Friday, August 31, 2012

One Stride

So I made a run on Moon the other day, with the hackamore instead of his bit...

It was so-so...

There was no miraculous change for the better.

Fortunately for me though, the mom of another barrel racer has been taking pictures and unlike a lot of photographers who set up to just get that 'one shot' at 2nd barrel...she is up in the stands taking pics at every turn. It's the first time I have really got to see what is going on at 1st barrel and I found a huge, glaring, technical mistake that Moon and I are making that is without a doubt the root of all the funky stuff that is going on.

We are missing our Action Point...

Look at where this horse's inside hind leg is in comparison with Moon's...

There is about a full stride difference between them and that is H.U.G.E!!

If you think of this single photo with the context of impulsion and speed behind it...It's not hard to see why Moon is having a bowing out problem coming off of the first barrel...

Moon is already striding out of the 1st barrel at a run...however because he hasn't completed the turn...I am pulling on his head and creates a bow in his body.

The red dun horse took another stride and all his rider has to do is bring her hand over and he rolls right into line with the 2nd barrel.

The bowing problem is really why we are having such a hard time getting to the 2nd barrel in good form, which doesn't leave me (or Moon) much time to get prepared for that turn. But for the life of me, I did not realize it was because Moon was missing his Action Point at 1st barrel. I have been so frustrated because I have worked and worked on my hands, thinking that is the problem and struggled to remember to use my outside leg...But when a horse leaves a barrel in this awkward of a's really difficult to get yourself in the right position. No wonder I kept feeling so left behind...LOL..Here I was resorting to pulling because in my head I knew Moon wasn't finishing the turn...but I couldn't figure out why. Duhhhh!!!

At the clinic, EW kept telling me to ride Moon through the turn and more than once he asked me if I knew where the Action Point was on 1st barrel...Which I do...And I thought I 'got' what he was trying to tell me...I just didn't realize we were missing it by this far.

Well...another problem that can be resolved. I have spent the last couple of days working on correcting Moon's strides around the 1st barrel and it's pretty obvious, he thought he was doing it right all along. Getting him to take that extra stride before leaving has been a bit challenging.

EW doesn't employ 'drills'...but I have pulled a few out of my notebook and the one that seems to work the best is one that uses a counter-arc at the rate spot, a counter-arc at the top of the barrel and a stop and 360* turn-around at the Action Point. Once Moon started to hold his body position correctly and started honoring his position through the turn, I dropped the counter-arcs, then I dropped the full spin and just went to a  stop and 90* turn at the Action Point.

The goal is to re-establish 3 strides around the barrel. Horses cannot count of course, but they rely on muscle memory to perform, just as much as the rider does. Moon is pretty fanatic about hitting his Action Spots at the 2nd and 3rd barrels...regardless of how wonky things can get going into those turns...He almost never misses getting his inside hind foot(feet) placed, so he can leave properly...

2nd barrel... See how Moon is pulling his inside hind leg up to get to his Action point?...

Even though he did not have good body position coming into this barrel, once he starts his turn, he scrambles to get his feet into the right position.

Nailed it...

Coming around 3rd...See Moon's inside hind foot coming up? When that foot plants...he rolls over it and leaves the 3rd barrel...

I know people think I am too technical and that I should just learn to 'feel' the run...But that is simply not how I function. I have spent the majority of my life teaching young and green horses how to move technically correct...Instilling in them exactly how to place their feet and exactly how to move each body part. When they are correct...It 'feels' good and is so much easier to ride. Some people have the ability to 'feel' a horse into technical correctness. I can do that on colts and greenies...I haven't learned how to do it at competition speeds yet. So until I do...I am going to have to focus on getting the technical end of it right first. Moon is no dummy either. Once he figures out that taking that one extra stride makes his job easier...He will hunt it, just like he does on the 2nd and 3rd barrels.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Bad Weekend much for feeling lucky...

What a total bummer of a weekend...I hit barrels both days on Moon and Spooks kept getting edged out of the money in his division.

First up...Spooks...

I was a little nervous about how Spooks was going to handle such a big venue. For the most part, Spooks is a laid-back, take-it-in-stride kinda horse. However...he is not a total dead-head. He CAN ramp up. Since I didn't think there was going to be any open riding time in the indoor arena, I decided to run Spooks in Friday night's race. I wasn't pre-entered for that, but there were no late entry fees for that race, so I figured what the heck...

Spooks went in and did what Spooks does. He handled the ground very well and was literally just a few hundredths out of the money that night in the 5D, which is his usual 2 seconds off the fast time (this race had 1/2 second splits all the way through the divisions). I was still happy with his run...figured the next day I could just ask him for a little more and he was a shoo-in for some 5D money and probably the average. He ran a 17.5 (something).

