driving competition with the Shetties - report & pics!

Discussion in 'Driving' started by joosie, May 24, 2011.

  1. joosie

    joosie Well-Known Member

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    Quick background for those who don't know me - despite working at a pro showjumping yard I also seem to spend rather a lot of time playing with Shetland ponies :giggle: My boss's mum had back surgery 4 years ago and can no longer ride much so she took up carriage driving instead, and bought two Shettie brothers from the meat sales, Pif and Paf. There's no driving competitions over the winter so the boys have a few months off. They come back into work with the carriage in March, but since I arrived in January I've been working on training them as riding ponies as well! Pif had been sat on a few times but Paf had never been backed, so I had a fab little project on my hands! We do a lot of ride-and-lead hacking, I go bareback and they are very round so I fall off a lot :giggle: but we have some lovely rides. I've also been schooling them regularly to improve their bending, flexibility and general obedience, they also do lunging and freejumping and I've even done some small XC fences with Pif! They are fantastic boys, they're FULL of character but are tough and feisty as Shetties should be and they always do their best to do what you ask of them :inlove:

    So anyway, on Sunday we took them off to their first competition of the year :) They were clipped last week, and on Saturday they had their first bath since last September, grubby little mites! They hated the hosepipe of course but we made up for it by treating them to a little session under the showjumpers' solarium to dry off.

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    There were 10 entries in the pairs section, normally the ponies and horses are separated but because Pif and Paf were the only ponies we had to compete against the big boys :unsure: We checked out the other entries a few days ago and Penny (boss’s mum) knew them all and was convinced we were going to come last. Amongst them was a pair of Friesians in there who always finish in the top three, and two pairs of flashy Norman Cobs who usually get the best times for the marathon because their trot covers so much ground. Not what you’d think of as a “fair contest” against a couple of unregistered Shetlands bought from the meatman! But you know, sometimes the best things come in small packages ;)

    The venue was an hour and a half away but we made an early start so we could get there in good time. The boys loaded perfectly and travelled quietly, but when we got there and unloaded them they were both trembling with excitement (which I hear is normal for them :giggle:). I got them ready for the dressage while Penny went off to learn the manoeuvrability course, which you do straight after your dressage test. I managed to get their manes into smart French braids along their crest, with blue ribbon plaited into it and tied in a small bow at the end, it looked lovely but I had a feeling they wouldn’t last! But the presentation mark is worth 5% of the dressage score so it’s worth making the effort. So also white bits whitened with chalk, hoof oil and all that jazz. The boys were pretty calm and stood more or less still while I faffed around and poncified them.

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    We did a nice long warmup and we were the last pair to go, so we got to watch the other tests. There were some good ones and some not-so-good ones (the Friesians and a pair of the Norman Cobs were particularly good, as we'd expected!) so it was quite hard to judge who would place where.

    Basically the boys were on top form and did their best dressage test in 3 seasons of competing :) Their dressage has always been their weakest phase – they like to do things like looking to the outside all the time, wobbling on their straight lines, scratching their heads on each other during walk, and fidgeting/fighting during their halts. Paf also has a tendency to rear if the halt lasts more than a few seconds – he did a couple of impressive ones in the warmup, I haven't seen him do it before so I was a bit :unsure: But anyway, this time they were SUPER :D They were bending nicely and had a better head carriage, they behaved themselves impeccably during the 8-second halt, and Paf only broke into canter once (another one of his issues!). Their ridden schooling has been going really well, they're leg-yielding now and Pif has even mastered shoulder-in, so I think it's paid off :D

    More to come...
     
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  2. joosie

    joosie Well-Known Member

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    After the test we went straight down to do the manoeuvrability phase – a course of 16 pairs of cones with tennis balls balanced on top, with only a 10cm clearance to either side of the carriage wheels, you drive the course against the clock and get 10 penalities added for each ball that gets knocked off. Pif and Paf zoomed around in a good time, they were turning brilliantly and paying attention to Penny and they didn’t get any penalties :) They nearly lost me though, the groom is allowed to hold on in this phase (unlike in the dressage where you have to sit still with your arms folded and try not to bounce off your seat!) but for some reason I’d let go for a moment (don’t know why!) and Penny almost missed a turn and had to make a very sharp left, and I nearly fell off the side :redface:

    There was a 2.5-hour lunch break so we got the boys unharnessed and they tucked into a well-deserved haynet.

