Over the weekend of competing my pony, I realized something. I have not been very fair to my pony when we are on course.
In an email to a friend of mine from the driving club, who couldn't make it down for the two ADT's, I explained something to her that I finally realized is happening out there.
I told her of how BEC runs barrels and one thing she mentioned a while back was carrying a notebook in her trailer, to jot down little things like "Finish your barrel". Applied to cones?---> Finish your cone, meaning go thru it before you start looking for the next one. This one I got down pat, no problem. May not always go as planned, but that's all on me. I admit it. It also goes along with don't look down at the barrel/cone as you go around/thru it, which 99% of the time turns into--->> running over it.
Speaking with Jim (the course designer for cones) and Maryann (another competitor who is also a driving judge) before cones on Sunday, Maryann mentioned standing in the middle of the cone, putting your arms up, hands together and pointing to something straight ahead to aim for. Like in any Showmanship pattern or even trotting in at A to halt at X- look at the judge and aim for them as if you're going to run them/it over.... This is about the best thing you can do for keeping your lines straight. This also goes along with looking where you want your horse to go.
My friend used to compete in jumping and eventing. She has competed both nationally and internationally and taken horses to titles on both levels and has ridden with some of the biggest names in the sport. I had only known her as a driver so had no idea that this is what her background was. She had mentioned a few things here and there, but I admit that I didn't take much notice at the time. In discussing the training of her up and coming pony, we related it to jumping. It's all in the approach. There are signals and cues to give the horse an idea of something coming and what it will be. Same with driving- something is coming, we need to be ready for it.
After emailing my scores to my her on Monday night, I realized something. Hell half of the time I aim Kat at the cones, aim for the middle and let him go. And that's about the time I mentally clock out. Seriously.
I'm not looking UP! Let alone aiming for anything in or out of the ring to 'center' us. Nope. I aim for the middle from a ways back and expect it to happen. I'm along for the ride and let the little man take over, giving him no guidance or support whatsoever. I try to keep him on course if he drifts, but otherwise, I leave him alone and let him do his thing. I'm a passenger and not much more than that, other than a weight shifting back and forth to keep the wheels on the ground. Obviously I'm not one to micromanage every step my pony takes, but finding a happy medium would be extremely helpful to him.
I also don't give him any kind of a heads up, we need to be on the left lead for the upcoming turn... no rein tug, bump, bump, verbal cue of "switch"- nothing. I just wait for it and then haul in on one rein or the other and tell him to 'get around' the turn and then GO! GO! GO!!!!! before I'm hauling in on the other rein and expecting him to make the next turn, line up for the cone, point and shoot and off we go. I know what the course is, or at least I have an idea. He doesn't. He hasn't seen the maps, walked the course, know his numbers or that red is supposed to be on the right... He goes where I only sort of tell him. Leave him guessing much? Yes, yes I do. How unfair is that?
Honestly, it was a "What the Holy, Ever Loving #(*&%^(#&$(@ do you Expect from your pony????" kind of moment. Talk about a personal "Come to Jeysus!" meeting. My little guy is a freaking SAINT for putting up with this crap from me and managing to do it so well for so long. He is obviously very forgiving AND very damn talented. Now it's obviously time that I change my strategies. My friend said "Don't to be too hard on yourself. At least you realized what you're doing and accepted that it needs to be fixed!" Now it's time that Kat gets the credit he justly deserves and the help he needs from me. I guess one of my resolutions for the new year is to be a better driver.