Saturday's run rolled around and Spooksy old boy was really nervous. I got off and just stood by him til it was time to run. When he started his run...I realized just how on the muscle he was. He was running really, REALLY hard to 1st barrel. I have never really had to rate Spooks at his barrels...he just doesn't need it since he can't run very fast...and I wasn't really prepared for him to run that hard to the first barrel. Now...Spooks running hard to first barrel is still nowhere f.a.s.t....but I knew it was more speed than he was used to handling in the turn. I thought the best thing to do was to let him start his turn, float a step or two out and then pick him up to finish the turn. It almost worked, but right when I went to pick Spooks up, the flash for the camera went off and poor Spooks lost it. He went flying sideways out of the turn.

I finally got him rolling in the right direction but he was lost...getting around 2nd was more than a bit rugged. Spooks finally found his stride going to 3rd and turned that like normal. He lost almost 2 full seconds. He ran a 19.0. Total bummer!

Sunday, I was prepared for him to try to run too hard to the 1st barrel, so I just kept telling him 'easy, easy' all the way to the barrel. He made his usual run and popped back up to a 5D time. He ran a 17.6 (something). Things were looking good for the 1st 300 horses...Spooks was sitting in the last hole of the 4D. I knew that chances were, someone would come in and run a 15.5 and that would pop Spooks into the top of the 5D. He was already sitting too far out of the average, so no prizes there. Unfortunately...someone came in and ran a 15.40 and just like that Spooks was out of the 5D money. :(

Next up...Moon...

I was soooo pumped to run Moon on Saturday morning. I just knew this was going to be a good run. Moon is feeling good in this cooler weather and I felt all knowed up from the Ed clinic.

Moon came in the gate pretty darned good, lined up and started his run. He was running free and smooth and I could feel he was listening to me. He sank into the 1st barrel and I remembered to m.o.v.e. my hand forward and go with him...just like Ed told me to do. I squeezed with my thighs to keep him moving through the turn. WoW!!...It felt great!!

Just as Moon started to come out of the first barrel...I see my rein gracefully glide over his head.



Now this is what takes the cake...At the EW clinic, Ed told me to get rid of the snaps on the end of my reins because they can cause the rein to flip over a horse's head. Well....I have been running with these reins for 2-3 years now and NEVER had the reins flip over Moon's head. However....

That very morning I dreamed that the reins had flipped over Moon's head during our run and that Moon had taken off running around the arena. No body could get him stopped and I was just clinging to him.

Sooo...I took the damn snaps off...

And look what happens? Uggghhhhhh!!!!!

Well...There wasn't much I could do. I picked up on the rein (all of which was laying on Moon's right side) and sat up. Oh hell no, Moon was in run mode and he didn't even slow up. I thought...I better ride this ride just like I dropped my hand, that was holding the rein, down and just set up there and rode Moon to the 2nd barrel. I couldn't switch hands, so all I could do was set my inside (left) shoulder forward and let Moon make the turn...


He turned the barrel almost perfectly!!!

On the way to 3rd, he started to drift out a bit, so I picked my outside hand, the one with the rein in it and tried to push him over a little like I was neck-reining...but the pressure on the rein pulled Moon out a bit more, so I dropped my hand again and just held on.

By god...He ALMOST made it all the way around that barrel too. If he had been in his pocket...he would have. He just ticked the barrel with his shoulder because he was out of his pocket. It wasn't Moon's fastest time in that arena, but it would have been a very respectable 16.4. LOL...How about that?

The funny thing is...almost no one realized I had flipped my reins over his head. Had some of the local girls ask me what happened at 3rd and they were shocked when I told them Moon was pretty much running on his own.

Sunday rolled around...I decided instead of bothering to put the snaps back on, I would just tape the ends of the reins and tie a little string to them so they couldn't flip again.

Moon was unusually docile during warm-up. Moon is not a 'hot' horse...Oh...he can get stupid...but it's never a good sign when he is overly docile during warm-up. I know he is reserving his energy for having a fit at the gate or running stupidly hard in his run. I can't ride Moon when he runs stupidly hard. He feels like a freight train and throws me around like a rag doll. :(  

He was 1st up after the rake and sure enough he was a bit difficult at the gate. I probably made it a bit worse because I did not let him blow out of the alley like he wanted too. I got a hold of him and made him start walking up the alley. He got mad and started spinning out and backing up, then he would attempt to charge up the alley again. I should have just let him go...dumb, dumb, dumb on my part. He ripped 3 of my fingernails off at the quick. But he finally settled down and pranced up to where he could see the gate and this time...there was no stopping him, he just ripped the reins out of my hands and took off flying. I couldn't do much except tell him 'easy, easy' and let him take the 1st barrel. As he was coming out of it...I decided I had had enough of his charging...I got a hold of him and tried to rate him. He fought me every step of the way...shaking his head and lunging. He was just being absolutely ridiculous. He wouldn't set, he wouldn't round and we hit 2nd barrel. As soon as that barrel tipped over, he just totally relaxed and we slow loped the rest of the pattern.