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    Then there was a briefing and course walk for the drivers and grooms. The other two phases, the marathon and the obstacles, were being run together rather than one after the other – so you did the first loop of the marathon circuit, then did the first obstacle, then did more marathon, then another obstacle etc. The groom’s job is to balance the carriage on turns, and “jump” the wheels over if you make a mistake and get stuck on a post or something, but also to give guidance to the driver in cause they forget their route through an obstacle and need to be talked/shouted through it! We’d originally planned for me to do it, but because it was my first time and the boys had maybe put themselves in a good position with that lovely dressage, we didn’t want to risk a mistake, so it was decided that my boss Izzy would do it instead of me – which was fine by me, cos (a) I wouldn’t have remembered the course and (b) I got to take photos instead!

    Setting off!
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    Usually for the marathon (around 4.5 to 6km at PifPaf's level depending on the show) there will be a minimum time and a maximum time which are based on the horses trotting most of the way. But because poor Pif and Paf have CONSIDERABLY shorter legs than their fellow competitors it usually means they have to canter most of the way, poor chaps :giggle: This time, because they were running the marathon and obstacles together, there was a minimum and maximum time for the whole thing. Within that you're also timed for how long it takes you to complete each obstacle, from entering the start flags to exiting through them at the end. Most of the obstacles have 4 "gates" labelled A, B, C and D - keeping the white flag on your left and the red on your right, you have to go through the gates in order but without going through any of them twice. That's why you need to walk the course first, to work out your route. Obviously all your turns have to be tight to do it quickly, but some of the turns are literally on the spot, it's very exciting to watch!!

    Photos to come...
     
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  3. joosie

    joosie Well-Known Member

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  4. joosie

    joosie Well-Known Member

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    Final obstacle! This one was by far the most difficult for Pif & Paf, not for the route but because the hill was so steep - the horses like the Friesians can get up and down there in a matter of strides but for the Shetties it's like a mini Everest! Also being the final obstacle they were KNACKERED and slowly starting to run out of steam. The final time they went up, they got a few strides from the top and it almost looked like they were going to go backwards! Izzy and Penny were shouting at them at the top of their lungs and I don't know if they realised it but so was everybody else watching :wavespin: There's something about these little guys that just makes people want them to succeed!

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    Final descent - note Paf is actually STATIONARY in this photo :giggle:
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    Survived! and off to the finish
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    They were rather out of puff when they finished but we were all amazed by how quickly they recovered. Their breathing and heart rates got back to normal more quickly than they ever have before, must be all that ridden work ;) One of the obstacle judges came to find us in the car park specifically to give the boys a carrot and tell them that they were her favourites :bounce:

    We knew they'd done the section well within the time limits, and they hadn't made any mistakes in the obstacles that would have cost them much time, but we didn't know how everyone else had done so we didn't have any idea where they might have placed! It took more than half an hour for them to work out the results (complicated formula!) and then finally they called everyone down.
     
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    Last edited: May 24, 2011
  5. joosie

    joosie Well-Known Member

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    And you'll never guess, but THEY WON :bounce::bounce::bounce: They actually went into the LEAD after their dressage ((they even beat the Friesians!)) - they got three 8s (they have NEVER had an 8 before) and 9s for presentation and their 8-second halt, and they didn't get anything below a 7. Then in the manoeuvrability they were one of the two pairs to get through without penalties and were the second fastest overall. They didn't come top in any of the obstacles but they were the second-fastest on two of them (not the big hill one, needless to say :giggle:) and were one of the three pairs that didn't make any mistakes. And then, not only had they won their class, but they also won the cup for the best dressage score of the day :wavespin:

    I can't believe our special little boys WON, I don't think any of us believed it but as you can imagine we are rather OVER THE MOON and immensely proud of the boys for pulling out all the stops! So brave and tough and wonderful :inlove::inlove:

    Ready to go home!
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    Well done boys!!!! :cloud9:
     
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  6. Wally

    Wally Well-Known Member

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    Great photos well done.
     
