Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Vetted

Hahaha-I go so excited about posting the positive conclusion to this clinic, that I skipped the post I wrote about how Moon worked on the barrel pattern on Day One of the clinic. If you are so inclined, scroll down to the post called The Pattern. It was a whole lot different than the 2nd day. LOL

This trip back to Colorado was multi-functioned. I have been trying to get back here for like a month now. First I lost a tire and rim and had hell getting the right replacement rim for my trailer, then the weather got crappy in Colorado and I had no intention of coming back until after the Dick Pieper clinic and right up until Thursday, the Ronny Clampitt clinic was booked full. At the last minute someone had to cancel, so I jumped on coming home a couple days early. 

Frenchy is getting along in her pregnancy and I don't like hauling a mare that is too close to foaling. I mean, she isn't due until the first week of June, but there is a lot invested into Mz. Thang already...Financially and emotionally. I am not taking any chances with her or that CS Flashlight baby she is baking for me. :-). So getting her home and settled into the pasture well before her due date was imperative.

I also needed to get horses into the vet. Moon and Jet got their injections updated. Moon's right hock is still not fused. Darn!! Basically, the vet said that all he absolutely needed was the right hock and the left stifle done, but you know...It doesn't really make sense to not keep things evened out on him, so we did both sides, in both areas. I hope that hock fuses this time. :-/. That may eliminate the need for ANY injections in him because the vet thinks the reason Moon is over-using his left stifle is due to compensation. (sigh)...It's always a diagonal thing with horses.

Doc said that Jet's hocks are fusing. Yay!! The horse is only 9, but as 'off' as his hocks are, the quicker they fuse, the better. This may be the last round of stifle injections the horse will need for awhile. He's traveling so much better now and may actually be getting strong enough over the topline and developing an even enough musculature that he won't need re-injected until much farther into his training...if that. I need to focus on bringing Jet's training on. I have someone who is interested in him as a hunter/jumper/english prospect and she seems like she would be a good fit for the horse. She saw him over the weekend and thought he was 'just lovely'.

Frosty checked out as I expected...Dry hock joints. Doc didn't even have to flex test him. He took one look at his hocks and pointed out the beginnings of lumps and bumps, particularly on the inside of his right hind. I can see them clearly when he points them out, but obviously I don't have his experienced eye. I just knew the horse didn't feel right and was getting sore. Doc said they aren't starting to fuse yet, but are dry enough to cause him some discomfort. We didn't go any farther with him than that this time around, although the vet was inclined to think that Frosty's tendency to want to buck coming out of the barrel is a stifle thing. He felt and moved Frosty's stifles though and didn't feel any fluid on the stifle or hesitancy in their range of motion, so it could be that IF he is experiencing some stifle soreness it might be due to compensation for sore hocks. Doc said to try putting him on a joint supplement, since he handled the loading dose of the I.M. glucosamine well and see how he does over the next month. It will take 2 weeks for the injections to fully set in and then I can ask him to run again. If after a month and he is still not wanting to power out of the turns without bucking...we may have to delve a little deeper. I sure hope that it isn't his hips that are the problem, but Doc reassured me that too can be remedied through alternative means. He was telling me of an I.V. concoction of glucosamine and HA that is available now and if the hock injections aren't the ticket, we may go that route. I sure want this big yellow horse to be able to run. I just love, love, love the way he feels on the pattern. He's definitely my kind of horse and his turns are just so fluid and easy to ride.

I trotted out my list of questions to the vet...all of the stuff I had been saving up to ask him. ;-). One of those things was about Moon's breathing. With it getting hot in AZ, I can tell that it is already affecting Moon a little bit and was wondering if there was anything I could give him that was NOT steroidal in nature. Moon's immune system is not strong...which is common in respiratory-challenged horses, and steroids weaken the immune system more. So that kind of stuff is completely out for Moon. The vet suggested Ventipulmin Syrup. It's made from clenbuterol HCl, which is what is in inhalers used by asthmatics. We was talking about any potential side affects...such as making a horse H.O.T., which some bronchial dialators can do and he was telling me that when his wife gives it to her horse, he actually gets calmer.

