost, no crazy ideas of sharp short turns, and no letting Kat just go and crash through stuff. We managed to finish with a clean round and 4 time penalty points for being 14 seconds over the time allowed. By the time we went, nobody had made it under the time allowed and the fastest so far was 5 seconds over.  By the end of the day, only 1 person completed the course within the time allowed with a horse or pony. The mini's- almost all of them did it. They are smaller and can cut corners where the horses and ponies just can't because of their size.

Once we were through the last cone and crossed the finish line, I pushed Kat for a canter. He enjoys doing it and it let's him relax a little so why not. Once over the finish line, we are done and it doesn't count against us.  I let Kat have his head and kissed to him. He was a little hesitant, but finally picked up a swift canter on the left lead. He was enjoying that and when I asked him to stop- we had brakes again! 

And here is a couple of photos from the event.

The first one is during our first 40m circle in the dressage arena.

This one is somewhere on the cones course. Notice #4 behind us, but I can't seem to place us and where we were at that point.

Monday, October 8, 2012

ADT #5

I added a calendar at the side of the blog here, and as you can see, the 5th ADT in the series was this weekend. What a blast! They are similar to the CDE's only it is all in one day instead of spaced out over three. First up you have dressage, followed by cones, then a break for lunch and then it is a free for all on the obstacles.

What cracked me up the most was the end. When everything was said and done, it was almost a race to throw everything in the truck or trailer and SCRAM!  People came off the course and seemed to unhitch in record time, pack it all up, throw it in and bail. We did the same thing because we had no trailer lights. NONE!  Before we had all running lights, all of the time so I had thought it wise to buy a new plug the day before and try to have brake lights and turn signals. Instead what we got was no lights at all and locked up brakes. Fun, fun, fun.  We are not sure if it is the truck, the trailer or both, but something is obviously not wired right.

We got a late start and headed up without issue. I had hoped to get up there early enough for a lesson with Gary, but it wasn't in the cards. I did have time to walk the cones course a couple of times, walk my dressage test and also walk each hazard twice. By then it was pretty dark, we were tired and hungry so we headed into town to the hotel for the night. 

Our order of go was given and we were to be on course in the dressage arena at 9:50, but when I got down there things were running a little behind and it was more like 10 am. No big deal, I had worked Kat on the way down to the arena, but still needed to work him a tad more. There was plenty of time and space to work him so we did some circles in both directions, changes of rein in the center of our figure eights and he was really responding well. I called it good and parked him near a friend of ours Meg with her pony Jose to wait our turn.

We scored a 54.844 overall which isn't bad. I haven't looked at the training pony scores yet to compare, but I do know one of them also scored a 54.0 something. This was her pony's first outing and they did really well. Cute little bay mare and Kat was in love... We did Test 2

Anyways our lowest scores were for our entry and exit. Awesome huh? Enter at A, working trot, halt at X. Simple enough and oh so bad... We entered at A all right- at a canter! With me checking the reins and scolding Kat to bring it back down. I must have corrected it under the allowed '5 strides' because we weren't nailed too harshly, and those awesome stops we have at home? My brakes completely FAILED at X.

I asked for the halt as his nose would have reached X, but by the time we stopped, amid the huge dust cloud- he was off to the left and I believe the cart was sitting over the top of  the markers for X. I had to haul him in with the reins to the point, I pulled myself off the back of the seat, he had his chin to his chest and as I swore and repeated my request for 'whoa', he seemed to fold up into nothing before he finally stopped. The 4 (Insufficient) we were granted for this- I feel it was a gift.  Talk about a first impression!  I rolled my eyes, took a breath before I saluted and went about finishing the test.

We managed to pull off a 5, a 6, several 7's and our extended walk brought in an 8 as well as our trot from B down the left side of the arena, turn at A up the centerline to X. When we picked up the working trot at C again, right in front of the judge, her comment was Prompt trot! All I had to do was say the word and we were off and moving. 

Our halt at X again was better this time. He was still a little off center but he did stop when asked. He stood for the 3-5 seconds, and backed up on his own when I said back up. It wasn't exactly straight, but he did it. For this movement we received the 5 (Marginal).

We walked forward to G to halt and salute. He wobbled and staggered back and forth. Kat stopped, but did not relax or stand still. He figeted and wiggled, squirming all over the place. I asked for whoa about 3 times before giving up, saluting a leaving at the trot.  We were gifted a 3 for that one.  I asked Kat what was up? Because his stops today in the ring were for total shit.  My friends standing by the rail were clapping and laughing as I stuck my tongue out and blew them a raspberry.  I had hoped they had caught that on film, but they didn't and later when I asked them about it we all had a good laugh.

