Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I Have The Bug

I was dang sure bitten by the 'cutting' bug last weekend. Yea, cause that's just what I need. One more expensive hobby. My Honey is going to make me get a job here pretty soon. LOL

As MiKael predicted...this clinic was the perfect opportunity for me to get some control over Moon's shoulders. LOL-If you ever want to find the holes in your horse or yourself...do some cow work. Things you didn't even realize will become glaringly obvious.

Things I learned about myself;

#1-I am riding too tight. Back when I used to ride a lot of colts, I know I rode a lot 'looser' than I do these days. Back then, if a colt jumped or spooked, my first instinct was to grab the saddle horn, scootch my butt into the saddle and just flow with the colt's movement. My legs stayed loose. Cause god forbid you clamp down on a colt with your legs. You could turn a little jump into a full on bronc ride by doing so. As I have gotten older and graduated to riding broke horses...well, I'm less inclined to think about things like that and somewhere along the line, I have started riding differently. I really noticed that I have started clamping down with my legs. My first cutting run on Moon was W.i.L.D!!! I picked a fast cow and Moon was all over the place. He was slinging me around like a rag doll up there and I could not get ahead of his movements. Because I could NOT let.go.with.my.legs! Ugghhhh!!! When I finally got him off of the cow, Carl told me I needed to get my horse gathered up and get control of the situation. This is cutting, he said, YOU control the cow. A definite wake-up call.

#2-I need to stop being so damn lazy when I'm riding Moon. I KNOW Moon is the kind of horse that likes to take control. He seldom stays very correct once he knows he's in control. Oh, he's going to do his job, he's just going to do it the way it's easiest for him and going to the left, that means dropping his shoulder and diving. Once he is allowed to do things his way a few times, he does get belligerent when I finally get my act together and say...'NO, you are supposed to do it this way'. So then Moon and I argue over who is the boss 'til I win. I always win. I'm not completely stupid. I know what is correct and I know how to make any horse do the correct thing. I have just gotten lazy and let Moon get away with doing the wrong thing until it creates a problem. So I just need to up my game with the horse.

It's no big surprise that Moon was doing the same thing working cattle that he was doing running barrels. When the cow was moving so that Moon's left side was to it, he was leading with his shoulder. You can see in the video in several places, where I was really hauling on his head, trying to get him to move that shoulder over, arc his neck and lead with his nose. We was not liking that AT ALL. We did get a ton of improvement by the end of the day. But I had to do like a thousand reverse arcs when we were doing slow work.

Here's how that worked-Moon's good turning side is to the right. So if he was tracking a cow so his right side was to the cow, when the cow turned, Moon would sweep across himself correctly. But he didn't like completing the arc. He would get about 3/4th of the way through the turn and then try to take off after the cow with his left shoulder leading. NO, NO, NO!!! So, as he came around, I would pick up the inside (left) arc and force him all the way around in a 360. He had to complete the arc and leave after the cow with his body in the correct position.

That is exactly what was happening in our barrel runs. Moon would make a nice right hand turn at the first barrel, but he never finished the turn. When he left 1st barrel and headed to second, he was leading with his left shoulder. I was not catching that 90% of the time and when we would get to 2nd barrel, the only thing Moon could do was arch his neck away from the barrel and dive around it with his left shoulder leading the way. No freaking wonder his 2nd barrel was a mess.

Of course, by the time he got headed to 3rd, I would have his left shoulder moved over and his head and neck arced correctly and we never had much of a problem there. I have to be careful because Moon does like to roll back and slice off his turn coming out of 3rd, but all it takes to prevent that is a little lift on the rein.

Now, this reverse arc is something that I can do a lot of with Moon anytime. Sue Smith showed us how to use it in the barrel pattern and I have used it forever in my day to day training. I just didn't realize where Moon's problem was in the barrel pattern. It's not AT 2nd barrel. It starts all the way back to where he is leaving 1st barrel. Realizing this now and knowing I have exercises that can 'fix' or at least inhibit Moon's natural tendency, I guess now I don't know whether to switch him on the pattern. I don't think it hurts a horse to know how to run the pattern both directions though. So I'll probably keep working him both directions until he can at least lope a nice pattern either way. In his case, I don't think anything that makes him have to think about things is a bad thing. Moon is way too smart for his own good.

I do know there is a lot more cow-work, specifically cutting exercises in Moon's near and indefinite future. I can work him for a long time on cattle without ever burning him out vs. trying to accomplish the same thing on the barrel pattern. In Moon's case, working specifically on cutting type maneuvers is very beneficial. He is a front-endy kind of horse, so the 'get-back' style required in cutting really helps him.

Spooks...not so much...but that is a whole 'nother story!


Funder said...

"Stop being so damn lazy" is way easier said than done. There are so many little things that I'm way too damn lazy about with Dixie. I'm trying to fix them. Baby steps.

What kind of bit did you use for cow work? Just curious :)

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

Funder-I know. I don't know why I let Moon get away with stuff. I sure don't let my other horses get that far ahead of me. I think I have a soft spot for him because he tries so hard.

For Moon, I use a twisted wire snaffle (about the same thickness as my pinky finger) and a long running martingale. When he gets to working, he loses respect for the bit in a hurry and he is a 'rooter'. Just can't help himself but to stick that nose out there and try to dump on his front-end.

