Just so you guys know...I'm perfectly okay with people laughing AT me. I laugh at myself a lot too.
In case you ever wonder...I really do get a lot out of the comments you guys leave...
Yesterday I was practicing Moon on the neighbor's barrels. She has a bunch of barrels set up randomly on a 5-acre lot. One thing I have learned...there's a time to work a horse on an exact barrel pattern...after all...they kinda need to understand the pattern...but for the most part...it's really about teaching a horse to travel in a straight line TO the barrel, rate and turn.
Practicing an exact pattern on a semi-finished horse like Moon...well, he just finds that boring as hell. So what I did was practice coming in a straight line to a random barrel, worked on getting him to rate properly...which means, keeping his body straight, his hips underneath himself, his nose ever-so-slightly tipped in and shortening his stride and then turning the barrel in a nice relaxed manner. We worked on it at a long trot and at a lope.
This is a surprisingly difficult drill for Moon, so I don't over-do it. Just work until we get as soft a feel as he is capable of.
I really had no intention of taking Moon to a barrel race this weekend, but last weekend's runs left such a bad taste in my mouth...and after all...Moon did get a mostly clean bill of health from the vet....and there were some things I wanted to work on at a competition...soooo...
One of the most important things I wanted to work on, that can only be duplicated in a competition setting was getting Moon focused again. It doesn't matter a wit how fast your horse is...when they stop t.h.i.n.k.i.n.g. as they are going in to a run...it's usually a mess of a run. The arena we were running at, was perfect to put my friend's suggestion to breeze him before a run into play...there is a race track around this arena.
And boy...Moon got breezed!
Holy Crap...He was in race-horse mode. We made a lap at almost full speed, I pulled him up and turned him around...thinking he would want to stop to catch his breath or just walk....Oh HELL NO...
We made another lap at almost full speed.
The other girls probably thought I was crazy as a loon....racing my horse around the entire track...not once...but twice.
Most horses would be blowing hard after a run like that...for a horse that has breathing problems...Moon puts most horses to shame. He took a deep breath, sighed and walked off...I got the edge off of him...but that was about it.
I also decided to exhibition him a couple of times. Exhibitioning him wasn't about the pattern so much as it was about making him enter the gate properly, pick up the correct lead and THINK about what he needed to do next. I didn't do anything except slow lope him around the pattern.
Now the day before, while I was practicing...a thought crossed my mind...so when I was done practicing...I came in and watched the Cortez video again...And then I wanted to slam my head into the wall...man, did I feel dumb.
It's no damn wonder Moon has been bowing out of his first barrel...
I still have my inside leg stuck on him and he is just following my cue. To make matters worse, I started doing that bad habit I had last year...taking my hand off of the horn before he completes the turn. I guess I think I can fix the bow if I get both hands on the reins and try to move him over.
I am half way across the arena before I take my right leg off of him and then I go to booting him with my left leg to get him over to he can go around the barrel...to add insult to injury, I am also heaving my left shoulder to the outside.
Ooohhhh crapola! That is the same crap I was doing to Moon last year.
So really my only goal for this run was to keep Moon at a more controlled speed and make myself
#1-Keep my hand on the horn ALL THE WAY AROUND the 1st barrel.
#2-Get my inside leg out of him and apply outside leg as Moon is coming out of the 1st turn.
#3-Get my eyes up, get my 2nd barrel pocket picked and ride straight to that point.
I knew that the primary objective of this run was to get my legs working properly on Moon again and that meant getting my outside leg on him as he was coming out of 1st and getting outside leg on him as he was coming into both the 2nd and 3rd barrels. That's all it take to stop the bow and keep his hip underneath him. Duhhh!!!
I told myself that if at any point Moon felt frantic...I was going to rate him down drastically. I was already thinking cautiously about this ground. It was wet and slicker than I have ever seen it. Spooks had run earlier and didn't have any problems...but Spooks runs very upright and is much slower.
I had requested to run Moon last at this race (Long before I knew how slick the ground was). I wanted as much time between him and Spooks as I could get. I actually needed it...because when I changed horses and headed over to re-warm Moon...he was being ridiculous right off the bat. Know what I did?
Yep...I took him right back out on that track and breezed his butt again. Not quite as fast as I had earlier...but it was still pretty fast. This time, it only took one trip around the track and when I reversed to come back the other way...Moon was way more ready to relax into a nice controlled lope and he got very soft and malleable.
He was a rock-star heading into the arena for his run. He marched right up to that gate, picked up the correct lead and felt soft and in control. I loped him the first couple of strides into the arena and then let him go. The ground had been getting better with every rake and there were a couple of really smoking times, so I figured it was good enough to hold Moon if I let him open up.
And go he did! He inhaled that 1st barrel...My brain was reminding me to KEEP MY HAND ON THE HORN and LOOK at where I need to go...
And then I felt his entire back-end slide out from underneath him. It just shot out to the left. Well...that will make you keep your hand on the horn. Holy Shit!!
There was absolutely nothing I could do except hold onto the horn and sit quiet. I just sat there and hoped he wasn't going to flop over on that barrel. (A horse did exactly that early in the race!) Moon hung for what seemed an eternity, then he stood up and took off running. I picked up my spot on the 2nd barrel, rode him straight for it and let Moon do what Moon does...he wrapped that barrel and the 3rd barrel.
He run a 17.93...His personal best in this arena and he ended up with the 3rd fastest time of the night.
You know...every time I get frustrated because Moon can be so challenging...he pulls something like that out of his bag of tricks and I am reminded of how blessed I am to have a horse like him. There aren't all this freaking special.
Needless to say, I will be calling the farrier on Monday morning and getting those light sliders replaced with his eventer shoes. Some people like slide...I prefer a little more grip. With the way Moon runs...he needs it.
Oh...and by the way...Spooks did his job too, 2nd in the 4D. Both horses pulled a check! God my husband loves hearing that. ;-)