Well, as you guys know, things just weren't going very good between Moon and I earlier this year, so I decided to take a little time off to see if I could fix the problem...
A little while turned into about 6 weeks. I was busy with the new place. It got hot. I didn't feel like going anywhere. Then we went on vacation. Then I went to SD.
Time got away.
Not that I was all that interested in continuing to go compete when my horse was making me look like a complete idiot anyway.
Yea...So I'm a little vain.
What can I say (shrugs).
This morning, I kind of kicked myself in the butt and forced myself to load up and go to a barrel racing. I feel like I have done pretty much all of the 'fixing' I can do at home and really just needed to get back into a competitive environment and see if the work Moon and I have been doing would make a difference.
So we get there, get entered and spend a little time warming Moon up. I was going to run him in the thicker twisted wire snaffle I usually ride him in day to day, but darned if he wasn't just being a pig about bending and giving. So I switched to a Mylar bit that I have used on him off and on over the last couple of years. It really works well for getting his attention. It's a more severe bit than I typically use and really only pull it out when Moon is being especially piggish.
I can honestly say, I was extra-ordinarily nervous about making this run. Believe me, the last few runs Moon made would be enough to shake most people's confidence. I absolutely hate feeling out of control on a horse and the way Moon was slamming into barrels at will, it was pretty obvious I was not in control of this horse's shoulder at 2nd barrel.
I decided that this run, it was going to be more about control than speed. It doesn't matter how fast your horse is, if you cannot leave the barrels standing you aren't going to win or place. So I left the Mylar bit on and decided we were going to slow things down a few notches.
My heart was thumping so badly I had to get off of Moon until it was our turn to run. I didn't want my nerves to transfer to him and make him antsy. I wanted him as cool and relaxed as possible. Getting hot really isn't a problem Moon has though. He has always been very good at the gate and for the most part will only run as fast as I ask him too. I know I had gotten that control back in our time off. I just wasn't sure I had gotten control of his shoulder at 2nd barrel back.
As the barrel racer before us finished her run and started to walk out the gate, I swung up on Moon, sunk my feet in the stirrups, gathered my rein and walked directly into the arena. Moon's ears came up and I felt him gather. I let him go, but stayed sitting in an upright position. Moon eased off in his speed and gave me his nose. Everything felt really good.
He ran perfectly to 1st and turned it really well. I felt him start to gather for the run to 2nd and I sat a little deeper and picked him up with both hands. He came right back to me. My mind was thinking...'This is perfect, this is where he gets out of control and I have him.' About 1/2 way across the arena, I picked up on the left side and felt his nose and ribcage give. Perfect!! I moved him just a hair over and set my hand just in front of my saddle swell. My goal was...If Moon turned the barrel like he was supposed to, I would not hit his mouth, if he tried to dive in, all I had to do was lift my hand and I would be able to prevent it.
Honestly, the horse felt good. He was cruizing along at a comfortable speed, his body was in perfect position, I was in a good position...only one of two things was going to happen.
Option one would have been ideal...that Moon would rate and turn the barrel in good form.
Option two would be that he tried to dive onto the barrel.
Either way, I was sitting good enough and felt like I finally had control of him again. NO WAY was I going to let this horse run over another barrel.
I felt his back lift as he set for the rate and I though, 'He's gonna turn it right.'
From that gather, when his front leg hit the ground...He chose Option two.
I literally felt him deliberately dive for that barrel. And I do mean DELIBERATELY!! There was absolutely no reason for him to have to dive. He was in good form, had rated in the perfect spot and should have been able to just glide around the barrel.
At that second, I was sooooo happy I had chosen to run him with the Mylar bit. Moon got his just desserts. He started to dive, my hand was set and all I did was lift it up. That horse ran into that bit and absolutely flew sideways away from the barrel.
The only thing going through my mind was, 'There ya go asshole. How does that feel?'
I know that sounds mean. But by god, it was time this horse learned he was not going to do as he darned well pleased.
Moon was pissed. He ducked his head and took off running sideways with his outside shoulder leading the way. We bounced off the arena fence and when we came off of it, I went to gaping him with my outside leg. **I don't wear spurs** That horse whipped around and we did a couple of reining horse spins. Typical Moon, total over-reaction to any disruption to HIS plan.
Without missing a beat, I trotted him back over to 1st barrel, turned him around and loped him right back at second. He loped in there a little more cautiously, rated and although I could feel him thinking about diving again...He didn't.
We loped to 3rd. He turned that as pretty as you please and loped home.
When I got off to loosen his cinch and walk him, he had a slightly dazed and confused look on his face. He was mentally processing everything that had just happened.
Me...I was giggling like a loon.
One of the other ladies gave me condolences on my run, but I was smiling and told her that was exactly what this horse needed.
See...I set Moon up perfectly to do the right thing. The right thing would have been the easier thing for him to do. He made a choice and this time it didn't work out AT ALL like he thought it would. He got used to bulling his way through the pattern during competition and this time I was able to prevent him from doing so.
After the last few barrel racers, we went right back in and made another 1/2 speed run. I didn't want to loose the competition 'feel' around the arena. Horses know the difference...believe me...they KNOW the difference. Moon was a little awkward turning 2nd, but he wasn't real keen on diving onto the barrel. At least he felt like he was trying to do the right thing. We worked on patterning exercises for awhile and then made another 1/2 speed run. This time, Moon felt like he was completely with me and not trying to do his own thing. We called it a day.
The horse is such a jerk. If he wasn't so talented, I would have given up on him a couple of years ago, but every time I think I have had just about enough, he gives me something and I can still see the light at the end of the tunnel.
So, onward and hopefully upward we go.