It seems everyone's horse had a different idea of things and a few of them had a bug up their ass about something. The one horse had no gears. He stopped and that was it. His driver really had to get after him to get him to move. Another horse did everything fine up until the last halt, salute. Which is where he spun to the left and trotted out of the arena of his own accord. He had decided he was done. Another horse halted and spun to the left in the blink of an eye. He was facing the judge and suddenly was not. I am just glad at this point it wasn't just us having an 'off day'...  

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Changing gears

I had been planning on entering the Grass Ridge CDE at the end of the month. It has only recently been announced that it has been cancelled due to a family emergency. While I am disappointed, I will be all right. I had made my jacket, apron and the hat is still in the works, but it is not all the end of my world. There are other events going on, I just had to decide which one we would be going to instead. No big deal, it happens.  I have a little more time to work on the hat and the driving show in November has a 'turnout' class so we may be doing that instead.

With Kat improving in his long line work and yet still being just a little 'off the mark' when put to the cart, I decided to have my husband work him and see if he found the same issues or if it is me? Sometimes it is nice to have someone else work your horse. It is nice to be able to watch, nicer still to see the horse respond to someone else as well or better and find out where the holes are in your work.  Sometimes it is all YOU, the rider/driver, sometimes it is the horse, but together, you have hit a roadblock and not sure where to go, how to proceed or what to do to get past it.  It happens to all of us at some time or another. If both of you (rider/driver & trainer) are on the same page as far as abilities and method of doing things, it is much easier for the trainer to fix things, then explain to you how to cue or signal the horse for what you want and you can move on from there. 

Sometimes what YOU think is happening- really isn't or at least maybe not to the magnatude you think it is. You may think itis a big deal or issue, while someone watching may not see things "falling apart" to the degree that you the rider perceives it happening.  When going to the left, it seems to me like Kat was 'falling into his turns', dropping his shoulder and giving too much or even diving into them at times... Then when corrected with the outside rein- he counterbends. Counterbends is one thing we got nailed for on one of our dressage tests. If I remembered anything, I will always remember that. Still it seems no matter how light I cue him to keep him straight or straighten him out- I end up with my pony counterbent.

What JR found was that while I thought I needed to work on softening and get the left side more supple, Kat is fine both right and left. What Kat needs now is support. When going to the left I needed to support him with the outside rein. He is driving up into the bridle, he is on the bit and moving forward, he just needs the contact and support with the outside rein a little more now.  He also noted that Kat is moving straight with a slight bend to the inside, but his mane is covering that and keeping me from seeing it.

He also found that Kat is about as soft as he can get and maybe a bit too much in fact. When you take a hold of the reins, he gives to the point of tucking his nose all the way to his chest and holding it there as long as you ask him to. This would be similar to Rolkur, which is NOT what I want to be doing with or rather to my pony. It is similar, but the difference lies in how it is applied.

While I may take a hold of the reins and ask, I do not hold it more than a few seconds before I release.  People doing Rolkur just take a hold and hang on for dear life. This is where you get the photos of horses with blue  tongues hanging out the side of their mouth. By hanging onto the horse like this and still pushing them for forward movement- these people are inadvertantly teaching their horse to run through the bit.

When you apply common sense and logic you get this- The Rolkur rider is telling the horse "It is okay to go forward no matter how hard they pull on the reins, no matter how harsh the bit they use. Pulling back on the reins or even giving the slightest of cues with one rein or the other is to be completely ignored by you, the horse."  Not exactly what any of us want and pretty much exlpains clearly WHY Anky's horses are known to be 'hot' and keep running away with her. What a concept?

In all actuallity it is good that Kat is soft, but too much of a good thing is not always good either. There is that fine line in there of good, but not too good, soft, but not too soft.  When I take a hold of the reins, there is some level of contact to be reached, some form of communication to be coming from me to the horse and some reaction will be achieved.  My husband has told me for some time that we are not as far along as we should be by now. Kat is soft, he is balanced, he is moving forward with ease and his stops are very good. He backs up nicely and goes forward with little encouragement, now I need to start training him. We have been playing long enough, getting the miles, trotting and walking plenty, now it is time to ask for more...

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Words of Wisdom

For those of you who know me, I am not one to let a sleeping dog lie if they are not in a good spot. With the horses in general and maybe espeicially with Kat, letting the previous crappy workout go was just not in the cards. Yes we ended on a good note, but the overall workout was not a shining moment in the least. I did not want Kat to get a break after that and when we have time for another workout, reverting back to the last one he remembered and just slipping into "repeat" mode.

