Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The 2nd Go

I didn't mention in the previous post that LJ also went with. I went down to the race the night before so I could get a little practice time in with LJ and hopefully a little help. I just cannot seem to get LJ to release the barrel enough to make a proper turn. He sucks into the pockets so tight that he is struggling to keep forward momentum through the turn.

Part of the 'problem' lies with LJ's breeding AND his previous training. It takes work to turn a horse like LJ into a barrel horse. Barrel horses have to use their hind legs like a rudder. Reining bred/trained horses use their hind legs as brakes. LJ is never going to need much of a pocket. He's little and he is so athletic it's almost sick. When we get it right, one of LJ's 'gifts' will be the fact that he will be able to run and turn in 1/2 the space that bigger horses require. But, it is something that is going to take me a little while to get used to.

Come to find out, the ticket to getting LJ to ease up on sucking into the turn might be to just haul and practice on him in unfamiliar places. LOL. He was so enthralled with everything going on around him and so happy to be in the middle of all that activity, that he worked the pattern exceptionally nice.

Huh! Well, that was an easy fix. LOL. I am so excited to get LJ running. He is going to be so much fun. My little red hotrod!! Next on our list of 'must-do's' is going with a friend to training track and working on teaching the little red man how to really stretch out and run. I am so curious to find out just how fast that little guy can go. I've had him stretched out a bit by himself and the length of his stride is impressive for such a little guy. But matching him up against another horse and getting a chance to gauge his real speed should be a blast.

So day 2 of the races and I was smirking to myself when it came time to run Frosty. I knew falling down the day before would make him a little more eager to actually change that rear lead. He had kind of run by the 1st barrel the first day and I know that at this arena I do have a tendency to do that. This run though, I set Frosty into that 1st barrel perfectly. He came around well, if not snappy and started running across to 2nd. He was in good shape. Frosty was in the right position, so I just dropped my outside hand to the horn and let him run into his pocket. It was 2 more strides before he actually got into the turn. When I felt him hit the spot where he is supposed to make his turn, I felt him trying to change his rear lead. He really dropped on his front end and his butt kind of popped up. It wasn't a quick turn, but Frosty got the job done and finished the turn in the correct lead, front AND rear. LOL. His 3rd was awesome.

I do realize that I need to be helping him more at the 2nd barrel a little more. I dropped my outside hand to the horn way too soon and I'm not really riding Frosty into the pocket. When talking to a friend later, she said it didn't really look like he 'set' for the barrel, just dropped into the pocket on his front end. So I need to work a little harder so I'm helping Frosty a little and not just letting him drop into that turn on his front-end. I need to remember that just because Frosty is slow and easy to ride doesn't mean I can get sloppy in my riding.

Then it was Moon's turn. I had the same goals for his 2nd run + one more...provided the going in the gate and finding the left-barrel went well. Moon got a little riled up right when we rode to the same area we had parked in the day before, but I just kept circling him, left, then right, then left and making him focus on making perfect little circles until he calmed down and got soft. After that he stood and waited patiently. This time when it was time to go in the building, he walked up there. Ears up and on tippy-toes...ready to leap to action...but it was still a walk and he never once thought about leaving. I let him tippy-toe in the building slowly so his eyes had time to adjust and I could tell that this time, he was looking at the left-hand barrel and ready to head that way. I took a big breath, released it and let the reins out and Moon just glided forward and then took off running. Our departure was perfect, so I focused on my 3rd goal...leaving that left hand barrel UP. Like Frosty, Moon had went by his 1st barrel on the first day. The difference is...If Moon goes by a barrel, he simply sets a hind leg and sucks back. It's mentally impossible for Moon to go by a barrel and be okay with it. LOL. He IS going to get back in that turn, whatever it takes. The few runs he's done, going to the left, he hasn't been comfortable going to the left barrel first. That is understandable and acceptable. He just needed time to figure it out. Me too. I needed a few runs to get the feel for how to handle Moon going to the left barrel first.

This time our timing was correct. Moon didn't go by the barrel. He set into the pocket perfectly, but he still freaking set that hind leg and came back around just as hard as he usually does and the barrel was right there. I stuck my leg on him and pushed my hand forward. Moon bowed his body and we skimmed by the barrel. And...

I had flipped my reins over his head, when I pushed my hand forward.

Well....so much for just relaxing for the rest of the run. LOL.

