Posts Tagged ‘mounted games’

Last weekend we took the ponies to a mounted games competition in New Jersey. This is one of my favorite competitions of the year, because not only is it a short distance from our home base in PA, but it’s also an event that most of the riders camp at. I love camping, especially when I get to bring along the ponies AND the dog.

camping with ponies

We arrived just as it was getting dark and dropped two of the ponies (Blitz – who came along for the experience and more training, and Jet – my sister’s mare that my mom would be riding for the weekend) at the stables. We bedded their stalls and tucked them in for the night, all while Boomerang waited patiently on the trailer.

Then we drove Boomer up to the campsites where we set up his portable corral from Travel n’ Corrals. This was the first time I got a chance to use the corral at an overnight competition – and also the first time he had ever seen it. And did I mention it was dark by this point?

boomerang travel n corrals

We unloaded Boomer and put him in the corral while we set up the tent. He looked around for a second and went straight to eating his hay. I was pretty amazed at how he acted like everything was no big deal. His friends (who rode in the trailer with him) got dropped off somewhere else and now here he was up on the top of a hill next to a campsite, in a corral he had never seen, with not a single horse in sight…..just quietly munching his hay. Pretty cool pony.

boomerang travel n corrals

Well, he was pretty cool until about 1am when he ran out of hay. Ha. Should have known it would be too good to be true.

With his hay gone I think he looked around and realized “what the heck, where am I and what happened to my friends?” His ear piercing whinny woke me instantly. I think he would have eventually stopped calling too – had his big brother Blitz not heard him a mile away in the stables and called back. And yes, it was DEFINITELY Blitz – he has a VERY distinct whinny. Every hour or so they would call back and forth to each other – if I only knew what they were saying! At one point I even heard Boomerang lay down in his corral – yet continue to return Blitz’s calls. He wasn’t frantic, he didn’t try to escape (not that he could – these things are really well built) or do anything horrible – he was simply having a late night conversation with his big brother….on the other side of the facility!

boomerang travel n corrals

Hindsight, I probably should have set the corral up closer to the barns so that he could at least see another horse. But regardless of the fact that he stayed up all night talking I was still proud of how he handled the situation I put him in.

Not only was the corral a new thing for us at this competition, but it was also the first time I got to compete with my treeless saddle. I wish I had some pictures to share, but since my mom and I were both riding together we had no one with us to take pictures. If only somehow I could train the Dachshund to do it! Hummm. But, the saddle was awesome! No slipping, and both Boomerang and I were SUPER comfy in it. I even got to do some full out vaulting into it without any problems. I really wish I had gone treeless years sooner – I’ll never go back!

In between competition sessions my mom worked on training Blitz to tie (without his friends around). Blitz has progressed in leaps and bounds with all the training my mom has put into him, but he still has one major issue they are working on. His separation anxiety. He has a real problem leaving his friends and being alone.

This is what well behaved horses look like when they tie:

ponies tied to trailer

And this is what naughty Blitz looks like when he ties without his friends around:

ponies tied to trailer

Blitz spent a lot of time working on tieing in the woods by our campsite. It was very tough for him not to have his friends around – but my mom thinks she hopefully made some breakthroughs with him.

tieing ponies

With high-hopes of working even further on Blitz’s training on Day 2, we were instead hit with a nasty Thunderstorm on Saturday night. Camping proved to get a little wet – but atleast we were nice and toasty in the tent with our little heater named Ammo the Dachshund. Ammo is such a trooper, he’ll put up with pretty much anything – and any situation. Thunder & Lightning is no problem for this guy – I think he might sleep through a tornado if no one woke him!

ammo the dachshund

Sadly when we woke up the next day the competition had to be canceled. With no end in sight for the storms, they were forced to pin the divisions based on standings from the previous day. But we still came home with a second place finish!

ammo the dachshund second place

We packed up and headed home – only to be hit with one last road block just minutes from the farm. Luckily Peco was nearby and able to help us out before the ponies got too hot in the trailer. And next time I’m going to REALLY try to remember my rubber boots so I’m not stuck wearing soggy sneakers all weekend!

fallen tree

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I’ve had the SAME english saddle since I was about 14. That’s 13 years for anyone counting. Most people would have upgraded long ago, but since I’ve been riding ponies since I was 5 (and still do) the saddle was a good fit for them. For me though? Not so much.