I wanted to erase as much of the 'bad workout' as I could from his mind and see what needed to change and salvage what I could of the good. In long lines he was going forward with enthusiasm, engagement, thrust and momentum to spare. With the cart and the change in bits- there was a lot lost and I needed to recover what I could.  I went back to a ring snaffle, but this time the one I used has a slightly thicker mouthpiece. It is also a brand new bit.

With the new bit and back in long lines again, our workout went much better. It was not quite the same as we had before, but far better than the last workout which was, in one word- dreadful.  Kat was a bit more responsive, I still need to work on softening him up on the left again and for me- letting him go, but I didn't have to take a hold of him and literally pull him around the turns.  Our stops were good. Not great, but still good.

With this bit having smaller rings than the half cheek, I don't think the mouthpiece was low enough for Kat to be getting his tongue over it.  It also wasn't loosely bumping and flapping around in his mouth that he would have to pick it up and hold it to be comfortable with the bit either. Then there's the matter of the mouthpiece and ring attachment and nothing he could have been getting pinched by either. When training your horse, these are all things you need to look at, consider and probably far more importantly understand. The horse is merely reacting to what is going on, what they feel and often are not able to tell you- other than by resisting or ignoring the cues.  The last part of the article I linked to in the last post is this-

"Resistance in the mouth is the horse's only way of telling us that something is wrong somewhere. It is up to you to find out what. Only one thing is for certain: A more severe bit will make matters worse!

If you did not read that article- I strongly suggest you do so now. Various bits and their effects  For me not wanting to screw things up miserably, I have gone back to the simple loose ring snaffle. In speaking with Mikael about bits, one thing she mentioned that makes a lot of perfect sense (to me at least) was this-

"When people are giving you advice on what to do, what to use, how to fix something or whatever with YOUR horse, stop for a minute and ask yourself this. What do THEIR horses look like? How do THEY move/perform? Do you LIKE what you SEE?"

When you think about it, that is a pretty good measure of how much that person knows, how they apply it and what the results are.  It applies to both riding and driving and horses in general, spans the breeds, disciplines and covers it all quite nicely. You can also carry it with you wherever you go, use it without anyone knowing and then decide for yourself, maybe more so for the sake of your horse- whether or not to consider what they told you or forget it and move on. 

Granted now, some of us have developed an eye for what is correct and what is not. Some of us are still working on it, and others, well until it smacks them square in the face and the light bulb comes on- it just isn't happening and they are not going to see it. All things considered, that is one of the best things I have heard in a long, long time. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Whole lotta Huh???

As the readers here may know, Kat has been moving forward in training in such a bold way lately and I have been riding the wave of that excitement for the past couple of weeks. But then something I read caught my attention. It is an article on, written by Heike Bean called Various bits and their effects. It cites information from Carol Lavell, John Lyons, Dr Deb Bennett and Ron Meredith.  It is a good article and well worth the read. If anyone cannot get to it through the link, let me know. I will copy, paste and send it to you in an email.

In the article it is essentially stated that the use of a leverage bit, such as a curb bit, liverpool or such only gets two responses- slow or whoa. There is no way of getting any true lateral flexion by using a leverage bit. The non leverage bit- or snaffle bits are much nicer on the horses mouth and you can get lateral flexion as well as the standard flexion of the horse breaking over at the poll.  Knowing I need to work on letting go with my hands, Kat getting his tongue over the bit and softening work... when I went out to work him last night I thought about all of this and decided I would change up the hardware.

I have been doing all of the long line work in his old harness. The harness saddle and the bridle with a loose ring snaffle. This bridle has no noseband, but instead it has an overcheck on it. Since these are not allowed in competition and taking it off would require either work or cutting it, I just set it as loose as it goes and snap it on the ring to keep it out of the way. His standard harness has no overcheck, but does have the noseband. I have been using either the butterfly bit or the pelham since the CDE back in March. Since he has been doing so well in the snaffle, I went with the half cheek snaffle. With not so good results.

Softening work at the walk seemed ok. I focused on ME and letting him go. Soft tugs or 'feathering' the reins to signal for turns and bending. Everything seemed fine until we started trotting. Kat seemed to build up, getting stronger and pick up speed going around to the left. My inside rein meant nothing unless I took a good strong hold and pulled. Hard. Not what I wanted to be doing to my pony or his mouth so we slowed things back down to a walk. Things seemed fine so we picked up a trot again. We were going the other direction and everything was normal. Or at least what has been normal for us.  A few circles to the right and I asked for a serpentine.

Again he got incredibly strong on the left side, I found myself taking a hold of him again, and checking or half halting the right rein and then for a time he seemed ok. I let him move forward, I slowed him down by telling him 'easy' and we did our slow trot. We did a few up & down transitions, trot, stop, trot, stop- our halts were instant as usual and he stopped dead and square. A couple of times I had to pull on him and haul him to a stop, but then it was back to not having to do more than say the word whoa.