Blink!! Blink, blink!!!

Ooohhhhh....

It's possible that some of Moon's gate anxieties are coming from his breathing...or inability to breath sufficiently. That very well might be why the gate issue thing is intermittent. When the weather is right and Moon can air up properly, those might be the days when he is totally fine at the gate and the days when he wants to lose his mind might be due to the fact that he cannot air up and gets to feeling a little panicky beforehand. Generally I can judge how well he is getting his air by how he coughs during warm-up. When his coughs are dry and tight...He's not getting enough air. When they sound wet and mucusy...As odd as it sounds...That's a good thing. There is no curing Moon's cough, so if he's not coughing at all...That is not good. The Oxy-Boost has helped him a lot over these last couple of years, but after a few days, he also gets higher than a kite...so I'm always trying gauge his coughs to determine how many days in advance I should start giving Moon the Oxy-Boost, without amping him up. I've gotten pretty good at it, but sometimes it's still hit or miss. This way, I can give Moon the Oxy-Boost just two days in advance, which helps open him up and then 4-5 hours before I run him I can give him 5cc's of the Ventipulmin Syrup, which will completely open his airways...and he won't get hot(ter) on me. This could make a huge difference for my Main Man. I sure hope so.

Now, it's back to AZ for a few more weeks and a few more rodeos. I'm really excited to work on Moon and see how Frosty comes around. 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Full Effect

At the indoor I decided to treat the situation exactly like as if I was at a barrel race. I wanted Ronny to get the full effect of Moon in competitive mode....and me too. The problems we experience aren't necessarily from all of the other stuff I have talked about...A lot of it is mental. I try so hard to be calm and to visualize the perfect run over and over before I run. But there is no consistency with my follow through once I am past the 1st barrel. After Ronny mentioned the breathing thing, I thought about that and I'm sure he is correct. I'm almost always completely comfortable running Moon to the 1st barrel, after that...

It's a coin toss. LOL.

I honestly think Moon holds his breath too. I've long noticed that when Moon and I have a good run, he is never breathing hard afterward. He comes out, takes a breath and that's it. You would never know he just ran a race. Here lately though, he has been breathing heavy and even shaking in the stifles after a run. At first I thought it was from a condition thing and I have been focusing on conditioning his stifles a little more. Now?... I'm not so sure it had anything to do with the condition aspect of it. I think Moon is holding his breath and he's shaky afterward because his muscles are depleted of oxygen.

I was telling Ronny this that morning and he was like, 'Man, you really think about this stuff don't you?'. But he didn't have that tone that implied that I was OVER-thinking it all. He said, 'I will have to remember to look for that in the horse's as well as the riders'.

Another thing we talked about was the use of different pieces of tack...I should probably mention here that I have been working Moon on the pattern with a snaffle bit and a much shortened tie-down. Way shorter of a tie-down than I have ever used on him before. One of the things I have always noticed about Moon (and told to ignore) was the way he 'turtles' his neck when he gets excited. Turtling is when a horse sucks their neck back at the base and even if/when they break over at the poll, they are NOT getting soft in the face. It's an evasive measure and from what I have noticed is also related to conformation. A long-necked horse, when they want to evade pressure...They 'giraffe' their neck...Stretching their neck out and pointing their nose to the sky. Horses with shorter, more base-heavy necks...Well, they 'turtle'. They simply suck that neck in, brace on the bottom of their neck and  the jaw gets stiff. To me, a stiff jaw reflects a resistant mind. I was explaining this to Ronny, not that he had mentioned anything about me using a tie-down on Moon, but I wanted to see if he thought my reasoning was sound. He did and we talked quite a bit about how many horses we have watched run that would have truly benefited from the addition of a tie-down.