Now, every single thing I did went against every single thing EW would have told me to do...but I thought Moon was being absolutely over-the-top and was out of control...While I am never happy to tip a barrel...It meant more to me get control of Moon and get his brain back than letting him run like a wild-man.

So not a single check or average prize for me this weekend. Very disgusting!

On the way home though, I got to thinking about a few things...well, with a 2 1/2 hour drive...what else do you do?

Soooo...when the reins flipped over Moon's head and I had no control, he settled into a really cool run...if I had been able to pick his nose up going around 3rd, it would have been clean. When I tried to get control of Moon...he completely lost it...

I think I am going about this all wrong...

Instead of trying to get up over Moon and ride him like Ed teaches...I think I need to just sit back a little bit...throw my hand forward and let Moon do his job. The thing about Moon is...he is always going to T.R.Y.!!! He is a very free runner and very determined to do his job. Ed's very forward style of riding seems to create some anxiety for Moon and it makes him try even harder. Oh shit...the last thing I need is Moon trying harder. I need him to relax and just settle into his run. Apparently he can do that if I just sit down a little and just keep my hand I had to do when the rein flipped.

I dunno...It's worth a shot. I think maybe this is what EW was trying to get at when he told me I need to relax A LOT. It's not like I plan on sitting on my butt and doing nothing...but I sure need to be doing a whole lot less and letting Moon do a whole lot more.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ED-ucation-The End Of Day One

While Moon was resting, I went down and watched other people work their horses. More than once, Ed would point at me and tell me to get my butt over to wherever he was, while he was working with someone else. I don't have a 'rare' problem...the whole not moving my hand and arm thing...there were several others with the same problem. But Ed seemed to take a special interest in making sure I was realizing and recognizing a few other little things that were going on...

One of them being the fact that when I fail to move my hand and arm in rhythm with Moon throughout the also causes me to miss getting any snap at the action point of the turn.

Now...One thing I have to tell you...on Day 1...Ed was in a good mood. He was joking, laughing and working with everyone. Ed is pretty notorious for being moody, so I was taking full advantage of working with 'nice' Ed.

As it started to cool down, I asked him if it would be okay to bring Moon back and keep working. He said if I thought Moon was up to it, but we weren't going to be doing any fast work because we had already worked him on quite a bit of fast stuff in the a.m. and then I had put a run on him. So it was strictly slow work. I was to find out that Ed and I's definition of slow work was a bit different. MY definition of slow work is walking and trotting and a bit of loping. Ed's definition of slow work is working at about 1/2 speed, with a little bit of 3/4 speed. I was in no way concerned about Moon...he was holding up fine and getting steadier at we worked...

What it did teach me is that I am practicing at home at wayyyyy too slow of speeds. There is no way I am effectively learning how to feel and get in time with Moon at the super slow speeds that I work on at home...or even when I go to another arena to practice.

Yes! A person does need to practice at a walk and a trot...but Ed's idea is not to simply walk or trot the entire pattern....he alternates speeds a lot. Walk 5 steps, trot 5 steps, walk 5 steps, lope 5 steps. The hotter the horse, the more walking steps he may have to have it take, the lazier the horse, the less walking steps he may have to take, but just plopping along without transitions doesn't do much to really teach the horse or rider anything.

When we went back to the pattern, Ed got a lot tougher on me. The one thing you had better be prepared for if you ever do an EW clinic is hearing him holler at you to 'get your hand up!'. Sometimes it's really difficult to find exactly what he is screaming at you about in that regard...Even when it felt like I HAD my hand up, he would still be hollering at me. So I would start moving it around...up, forward, up more, forward more. A few times I had to stop and confront Ed...'What e.x.a.c.t.l.y. do you want me to do?' We would argue a little bit and then proceed on.

On one practice run, I had that 'getting slung over Moon's shoulder' thing happen at both 2nd and 3rd barrels. Of course my hand came down...way down...and Ed went berserk on me. But...we DID figure out what was causing that problem...