I really didn't like having to get after Kat like that. I feel bad for doing it, but if he was not responding, what do you do? Let him go cruising forward and smack into a fence? (Although he is smart and likely wouldn't do that, I hope, or at least wouldn't do it twice...)  So I ended our workout with more walking and softening, bending, giving... working walk, extended walk on a loose rein, halt, walk, halt, walk... and all seemed good again.

I checked his mouth after removing the harness. No points or wolf teeth. Check. I lunged him beofre and watched him the whole time we worked- no lameness or soreness. Check. I checked his back afterwards. No soreness there. Check. So something is making him stiff or sore and he is ignoring me or resisting because of it. Check!

While feeding and filling waters, I texted a friend of mine. I knew as I described it, she may have some insight or answers, suggestions, tips and things to try if not a good solid explanation as to why, how or what the problem is. Bottom line- something  is not right. He is resisting contact on the left, his butt is swinging out to the right as evidenced with dirt & grim on the inside of the shaft and something has got him evading contact.

While the bit is not too different, one of the factors about it is. The half cheek is a touch too wide and I noticed the one cheek is a bit loose in it's attachment.  So we will again be backing up to the long lines and switching bridles and bits to find the golden combo that works for us. The right bit, the right amount of contact and the right responses.  I hope it works because the ADT is the beginning of the month. The Grass Ridge CDE in Sonoita, has been cancelled due to family emergency so we are going to the ADT up north instead.  I am a bit disappointed, I mean, I made my jacket, apron and a few other things... but we can still go compete at a different event and have fun.

Kat has been there before and it is at the same facility as last months Darby. Maybe this time he will get in the water while we are on course. Maybe... The person leading our Training Pony/Green Driver division  has 8 points and has been to every event. We have only been to 2 and are sitting in 2nd with 4 points. There is another ADT in November after the horse show, so we will have to see how we do and where we end up.  Either way- next year we will both be moving up to Training Pony division. There is more competition there and it is tough.

Monday, September 10, 2012


I had emailed my mentor from afar late last week and asked what I need to work on with Kat. It is like lessons by proxy, but it works for now. A friend of mine had commented on Kat getting his tongue over the bit. "He got his tongue over the bit, he can get it back under it. Sometimes they are just looking for release."

Which makes sense since I know I can tend to hold onto him at times when I need to let him go. I am used to riding with contact. So I know needed to work on letting him go and I needed to work on softening, he was refusing to give to the left... These aren't things that will take a long time to fix or work on so I asked what else I should do with Kat?

"Circles, serpentines, up & down transitions, ENGAGEMENT and several other things I probably forgot to mention. Focus on dressage, it is important!"  All of which are softening and engagement excersises. And since there was water- why not work IN it?

As much as I dislike draw reins, they can be useful at times. I attached the shorter lines for ground driving and used my lunge line as a draw rein. The draw rein is held a touch looser than the direct rein. It is merely a backup and hardly used. I ended up switching it over to the right side for a little bit too before taking it off to concentrate on other work. We did our up & downs, we did a lot of circles and since we were working in a smaller area, the serpentines weren't really an option.

I have to say though, Kat LOOKED every bit of a big horse, moving perfectly on a semi loose rein and ROCKIN' IT. He was also trotting through the water with no hesitation at all. In fact- he was Plowing into and through the water like it was nobody's business.  He looked like this horse only with his usual Katman markings and he was right on the vertical-

(photo is from Maverick Sporthorses and is a Holsteiner mare they have named Gradina. I think she is gorgeous and a lovely mover!)

Those up & downs? They help with the engagement of the rear end, lighten the front end and can help make a horse that is built slightly downhill, appear to travel a bit more uphill. The up & downs worked so well in fact, that a couple of times I had Kat trotting and asked for a stop. He planted his ass and stopped so hard he slid a good 3-5 feet like a reiner. Then he looked at me like "Holy Crap! Did you see me do that? That was COOL!"  It was cool, but I think it would be heavily frowned upon in the dressage ring. 

Last night I went out to work him again. I have kept the old crappy harness in the trailer for long lining and so I can work him without lugging the big box with the good harness back and forth. I figured I would just use it again and put Kat to the cart with it. We did it before the good harness, what's one last hurrah? Man is that thing CRAP!

I was going to toss it once we got the new harness, but I was advised to hang onto it. It is good for getting a horse (small pony) started without trashing your good harness. Which makes sense and all, but after last night- I will not be using it to put anything to a cart again. I had to make a few adjustments, which is not a big deal, but it was not as good as using the new harness, which I have had a little over a year now. I will keep it, but the most use it will see is the bridle and harness saddle for long line and ground driving work.