When Moon stretched out for the 2nd barrel and all of my reins are on the left side of his neck?...All I could do was get up there and ride. Moon certainly was not as out of control as he had been the day before. He was running nicely and hunting his turns, so I just went with it. At least the reins were on the side of his neck that I needed them to be on to keep him off the barrels. LOL. It ended up being a pretty decent run and we left all of the barrels standing. It wasn't until we got to the end and I was stopping Moon that anyone realized I had flipped my reins. As I was walking back to the trailer one of my friends hollered, 'Now that was some street ridin.'. LOL. It was a blast to be back on him and actually enjoying it. Moon enjoyed it too. We stuck around for a few runs after ours and every time they opened the gate, he was wanting to go back in and do it again. Hahahaha.

That wrapped up our weekend. Neither of the boys got any money, but I accomplished all of my goals with them and that was good enough for me. I have lots of work to do with Frosty and I am contemplating switching him back to being a left-hand horse for a little while. I finally get that I am mostly incapable of using my right arm effectively when a horse starts needing extra help making a left hand turn and I am not going to fight it. We all have our limitations and if a useless right arm is mine...Then me and the ponies will just have to work around it. :-)

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Always A Blast

It's Moab race time again and these fall races are always 2 of my favorites. My header picture is of Frosty running there last year. 

Old Frosty didn't have quite as good a showing this first race as he did last year. Our first run resulted in me trotting him out and laughing the whole way. Nobody else was laughing. They were all gasping and for the rest of the day everyone kept asking me if I and my horse was okay. 

So long story, short...Frosty decided he was going to be a barrel horse and he was a little excited on his way to first barrel. He ran past it a bit, but came back around well and was headed for 2nd...

I have been having some real problems with Frosty not wanting to change his hind lead before making the turn. He changes in the front, but is too freaking lazy to change behind and it most definitely causes a problem. Last year in the spring he was refusing to make the rear lead change and he finally pancaked with me on the 3rd barrel.

So you know where this is going right?

Frosty dropped really low in the front getting into his 2nd barrel and stumbled. I sat up and lifted my hand and he immediately picked himself up, set his hind leg and rolled right back...behind the 2nd barrel....and took off for 3rd. Oopsie!! 

Well, there was really nothing to do except just keep riding him. It wasn't like he did that deliberately. LOL. 

But the jerk was STILL in the wrong lead. He didn't even try to change for the 3rd barrel. Just laid into the turn and...

Yep...His hind end just went right out from under him and he just collapsed to the ground. Like a big, ole sack of shit. Hahahahahaha

I was still sitting right in the middle of him, with the barrel about a foot to my left side. I contemplated stepping off, but looked around to see what Frosty's legs were doing. A horse that falls with their legs out to the side can get to thrashing when it tries to get up and it's best to step off of them, if you can. But no, Frosty's legs were all neatly folded up under him, so I just sat right there and made him get up with me on his back. 

Now, what people don't realize about Frosty is...He falls or almost falls down so often with me that neither of us get very excited about it. Frosty most definitely handles falling down better than any horse I have ever known. Of course, I have never had another horse that falls down as often as Frosty does, so I guess I don't have much to gauge it by. 

But, Frosty just sort of looked around and then stood up and started trotting to the gate. As non-chalant as you please. Me? I have to laugh. Out loud. I have been expecting this to happen. A horse that refuses to change leads behind is eventually going to fall down trying to make a barrel turn. If last year was any indication...Falling down is exactly what Frosty needed to do to wake his lazy ass up and make him realize he HAS to lift that hip up and change his hind lead. That is part of his JOB and if he is too freaking lazy to make the effort then falling down is all on him. 

Outside, everyone was all, 'Is he okay? Are you okay?'. I'm was still laughing. Frosty isn't one bit excited or worried about what just happened, nor is he even breathing hard. All is fine. But that definitely needed to happen. 

I walked Frosty out for a minute then tied him to the trailer and got on Moon. I had bought a nasal Flair and put it on Moon and the weather was perfect. Cool and moist. Nevertheless, I really had no goal of 'making a run' on Moon. My only goals were for Moon to enter the gate without a fight and getting him to focus on the left hand barrel as first. I warmed Moon up and then we went and found a place to set. As a back-up plan, I asked one of the husbands to help walk Moon up to the gate, if by chance he started his whirling away thing. I also had my bat in hand.