Once again, it was because my arm and hand were not moving in rhythm with Moon. Instead of moving my arm and hand forward...I was pushing my body forward...too much...the second Moon set to turn, my feet were popping out behind me and I was basically falling onto his neck.

AH-HAH!!! Ed slowed me down...made me get my feet under me, made me drop my heels and told me to open my shoulders and push forward with my chest.

It totally solved the problem.

The next problem to present itself was a particular 'broken in the middle' feeling Moon can get in his turns. To feels like Moon's back hollows out and his hind-end is strung out behind. As I was loping around the barrel, Ed starts yelling at me to stop kicking, so I explained to him about the broken feeling and that I was kicking to try to get Moon to get his hind-end energized again...boy...was I way off base on what was happening with that...

Ed said Moon was NOT strung out behind...he was way deep under himself while loping around the barrel...What was actually happening is that I was not giving him 'energy' through my legs and Moon's ribcage is what has lost energy and his feet were really slowing down.


So we had to talk about that a little bit. Ed explained to me that while rolling my hips down was a proper maneuver to get a reining horse to get up underneath himself and prepare for a was totally inappropriate for a barrel horse...I needed to keep my hip bones rolled forward and create 'energy' through my thighs...doing so would actually liven up Moon's ribcage and energize his feet so he would be quicker through the turns.

I, like a lot of people have the tendency to think that if a horse gets a bit bound up through the turn and loses their 'snap' that the way to fix it is to 'open up the pocket' a little bit. Ed says all that does is put your horse out in no-man's land. The correct way to speed up the turn is to create energy and speed up the feet.

It was pretty amazing the different just that miniscule little move made. Moon suddenly felt free and man...can he get in and out of a barrel when he is freed up and allowed to quicken his feet up. It felt awesome!!

That was the end of day 1. Man, I was exhausted...but in a good way. I took care of horses and a bunch of us loaded up and headed into town for some supper. Before he left for the evening, Ed made sure to tell me to inbibe freely at the bar, maybe that would help free me up for the next day. He remembered well, the fact that after the first day of his clinic in New Mexico...that I had hit the bar. I told him that I sure wasn't as big a mess mentally as I had been the first time he met me, but I dang sure needed a couple of drinks to help absorb all of the info he had imparted on this day.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

ED-ucation...Day 1

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. 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. 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 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...

Thursday, August 16, 2012

*Bouncy, Bouncy, Bouncy*

I am bouncing off the walls in anticipation of the EW clinic this weekend....

The only down side is that our air-quality is absolute crap...
The smokey haze is getting thicker and thicker. As soon as I noticed it, I put Moon on all of his breathing 'meds' and he seems to be doing okay, but I have not worked him in it either for fear of aggravating his lungs.

Oh, my gosh...I feel so sorry for all of the people who have lost so much due to the fires this year. It's e.v.e.r.y.w.h.e.r.e.!!! I fear we have not even begun to feel the brunt of the devastation. Hay prices are skyrocketing...the price of cattle is bound to take a dump because so many people are going to be forced to sell off...and the roller-coaster ride begins. Soooo sad.


Back on a brighter subject though...A little time off has done Moon wonders...
That butt of his just keeps getting thicker and thicker. Pretty amazing that a 14y/o horse is just now coming into his prime.

 LOL...He's getting a bit of a pudgy belly...
Which is all good with me, 'cause after all of these years of struggling, Moon actually seems to be fairly 'happy'. Healthy on the inside makes for a much more content horse on the outside...I've always known's just taken a hellava lot of effort to make that happen for this horse.

Spooks still looks like Spooks...LOL...

Bad angle on this picture...he really doesn't have a 'belly'.

Anyway...I am most excited for the EW clinic. I think I have my head right again on Moon, but definitely need Ed to yell at me a few times to make it stick. ;-)

The next 3 races are all indoors. I am going to have to get my head wrapped around pushing Moon instead of rating him. LOL


I went out on a limb...

I know how absolutely wrong this is of me, but I have such a hard time thinking of Spooks as a 'serious' barrel horse. It's totally and completely unfair of me to think about him as less of a barrel horse than Moon...when in fact, Spooks has proven to be exceptionally reliable and consistent, whereas Moon, although more speedy...has proven to be difficult to attain any consistency with.

I decided to give Spooks a shot at some big money. I entered him in the big Utah race that is coming up. I waffled and waffled, but technically, Spooks held his own at the Cortez indoor arena and placed in the 4D, his usual 2-seconds off of the fastest time, against some very speedy horses. He ran so well in fact, that the next day I had to slow him down because he had jumped a division compared to my district members and we gathered points in the 3D instead of the 4D. The last few races I have also had to let him coast so he stayed in the 4D and gathered the appropriate points for year-end awards....

