Pictures and Stories of Driving 2008

     Once again, Dawna Lisa has returned to FL for a fun filled season of driving.  Our first adventure was Nature Coast.

      January 17th:  I arrived in FL in the middle of pouring rain and wind storm as the bad weather front sagged down to St. Augustine.  The small rental car nearly got blown off the road on the long drive to Morristown delaying my arrival to nearly 1am Thursday morning.  OF course, I couldn’t get to sleep right away and had to drag myself out of bed at 7am with less than five hours of sleep. 

        I was a bit groggy when I arrived at Black Prong but DL’s melodious whinny greeted me as I got out of rental car.  Yes, she spotted me immediately since her paddock this year is right in front of where I park.  It was great to see my beloved pony.  I planned a lesson with Larry for 10 am and worked in the barn to get my pony, harness and carriage ready.  Yup, DL’s unruly mane needed a tad of work to get her looking like a proper performance pony <VBG>.  Our lesson went extremely well.  Larry told me our forty meter circles were 8’s all the way.  WE even had some fabulous halts at X and transitions to walks. I REALLY felt I was driving a different pony than this time last year.  Larry told me that he had not practiced any ‘B’ ‘A’ ‘C’ ‘K’s.  Yes, Larry spelt it and did not saying it since we both know she knows the word too well.

        Friday I had another lesson at 9am over in the warm up arena outside the official dressage ring.  This also went very well with DL very focused and listening to me.  The rest of the day was spent helping Larry as his ground man (fancy name for ‘gopher’) since the advanced division did their dressage test and cones on Friday.  George from CT had arrived early Friday morning.  George has a marvelous pair of half Welsh Cobs he had purchased from Beaverwood in Canada.  He had ‘volunteered’ to be Larry’s and my gator for weekend plus spending time driving his pair. George is GREAT!!!  Larry had a good go but was driving one of his marathon horses in dressage.  Poor Coyner hasn’t been in the dressage ring in four years and more than a tad nervous breaking to the canter thinking he was out on a marathon!

        Saturday dawned cloudy and in the fifties.  My dressage and cones were scheduled for 4:28pm.  Everything went perfect as George helped me hitch to take the twenty minute drive over to Black Prong proper.  I was feeling particular together with my new hat, new jacket and new driving apron.  As we started down the pavement, a few rain drops started.  The rumble of thunder broke the quiet of the clip clop of DL’s feet.  I put DL in a fast trot down the road and through the back road to dressage ring.  By the time we reached the dressage ring, it was pouring with lightening lighting the sky.  As we stopped to get measured, it got even worse. 

        The officials rightly called an end to show. Poor DL, George and I made a beeline back to Black Prong Annex where we are stabled in the NOW frightening storm.  It was raining SO hard I had to take my glasses off and hand them to George since I couldn’t see.  My beloved DL never took a step wrong and remained totally calm and responsive as we trotted back even though a couple of other horses/ponies were freaking out.  I was very proud of my DL and even George couldn’t believe what a good pony she was as we trotted back past cars coming in the opposite direction spraying even more water on us.

        I have decided that I MUST be hired by the State of Florida as part of their drought control program.  EVERY time I go over for a dressage test (first time), it pours rain!

        Sunday was a VERY hectic day.  The marathon was put on hold for an hour.  We had our dressage test at 9:16am followed immediately by cones.  Larry rode over with me.  DL was very relaxed, moving big but a tiny bit less supple than I would have liked… 

        When the bell rang, we entered the dressage ring and I knew immediately that she was ‘on’.  Our first halt and salute was faultless.  The rest of test went very well with only a couple of minor issues.  As I came to the final halt and salute, the judge stood up and said loudly “Fabulous little horse!”.  As I exited the ring, I had the biggest smile on my face I think I have EVER had to the sound of a core of devoted DL fans that were clapping!  

        Larry jumped on the back of the carriage as we zoomed over to the cones course.  Larry said “You did it!  I know you are in the forties! GREAT job!”  Cones is kind of a blur.  DL hasn’t done cones since last year at Black Prong.  I haven’t practiced cones in the new vehicle.  DL gave me a nice big side jump at the first cone with a healthy knock/mow down but quickly came back to my hand.  We had one more ball down on a difficult combination but made the time without trouble.  I was SO happy to have it all over since I still had the marathon to drive at 2:06pm.

        While Larry and I had done two walks of the hazards, one Friday and one Saturday morning, George and I had not spent any time together since he was focusing on being Larry’s navigator for the tough advanced course. SOME how George and I pulled it all together and had a nice go of it with a different way of go on a couple of hazards since we were only doing A, B, and C gates.  Since we were well under time, we calmly walked the last 500 meters to course end well within our time.

        Well, Larry was right.  DL had a very decent 45.33 score for dressage.  Even with two balls down and faultless marathon, we had a very comfortable lead to win training level single pony.  DO keep in mind it was not a big division with only three ponies in it.  No matter what, I am very proud of her dressage score.  DL has come a long way. 

        At this point in time, I just need to become a better driver to live up to the potential of my fabulous pony. I need more time working my way through all the technical stuff that will make me confident enough move her up through the ranks.  I also KNOW that none of this would be possible without total confidence and help of Larry Poulin.  He has always believed in my pony and me. 

The Adventures of Tangwyllt Dawna Lisa Don't forget to take a look at DL's blog which has pictures and some of the story of our adventures over the last few years! 
Part Two - Black Prong

       About 9am Friday morning (March 14th), I headed from my little rental house to the Black Prong Annex.  The few rain drops on the windshield didn’t bother me SINCE the weather forecast was a 30% chance of showers in the afternoon.  DL gave out her big whinny when I got out of the car with I am sure dreams of carrots foremost in her brain.  NO, carrots because I hadn’t been to the store yet…  I checked with Larry via cell phone since he was over giving lessons and I asked to have a lesson when it stopped raining.  LOL!  This was not to be since the rain only got worse during the day except for Larry’s dressage time.  Instead I took off to Ocala to get ‘food’ and carrots. 

