Heading into day 3 and the cones, because of the mistakes we had made the day before, we had slipped down into 4th place. The cones course was set up on Saturday and we all had a chance to walk it in the afternoon, before the banquet dinner that night. I had a brief talk with the course designer and he confirmed that cones #9 and #10 were across from each other, but both were to be taken heading into the box maze of straw bales, not just go in through #9 and out through #10 as would be tempting to do. The red cone is on the right to remind you not to go through things the wrong way, but on occasion it happens. Ask me, I have done it plenty.
One of the tips I had been given early on by Gary was to set the cones narrow at home when practicing. Don't give yourself much if any room to slip through them. One of the side effects of this however, is thinking about how much easier it is with so much extra space and getting caught up in that, losing track of where you are and going off your intended course. It happens to a lot of people though and we all live and learn...
In the ADS rulebook, you are to use the same cart for section A (dressage) and C (cones) and therefore be dressed accordingly. Although we were not required to braid for cones or wear our aprons, the apron was to be on the cart and that meant pretty much everybody wore them. We as competitors, were all to be 'properly dressed' an hour before the day started. Walking the cones, you were to be wearing your outfit you would be showing in. Frank Luetz was the only one properly dressed as Hardy Zantke pointed out and announced to the rest of us. I felt bad for not having put on at least the shirt and my hat, but as there were several seasoned competitors out there dressed in their everyday clothes, I didn't stand out from the crowd even though I wasn't properly dressed.
This time around I was able to lunge Kat for as long as he needed it. I didn't get to the day before and he was a bit wound but handled it well enough for being pulled out and put straight to the cart. I don't often do that at home. But then at home, I am usually not rushed or pinched on time either. Kat circled around on the line for quite a while before finally relaxing and slowing down to a comfortable jog. I turned him and he started off a little fast, but soon settled down to the same jog. I let him keep going and made sure he was relaxed, because I know how he lights up when he sees the cones.
When we checked in before the cones, we were asked if this was the same cart we used for dressage, our harness was given a once over glance and we were then pointed over to where we were to do our vet check OTM or 'On The Move'. The vet attendant would look the horse over on both sides, then we were to do a large figure eight where they could look for any soundness issues. Kat was fine and we were given the ok to go. I took him out to the warmup area and let him work a bit more to relax. I threw in a few tight circles, some serpentines and made sure he was responding like he should. Then we went over and found a place in the shade to stand and wait our turn.
It all went so quickly and we came in within the time allowed. We managed to only knock down 3 balls for a total of 9 penalty points, but again it was partially due to pilot error and another glitch I would find out about later on. In between the cones, if there was a long line from one to the next, I let Kat go. He would trot on handsome, badass and bold, really throwing his feet up there and out there in the way he can and does. When I would try to rein him in and bring him back down, a few times he resisted, we got a bit squirrelly and down went the ball as we didn't hit our line straight through the cone.
We did not get eliminated, but with the penalties, we locked in our position of 4th in Training Level, Single Pony. Had we taken our time, not letting Kat get loose in between the cones, we may not have had those penalties to add to the penalties from the day before. Without the penalties from both days, we would have been 2nd for the competition. The smallest mistakes can cost you big. In the cones, the order of go changes up a bit. Whoever is in last place, goes first and on up the rankings of placings.
After completing the cones course we were to wait in the holding area until all of the Training Level entries had completed the course. Scores were figured and placings were noted for the VSE Single, VSE Pairs, Single Pony and Pony Pairs. There were no entries for training level single or pairs horse. While waiting around for the Pony Pairs to go and placings to be figured, several people had begun gathering in the holding area.
As we were waiting around on the rest of the Single Pony entries, then the two Pony Pairs entries to go, Kat happened to be standing pretty close to Frank Luetz. It wasn't long before Frank took notice, kept looking at him and finally came over to pet him. He asked how long we had been driving, how old Kat is and how we did out there. When I told him that Kat has had 11 years to do nothing but eat, play and grow up, he commented how he wished he could find a life of leisure like that. (Don't we all?) Then he looked at Kat again, took a light hold of the right rein as Kat's head came up and turned towards him, as Frank said in his thick German accent, "He is a nice looking pony and you can see by how he is built, dat he can really elevate and has got da movement of a Big horse, ya?"
I stood there next to my pony, grinning and thinking about the picture above, that I had posted of him on my other blog, back when he was in long lines, where everyone was complimenting him and commenting on how he looked like a big horse until you seen something nearby to bring him back to scale. I nodded and said to Frank, "Yes, he has the movement of a big horse. In pictures you can easily forget his size until you see something next to him to scale."
Frank then went on to say it looks like Kat is getting his tongue over the bit and recommended something else. A mullen mouth bit with a slight port to it if possible, which would prevent him from doing that anymore. That one statement made a LOT of sense to me too. It would explain why he was resistant in coming back down under control in the cones, why he was such a brat on Friday headed off to the dressage arena and I ticked off a number of times in my head that his tongue over the bit, could have likely been the reason behind things happening the way they did. Yes I had one of these DUH! or maybe A-HA! moments... and now, thanks to Ideal Harness, whose giant orange semi was at the show, LOADED WITH STUFF! I have a loose cheek, mullen mouth, butterfly bit for Kat to wear as well as having punched another hole in the leather to bring the blinders up where they belong.
I have yet to try it on him as we only got to drive on Sunday of last weekend and I want to ground drive him first and see where we are both at. It is easier to take this route and be safe, than to jump in the cart, have an accident and then deal with the whole recovery process, IF the horse is not ruined for life afterwards. It is always better to be safe than sorry. I want to replace the curb chain on it and get one of those rubber covers for it too. We did drive on Sunday though and the neighbor came over to see the differences in her cart and mine, her harness and mine and get some more insight into driving. It was the last time I could slip a workout in before our next ADT on Saturday. Hopefully with the knowledge of slowing things down, we will do better this time.