This year I was prepared for the Ed Wright clinic and had some very specific goals in mind. Most of the summer, my intention was to take Frosty and basically have Ed help me get him speeded up and sort of give me an assessment of 'if' he thought Frosty has some potential. Now...you have to realize that asking Ed if any horse has potential is a loaded question. Ed believes, as I do...that ANY horse can learn how to be a barrel horse. I mean...come on...the basis of barrel racing is teaching a horse a pattern. Horses are exceptionally good at learning patterns. They are after all...creatures of habit. So ANY horse can be taught to run around a barrel pattern in a proper manner. It's a whole 'nother ball game when it comes to actual talent.
But...as it came down to the wire, it has become apparent that I am losing ground with Moon. We are not as debilitated as we were by the end of last year, when I first met Ed. But things have gotten muddled in my mind and I am kind of back to feeling a bit lost and uncertain when it's time to run Moon.
I wasn't sure if Ed would remember me from last year or not, but he did and we had a nice little visit before things got underway. Since I had a barrel race to go on the same day, Ed got me and a couple of other girls rolling immediately. I explained to Ed that the last time I had run Moon, I had had a full on panic attack at 2nd barrel and felt very uncertain about what I should be doing again.
We started from the basics. Ed had me start at a long trot. Once around the pattern and he stopped me. It was pretty obvious I had no idea of where exactly I should be rating Moon for his turns, so Ed dropped some cones at my rate spots and we went again. That was much better. I hit my rate spots.
Moon and I have come a long way in that regard. MOST of the time. My hands have gotten a whole lot better and Moon is getting good at correctly and appropriately shortening his stride.
What I was missing was including 'shaping' Moon at the same time I was rating. I was rating him, THEN trying to shape him, which of course meant that Moon was entering his turns with a straight body and THEN I was asking for shape. That throws a lot of things off when you are doing it with speed. It was causing Moon to enter the turn with a board straight body and when he did give me shape in the turn, it caused him to have to slow his feet down.
Okay, so Ed got that fixed. Rate and shape at the same time...That was a big improvement.
Next was getting my hand, shoulder and body to follow through the turn and then create the 'snap' at the action point of the turn, which causes the horse to push off in a straight line for the next barrel.
That was a HUGE sticking point for me. I have become entirely locked up through the turn. I get my hand set in what I think is a good position and then I simply don't move again until Moon springs out of the turn. I'm not exactly hurting Moon...but I am not helping him either. I was telling Ed that most of my pictures this year show Moon with a cocked jaw as he is turning the 2nd barrel and sometimes even on the 3rd barrel. I showed him the pictures I had like that. Ed told me that was happening not because I was pulling on Moon, but because I was not riding the turn in rhythm with Moon, so he was hitting the rein and getting bound up. It's not about loosening my hold on the inside rein, it was about lifting my hand off of his neck and letting my arm move in rhythm with Moon.
Ed getting me to shape Moon at the same time that I was rating him helped...but I sure enough struggled with mobilizing my arm enough throughout the weekend. Ed tried to help me mobilize by having me place Moon about 10 feet away from the barrel and facing away. Then he holler instructions at me...walk (away from the barrel), turn left, turn right, trot, walk, turn and runnnnn around the barrel. Not surprisingly, when I wasn't focusing in advance on turning the barrel, my arm and hand were quite mobile.
Ed apologized to Moon for making him have to work that hard. He told Moon he was a very 'neat' horse and that it wasn't his fault that I was a complete dink. LOL...I have to agree with Ed. He's right...Moon doesn't need that kind of crap...but I do and unfortunately sometimes Moon has to work extra hard so I can become a better competitive rider. One thing Ed finds a bit of a conundrum is the fact that Moon is a 'college-educated' horse and yet, I seem to be stuck in 'high-school' mode. The reason Ed finds this a conundrum is because I have done all the training on Moon. The horse is light, responsive and I can place each foot exactly where I want it at pretty much any given time with the flick of a finger...For some reason, I totally lose my 'feel' for the horse at high rates of speed and instead of utilizing the buttons that I, myself, have installed....I went from over-compensating to non-functioning. Ed says I need to have a little more faith in my training and learn to trust myself more. Ed pointed at Moon and told me...'That horse is there for you. He is ready and willing to do whatever you ask him to do and will do it without fail and without reservations...And YOU (he points an accusing finger at me) had better figure it out because he is a r.a.r.e. quality of horse.'