Anyway, I figured that Spooks is good enough and consistent enough that he does rate at least getting the chance to see how he would place at a much bigger race. The fact that these are held at indoor arenas helps him a lot. Spooks gets outrun...but he doesn't really get out-turned. So smaller pens, with his quick turns should be right up his alley.

The darned horse is so lucky, he may just win big. LOL

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Momma Says...

Sorry, kinda left you guys hanging there for a few days...

I hate's a transition month, like February, ya know? I just want it to get over already, so we can settle into some gorgeous fall weather. I have also been supremely busy trying to locate enough hay to get me through the winter. I gotta tell you's damned scary this year. Hay is already $200-250 /ton and people just aren't wanting to part with it...because they know it's going to go even higher. The guy I usually buy hay from has NONE! Not a single bale off of his fields, as they shut the water off in May and got no rain until recently. He said if he gets ANY hay, it's mine...but who knows if or how much that will amount to. Certainly not enough to get me through the winter. I do have one semi-load coming from Wyoming, but will need at least another 1/2 a semi load. That equates to about 100 of the 800lb square bales. I'm buying as much as I can get people to part with because who the heck knows what next year is going to be like and if I end up with too much, I know I can always sell the extra.

So where was I?

Oh yea...I called my mom about my panic attack at Salida...

Mom says...'Well, if you thought he was going too fast...He was probably going too fast.'

Funny, sometimes my mom opens her mouth and Ed Wright falls out. Either that or Ed Wright is parroting my mom...

Whatever it is...momma and EW seem to be the only two people on the face of the planet that understand that sometimes Moon just runs too darned fast.

I was trying to draw up this fancy, funky little diagram to show where Moon usually peaks in his run and why that sometimes causes a problem...but it wasn't making much sense. Let's just say that *I* have figured it out and it's back to the EW school of thought...'if he's running too fast, slow him down.'

Actually the timing couldn't be better...EW is going to be here for a clinic next weekend. I was planning on taking Frosty, but will take Moon instead. Frosty has gotten pushed to the back burner this last month and he is...well...he is a tish round again. Not to mention, I just have not been able to get much speed out of him. I still think it's there...he just doesn't know how to r.u.n.!

Time for a new game plan for Frosty...

I have some numbers for people with roping cattle. I will be getting with them and scheduling some tracking time, in the next few days. I think Frosty needs to learn how to run a little before worrying too much more about the barrel racing thing. If he learns to track and chase a cow, he's going to have to run a little harder to keep up to the cow...and chasing something usually makes sense to a horse. Running faster to get to the next barrel, where they just have to slow down to make a turn, doesn't always make sense to them. So first Frosty will learn how to r.u.n...and then we will go back to the barrel racing thing.

Bugs and Moon are going to get some cattle time too. Anything I can do with Moon to take his mind off of barrels is a benefit. For Bugs...I am hoping to see how he progresses with the starting him on cattle and being roped off of and then I am going to have a calf roper give him a spin and see what he thinks. I have no doubt Bugs could and would learn to run barrels, but I still think he would be better serviced as a calf, heel, break-away or even steer wrestling horse. I have been hauling the tubby one with me to a few places and people seem to like him.

Myself...right now, I am hating him. The dink almost killed me yesterday...and I am NOT joking. His little 'pull-back' routine went from annoying to dangerous when he pulled back and the lead rope did not snap. He wasn't even tied. I had just looped the lead rope over the top rail of the corral while I washed the mud off of him and Spooks before heading to a barrel race and when he pulled back, the lead rope crossed over itself and snapped tight.

Guess where I just happened to be standing? the worst possible place...between the fence and a horse having a massive idiot attack. It looked pretty bad for me for a minute or so. Spooks was on one side, darned near ready to pull back himself because of the commotion and a 1300lb, pissed off, freaking out psycho on the other.

I went over the fence quicker than you could shake a stick...however, I'm not quite as agile as I used to be and ended up landing on my head and shoulder on the other side of the fence, when the toe of my boot got hung under the top rail. I didn't really care...just as long as I wasn't between the horse and the fence. That big lug would have squished me flat if he had jumped forward.

Alls well that ends well...The lead rope did not snap this time, Bugs regained his composure, I dusted the dirt and manure off and the fat, red toad and I had a come-to-jesus meeting. From now on, he WILL be tied...with 2 lead ropes and a 3rd attached to a blocker tie. Bugs' little gig is up. I just kinda thought he was a weirdo and 'accidentally' snapping lead ropes when he startled at stupid stuff. He's big and heavy enough, that it doesn't take much. Yesterday, I realized that he is doing that crap on purpose and I will absolutely NOT stand for it.

