Saturday, August 1, 2015

That Was Fun

Not even said with sarcasm.... I actually had a fun run on Moon.

It was a little lot all over the place, but still fun.

The funniest part was when Moon saw the open arena gate and decided to hell with that...He was heading back to the trailer...And there wasn't much I could do about it. We had people scattering like a flock of startled chickens...and I'm telling them...'Don't run away. Stop him'. Nobody did. Chickens!! LOL.

I did finally get him stopped and back him up almost all the way back to the arena gate and then the gate man came over and put his hand on him and Moon followed him right up to the gate.

I'm sorry. I can't help but laugh. One second Moon is standing there, practically asleep and the instant he heard my name called...He skied out. Next time I will have a friend standing by to walk us up to the gate. Once Moon starts moving f.o.r.w.a.r.d. he's fine. But he can't quite seem to get over that running sideways first thing. And if there is no fence there to stop him...He just keeps going. I'm not too worried about it anymore. It's just an adrenaline rush thing with him.

Once Moon got moving forward, he lined up and was ready to take off. *I was looking at the left hand barrel, but Moon was thinking 'Go right!!'...And almost all the way to the left barrel, he was pushing to the right. This is more along the lines of what I expected him to do at the last race...And he didn't. This time though...He was really wanting to head to that right barrel first. It was only at the last stride that he finally committed to the left barrel. And in typical Moon fashion...he just abruptly changed directions and whipped around the 1st barrel. We were way out of position, but I still thought we got around it not too bad. I was trying my best to just keep my butt in the saddle and use my legs, but with Moon pulling to the right so hard all the way to the barrel, I was really having to use everything I had to get him to go left.

After that turn though, I did just sit down and use my legs to drive him. The whole way to the 2nd barrel, I just kept thinking...Drive him on by! Drive him on by!!

By golly...It worked!!!

Moon drove into the 2nd turn, I was actually sitting down and using my legs, reins totally loose and he made a b.e.a.u.t.i.f.u.l. turn.

He got a little lost again heading to the 3rd barrel and was starting to get way wide, but I did get him moved back over a little with my leg and just kept telling myself..'Legs...Not rein. LEGS!!'...and even though he was a little wide coming into the turn, I did keep using my legs to keep him moving...Never touched the rein and he finished the turn in perfect position.

Well...That's when I noticed that the 1st barrel was down. Phooey!!! I let him gallop home. We must have tagged it with the hip...because I didn't even know it had gone down. Probably because he was so out of position coming into the turn and then just abruptly changed directions.

Well, other than that...I finally had a fun run on Moon. FINALLY a practice technique that made sense to both of us and helped get us around the barrels. I can't fault Moon for getting confused and wanting to go to the right barrel first. It's bound to happen for a few runs.

I didn't clearly hear my time...I think it was (would have been) like a second and a 1/2 off of the fast time. That's not too shabby for an out-of-shape horse, who got lost...and I wasn't pushing him. I'd want to just let Moon set his own pace for now and get used to going left...not getting pulled on...and me using my legs again. That's a lot changes for any horse to take in.

The most important part...I had FUN on him again!!! I cannot remember the last time I had FUN running Moon.

The only disappointment of the evening was that I didn't get to run Frosty. He's been struggling with tender feet...then he came out of it...but the gravel and the hard packed warm-up arena was just too much for him at the race. The competition arena would have been fine for him, but I was worried that he wouldn't just relax and run, after having to tippy-toe across the hard ground. Plus, I wasn't really able to get him properly warmed up in the hard packed warm-up arena. With Frosty...Things kind of have to be just right before it's worthwhile to make a run on him. He's a big sissy boy and of course his favorite response to pain or discomfort is to blow up. I don't want to be bucked off at the first barrel again. That sucked!! Plus I was wearing my new straw hat. I would have hated to get pile drived during a run and smash my new straw. ;-).

The tender-feet problem will be resolved soon enough though. As soon as I get back from the Sturgis MC Rally, I have a farrier coming to shoe Frosty and LJ. Everyone else is doing just fine barefoot, but those two are struggling and you cannot properly train or condition a horse when their feet hurt...So shoes it is.

