I did figure out why Moon is getting wonky on 2nd barrel again...
He is horribly strung out coming out of 1st barrel. His nose is going up and out, his back is hollowing and his hindquarters are being left out in the south 40. My sit and wait for him to push me up isn't working because by the time he re-gathers and pushes, he is already out of the barrel. It's putting me out of time with him and throwing both of us off getting lined up for 2nd barrel.
Soooo....it's time to put his tie-down back on.
CdnCowgirl mentioned a while back that Moon looked like he is a horse that uses his head and neck a lot and that is true. However, Moon is also a horse that has a tendency to lead with his nose. I think we were doing pretty good without the tie-down because I wasn't really running Moon all that hard to his 1st barrel. He was able to stay gathered up in his turn. Once we started running harder, he started dropping in his front-end and started leading with his nose. Once that nose gets beyond a certain point, a horse cannot help but drop all of their weight onto their front-end. The next thing that happens is they start disengaging their hindquarters and flipping around the barrel.
A tie-down is not a miracle cure...obviously, as I ran Moon with one last year and still had problems, but I had it adjusted pretty loose. I have tightened Moon's tie-down one notch and we will see how that works for him. Hopefully it will provide that little bit of something for him to balance on...that is not my hand, holding the rein, that is attached to the bit in his mouth. I haven't liked the fact that it has felt like Moon is balancing on my hand around the turns. It is so difficult to maintain even pressure all the way around the turns. I hate pulling on a horse and often what happens is the horse gets heavier and heavier and a person often resorts to using stronger and stronger bits.
Obviously, you work on such things during training, but that only goes so far in competition. If a horse needs something to balance on when they are turning hard...they are either going to use your hand or you can give them a tie-down.
One issue often leads to another. I am getting leaned too far forward on the backside of the turns. I noticed that I felt really tipped forward in the turns at Meeker, but made it work. It's not working now. I don't know if it is because I am rushing my turns or if it is because Moon is pulling me forward because he is getting tipped onto his front-end. Hopefully, I can fix this by concentrating on sitting up more and continuing to drive Moon through his turns. That should help make him keep his hindquarter more engaged as well.
I also learned how to wrap legs with polo-wraps. After someone commented on them here, I noticed how many girls were now using polo-wraps on their horse's legs, particularly the hinds. I mean I had noticed it before, but most of the wrap jobs I see look more like they are for decoration, not so much for support. So I started to actually pay attention to who had the better wrap jobs. Luckily, one of my friends does a superior job of wrapping and it looked like her horse had a lot of support in the fetlock area, which is where Moon seems to be getting a little sore (on his hinds). She let me borrow a set of her polo wraps and showed me how to wrap Moon's hind legs. I think he liked the way that felt as he stayed more engaged in his hind-end on Sunday and we had a much better run.
As for my runs...well, I hit 2nd barrel on both days. On Saturday, I ran straight into the darned thing. LOL! I was so out of time with Moon when he left 1st barrel that I ended up just staring straight at the damn barrel thinking, "OMG, here comes a big, white barrel at me." Geez...it was previous runs all over again. I sure don't know why my mind locks up that sometimes, but it sucks.
On Sunday, our run was much better. I really made myself ride. First barrel was good, but Moon was really only loping into it and then lunged out of it. It was a struggle to get Moon to come across and get ready for his 2nd turn, but I got him there. He didn't want to bend to the left at all. I wasn't really sure what happened when we hit the 2nd barrel coming out of it. I thought we had it. After watching the video, I could see how twisted up my body was while I was struggling to get Moon to come over and when he set into the turn, I dropped my hand as my body straightened up and Moon just thought the turn was finished. He straightened out and left for 3rd. So it really wasn't his fault.
However, I can always tell how a run affects Moon by the way he is breathing afterwards. After Saturday's run, he was huffing and puffing and he only ran an 18.4 (very slow for this indoor). So I knew he wasn't comfortable in the run either. I did enter the jackpot run afterwards and made him re-run the pattern. It was slow (another 18.3), but I two-handed him the whole way and made him stay off of the barrels. He seemed a little better after that run.
On Sunday, he wasn't breathing hard at all after his run, so I think he is back in a better frame of mind and he was a second and a half faster (16.7).
You know, we were doing so well and then things fell apart again. That is to be expected, I guess. Moon is not an easy horse to run barrels on. I mean...it's pretty easy when things are going right, but when they are not, he's very difficult to ride. He's NOT a very bendy, flexible horse and when he gets tight or resistant...it's about like trying to force a 2x4 to flex. Not to mention that when he gets strung out behind...it feels like he doesn't have any power. Then he regathers and just throws me all over the place. Not all barrel horses are this difficult and to be honest... I really hope I never have one like him again. I have other horses that I think will be much less difficult and I am really focusing on Frosty as my next barrel horse.
Don't get me wrong. I love Moon. The darned horse has so much heart. I cannot blame him personally for our struggles. He does the best he can, e.v.e.r.y. single time for me. It's just not easy or natural for him to gather and push around a barrel. He's very long strided and a bit weak behind. If things are not just right, he reverts to doing what is natural to him and that is letting his hind-end get strung out and pulling with his front-end. He will obviously get more solid as I keep running him, but I think it is always going to be a bit of a roller coaster ride and that does things to a person's level of confidence. When he is running good, I can really focus on my riding skills and we do pretty good. I just never really know what I'm going to get when we enter the arena though and that makes me a little shaky.
We are going to keep after it though. I don't have anything else to run yet and I figure if I can learn to ride Moon consistently then anything that comes up and is easier will be like a walk in the park.