I do have to chuckle though...Moon went through a similar phase quite a few years ago. I had to do the same thing with him as Bugs is going to get...a very stout nylon halter, extra lead ropes and me...hiding nearby with a buggy whip. It's amazing how quickly they decide that pulling back is a really bad thing when *I* am the one going psycho on their butts with a buggy whip. (evil giggle)...

Well, they are brothers ya know? Moon and Bugs...Yep...I see some very similar characteristics between these two and it's all in the eye. They can be totally relaxed and then you see eyes glint and then narrow and you know they are fixing to do something naughty.

Oh, oh, ohhhhh...I cannot forget to tell this...

There are some mexican race horse guys that are boarding at one of the arenas L and I practice at. I got to talking to them the other day about their horses...Ohhhh they have some NICE race horses...and they take exceptional care of them....Anyway...

I was asking them if I might be able to get their pony rider to pony me on my big bay horse. They said, 'Sure bring him over, we'll help.' I am most excited. This is exactly what the big bay horse needs and *I* didn't want to try it until I had someone who was an experienced pony rider helping me. I don't think the big bay is going to give me a lick of trouble, as long as we get and keep him moving. He's uncomfortable moving out by himself and thanks to Levi, he absolutely HATES the round pen. I do not want to dredge those memories up for the horse, so instead of trying to make him conform to how most horses get started...we are going to conform to what makes the big guy the most comfortable and that is...moving out, with another horse to give him confidence. I think this is going to work fabulously and am dying for Monday to roll around so I can get started.

Thanks to Bugs' freak-out episode...I was late getting to the barrel race I was heading to and wouldn't you know, I drew the gunner position on Spooks. The poor horse was barely warmed up and not quite in the right frame of mind yet when he had to run. It was not our most stellar performance. Picked up a few points...which ties Spooks for reserve in the 4D for this association. Unfortunately, the same gal that I am running neck and neck with in the other association, is kicking my butt in points in this association. I doubt I can catch her, especially since she picked up a whole bunch more points to my few at this race.

I did not run Moon. We have had a lot of smoke in the valley again and his breathing was on the heavy side. I figured Moon deserved a weekend off. We have 4 big weekends left in the season. I want him well-rested, his mind right and me riding him right again...Hopefully we can finish the year with a bang instead of a whimper. ;-)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Oh how these summer days go by...

Last weekend was the last big 'rodeo' weekend...

As I posted earlier...Moon's breathing was not good and he was well out of the money at Rifle. I hit him with another breathing supplement and some immune booster that night and the next morning...

Loaded him and Spooks up and drove to Delta for an NBHA run. I didn't know if I was going to be running Moon at that race or not. I wanted to warm him up first and see how he felt.

Luckily, he seemed to be back to normal, so I put a run on him. My riding was a tish wild going into 2nd barrel. Moon started picking up speed as he as approaching the barrel and I sat pretty hard and pulled. NOT what Ed coached me to do. LOL

Moon was running so hard though, he actually ran past 2nd somewhat before he could get turned. I have to say...In the long run...I much prefer him to run past a barrel a bit than try to overturn like he usually does. He placed 4th in the race with a 17.98. He's had a lot better runs in this arena, but I wasn't pushing him. After all, he had a long ride and a rodeo run later that night, so I was pretty happy. If we can just keep putting some runs like that together and continue to pick up a few points, I think I can get him into the top 5 of the 1D. That would be cool.

Spooks went out and made a smoken' run...which was a good thing. He jumped up from his usual 20.2 to a 19.8. He won the 4D and picked up 5 very critical points. He is now leading the 4D by 2 points now. Just gotta focus on letting the black horse keep doing what he is doing and we should be golden.

Once the boys were taken care of, I loaded them back up and we headed over Monarch Pass to Salida.

Although I got there plenty early...I didn't get a chance to ride in the arena. The county fair was going on and they had lots of stuff going on in the arena. I was fairly disappointed. It's not so much that Moon needs the chance to see a new arena as it is, I am figuring out that I need to actually be able to get in the arena and get a chance to judge the distance between the barrels.

My sit down and pull incident from earlier in the day had me a little worried. That is not the kind of riding that works on Moon. I just kept telling myself that all I need to remember to do is get up over Moon and rate him with my hands up where then need to be.