We strarted out in the back pasture and did a few circles and I let Kat loosen up at the walk. We went both directions and headed out into the big pasture with the cows. They were up front so we had the back section to ourselves. I pushed him into a trot and we did some circles, a few serpentines and then a few up and downs. I kept trying to focus on my hands and remember to let him go. Trust him and let him do the work. Old habits can be hard to break and it's not like you can just push the 'Reset' button on some things.

After doing a couple of trot/stop/trot/stop sets, I stopped Kat and he was fidgety. He didn't want to stop and he didn't want to stand still.  I tried backing him up a couple of steps and found out our Reverse gear failed. The harness didn't help and rather than screw with it and make an issue out of backing up, I let him walk forward. Our up & downs now had walking mixed in a bit more to relax my pony before he became hot.  The cows migrated to the west corner of the field and we worked in the east end.

As we finished up I let Kat play and have some fun.  He hadn't shown any soreness in his work so I pushed him for a little more. I began kissing to him and we picked up a very fast trot. We were circling to the right and I kept kissing to him urging him on. Finally he picked up a canter, but only held it for a few strides. All along I have scolded him for cantering with the cart. Now I praised him. 

He dropped back to a trot, but soon picked up a canter again, right lead and all, head up and elevated, the shafts seemed to bounce up and down with him each stride, but he cantered on. We made about one lap around like that and he eased down to a swift trot. Since we did it going to the right, now we had to do it going to the left. We changed directions and this time it was a little easier to get him into the canter since he understood that I was asking for it. A few kisses each stride and he picked up the left lead and cantered on. The shafts bounced up and down, I let him know what a good boy he is and we made a lap and a half around before we eased back down to a trot, then a walk and finished up there. He seemed to enjoy it, but he was getting tired. 

Now that he knows when I want him to canter, how I will ask for it, we can throw out the milk bottles, make up a course and play some more.  He will probably get a bit too excited about that.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012


Oh yeah! We were in it!

Yesterday we irrigated. So last night I threw on my pajama pants and muck boots, grabbed the harness and headed out!  Of course I long lined him first. He got a little squirrelly on me but soon figured out he wasn't getting out of it so he may as well get into it and in he went. I let him put his head down to sniff/drink the water and wouldn't you know it, he finds the grass sticking out and starts snarfin it up.  Um, not what we are doing little man. Get to work...

A few circles around in the water, out one gate, around the 3 stalls and back in the other gate, into the water from another angle, no muss no fuss- let's go get the cart!

I put him to and we headed back into the water for a few more rounds of in and out. He was even trotting into the water. YAY! Progress!

I stopped him and grabbed my cell phone out of my back pocket to get a shot of this. We are facing the two gates and the 3 stalls. I can come in either gate, loop around and line up to go out the other one and we did this a few times.

Here we are coming up out of the one gate on the left in the first picture. A little blurry, but hey, what do you expect from cell phone cameras on the move?

Heading along the front of the 3 stalls. Did I mention the three mares in these stalls? He doesn't even bother to give them the time of day when he is in harness. Nope it's work time, not play time.

To give everyone an idea of what it is like, I went back to my one handed rein holding and put the whip down to get this- The constant clucking is to get him to move and maybe trot. Without the whip to tap him for encouragement, I did manage to get a few strides of trotting into the water, but that was it. I couldn't manage the whip and cell phone at the same time. The reins? That wasn't perfect either.

As an added bonus, something you cannot see at the beginning of the video as we are approaching the gate and reach it- we pass by the stall of my WB mare on the left. She despises and loathes Kat for some reason. Absolutely hates his very existance and charged the fence at him (ears pinned, teeth bared of course!) as we went by. You can see his reaction- or lack of.  I luv my pony!

Monday, August 27, 2012


So this is the 100th post on this blog. Considering I started it about driving Kat and training him for the sport and all, how far we have come in a year and now the 100th post. Looks like everything has come a long way since the beginning. Doesn't seem like it has been that long either. 

A few things about the Darby. Before we headed out from the hotel we had already been busy. We had breakfast in the lobby and I headed back to the room to get organized, packed, loaded up and we would be on our way. Although we had put up the privacy thing on the door, we had a visitor in our room.  No big deal, I could work around that. 

I got everything ready to go and about then hubs came back to help get everything in the truck. I showed him our visitor and snapped a couple of pictures. There was a small lizard on the floor of our room. He was on my side of the bed, right in front of the nightstand. Both of us decided he needed to go outside before we left and the cleaning crew came in. We didn't want the little guy/girl sprayed, squashed or harmed. So we set out to wrangle a lizard. And the lizard didn't want to cooperate!