        Frankly, the day flew by and I got a lot done other than driving including a few course walks in the rain.  Larry had an AWESOME advanced pairs dressage test (combined scores of 40.3) and a good cones run with only a few time faults.  Gretchen arrived on schedule with the driver from Tampa. After eating dinner, we went back to the little house.

        My driving time was 10:21 am so I had time for a last minute cones walk with Gretchen.  Hitching went faultlessly and the drive over and warm up went well.  When the bell rang, DL and I entered the ring with confidence.  Everything was going well in the test UNTIL Claudia had a brain melt down when I passed F on the working walk and I thought I should start the free walk across the arena.   A bell rang.  I halted with fear…  Out pops the judge on C to show me the test.  DUH!  I was suppose to working walk to B (I knew that) before making the diagonal.  No matter what, stupid and slightly flapped Claudia went back to A and drove past my error and finished my test. 

        I was SO embarrassed and slightly crushed that I made the mistake.  I GUESS there is a reason WHY I am doing training level.  Larry jumped on the back of the carriage as we whizzed over to the cones course doing his best to restore my confidence.  The cones course was all over the place with gates that you couldn’t see from each other and great distances between gates.  I saluted and went off to drive DL the best I could flying around the course and going through the finish line.  The buzzer DIDN’T sound! This has never happened before.

        NOW I have the look of a deer in the headlights.  The judge stood up and politely gestured to the left.  OH my goodness, I was suppose to drive the tie breaker cones THAT I hadn’t walked.  Off I flew again driving this way and that trying to find the next six cones.  IT was not pretty.

        WHAT a laugh we all had when I finally exited.  Claudia had achieved idiocy TWICE in one day.  I did learn two huge things.  Always say the marker transitions in your brain just before entering the dressage ring. ALWAYS walk all the cones including the tie breakers just in case you have a double clean. 

        At 12:30, Christine Poulin (my navigator and Larry’s wife), Gretchen and I drove over to walk the marathon course.  WE met up with Larry and the rest of the group of Team Poulin people (Terri, Preliminary Horse Pair and George, Preliminary Pony Pair). Gretchen was doing ‘navigator learner 101’ with both Larry and Christine helping her out.  I was studying hard WHERE I might have another brain meltdown on course since I was a little worried.  We borrowed a golf cart and drove the whole course.  Gretchen loved driving the golf cart and wants us to purchase one.  This might just be the “price” of having my daughter navigating for me <VBG>.

        On the way back to the car, I stopped at the office because I was told the scores (dressage and cones) and the times for the marathon were posted.  I really didn’t want to see the scores….  BUT I needed my marathon times. I wrote the times down and then grudgingly walked over to results listing. MUCH to my surprise, I was in first place with 53.88 and nearly 20 points ahead of second place (six in the division).  IF I hadn’t had a brain meltdown, once again DL and I would have been in the forties (5 big penalty points for off course).  THAT snapped me out of my mild case of self pity.

        Sunday dawned warm with our marathon time of 1:55pm.  Larry left for his dressage clinic about noon.  This meant that Christine, Gretchen and I were IT to get ready.  I don’t know how to fully thank Christine for ALL her hard work with both Gretchen and I.  For me, it was the first time to have a world class navigator to help me through it all.  WHAT a difference this makes.  Yes, I have always loved Christine and our relationship over the last five years as a ‘Larry client’.  As a navigator, she was perfect. 

        We started the marathon a little strong.  DL is a very competitive pony and could feel the electricity in the air of starting a marathon.  Our first hazard was just before the 1km marker.  We had a slight bauble after gate A in the first hazard and had to take the longer route less planned route but did it well under a minute.  The rest of the course just flowed perfectly.  Christine, DL and I flew around the course with all the other hazards and gates exactly where we planned in the time scheme.  We did walk much of the last gates after the last hazard to put us exactly in the middle of our time window.  It was getting hot and I wanted DL to relax before the vet check. 

        WE were all very excited.  Gretchen loved the way that DL and I with Christine helping me every inch of the way flowed through the hazards including the gates that we were told were ‘driving hard’ because of mud or tightness.  DL is a GREAT pony and Christine and I had a great walk back to Black Prong Annex sharing our joy of a job well done.

        Sadly, Christine, Gretchen and I could not wait for the ribbons to be handed out since we all had flights out of Tampa in the early evening.  We were able to find out before we left that DL and I had won our division and I was able to pick up my packet.  On the way back, Gretchen was able to read to me the dressage comments and I was over the moon that the highly respected Hardy Zantke had given me my first ‘9’ being in collective remarks for impulsion.  Gretchen also read off my times in hazards (even though they didn’t count) and I shaved substantial tens of seconds off our last go at Nature Coast with our last hazard at 33 seconds!

        So what was the number three of Claudia’s idiocies?  You know the two on Saturday.  The final one was leaving my cell phone is a restaurant at the Tampa Airport and not realizing it until my plane was loading. I won’t go into the details of my perhaps lost forever older global cell phone because the restaurant won’t ship it to me BUT it is cut off.

        I have enclosed some pictures of DL and I at Black Prong.  I have numerous others but I think these show best why I love this pony so much.  Gretchen has itchy palms to get started navigating for me at Bromont at the end of June which will be our next major driving outing.  Gretchen is definitely hooked on driving again and becoming a navigator as good as Christine. 

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