Moon set there nicely while I visited with other riders and the borrowed hubby got into a position where he would be ready to help if required. When I started easing Moon up to the arena door...It was all I could do to hold him back. Holy begezus!! Instead of trying to leave...Moon was charging TOWARD the door. We entered the indoor arena and it was all I could do to hold Moon back. I did not want to let him go until I felt him lock onto that left hand barrel and take a breath. By now, we were in the arena. Moon was looking at the left hand barrel, but he was charging and when I wouldn't let him go, he started whirling. I just kept trying to get him to move forward into a left hand circle and take a breath. Under normal circumstances I don't like to take forever at the gate, but since there is no chance of getting DQed at these barrel races, I took an extra minute (felt like an hour) to get Moon moving between my legs and let him take the breath I keep mentioning. The breath is very important right now. Part of Moon's deal is he gets so anxious that he quits breathing...and thinking. He just wants to be all tight and on the muscle and he stops thinking. Both of us have struggled with this problem. LOL. 

Finally Moon came around and took that breath. In that instant I felt him soften, lock onto the left hand barrel, pick up the left lead and I just let him go. 

After that...I just let him do his thing and oh my...It was a wild ride. Moon ran past the 1st barrel by a stride, set a hind leg and whipped back around and tagged the barrel. I didn't do anything. Just let him run. Moon was all over the place. He was running wild. LOL. I didn't do much except just ride real quiet and kept talking to him. We coasted home. Moon walked out of the arena and wasn't even breathing hard. I could already see his wheels turning. He was kind of looking around like, 'Wow, did I just run all over the arena like an idiot?'. He actually looked embarrassed. LOL. We hung out and visited for a little bit and then I went to put horses away. 

One of my 'friends' came over to visit and right off the bat she was like, 'Oh my, you had a rough day.'. I just laughed and told her, I couldn't be happier with my day. Every single thing I wanted to happen, happened. Truth of the matter was, I was on cloud 9. 

I satisfactorily executed the 2 goals I had for Moon and I could tell it made an impression on him. I also think the nasal Flair worked wonderfully for him. Looks like I will have to keep those on hand now. And Frosty got the rude awakening he has been needing. If falling down is what it takes to make an impression on him, then so be it. 

I was really looking forward to day 2. :-)

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

I Think He's A Jinx

Back from my weekend of barrel racing in SD and...

I think LJ is a jinx!!

Last year when I took him and Frosty to Utah to a big barrel race...It was cold and poured rain all weekend.

Guess what this last weekend was like?

Yup!! Cold and it poured rain!!


Well, at least this time the boys were in a barn and didn't have to spend the night in the trailer to stay warm and dry. LOL

It was a bit of a disappointing weekend. I didn't get to ride LJ at all. I know he needs to get used to being ridden in inclimate weather, but I would prefer to have decent weather the first few times I ride him around that much activity. I have ridden him around at a few events and he gets very excited. I cannot imagine adding cold and rain on top of that excitement. I'd probably end up in the mud. Hahahahaha. The hauling miles are good for him though. He's learning all the ins and outs of going to competitions without the additional stress of trying to compete. And that is important. LJ does haul well and taking him with an experienced horse like Frosty teaches him to eat and drink on the road. The bad thing about LJ is that he gets so upset when you take his buddy horse away. He screams and screams and actually upsets my seasoned horses. I was surprised the first time I took him on a short trip with Moon at how upset Moon was about LJ being upset. LJ's tantrum that day got Moon wound up and the same thing happened to Frosty this trip.

I was a little worried that the less than ideal weather would bring out Frosty's broncy side, but he was actually really good. No noteworthy antics (like last year in UT when he blew up in the warm-up pen). Frosty still wants to be spooked of horses coming at him when people are loping every which direction in the warm-up pen, but he's gotten a lot better about it.

The first day of competition I took him into the indoor well ahead of when we were supposed to run and spent a lot of time letting him look at everything, watch the barrel racing and just get comfortable. I rode him up to the gate several times during the drags so he could look into the arena as well.

I'm not going to lie...I was nervous about him bucking with me at the first barrel. That is something I wished I could get out of my head, but getting drilled by him last year has left a lasting impression on me. I want to trust him...But...I'm not all the way there yet.

When it was our turn to run, I made a big loop outside the arena, so that Frosty would have a lot of room to start his run and pick up the first barrel. While standing in the gate, I noticed that the first barrel (on the right) blended in with all of the signs on the fence and I realized that is why a lot of girls were having trouble. Frosty didn't have much luck picking up where the barrel was either. He was kind of ducking and diving the first few strides up the alley and into the arena, so I knew he wasn't locked on. He did pick it up when we got closer, but he sure wasn't wanting to run to the barrel. Just kind of loping along. He got around the barrel and kind of hopped out of the turn a little. When he saw the 2nd barrel he locked on and started trying to run a little. He set into the turn really well, but was hopping and humping coming out and I knew right away that he didn't get his hind lead switched. I let him ease up and he got it, but on the way to 3rd he was looking at the big red sign that hung on the rear wall and he never ever saw the 3rd barrel. He just kept slowing down and slowing down and I know he was thinking, 'Why the hell are you running me into that big, red sign?'. I pulled him around the 3rd barrel cause he didn't even know it was there.