JR tried to herd the lizard towards the door. The lizard ran towards the wall, but moved sorta that way.  Then the lizard spotted my boots and came back away from the front wall and seemed to hide by my boots. JR had tried to pick the lizard up on a brochure or something but the lizard didn't stay on it long enough to get to the door. When it stopped by my boots, I decided to try. I reached down and cupped my hands around the lizard. It crawled up on my hand and I made my way to the door.


I managed to get outside and one more pic before setting the lizard on the ground and sending him/her on his/her way. Cute huh? JR had a hard time keeping it on the brochure because little things like this move very fast. Once on the ground, the lizard took off to freedom.  I thought of blogger Mikey and some of her adventures. All I could think was- Only in Arizona...

After the Darby we had the pleasure of sticking around to play in the water hazard. Since Kat had been in without the cart, now he needed to go in WITH the cart. Wouldn't you know it, as we headed down off he hill to the water hazard- the wind kicked up, the clouds started blowing in, it became overcast and rain was looming. The wind was blowing across the top of the water and making ripples. Kat thought he was doomed for sure.

He was hesitant and resisted, put up a decent fight of "Oh Hell NO!" but in the end...

L-O-V-E  his walk as he goes into the water.

We went through a couple of more times and even still, unless we went straight in at the shallow end this is what happened-

Unless we were aimed right at it at the wide shallow spot, Kat refused. He was beginning to rear a little and backing up a few steps here and there. Neither is allowed so I had to correct him and drive him forward, using the whip as needed. He got the point and we went through a few more times before calling it good and taking him back to the trailer. As I was un hooking and untacking him, the rain came and started to cool things off.

Over the weekend Kat and I started working. We both need to get into shape before the CDE in Sonoita at Grass Ridge. He was whipping around on the lunge line like a crazy man and working like  nobody's business.  I got a few pics of him afterwards and I have to say- I am lovin' my pony. 

My camera angle wasn't so good here.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Darby time!

First off we have the course map. Which doesn't want to load because it is a pdf file and beyond my blogger capabilites of translation or ??? that needs to be done to make it happen.  If anything changes- You will see the map here instead of a lengthy description of what it was.

Enter the Start/Finish gate where your time starts when the horses nose crosses the line. Head straight for a line of cones 1, 2, 3 & 4. Right turn to go through 1, sharp left to come around to 2, sharp right to come around through 3, sharp left again to go through 4 heading away from 5 so a hard right to get back around to go through an opening into Fort Atonna and look for gates A, B & C.

Here we are coming off A and circling around to get to B. I don't know if anyone else went this way during the day or not. The beauty of hazards and obstacles- you get to choose your own course. As long as you are going through the gates in the right order, the right direction, how you get to them is up to you. 

Heading into A there is a big pile of tree branches/small logs stacked up in a diamond shaped pile, and Kat sorta spooked at it. He took a couple of hesitant steps off to one side or another, but hearing me urging him on and forward, got over it and went right on past without another look.

Through the three gates and off to the second set of cones...  7, 8, 9 and 10 were set up sort of  as a square.   If you could manage going through 7 and pull a sharp leftt to go through 8 (we did) then cool. Otherwise you looped around to the right to line up for 8 which the bigger horses pretty much had to do.  Go through 8 and loop around to the left for 9, back around to the left to line up for 10- be careful not to knock down any cones...

Although it looks wide, (horses and ponies have one setting, mini's another) it is still pretty easy to take out a cone or bump it hard enough to knock balls down. 10 second penalty for each ball down. Thankfully we were clean! Last year- 1 ball down.

After going through 10 you are headed back to the water hazard. Gates A & B don't require going through the water, but to get to C quickly- you cut through the water.  Although Kat had gone in the water on Saturday in long lines, adding the cart and two passengers- whole 'nuther story. Nuh uh, not today! He pretty much planted his feet and said "Not happening!"  After two attempts and a lot of urging, we ditched that thought and went around.

You can see the cement in front of the mermaid statue. Those red PVC poles protecting her? Kat took them out on Saturday, trying not to get his feet wet. They are designed to come apart to prevent a bigger wreck.  We were not the only entry to go around the water instead of through it. The horses a few of the minis and Kat, had other ideas that day and water was not included.

Once we went through C we headed off to the other side of the property for hazard 12, more cones and hazard 18.  Going through A, B & C on the hazards, you can go back through a gate to get out, which in this case would line you up for a straight shot at cone 13. In a Darby, the hazards, once you go through a gate it is now 'dead' and you can go back through it to get to another. Cones are never dead. Cutting through a set of cones to get to something else- elimination! 