For Spooks, just a smooth snaffle. He has a tendency to get behind the bit and loses forward motion at any opportunity. Spurs are an absolute necessity! Ugghh!

Crystal said...

I love cutting, and I think haveing a cow to focus on makes them forget they are learning to do what we want them to do. It sure wakes them up anyways. It amazes me how all the riding events seem to have something in common with other riding sports.

Rising Rainbow said...

Big smile coming from here. I knew working cows would probably bring a light bulb moment for you and I'm glad that it did. It doesn't surprise me that Moon's problem begins coming out of the first barrel. Makes perfect sense to me.

Everything about any kind of working western is about being underneath themselves and on their back end where they belong which in turn lightens up the front end. Still I have to wonder how come Moon is so one sided. Is it just habit or is there something physical at the root of it? A little bit of variation between the two sides is pretty normal but from doing it right one side to totally wrong the other makes me wonder.

Sure glad you had such a good time at the clinic.

cdncowgirl said...

I happen to be a big fan of "cross training". Even if your horses job is one thing it helps to have something else to play at :)

And as for running both directions, Ed said that every horse should be able to go either direction. However once he's competing he picks a direction and sticks to it. Oh you're going to LOVE his clinic!!

fernvalley01 said...

Sounds like a great learning experience for you both .And as excited as you seem about it fun too!

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

MiKael-I have had 2 different dentists work on Moon's teeth, had him worked over by the vet/chiro and had the farrier that does Turk's feet check him out. Nobody can find any physical reason. He is equally leaded, doesn't have problems maintaining a lead, does smooth flying lead changes both directions. His shoulders, hips and strides are equal. He is a bit stiffer in the neck flexing to the left, but not significantly and when I work with him regularly he evens out. He is physically capable of moving correctly to the left. He just has a bad tendency to push that shoulder out and lead with it. Another several thousand reverse arcs and he'll get it-LOL.

Lisa-Me too. I just didn't ever think about it as anything special. You mean ALL horses can't work on the ranch, chase cows, run barrels, do reining and jump? LOL ;-)

Fantastyk Voyager said...

Sounds like a very good clinic. I'm sorry I missed it.

cdncowgirl said...

You'll like this one BEC... one of the local girls was starting to have a lot of trouble with her barrel horse. He was getting really gate sour - the "I don't want to go in and do THAT again" kind not the "I want it sooo bad I can't get my head together" kind lol. Also he was hitting barrels and just being an a$$. This is a horse that normally ran hard and tried hard, didn't usually hit barrels and he was just quitting on her.
Me and a couple friends invited her to just have some fun and come sorting with us and to bring her barrel horse. Her reaction? NO way!! She'd bring her dad's horse, she couldn't take her 'good barrel horse' to something like that!! :o
Turns out ALLLL she did with him was barrel race, practice patterns at home, and do barrel drills. Oh and to keep him legged up she did take him out to long trot and gallop, but nothing else.
To keep this from getting any longer... Convinced her to come and bring her barrel horse, they both had fun, she started chasing cows at home with him, trail riding with him (instead of always sticking to "their spot" for exercising) and let him have some time off barrels. Well whatta ya know, when she did start running barrels again that horse was pretty much back to his old self. IMO it was because he was happy.

Rising Rainbow said...

Well, seems to me if it's not something current going on with him, you could be battling the muscle memory thing that comes from something old that has healed. Have you tried manually stretching out that shoulder before you ride?? Or maybe even doing it as a set if exercises on a daily basis for a while, even if you don't ride, to "open up" that shoulder some.

Shirley said...

It's neat that a cutting clinic can fix some things for barrel racing. Just goes to show that horsemanship is universal.

BrownEyed Cowgirls said...

MiKael-If I hadn't had Moon with me his entire life, I sure would be thinking old injury. But the only 2 injuries Moon has ever had in his life is when he pulled his stifles in '07 and when he injured his heel bulb, opening a gate in '09.

Thing is, I knew that Moon wasn't bringing his shoulder over to get around 2nd barrel, I just didn't realize he wasn't closing off 1st barrel and was leading with his shoulder so much. Working cows on him showed me how how lazy we both had gotten, but once I picked him up and made him roll over correctly, he can do it just as easily as the other side.

Course, you have to take into consideration, I got to the point I knew how Moon was going to charge into 2nd barrel, so I know that I started riding heavier on that side as well. Heavier handed and heavier legged and I know I was pulling my shoulder back. Working cows got me evened out again as well.

As much as I would like to have a physical reason for why Moon was doing what he was doing...I don't think I have anything to blame but myself. Moon's not a real easy horse to ride when he gets to running. He is so long-strided that he gets to those barrels awful quick and he can turn, no matter how bad his position is, he IS going to turn.

As for stretches, I don't do a lot of them and not at all when the horses are turned out. They do have the ability to roam in a 15 acre pasture and that makes a world of difference from a horse that is mostly stalled with just a bit of turnout.

If the vet/chiro had found anything, I would probably be more religious about them, but the vet couldn't believe Moon was a 12y/o. His back and joints are in excellent shape. He barely tested on the flexion tests-a 1 in his left stifle (the one that was pulled) and a 1 on his right hock. Nothing in his shoulders or front-end.

I definitely appreciate your insight into possible causes. It means a lot when another horseman(woman) takes the time to really share their knowledge.