When it was time to run...I had a little bit of a problem getting Moon up to the gate. He wasn't spinning out or freaking out...there was just a whole lot of activity around the gate...lots of people on horses and lots of people on foot. Moon kind of kept stalling out. This is just something we are going to have to learn to deal with at these smaller rodeos. I have stopped worrying about the time factor about getting in the gate so much. It seems that as long as the gate man can see you coming, you are not going to get flagged out. The announcer kept talking about how getting these horses lined up to start their run is like lining up a sprint car at the light. Luckily a girl I know was there and she rode up to the gate with me. Once Moon could see into the arena...he was fine. He lined up and was ready to go. There was a long score from the gate to the timer, so I kept Moon gathered up and rated down until we were well into the arena and then let him go.

Man...that first barrel felt sooooo good. Moon rocketed out of there perfectly in line for the 2nd barrel...

I picked up my spot on the 2nd barrel and let him roll. When Moon comes out of 1st this nice and straight...there really isn't much I need to do except keep my eye on my spot, get my other hand on the rein (about 1/2 way across the arena), ride him into his pocket, sit and lift my hand...

Moon does the rest.

Everything was just Moon was coming into the 2nd barrel, he was still building speed. I picked up on the reins and it felt like he just got stronger...

I had a total and complete panic attack.

I sat down and pulled. As soon as I did, the thought, 'oh shit...that's not what I need to do' flew through my head and I loosened my grip on the reins...but the damage was done...

2nd barrel went over.

Honestly, I don't think it was so much the sitting down and pulling that caused Moon to tick the barrel so much as it was me looking down his shoulder. If I had managed to keep my eyes on the ground in front of him, I think he was still in good enough position to make the turn.

He finished his run and had a great time...which made my mistake even more horrifying.

I was really shaken after that run. I know that in the past, I've had a few 'oh shit, he's going too fast' moments and resorted to sitting down and pulling on Moon, but I can't say that I have ever felt absolute panic like I had at that moment at 2nd barrel.

I was so disgusted, I took care of horses, loaded up and drove him in the middle of the night. The next day, I still couldn't shake the yucky feeling I had, so I called my mom.

To be continued...

Friday, August 3, 2012


I was up in the Rifle rodeo slack this afternoon and don't have much to report except that, Moon was not himself during warm-up and ran very slow in his competition run. A full second off of the fast times. Poor guy. He put together a good enough run. He just didn't wasn't firing.

The last time he felt like this was a few weeks back when our air was filled with smoke from fires all around. That time his run in Hotchkiss was a good one as well, it just lacked speed.

No smoke to blame breathing problems on this time, but it was hot and the humidity has been very high...Not 'Georgia' humidity by any means...but it's monsoon season here, so it's quite muggy and sticky. I think the problem was because the slack was run in the middle of the afternoon, when the air is the worst.

I am always conscientious of Moon's breathing. I know his respiratory system is not the greatest...but I take great pains to keep it as peak as I can. It's more about providing proper supplementation than it is about his conditioning program. But even that only goes so far. Today just wasn't our day.

I suspect there are drug therapies...and I even seem to remember hearing/reading something about Charmayne James having to give Scamper some sort of breathing treatments before his runs after he suffered a respiratory illness. Right now, I guess I am just going to have to be more careful about the times of day that I run him until the humidity passes.

We are up in Salida evening performance. Hoping all will be back to normal.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Three Days On The Road-Run #3

Sunday morning found me and the boys rolling in the general direction of home. First we had to stop and make a little run on Spooks...I didn't haul the poor, black horse 550 miles for nothing. ;-)

Spooks is pretty sure that the rodeo life is NOT for him. Not only was he stuck traveling with his least favorite horse, he did NOT like the thunderstorms we drove through, all the activity at the rodeos, booms, fireworks, and he especially did NOT like the sheep. LMAO

Typically Moon is nothing but mean to Spooks and Spooks stays far, far away...Hahaha...You would have thought they were 'besties' the way they acted when they were separated while on the road. I'd like to say that I think they may have become friends, but not really. As soon as I turned them out when I got home, Spooks got as far away from Moon as he could. He's no dummy. Moon is mean as heck to him and just because they were buddies on the road doesn't mean Spooks actually trusts Moon.

So anyway, back to the barrel race. I really cannot afford to miss any more association runs with Spooks. He was sitting 2nd in the 4D standings with more than a few points separating him and the leader. The lady leading at the moment has a very solid 4D horse as well. Since Spooks decided to run in the 3D a couple of times, she got a pretty good lead on us.

Don't get me wrong...I like the other lady. She's super nice. But that doesn't mean I don't want Spooks to win the title. Know what I mean?