Straight through 13, loop around left to get to 14, right  around 13 and loop to get to 15,  another loop around to the right and past 16, hard right to come back through it, sharp right loop to get back around and go through 17, line up to go through the poles of 'Paulden Forest' for A, around a pallet box to go through B and straight out through the 'forest' again through C and back to the other side of the property...

The cones for 19 and 20 were right by the start finish gate. 19 was headed away from them while 20 was headed back the same direction as the finish gate, but further away from it.  We wound our way through both of them and through the finish gate. Kat was a bit pooped and had slowed to a walk a few times on the course. Having too much time off didn't do him any favors in the fitness department. Looks like we will both be working on that before the CDE in October. At least we have some time to ease into it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Splish, Splash!

Anyone who has been following this blog knows the Darby last year was Kat's debut event in harness. To think this past year has already gone by is kinda crazy, but it has been Fun! The weather in Northern AZ is cooler, but not by much in some areas. It was averaging around 100 degrees and I still get sunburned but at least it wasn't 110 or more as it was in the valley of the sun over the weekend.

We arrived in Paulden early in the afternoon. The course had been set up on Friday and was open for walking. The dressage arena is always there for use and there were also several cones out there, but I had different plans. I had brought my long lines and was going to try to get Kat in the water, without the cart.

The last time we went to Paulden for the Darby, I had taken Kat in the water on the end of a lead line. I went in with him, we went in the shallow end and he took very little coaxing to follow. This time it was time to step it up a few notches.  He would be wearing part of the harness and would need to go in on his own. Time for Kat to grow up and start acting like a big boy.

My paparazzi was a bit distracted so we didn't get any pics. I was trying to drive Kat forward into the water, but had forgotten my whip in the truck or my 'accelerator' as Gary later called it.  I had the lines run through the tugs on the surcingle and Kat was being responsive, but at the same time, he was having none of it on this whole idea of getting IN the water.  Gawd forbid he get his feet wet... 

We tried walking back and forth past it, then turning sharply and directly into it as hubby suggested. That wasn't working too well for us and Kat was trying his best to evade the water and succeeding. We tried on the shallow end, the sides and the deep end and little man was having no part of it.

I finally dropped the lines and went to his head. I had led him in last year to start, I would lead him in again if that's what it took. Kat trusts me and will usually go willingly wherever I lead him. He still resisted a bit, but eventually he got in the water with me.  Of course he took a few hesitant and unsure steps that resulted in a bit of a leap and him bumping into me, but I stayed on my feet and we were both IN the water. We also happened to be near the deep end. Not so good on the planning on my part, but at least we got there.

Now that Kat was in the water, you would think getting him back in would be a piece of cake. Nope! Leading him in, he had me as a security blanket of sorts. With me behind him driving him forward into what was surely the abyss- he didn't want to go.  He balked, he tried going left, he tried going right, he tried to escape every way he knew how. Every time, every turn, I used the reins to block the intended exit route. I kept clucking, kissing and talking to my pony and still he did not want to go forward.

Mary Jane and her horse Mack were on the course with Gary as a navigator. They drove past us, into the water without a flaw as Kat stood on the banks and watched. He could care less if the horse went in, he wasn't about to budge.  After unhooking Gary came back down the hill and helped. First thing he asked- "Where's your whip?" 

As it was, and I noticed this early on, a few times as Kat started to go forward and as I used the line to slap his butt and push him forward, he also got a tug on the bit and it translated into "Go forward, but no don't." This is why the whip was essential in giving clear, concise commands without adding any extra confusion.  Gary also told me to shorten up my lines and keep my hands closer together. Something I noticed in the pictures I don't always do.  

After a few unsuccessful attempts to get Kat back in the water, Gary took hold of the nearest rein and coaxed him along. He was the new security blanket and although Gary never went in the water, he got Kat in there.  Once Kat was back in the water, I kept him there. I circled him around to the left and to the right. Stopped him in the middle and patted & praised him. Kat relaxed enough to drop his head and drink while he was standing there.  The water was deeper this year and had filled my boots as I stood there next to my pony.

After that I took him out the shallow end, turned him around and headed him right back in. He hesitated a little but dropped his head and slowly walked into the water again. We went in and out of the water a few more times before Gary had to leave. By then, we had gone in and out at both the shallow and deeper ends of the water. Kat was relaxed and comfortable about doing it. Was he happy about it? Maybe, maybe not, but he was still going in and out of the water. 