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  7. Native Lover

    Native Lover Pony Collector !!

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    Well Done, smashing photos looks like you all had a good time.
     
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  8. CMP

    CMP Active Member

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    Well done to Pif & Paf!! That's amazing that the two wee meat poines won against all the big guns :biggrin:

    That looks like such good fun too. I'm delighted for you!!
     
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  9. Cortrasna

    Cortrasna Grumpy old nag

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    Loved reading this Joosie - what great little troopers those two are!:biggrin:

    Until ill health stopped me last year - I used to travel over the Uk like a groupie following my brother and sis in law with their pair of welshies and used to be the back step groom for the cones and the dressage - never did the marathon - brother did that - far too dodgy for me!:frown:

    I also had trouble sometimes staying on board in the cones - many a time I felt that SIL would finish without me!:redface::giggle:

    Great fun - wish I could still do it!:biggrin:
     
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  10. popularfurball

    popularfurball Learning all the time

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    Joosie they are fab :D

    How is life in France going? :D
     
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  11. joosie

    joosie Well-Known Member

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    Oh really well thanks :biggrin:

    Haven't updated my diary for a bit but basically the horses are all in good form, the weather's lovely, my lessons are going well and I really feel like my riding has improved so much. One of the liveries has even started paying me to school her horse because she really likes the way I ride him, which is a massive compliment and a real confidence-booster.

    Next week I am taking my Galop 7 riding exam which is the qualification you need to get your license to compete - boss has asked if I want to do some affiliated classes with Jam (the horse I've been jumping) and of course my answer was yes!

    Oh and also, my French is coming on quite well and I can actually join in at the dinner table now :wavespin:

    Just one bad thing has happened - a few weeks ago I had a bit of a "mishap" whilst cleaning out stud holes, my hand slipped and I stabbed the metal poking device thingy hard into my forearm. It went about 2 inches deep, I nicked a vein and there was blood POURING out, I also managed to stab it into the flexor muscle running down to my thumb so I had an agonisingly painful arm for almost a fortnight! Thankfully it's improved now and is only a bit sore, but I can't say stabbing myself was something I would like to repeat :giggle:
     
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  12. Vicki100

    Vicki100 Active Member

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    Fantastic photos joosie, thanks for sharing :biggrin:

    Pif & Paf look so smart! I love them! :inlove:

    What clever boys, well done to all of you.

    Glad france is going well! :wub:
     
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  13. Sparky Lily

    Sparky Lily Active Member

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    Well done all of you! I loved the photos. Sounds like hard work, but great fun.
     
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  14. Scoobydoo

    Scoobydoo New Member

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    They are sooooo cute, how much is it to post them, couple of small padded envelopes???:giggle::giggle:
     
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  15. Dawny

    Dawny Member

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    Love them both. Super ponies!
     
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  16. Jane&Ziggy

    Jane&Ziggy Learning together!

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    What a wonderful report and pictures, really informative. I know a lot more about driving competitions now! Thank you. And well done for winning! :happy:
     
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  17. popularfurball

    popularfurball Learning all the time

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    Awh no Joosie! That doesnt sound like much fun... and I can't imagine how you managed to explain if you went to hospital - hard enough to explain to a non horsey person in english what you did let alone in french!!! :giggle:

    Its amazing how quickly we can pick up languages when immersed in it; I love French language - wish I had practiced it more from leaving school as Ive forgotton a lot of it :(
     
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  18. EnduranceAli

    EnduranceAli New Member

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    Fab photos and report. Gorgeous ponies - love their colouring. Congratulations on winning against all the bigger horses.

    Ali x
     
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