The use of the curb bit on Moon was mostly for my benefit. I needed to feel like I had some sort of control over this horse during a run and it served that purpose well. I can actually feel Moon slowing down when I get to pulling on him and that fact alone has helped restore my confidence during competition runs and I am much more willing to let go of him. Lack of feeling like I had any control is what was causing those awful panic attacks I was getting. The one thing I have long felt in Moon was the way he would root his nose out and get stiff in the jaw right when he was setting into a turn. He gets in front of my hand and once I felt him do that...I'd panic and fight to get some control back. I tried explaining this feeling to Ed Wright and he brushed it off and told me to simply get my butt up there and ride. Well, that hasn't worked for me. I was telling Ronny about the getting in front of my hand thing and stiffened jaw and he said, 'Well, of course that would cause feelings of uncomfortableness/panic and although most people don't recognize THAT is why they start pulling on the horse...It's almost always the reason they do'.

The nicest thing about Ronny was, he didn't scoff at what people said they thought was happening. He acknowledged it and then showed us how to work through it. His whole premise is...This is a partnership deal and you and your horse need to learn to work together.

While warming up, he watched Moon closely. I tried to keep things as close to what I usually do, but did spend some time trying to shut Moon off here and there as we warmed up. Moon was definitely closer to his usual competition mode, but a little uncertain if he should be or not. He wasn't really getting excited, but he refused to shut off the way he had the day before. Ronny noticed that. I had told him to watch how observant Moon was to everything, even though he may not necessarily react. Moon simply sizes up the situation and wants to decide if he should or shouldn't be getting nervous. And Ronny laughed and laughed when I told him how Moon could be sound asleep, but the instant he heard my name announced...He immediately went into competition mode. Ronny said he didn't believe that happened to horses for for the longest time. Like so many others he believed that the rider must be doing something to cause the horse to suddenly get anxious. Then he had a horse that did the very same thing, now he fully recognizes that a horse is fully capable of recognizing their owners names being called in the line-up.

I let one girl make a run before me, so Moon could see that there was indeed going to be a run involved here. The whole time he was watching her make her run, I kept stroking his mane and just seeing if I could get him to shut off. He didn't until he watched Ronny talking to the girl who had just finished making her run for several minutes. Then he must have decided that this really wasn't a competition and he dropped his head, moved his jaw and licked his lips a little bit. When Ronny called for us to make our run...Moon popped right back into mode.

It was not a good run...

Ater the first run, Ronny acknowledged, 'Yea, that's not the same horse that I saw yesterday. But you aren't the same either. But...(he continued) that is relatively easy to fix' (Whewwww...That's nice to know). Ronny asked me how much I exhibition Moon and I said, 'Almost never. I have been doing a little exhibitioning to work on his gate anxieties, but otherwise it's been a couple years since I have actually exhibitioned him before a run. At that point, Ronny simply reminded me to keep my chin pointed at Moon's poll, keep my hands down, relax my death grip on the reins and b.r.e.a.t.h.!!! He said, Go Again. 

So we did...

It was a lot better and we didn't tip the 2nd or 3rd barrel. Actually Moon didn't want to get anywhere near the 3rd barrel. LOL.  

After that run, Ronny said, 'Come here'...So I rode back over to let him tell me what he thought. I was thinking, 'Man, his first barrel was all wonky and he was so wide going into 3rd...', but Ronny said, 'Now...That's the way you need to ride that horse every time. All of that other stuff will smooth out, the more relaxed you get and the more relaxed he gets'. I said, 'Well, that's great, but since I cannot seem to get it right the first time and I can't get Moon to feel this way unless he thinks it's a competition, how do I get used to riding him in competition mode?'. Ronny said, 'I want you to use your exhibition time. Don't go there with the intent to work on gate issues, go there with the intent to train yourself to get used to how this horse feels when he is ready to work'. 