We'll see how many barrel races I get to go to from here on out. The association that I support the most just started implementing paid ride-times before the race. There are other associations that do that in this area, but I don't go to their races (for that very reason!!). I'm not paying a local association $10 to ride in the damn arena before a race. In my not humble opinion....These local associations are like training grounds. If they are going to start nickel and diming us to death with this fee and that fee. I just won't go. I'm not going to pay $20-30-40 extra dollars (money that is not even part of the payback pot), on top of my entry fees just to get my green horses exposure. When you add it all up...hell, you might as well be paying a rodeo entry fee. I told them that too. If they continue with charging members to ride in the arena, then I'm not going to any more races, nor will I be buying memberships anymore. I don't think that set very well with a couple of the directors...But I don't care. Hell, I'll take my horses to a gymkhana and pay $5 to make a practice run. A person has to draw the line somewhere and I drew mine with a big, fat marker!! LOL

Monday, July 27, 2015

Body Positioning

The other night I had The Racer's Edge, that barrel racing show with Dena Kirkpatrick, on and was only about 1/2 listening to the show...until DK started working with the gal on the barrel pattern. I always like listening to DK. She's all about working on the balance between helping the horse and letting the horse work.

She started out talking about hand placement on the rein. The lady she was working with was having problems with bringing her hand across her horse's neck like she was neck reining him and inadvertently cranking his head to the outside. I have the opposite problem, in that I often want to reach too far down the inside rein and end up getting too much shape, at the same time shutting Moon down too much to flow through the turn. I don't seem to have the same problem with Frosty, nor did I have it with Spooks. I'm pretty dang sure the root of the problem with Moon has a lot to do with his running/rate style. I have really come to realize that I much prefer a more push-style horse. One that I can feel it's butt drop when it's getting ready for the turn. Feeling that hip drop is my cue to drive my horse into the turn. I don't get that feeling with Moon...and I never will. Moon has, what I call...The Body Drop...rate style. He doesn't flex in the back, his hip doesn't drop...His WHOLE body drops and it just feels like he gets faster.

Realizing that Moon is never going to give me the feeling in his turns that works for me, I continue to soul search about spending much time trying to compete on him again. However, it doesn't keep me from continuing to work with him and see what else I can learn. After all, I am still holding onto hope that I will be able to run Shooter on the barrels...and Shooter is going to have an identical running style as his brother Moon. For some odd reason, I relish the thought of running Shooter. He has a fluidity to him that Moon lacks and Shooter isn't quite as athletic as Moon is.

Back to the show;

DK was showing this lady proper hand placement for a run. She found the center of the rein and then slide each hand down the rein until they were about 6-8 inches apart. About the width of the horse's shoulders. Then she rode into the turn, went to one hand and circled the barrel. Coming out of the barrel, she stopped and said...'Now, when you want to go back to 2 hands, don't try to just grab the spot you 'thought' you had your hand on before. Grab for the center of the rein and slide your hand back into position'. When DK reached up and grabbed the center of the rein, her hand was now touching her other hand and she slid it from the center point back into it's previous position. To me, it looked a whole lot easier than trying to remember not to grab too far down or look for that little piece of colored tape I used to try to use. LOL. Horn to center..slide...and you're set. I used it in practice and it sure feels a lot easier. It will still take some time to develop the muscle memory, but when something feels more natural, muscle memory is easy to develop.

The 2nd little bit of interesting information came out when the gal was riding her horse around the turn, using the hand placement that DK showed her, when DK started telling her to, 'Stop. Stop....I see a problem here' and she ran over to the barrel to show the lady what she was seeing. Once the rider got to the backside of the turn, she stopped riding her horse forward through the turn and allowed the barrel to get in front of her leg. I was like...'Whhaaaa?? What the heck is DK talking about?'. I watched, re-wound the t.v. and re-watched DK explaining about keeping the barrel behind the leg and I kind of got it...but not really. So I did a little internet searching and found this clip of DK fully explaining the theory of keeping the barrel behind the leg....

Body Positioning

I watched it a couple of times and thought, 'Okay...That's not too hard' and took Moon out to practice the maneuver.


It took A LOT of work to get Moon to drive into that turn until the barrel was behind my leg....and then  it took a lot of work to keep him moving through the turn to KEEP the barrel behind my leg. Moon was doing exactly what DK showed in the clip about the horse pointing it's shoulder at the barrel.

And I was just doing the exercise at a walk.

It was a very strange and uncomfortable feeling pushing Moon forward enough to keep the barrel behind my leg. It felt like I had A LOT of horse sticking out in front of the turn. LOL.

But the more we did it, the more freed up Moon got. We walked circles around barrels, then we trotted circles around barrels, then we walked more circles around barrels. The more freed up Moon got, the easier it became to feel the 'dead spots' he has in his turns. Those are the spots where his strides get short during a run. Behind the 1st and 3rd barrels and before and all the way into the 2nd turn.

I can see I have a lot of work to do to correct the problem spots.