After that I took Kat out to a big open area and let him trot and blow off some steam. He had plenty of energy and enjoyed stretching his legs and getting it out of his system.  After a few minutes of working both directions and Kat being more relaxed- we headed back to the water. We went in and out a few more times.  A couple of times, I stayed out of the water while he went in. He also felt so good about himself that he trotted across the water once or twice. He went in and out with no hesitation and I stopped him in the middle, waded out to him while my boots filled with water again, praised him and called it good.  The next day we would be trying it with the cart...

Friday, August 10, 2012

Murphy's Law

There should actually be two versions of Murphy's Law-
Things never go as planned
Everything that can go wrong- Will!

I think everyone is pretty familiar with both of these, although the part about never going as planned may happen more than everything falling apart.

How this applies to my horses- I have not gotten a chance to put the mare in long lines yet or ground drive her. In fact the new surcingle hasn't even made it out of the bag, except for me taking it out to look at it when it arrived. It did make it as far as getting out with the rest of the tack, but that's it. Still hasn't seen a horse yet.

My mare- well she needs her feet done and I have been treating her for an abcess on the front left. If she can't stand on it, how am I supposed to trim the other one?  Horses are enough to make us all nuts sometimes, aren't they?

I did get Kat trimmed a couple of weeks ago and the cart was finished and brought home... We managed to slip in a couple of drives, but it was in the small turnout since the cows have been in the back trying to eat down the weeds. Why not drive in with the weeds? Seriously they are taller than I am. I tried ground driving Kat through them. What a joke!

I figured it would be good for him to learn to go where I point him if he can see or not. He needs to trust me sometimes and just do it.  He went in the weeds all right, but the weeds are stalky and very unforgiving. The traces although fastened up over his back- were caght in the weeds and tugged at. The lines trailing behind me kept snagging on stuff. Kat kept trying to grab bites off the weeds, although he is far from starving(!) and the bugs, did I mention the damn BUGS? Holy crap! I had sprayed him down good with fly spray before we started, but it did him no good. I was also being dive bombed and swarmed. Forget that idea. First chance I had to turn him around, I did, because by this time we were at the far end of the pasture of course. 

Once we moved over into the small turnout, thins were fine. I ground drove him a touch and he was awesome. I put him to the cart and he did great. We managed about 45 minutes of good solid work. I had closed off the one panel to keep the cows out so then I could open the big gates to the weed patch and drive through them. One of my friends horses thought we were the Devil in carnate and out to get him. He wanted no part of us going past his stall, but settles in pretty quick since none of our horses were bothered. Still he kept a watchful eye on us.

I fell we are more than ready for the upcoming Darby. This is the same event we went to last year as our first outing in harness. It's tough to believe a year has gone by already. Crazy I know.  There will be fun to have, new friends to make, people we know to see and maybe I will be able to convince Kat to get in the water, proving to him it is ok to get his little hoofies wet. I will be taking my long lines with us for a 'start without the cart' training session and option. Once he is going in and out, I will hook him and lather, rinse, repeat, repeat, repeat... 

Thursday, August 2, 2012

While I am at it...

The last post talked about backing up in training and getting it right before going on. That applies to riding horses as well as driving horses. Sometimes you need to back up, get off the horse, ground drive or long line them and 'fix' them before you get on and try it again.

Which is what I will be doing with Aruba. I have been riding her (not as much as I would like to) but the last few rides we were having issues going to the right. Serious issues. And they were all me. All of it.

Going to the left I was fine, she was fine, we were good. I was relaxed, she was too, my hands were soft and following, she was bent to the left and we trotted big sweepy, effortless circles. I even posted some which made me able to last a bit longer. Then we turned to the right. Walking was sorta fine, but I was beginning to tense up. I had my hand on the first tab on the reins, but that wasn't enough release for her. Our circles were anything but big let alone 'sweepy' and trotting only lasted a few strides at best. I leaned forward, essentially putting all my weight on her front end and forcing her to do the same. Any wonder the poor mare was confused?

It was put to me to put the reins in my left hand, on the buckle. Put my hand out over her withers and even her neck if I had to. Sit. up. straight! Which all translated to me as "Ride her like a damned western horse and neck rein if you have to... "

What happened next? I wasn't completely relaxed, but the mare was. She was soft and not so much bent to the inside, but we trotted. Big. sweepy. circles. And for "riding her like a western horse" yeah, those girls post sometimes too, and so did I. I sat up straight, my mare was balanced and life was once again GOOD!

So I ordered up a new surcingle from Valley Vet. It came in today! I gotta say, for the money- it is really NICE! It is also quite soft and well built. I love that it has nice BIG rings on it and no metal eyelets on the billets. I will be ground driving my mare this weekend to fix the things I have started to unravel by riding her. I also think she would make an elegant driving horse. Time will tell on that though... If she goes that route- talk about horsepower! She has it.