That was about all we had time for before I had to load up and head to the barrel race. I wasn't really planning on running Moon because the air quality was so poor, but he warmed up well and seemed to be comfortable so Ed told me to run him at the race and see if there was any improvement.
One of the things I realized while practicing was that I was sending Moon into the 1st barrel in an unflattering position. Since he has been running so hard...I have taken to sitting down a few strides out from the barrel and telling him 'easy, easy'. Of course, then I just set my hand and let him kind of slide around the turn. It's kind of been working for us...but when Moon's front feet slipped at Westcliffe, I realized that I really wasn't helping him much in the turn. Working with Ed, I realized I needed to go back to riding him in a more proper manner, so I could keep him stood up throughout the turn.
When I sent Moon into the arena to make his run, he was very quiet and relaxed. I realized immediately that he thought we were still practicing. The second that thought went through my mind, Moon realized this was the real deal and grabbed another gear. His ears had been up and he was waiting for me to tell him what speed to pick and the moment he realized this was an actual run, he pinned his ears and squirted forward. I let him roll, but I kept him gathered up. Instead of sitting down like I had been, I stayed up in the saddle and worked on rating Moon the way we had at the clinic. Moon wasn't quite ready to listen to me in competition and we went squirting by 1st barrel. I knew Moon had simply been waiting for the cues he had gotten familiar with (the sit down and the 'easy, easy'). He wasn't rated OR shaped and 1st barrel was an awkward V. Moon started blowing sideways in his run across to the 2nd barrel and for the darned life of me, I could not make myself get my left hand off of the horn and on the rein. About 3/4ths of the way across, I thought, 'You had better do something here dummy or he is not going to be able to get to the right side of the barrel.' LOL
I got my left hand off the horn, got Moon shaping the other way and at the last stride, he got on the correct side of the barrel. He whacked it pretty solidly with his shoulder and I saw the barrel start to tip. In my head, I am screaming to myself...'Don't look, don't look...find your spot.' My eyes dropped to the ground in front of Moon and I kept him moving. He rolled around the turn in perfect time with the barrel that was tipping over. I never looked back, but I heard everyone screaming...'It's up, it's up.' so I just let Moon roll. 3rd barrel was awesome.
Okay...So I have to tell you, I sort of saw out of the corner of my eye that the tipping barrel was basically rolling around the turn with the exact same motion as Moon had in his turn. Everybody said that it looked like it was going to fall over, but when Moon left the turn, it was like the wind from his departure just finished rolling it a full 360* and it stood right back up. LMAO!! How freaking funny is that?
I honestly believe that ONLY reason that barrel did not tip over was because I refused to look at it. Instead of him bumping it and me looking down at it and pulling him up...which would have made him hit it even harder. I MADE myself keep forward momentum going and just pushed him on around it. Centrifugal force!
It was not what I consider a nice run...but Moon ended up with the 4th fastest time...and in his favorite position...one hole out of the money. LOL...I'll take it at this point because at least I MADE myself t.h.i.n.k., instead of just sitting there and letting everything go to hell.
Spooks went in, did his thing and picked up a check and more points. We are holding our lead in the 4D. Which is my basic goal at these runs. However, there is much more I need to talk about when it comes to running Spooks. I don't really talk about him much and there is a lot more to him than I have bothered to mention. *I* did not have Ed 'help' me with Spooks, but he did get a chance to work with the horse...but that deserves a separate post.
When we got back to the barrel race, I gave Moon a chance to eat and rest in the shade. It was hot and I wanted it to cool off a bit before we went back to work with Ed.
To be continued...