My 13 year old english saddle

Only, I didn’t really notice how ill-fitting my saddle was until recently. I didn’t know that it could be better – for me & my ponies. The soreness in my legs after a weekend competing – mostly due to a saddle that was too small for my 5’10” frame.

I honestly never really thought much about upgrading my current saddle until after the Extreme Cowboy race competition with Boomerang this winter. Since we had begun doing more western type maneuvers I began to really notice how much my current english saddle was throwing me forward. I felt the need to sit deeper (to stay on through Boomer’s super spins), but when we broke to the canter my saddle pushed me into a two-point position.

I didn’t really want a western saddle, because although what I do is more akin to western speed sports, I still like to occasionally do dressage, or some jumping. And I later learned that Boomerang is too short backed to take an adult sized western saddle anyway. Getting another (larger) english saddle would work, but I would still be thrown forward.

Freeform Classic BTF Treeless Saddle from Saddle Up

But I learned there was another option. Treeless. I actually would have never known what a treeless saddle was if it wasn’t for my facebook friend, Kali from Pony Pros. She runs a program in Oregon for kids and adults where all of the horses are ridden bitless and in treeless saddles.

If you are unfamiliar with treeless saddles they are basically the same as an english (or western) saddle but they do not have a rigid tree inside of them. I did a lot of research into them before hand. I learned about the importance of making sure the treeless saddles do not rest on the horses’ spine, I looked at tons of different manufacturers, I even drove Boomerang to Delaware to test out the closest treeless saddle I could find. Treeless saddles are big with endurance riders as they are not only comfortable for the rider, but they also free up the horses’ movement – but in my area many tack shops didn’t even know what I was talking about when I asked if they carried treeless saddles.

I finally narrowed down my search to an online shop located in Virginia (about as close as I could get to Pennsylvania). For the next few weeks I emailed back and forth with Paulita Neff from Saddle Up about what I was looking for, the features I needed, and the issue I had with my short backed pony, and my extremely tall self (I’m really too tall to be riding these 13 hand ponies).

I finally decided on the Freeform Classic BTF.

When it arrived a few weeks later, admittedly I had some doubts. Is a treeless saddle really going to stay on my pony’s back when I lean to pick objects off the ground during a mounted games competition? Am I going to like it? Is it really worth spending that much money on a saddle?

Boomerang competeing in his new treeless saddle

The interesting thing about the Freeform saddles is that not only can you change the actual seat position, but you can also change where the stirrups hang from – so you can make the entire seat totally customizable to you. It took me a few days of riding in the saddle and making adjustments to the position of things to get it to the right fit to me. I ultimately ended up putting my seat as far back as I could (I’d actually prefer it a little further back, so the saddle would fit my leg better – but because my pony is so short backed I can’t do this, the perils of riding a pony when you are tall), and I placed my stirrups a little more forward to have a more “western” seat in the saddle.

Boomerang if very happy in his new treeless saddle

After a few rides, and many adjustments, I was hooked. I felt like I was riding on a pillow. Transitioning back to my old english saddle made me feel like I was riding on a board – I couldn’t believe I had actually spent 13 years in that thing. And after ordering a pony sized dressage girth for Boomerang (the smaller the girth the more stable it makes the saddle), leaning off to pick objects off the ground was no problem. And I had no slipping of my saddle.

Comfort Dressage Girth from Just for Ponies

I also picked up a new pair of stirrups, as the leathers are somewhat wider and didn’t fit my conventional safety stirrups (a must for a saddle that doesn’t have stirrup bars). These from HorseLoverz fit perfectly, and I love the fact that they sit at a better position to easily find them at a flat out gallop (after vaulting onto your pony at a games competition of course).