The next girl ran and while Ronny was talking to her, I mulled over what he had said. I took the time to trot Moon through the pattern, setting him down and waiting for him to relax, then moving on, just like I had the day before. By the time I finished, Ronny was ready for the next girl and I just went over and sat by him. I figured it was good for Moon to just hang out in the arena until he completely shut off (which he had not done yet) and I wanted to make sure I understood Ronny. I took him to mean, That instead of going in and doing all slow work with Moon, what I should do is just go in and make a run. If it went good, then just do a cool-off slow pattern and call it a thing. At least that was what I was hoping he meant, 'cause I could see the value in that. I cannot always count on Moon being totally relaxed in a run, so instead of just focusing on getting him that way, I needed to learn how to ride him better when he wasn't the way I want him to be. 

When Ronny had a minute I asked him if that is what he was thinking and he smiled, 'You're a pretty smart cookie.' he said, 'That's exactly what I meant. You need to learn to ride this horse's competition mode the first run, every time. That doesn't mean go out and do 3 slow 'warm-up' patterns, that means trying to make that first run count. If you don't get it the first time, then give him a minute to air up and then come right back around and make the 2nd run count. THEN go to your slow work, so your horse leaves with a clear conscious and a quiet mind'. 

THAT actually made perfect sense to me. I had thought about doing something similar to that previously, but I wasn't sure if that was an appropriate tactic to take with a horse that was having gate anxiety. I really think that most of Moon's gate anxiety comes from the fact he KNOWS things are not going well in the competition pen and even though I don't get after him for it, the tension we create trying to put a run together has not abated. You would think that as much as I have run Moon, I would have been able to create some muscle memory for how he feels...but I think knowing there is an entry fee on the line...and knowing we can't come back and fix it is just too much pressure for me. I need to work on my own mental aspects, as well as getting Moon over his. We need to work on developing our partnership.

It's funny how my little affirmation cards I make and carry have changed. Now I have 2 new ones; Focus my chin on his poll and Breath. 

Ronny said one of the coolest things about Moon...And yet one of the most difficult things to make happen is the fact that he is so well-patterned and cognitive of what he is supposed to do that I really don't have to cue him to do anything. He said with a horse like this, just stay centered (which is what focusing on lining your chin up with your horse's poll helps you do) and then just let him work. No more of thinking about trying to shape him, lift him, rate him...None of that. Just drive him straight forward and hold on for the turns. LOL. I think I can learn to do that. ;-)


The Pattern

I was going to lope Moon up to the 1st barrel, check to make sure he rated and then trot around that barrel, repeating the same thing at the other 2. But Moon didn't pick up the lope he just hit a long trot...since he felt soft and was moving well, I just let him long trot, at the rate spot I squeezed my hands, felt Moon collect himself correctly, so we just continued on with the trot around the barrel. He wanted to take off after coming out of the 1st barrel, so I sat him down. Stopped. Stroked his mane and waited for him to shut off. He did almost immediately. We picked the trot back up, trotted to the rate spot on the 2nd barrel, I squeezed my hands and he collected for me and we continued around the barrel. Upon leaving the 2nd barrel, he again tried to charge off, so I repeated the stop, back, settle. Waited for him to fully relax and we trotted to the 3rd barrel, again Moon collected nicely, so we continued on around. Ronny never said a word, just watched.

It's not a popular theory to stop a horse on the straightaways between barrels, but this is where I felt him getting excited and wanting to charge through my hands, so this is where I corrected him. I was kind of scared about what the clinician was going to say about that. When I looked at him, he was nodding. He said, 'You know, you are the only one who corrected your horse at the times when he wanted to run through your hands. Good for YOU!!' (Wheewww)

He asked, 'Now, why didn't you stop him before the barrels too?'.