He ran a 19.0...exactly 1/2 a second off of where I thought he should have ran. Considering he was looking around, I wasn't too disappointed with his time, but I knew I would not be pulling a check on that day.

The next day, Frosty felt a lot fresher when I was warming him up and I though, 'Oh boy, he's ready for today's run!'. I also put his tie-down back on him. Frosty runs and turns very level, so a tie-down is not for keeping his head down. Beings that Frosty is very long over the back and not terribly athletic, a tie-down gives him a little bit of something to balance on so he can hold his turns and helps him get that lead change in the rear.

This time when I brought Frosty into the holding area, he was wound for sound. I feel like this is a bit of a catch .22. Frosty definitely needs to learn how to amp up a bit before a run...but on the other hand...he doesn't think real well when he is wound up. I debated it in my head and decided that I would just keep working him in the holding pen until he calmed down and relaxed. One of the mistakes I made with Moon was, when he first started to get wound up about making a run, instead of camping and working on him by the gate, I took him away from the gate to help him relax. Moon never really got the chance to have to learn how to work through his anxiety and let it go before making a run. I won't make that mistake again.

Frosty did get back down to where I thought he should be before our 2nd run and this time when he lined up to start his run, he knew where that first barrel was and stretched right out, but he sure wasn't running very hard. Right about then, I wished I was carrying my popper bat. Nevertheless, Frosty set in and snapped right around that first barrel and I thought, 'Here we go...He's gonna run now'...But....

Nope...I was mooching and kicking (or so I thought) to him and he just loped across to the 2nd barrel. He set into that turn really well, but coming out...AGAIN I knew he didn't catch his hind lead and he just couldn't get it switched. We sort of hopped around the 3rd barrel and I couldn't even get Frosty to run toward home.

Afterward I realized I may have been talking and mooching to Frosty, but I wasn't using my legs at all. In my head I was kicking like crazy...In real life, I was barely bumping him. I reverted back to clutching with my upper thighs, not sitting down and using my legs.

I heard my time of 19.6 and was so freaking disgusted. Seriously? We lost almost a second from the 1st run to the 2nd run? Uuggghhhhhh!!!

Well, luckily that wasn't really the case. I heard 19.6...but the time was really 19.106. Okay...so a 1/10th slower not 6/10ths slower. Still not the 18.4-18.5 I had been hoping for...but I know that I didn't do much to actually make Frosty run any faster, so basically he can lope a 19.0 second pattern without even trying. This was a standard sized pattern, but had a short score (only 45' instead of 60'). The winning time both days was a 16.40.

Besides me not kicking, it really felt like something else was going on with Frosty. I mean...He just wasn't even trying. My mom was there for the weekend and both of us agreed that neither of us were impressed with the shoeing job on Frosty this time around. The first time I had this farrier shoe Frosty we discussed AT LENGTH that I was okay with him pulling Frosty's toes back a little bit the first time. Frosty's feet do like to platter out and not having had shoes on all summer had them a little flat again. This 2nd time, I asked him to reset the same shoes, the exact same way. Frosty did well the first time around. But I think when he reset the shoes he pulled his toes back more and it just makes the breakover too fast for Frosty to handle. He is NOT a quick footed horse and too quick of a breakover makes him very uncomfortable. He won't reach forward with his shoulders and that is a problem with this horse anyway. So needless to say, I am switching to a different farrier. Hell, if I have to, I'll haul Frosty and LJ to AZ to have Cindy's farrier do his shoes. That guy did the best job of anyone on Frosty.

So, while the competitive aspect of the weekend didn't turn out like I had hoped and the weather sucked, there was one bright spot...

There was a lady giving a breathing treatment to a horse outside of the barn where my horses were stabled, so I stopped to visit with her about her unit. I have been wanting to buy a nebulizer for a couple of years but just wasn't sure which one to buy. Since those things are not cheap...I didn't want to blow a bunch of money on one that wasn't effective. This lady had the portable Equi-Resp unit, one that I had been looking at, and told me it worked wonders on their bleeder. We discussed bleeders and the unit for quite awhile and she answered every question that had been rolling around in my head. I didn't waste any time. I ordered one as soon as I got home. I am hoping that it will be as beneficial for Moon as it was for her horse. She says she uses it on all of her horses now, so I suspect I will be trying it on all of my horses as well. Especially in the summer when it gets hot and dusty.