Out of curiosity, I applied the same exercise to Frosty. I was mainly curious to see if the way I train a horse is the problem...or if the problem is just with Moon. Well...The first couple trips around, Frosty was wanting to point his shoulder at the barrel going into the turn...But once I corrected him a couple of times, he just got soft and began traveling into the turn and around the barrel exactly like DK showed. So I guess the majority of the problem with Moon is just between me and him and not an overall training flaw.

The 3rd thing I have been working on, particularly with Moon, is unlocking my knees. I'm not sure when, or why I started stiffening my knees, but I since I have started riding Moon again, I have sure noticed that I do. It's a bad habit because it causes LOTS of other issues; lower legs don't work, hips tilt back and you don't get set down, flat in your saddle.

Everybody likes to make fun of the girls whose butts are a foot out of the saddle...

But I'm realizing that regardless of what people think it looks like...When your knees are relaxed and you can use your whole leg...butts coming out of the saddle happens. You cannot just melt into the saddle when you are preparing for turns if your knees are stiff. Stiff knees could very well be why Moon almost tea-kettled me so many times at the 2nd barrel. Or almost getting tea-kettled numerous times is what caused my stiff knee problem. LOL. Either way...I spend a lot of time reminding myself to ride with a loose leg and a relaxed knee...Like when I'm riding a just started horse.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Bug

As much as I love to travel...There is no place like home!! And I have spent the last five years turning our place into our own personal little haven. Well, MY haven anyway. When MH is home, he still spends the majority of his time over at 'his' place with his cars and bikes. People think that MH and I have an exceptionally strange relationship, in the fact that we are both okay with spending a lot of time away from each other. Despite the fact that we love each other very much...For us...SPACE is not just a luxury...It's a necessity. Neither one of us can stand to feel smothered. Eventually though, the plan is to build a new shop for MH's collection at this place...Which is the primary reason I have left the big open area at the front of our property empty. That space would be perfect for putting up a barn or even just making a big dry lot area...but I'm leaving it alone so that I won't feel it's lose when MH's shop goes up.

Not that I don't have plenty of space to do what I want/need to do around here. I have 3 dry lot areas sectioned off and each will adjoin it's own 4-5 acre pasture. Right now, all of these dry lot areas are simply set up in hot rope. Let me tell you...Solar chargers are the way to go!! I cannot believe I have waited this long to use them. But, a person still needs more permanent fixtures and this fall, my pipe fencing will get built. Yayyy!!! I will need to run new water lines and put in 3 new hydrants to make watering at the new pens easy...and I will probably run electric line as well so I have outlets where I can plug water heaters in to the individual tanks in the winter. The whole goal is to make things around here as efficient as possible. It just gets to be too time consuming and wearing to keep up with all of this AND get horses rode. Every year about this time, I start to get worn down and have to start making choices about how to spend my energy. Usually the riding time suffers because pens have to be cleaned...I mean, THAT part will never go completely away...BUT, it's a whole lot less taxing to take the 4-wheeler and drag to a dry lot than it is to have to manually scoop poop. LOL. Dragging the mare's dry lot once or twice a week kept the fly problem to a minimum and no one has needed to wear fly masks and/or sheets until just recently. Considering it's getting to the end of July and I'm just now starting to have a fly problem...That is pretty good. Especially considering the amount of moisture we have had around here this year. Everyone else is really struggling with flies and VS (vesticular stometitis) is everywhere.

I have been babysitting a couple of horses for some rodeo friends of mine this last week, while they went to Canada. Way easier to just leave their extra horses on the U.S. side of the border. Of course, since these were their high-dollar rodeo horses, I kept up with the care they are used to receiving. Everything except their daily riding. I did pony them every other day and gave them 1/2 a day turn-out, but I warned my friends I wouldn't have time to actually ride them. They were okay with that. Man...I had almost forgotten how much time a person spends with a competition horse. It's just a whole 'nother level than where I have dropped too. But you know what? Taking care of their horses seems to have given me the bug to get back to the way I used to do things. I know that my horses have been missing all of the extra attention they used to get. Oh, don't get me wrong, I still brush them, hose them off, clean feet, etc., etc....but with so many to ride, I've had to turn it more into an assembly line vs. one on one time with each horse. The horses can definitely tell the difference.

I haven't quite figured out how to change my routine and still get everyone ridden AND give them that extra attention...I mean...even an extra 30 minutes per horse ends up adding an additional 3 hours to my day...But  it's important, so I guess if that means I have to start alternating riding and time well spent with each horse...That is just what I will have to do.