When I got there, I got horses unloaded, taken care of and started brushing. I was specifically checking Moon out to see if he seemed sore or stiff anywhere. Outside of a bit of puffiness around his hind fetlocks...he was in excellent shape. Considering the puffiness could have been due to all of the miles in the trailer over the last couple of days, I wasn't too concerned about them. I washed Moon's legs with ice water and slathered on some Mineral Ice. I figured he was in good enough shape to run again. But I had a little bit different goal for him this run.

See...I can only get so many 'fast' runs out of Moon before he starts wanting to drop his shoulder in the turns and flip that hindquarter out. What he needed was a good practice run in a competition setting to get him squarely back under himself and rating properly for the turns.

I am nowhere in the point standings on Moon at the local runs. So I am treating them more like practice runs than competition runs.

Normally, I run Spooks first and then Moon. This time I decided that since I felt pretty in-synch with Moon, I was going to run him first. I got him thoroughly warmed up and then took him back to the trailer. It was about 20 minutes before the race started and he settled in for a little nap. Perfect! It had been a long weekend and I knew he must have been getting tired. I was hoping that he would be fairly docile for this run.

You know...he was pretty good. When it was time, we stood well back from the gate and as each girl before us went, we eased up a little more. Moon was walking right up there. When it was our turn, he tried to spin out, but I didn't let him get away with it. I spanked him on the butt and as soon as he faced up to the gate, I started talking that ridiculous baby-talk to him again. He crept up to the gate as nice as you please. Now...when I say crept, I don't mean, didn't want to go and drug his feet...He crept like a cat stalking his prey. I just kept talking to him and kept a hold of him as I eased him into his run.

I DID NOT want a full on rodeo run. I wanted a nice, relaxed, practice run. That's what I got up to the 1st barrel. Moon was stretched out, but not running hard. He turned that barrel about as pretty as a horse can. He came out with a nice straight body...but I didn't let him go.

Instead of starting to really push him...I kept him rated up. Oohhhh...he did not like that. He was straining to run. I was straining to hold him down. We struggled across between 1st and 2nd and I got my way. What I really wanted to do was to make sure that Moon was rating into that 2nd barrel nice and straight. I also wanted him to open the top of his pocket up by about 1 foot. I think that will make a difference on whether we get more consistent getting around that 2nd barrel or not.

I rolled him into that barrel exactly where I wanted him, in position and with controlled speed, he turned that barrel so smooth and quiet.

Problem was, he ticked the barrel with his hip on the way out. That's when I made a really big mistake...

I looked back. (NEVER look back!!)

I have no idea why...I never look back at barrels. Guess I should say...almost never, cause I sure enough did this time. Dohhh!!!

Moon was rolling along pretty good and even though I immediately realized my mistake and whipped my head back around...3rd barrel was r.i.g.h.t. there and *I* had not given Moon enough pocket to get around hit. I rated him as hard as I could, but he ticked the barrel with his shoulder and it just sort of plopped over.

UUggghhhh...I was SOOOO MAD at myself.

I slow-loped Moon home. Ahhhh...from hero to zero with one backward glance. LOL

Wanna hear the disgusting part?

His time was (would have been) an 18.08. Hahahaha...All that won it was a 17.89. If I had left that 3rd barrel up and just let Moon run home...he would have won the damned race. He lost at least 2 tenths on his time by slow-loping home. But once that barrel goes's there was no reason to run him home.

Now doesn't that just make you sick?

However...on the bright side...As much as Moon did not appreciate it...I did manage to keep him at a speed that *I* wanted him to be at. Kept his body straight going into his turns, opened his pocket up just a tish and outside of ME not placing him where he needed to be on was a really good training exercise and something I plan on working on more.

Not making excuses...because you should never look back, but after making a couple of rodeo runs...I sorta forgot that 3rd barrel wasn't very far away on an association pattern. Rodeos generally set their patterns to the size of the arena, which means that 3rd is usually way and the hell and gone up at the other end of the arena. Associations generally set their pattern to a standard size, with equal distances between 1st and 2nd and then the same distance from 1st to 3rd and 2nd to 3rd. In general speak...several strides less from 2nd to 3rd than what you get at rodeos. It was still a dumb mistake...but I won't be making that one again for a long while. ;-)

Now poor old Spooks got drug 550 miles just so he could go out there and do what he does. And he did. He was out of the money, but picked up those oh-so-valuable points...closing the gap between me and the leader to just one point. Go Spooks!! I really want to win that year-end saddle. :-)

I hung around just long enough to take care of the horses and while they were eating their afternoon  snack, I watched a few more runs and visited with friends. That in-itself can become a dangerous thing to do. When a plan does not come can often garner unsolicited advice and even subtle negativity. But that subject is worthy of it's own post. ;-)