I said, 'Because when I squeezed my hands, I felt him collect. He lifted his withers and his back and was square to the turn'. On this I knew I was correct...but I asked anyway...'Didn't it look like he rated?'. The clinician shook his head, No, but he immediately said, 'If you could feel it...That is ALL that matters'.

'Now', he says, 'What exactly IS the problem?'. So I filled him in a little bit on the history and how I have felt for a long time that Moon was simply outrunning me and I want/need him to come back to me, so we can improve together. Ronny nodded his head and said 'Good plan'.

He said, 'Two things; Shorten your stirrups one hole and I want you to line your chin up with that horse's poll'. He touched his own chin and pointed directly at his horse's poll. So I did what he said, practiced lining my CHIN up with Moon's poll.

I'll admit, I was a little worried about having my stirrups that short. I thought, 'Oh hell, this horse is going to eject me when he rolls through his first turn'. I mentioned this to the clinician and he said, 'Okay, think about this...If you curl your back and stick your chin out, how does that make you feel in the saddle?'. I tried it, trotted around a little bit, felt pretty secure and definitely felt like I was more up and over Moon, so I went down and got lined up to make a run.

WOW!!!

I mean...You want to talk about night and day difference. Because I was a little worried I might get ejected, I opted to really focus on keeping my chin lined up with Moon's poll and of course, that kept my eyes out in front of him. Moon rolled through that pattern and I didn't even touch his face. THAT'S the feeling I have been striving for all this time...and I didn't even have to think about it.

Moon ran a couple strides out of the 3rd turn and I sat up and he slid to a stop....a NICE one. LOL.

The clinician's were kind of wide and he said, 'Holy Hanna, that is a NICE horse!!'.

(insert grim smile)...I said, 'I know, I have just really struggled to figure out how to ride him and I was doing all of this weird stuff to try to make this happen and that happen and I have him all messed up'. The clinician said, 'You can't call what you just did, messed up'.

So that began the conversation about how easy it is for me to put training runs on Moon and yet, I get so blanked out during a competitive run.

The clinician said, 'That is happening because you are NOT breathing. The instant you hold your breath, you rush things and a horse like this will just start working too hard. You have to breath!!'.

So that brought up the gate issue thing. I clinician looked at me in disbelief when I told him what a fire-breathing dragon Moon becomes (sometimes) at barrel races and the work I am doing to rectify that. The whole time I'm talking, the clinician is looking at Moon (whose 1/2 asleep by now) as if he was trying desperately and unsuccessfully to see this horse as a fire-breathing, losing his mind, dragon. But he finally shrugged and and acknowledged that this is not an improbability. He said, 'Then, it's probably you who are causing him to get that nervous'. I kind of shrugged, 1/2 agreeing with him, but explained my theory on how all of this came to be, because I have never had a horse get gate issues before and this time Ronny nodded in agreement.

Ronny asked me to take Moon through the pattern one more time, slow again and make sure he was ending on a slow, positive note. This time I did stop Moon at the rate spots and at both of the places coming off of the 1st and 2nd barrels where he wants to charge forward. Those two spots are very important because those are the two spots during competition that Moon gets ahead of me and I am left to play catch up...Which almost always results in a downed barrel for us.

Finally! Someone how thinks the same way I do...That while it is important to get up there and ride your horse, if you want to really clock...But at the same time, it's important that your horse not charge through you. They need to be conscious enough of you to wait for you a little bit too. THIS is how teamwork and timing are built between horse and rider. It really is part of the horse's job to only run as fast as his rider can ride.

That concluded the 1st day for Moon. And I wasn't sure that we were going to get much more out of day two. Without the ability to put Moon and I into competitive mode so Ronny could see how quickly things fell apart, we really don't have any problems. But Mother Nature smiled on us...Although everyone else thought it sucked...Heavy rains throughout the night and into the next morning meant we had to move to an indoor facility and here was a place Moon could easily view as a competitive setting and show Ronny his dragon side....