Once mounted up, Sue moved everyone directly into some bending and circling exercises. Essentially, she had us do horseback what she had just shown us on the ground.
It never fails to surprise me the number of people who are actually out there competing (and some are actually winning) who really don't know or understand how to get a horse to drive up from his hock or how to get them to bend in the ribcage or how to use their hands to bridle a horse up. I presume those people those who don't understand these concepts and are still winning at least have the ability to stay out of their horse's way.
The next morning, I thought we were going to go right back to riding, but Sue ended up working almost everyone else's horses in the round pen. Mine didn't really need it. Even though Moon is a 'rooter'. Actually, he is a 2nd generation 'rooter'. I have worked on him his entire life to minimize that characteristic and been mostly successful, but it will always be his natural tendency. Spooks is entirely the opposite. Although driving from the hock is completely natural for Spooks, he really hates to run into any pressure on his face (Remember the video of him from a couple of months ago?). His natural tendency is to stay completely behind the bit. While that is a nice reprieve from Moon, it is still not correct. So I have a lot of work ahead of me teaching Spooks to reach forward and accept pressure on his face. That should come easier to him now that he is getting into better shape and his feet are fixed.
While we kind of got stuck working on really slow work, due to the necessity of teaching almost everyone else how to get their horses bending and flexing properly, I did pick up a few good exercises. I kind of just kept talking to Sue, explaining to her what had started to go so wrong this last summer with Moon. Moon, being the contrary sort he is, was on his best behavior and refused to 'dive' at any of the barrels. The worst he did was flatten out his ribcage in the turns a couple of times. Thanks Moon...when I really need you to show someone how bad you can be...you act like the perfect gentleman?
One of the things I learned was that I was letting Moon float out a little too much as he was leaving 1st and 2nd. Not much, but enough that when speed was added that it was probably enough that it made it really easy for him to kick out of his inside lead and that makes it harder to bring him back over to get into the correct position to get to the next barrel. That was easily enough fixed by using a little outside leg to keep Moon's ribcage where it needed to be and also by holding him into the turn until my leg was completely past the barrel.
The second useful exercise learned was using the counter-arc wherever a horse has the tendency to habitually flatten out his ribcage. Primarily the counter-arc is used at the top of the barrel, just past the rate spot, and is used to get and keep the horse into the correct C-position for turning. In Moon's case, he has particular spots on the backside of the 2nd and 3rd barrels where he likes to flatten out his ribcage. it doesn't feel like much at a walk/trot and I can always pick him up, even at the lope. However, Sue pointed out that if Moon has a habit of flattening out at the exact same spots at slow speeds, he is going to be pretty adamant about doing it when he is running. There is no time for correction then. To break him of this habit, the counter arc can be used to reinforce that Moon has to maintain the C-position. Since I know exactly where Moon likes to flatten, it's my job to stop him before that spot. Counter-arc him to reinforce the C-position and then drive him through those areas.
Spooks arcs into his C-position easily and maintains it until I let him go. However, he is as green as green can be on the barrel pattern and is barely loping it yet. He hasn't had time to develop any bad habits yet and I hope to keep it that way. My biggest challenge with him will be to get him extending forward with his front-end. Since Spooks has so much rear-wheel drive, I will really have to push him forward and work at keeping him moving all 4 feet around the barrel.
It's going to be interesting getting everyone I have here rolling on the pattern. Moon and Turk are very front-endy horses, so I will always have to work at keeping their front-ends picked up and their hindquarters engaged. Spooks and Frosty are very deep stoppers, so it will be a matter of keeping them pushed forward and getting them to use their front-end. Bugs, I haven't figured out yet. He's a big stopper, but I have really noticed that my Lady Bugs Moon horses are heavy in the front-end. Once he is farther along in his riding, it will be easier to tell. I just don't know about Jet. He's such a big, lanky dude that I always thought he would be one of those types that likes to just run around a barrel. However, as he has developed this year, he is getting much thicker in his stifle and I see signs that he really can stop on his hock. Sandy is such a big, powerful horse, I have a feeling that when he starts leaving a barrel, I will have to hold on for dear life-LOL.
In the meantime, Moon is the main man and no matter how frustrating things have been, one I know is exceptionally talented. He can run, he can turn and when he is in the right position, he can leave. From now on, it will be my job to perfect his slow work and quit trying to train on him during a run.
The conclusion to follow...
**I'm off to Vegas this weekend...See you guys on Monday!