Coronet Double Safety Irons from HorseLoverz

One of the best parts about the new saddle is that Boomerang’s spins have gotten quicker and faster. The treeless saddle has freed up his shoulders and he is much more agile. My mom even tried it out on Blitz and he began picking up his once sticky right lead immediately (because his shoulder had freer movement).

Over the weekend we took the ponies to their very first gymkhana event. Here’s a short little video to show how it went:

The ponies were fantastic and I felt really secure in my new saddle. And after a day of being in my saddle I didn’t have a single sore muscle or sore spot anywhere – due to my super comfy new saddle.

I’m excited to test it out in the mounted games arena as well as on the trail too (although we have practiced some gaming in it at home). Here’s a few shots from our day at the gymkhana…

Boomerang was very well behaved considering all the commotion around, and the fact that the horse flies were eating him alive. It’s great to be able to expose the ponies to so many different things, it makes them so versatile.

Stay tuned, because Sunday was a day of firsts for Boomerang and Blitz, as we also took them swimming for the first time! Pictures are coming soon!


Special thanks to Paulita from Saddle Up for being so patient with me as I asked a million questions about treeless saddles!

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Some of you might know that in 2009 we moved the ponies into our farm, Iron Horse Farm. My parents waited 20+ years until they were able to build the farm of their dreams. And while the farm never seems to be quite complete (we always have projects going on) – it is definitely a place our whole family cherishes.

My talented brother Taylor recently made an updated farm tour for our website while he was home visiting from North Carolina. (and he’s also working on a new video for the painting ponies!)

Check it out:

Isn’t it fantastic! You can see my mom working Blitz in the video with her dog Trooper – as well as Boomerang and Minnow (and our other horses Jet – black mare & Nitro – the grey). Sadly I wasn’t out at the farm the day he shot – or perhaps I would have made him capture a few pony tricks for the reel. But regardless, my brother is an super talented filmmaker – he shot this in one day! Amazing right?

So if you are in need of some video work – be sure to check out his website Depthink. (he will travel!)

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I had my suspicions before, but now I’m pretty certain that I have a “fan” at the Breyer Model Headquarters. Why you may ask? Because within the past few years several models have been popping up that bare an uncanny resemblance to Minnow & I.

First it was the Pony Games Set, Breyer’s very first mounted games rider and pony.

This model features a female rider with thick RED braids โ€“ tip off #1 that its me. When competing in mounted games I usually wear my hair (my RED hair) in 2 HUGE braids because trust me, you have never seen a red-head with as much hair as me. Not only that but the rider is on a pinto pony, that may not look exactly like Minnowโ€™s clone, but there are some definite similarities.

Then a friend sent me over a link to the Art Class Set.

This model also includes a female artist with RED hair and a pinto pony. If that wasn’t enough, they come with paintbrushes and paint! Really!

Me and Three Future Breyer Models

Minnow says his sidekick Ammo the Dachshund has to be included too

Whatever Breyer’s reasoning behind these two models is, it’s certain that their “plan” has worked. Because I am now the proud owner of both of them! ha ha. ๐Ÿ™‚

I’m really really hoping that my “fan” at the Breyer Headquarters is reading this, because Chincoteague Minnow would be more than HAPPY to model for your next “debut” mold of his likeness. Why not get the real thing? Complete with little Dachshund side-kick and all!

I bet it would sell out instantly! ๐Ÿ™‚

What do you guys think? Should Minnow be a Breyer Model? Should Ammo be the first Dachshund mold? Does anyone else see the resemblances that I do?


Images from Breyer.

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On Sunday we had a mounted games event at the farm. During these events we also like to add on a fun jackpot obstacle course for everyone. It’s great experience for the ponies & riders, and it’s fun to challenge yourself to try something new. Each time we have them the course gets bigger and better, and the riders that participate begin to grow. We’re hoping that this will turn into a popular event – as it really is a blast!

Here’s a quick video of Boomerang and I doing a run-through of the course before the show. We ended up making a few modifications, like taking out the “gate” which inevitably ended up being too much of a challenge. ๐Ÿ™‚

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Chesapeake Lightning aka Blitz doesn’t always appear on this blog quite as often as Minnow & Boomerang. The reason for this is that technically I don’t own Blitz, my mom does.

Me working on trick training with Blitz

While I’m still very much responsible for his “trick training” education (I taught him to paint, play fetch, shake hands, kiss, etc), my mom works with him on all other parts of his training.

Blitz during a Natural Horsemanship Clinic at our farm last year

My mom and I have similar training methods, but while I primarily use clicker training, she opts for a more “Natural Horsemanship” Direction. I don’t really like to put labels onto the types of training methods we use, because really we gather knowledge and inspiration from TONS of different sources. We watch DVD’s, attend clinics, take lessons, and pretty much absorb everything that comes towards us. I’ve even used methods taught in my dog agility classes with my ponies. Every horse we work with is different, and we tailor our training to what works best for them. It’s about using techniques that are kind to your horse, and aide them in the best way possible in learning with you.

Anyway, since Blitz hasn’t had any action on this blog as of late, I thought I’d give a little update on what he’s been working on.

Recently my mom started taking him to some Natural Horsemanship Lessons at a local trainers place. Blitz is very herd oriented, and as the leader of our small band of Chincoteague Ponies, he very much assumes the role of head “Stallion”. One of his biggest issues is confidence, and he lacks it when away from his herd and the safety of the farm. So my mom has spent time working on making Blitz confident in any situation, so that he will be a safe and reliable mount when put into any uncertainty.

Blitz and Boomerang share the same father, and although both ponies are similar in many ways, they also have some big differences. Boomerang is fearless, he wants to touch everything, try everything, and then do it again! Blitz on the other hand is a bit more cautious. Once he is comfortable with a situation (or scary object) he’s more than willing to do it over and over again. But it sometimes takes him a bit longer to be ok with things. One of his biggest fears have been things in and around his feet.

The video below really shows how different the two brothers are. This was shot in 2009, during their very first introduction to their new tuff ball from our sponsor, Toys for Horses. Watch how each pony reacts.

My mom has spent MANY hours working on desensitizing Blitz to things that make him nervous. One of his biggest obstacles has been tarps. He spent months living with a tarp outside his stall door (which he had to cross on a daily basis), and my mom worked with him day after day on making the tarp a relaxing (and safe) experience. I wish I had a video of him with the tarp last year, because it would make this next video that much more impressive….

This was shot last week when my mom trailered Blitz to a new arena (that he had never been to) and asked him to cross a tarp set-up that he had never seen. Within a matter of minutes she had him crossing it calmly.

My mom has really been working hard at making Blitz into a wonderful mount for herself. Her work with him is also proof, that taking your time and listening to what your horse needs to be able to succeed makes all the difference. I’ve always valued the horses I had that were the most challenging to train, in the end they taught me the most.

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I’m constantly learning something new. There will ALWAYS be something I don’t know, so why not try to learn EVERYTHING I can? It’s sort of a sickness I have, I want to try everything.

So while competing in the Extreme Cowboy Race was something totally new and different for me, I couldn’t leave it at just that. While at the expo I jumped at the chance to learn how to throw a lariat. After all, I could have been asked to rope a “cow” during the competition for all I knew.

I was sort of relieved we didn’t have to rope something, because I think I could use a little more practice.

I’ve added a Lariat to my Birthday wish list (which is tomorrow!) because it was so much fun I can’t wait to give it a try while riding a horse!

After trying my hand at tossing the lariat I made sure Boomerang was ready for roping too. During one of our schooling sessions in the indoor I practiced throwing a lead rope around his head, ears, and sides. Just to make sure that should I NEED to throw the rope in the race, he would be fully comfortable with it. You can never be too prepared!

Anyone else out there know how to throw a rope? Any secret pointers so I can look super cool throwing my lariat off an english saddle?

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