Geez louise...This has been a long time coming around...Moon finally won a race. Not by any great stretch, his time was a 16.689 and 2nd place's time was a 16.693. Less than a hundredth of a second...but that's the name of the game in barrel racing.
It's unfortunate that I seem to have to get really pissed off at him to put a run together...and I sincerely hope that does not become the norm. It would take the fun out of competing if that was the case.
The reason I was so ticked at him was the day before, we had been at another barrel race and he just fubared the run.
He was really ready to run...and started out being pretty 'up', but by the time it was our turn to run, I had him nice and relaxed. I knew he was going to fire hard though and I was excited for it. The ground was beautiful and just the way he likes it...a little deep, with good slide. I knew all I had to do was keep driving him into his turns, leave the barrels standing and he would clock.
He did exactly what I knew he was going to do, went straight in the gate and fired hard...the way he does at rodeos. He inhaled the 1st barrel and I thought 'Yea...just get forward and ride!'...but when he pushed to leave the first barrel, it felt like my stirrup was gone. I glanced down and my foot was in the stirrup, but I couldn't get balanced...so I checked Moon to regain my balance...And that dirty bugger....
He just grabbed the bit and charged. I was kind of flopping around a little bit and when he did that, I had visions of Yuma and I said, 'Oh hell no! You are NOT running away with me this time.' I sat up and checked him hard. He was having none of it and I went to ripping his face off. I couldn't quite get him stopped before the 2nd barrel, he dove around that and I really lost my balance....
But I'll tell you what...I got his butt stopped before the 3rd barrel. It was u.g.l.y!...and I really didn't care. He WAS going to stop and that was that! I've had enough of his running off crap.
It's hard to get people watching to understand when Moon hits full runaway mode...and until I put the tie-down on him...I did not even really grasp that is what was happening...just because he does not leave the pattern does not mean he is not running away.
One of the biggest boons for me about putting the tie-down on Moon is that his strides are more measured now. I can actually feel what he is doing and/or fixing to do under me. It's taken awhile to really get the feel of it...but now that I have felt him make several good runs, I knew that when he started charging and fighting me while I was trying to stop him, that he truly had lost his mind and was just running the pattern blindly. That is No Bueno!...and I'm not going to let him get away with it ever again. It's not like I have any control and that is usually when he crashes into a barrel and to be quite honest...It's a real safety issue. If I was ever to come off and get hung up...He would just drag me around the pattern with him. Not to mention that it's just ridiculous that a horse of his age and experience should just lose their mind just because I bobbled in the saddle and checked him a little.
Come to find out when I unsaddled him after that run...The holes in my stirrup fender had ripped out and that is why I couldn't feel my stirrup, even though my foot was still in it. The stirrup dropped like 4 inches. LOL. It's an older saddle and I knew that the holes were pulling. I did try to get new fenders put on it before I left for Arizona, but my saddle repair guy was so backed up that he didn't get it done before I had to leave. The really tragic thing was, I was already taking it in this week to get it cleaned and repaired. The repair guy promised he would save enough time to get it ship-shape before heading to Cheyenne next weekend.
Regardless of the tack malfunction...Moon was very naughty...and he got his butt t.u.n.e.d. on after the race. I really had no intention of running in Sunday's race. I took Moon to the desert for a couple of hours of riding up and down hills and only went to the race to see if I could buy an exhibition (practice) run immediately following the race. I wanted to make sure Moon had his thinking cap on again. Well, the lady that puts the races on was kind of snotty about letting me have an exhibition after the race because they had run exhibitions before the race...but those don't really do Moon any good. The only way to get him to perform in competition mode is to make him think it is a competition run. Believe me...He KNOWS the difference!!!!
I really don't like to make waves at the barrel races, so I said 'Okay, is it okay if we just sit around and soak?'. She said that would be fine. Just as I was starting to walk away, she stopped me and told me that one of the other girls had to pull one of her horses because it got ran into during warm-up and she didn't want to run it. I was thinking...Uuggghhh...I really don't want to pay another $40 entry fee and not win shit, but I went ahead and took the spot. It was a good spot BTW, top of the drag.
Moon was so quiet and docile while we waited. LOL...He was one tired pony. I was watching the ground pretty carefully because we have had some moisture and this arena ground has a tendency to get 'weird'. It can be sticky...but yet, when a horse goes to power out of the turns, they slip....and that is what was happening on this day. Now that Moon's feet are fixed, I know he can handle pretty much any ground again...and in true Moon fashion...the crappier the ground, the better he runs. The ONLY thing he won't run in is standing water. Oh, no, no, no! Standing water is not for Moon. I might as well turn out at those rodeos because he isn't going to do any more than lope the pattern. LOL.
Watching the other girls make their runs, I decided the best thing to do was try to keep Moon out of the pocket a little bit. Easier said than done on Mr. See-How-Tight-I-Can-Turn. There was better grip to the ground about 4 feet out than there was right in the pocket and since I was top of the drag, I wouldn't be getting into anything deep.
For once...it all came together. Moon inhaled his 1st barrel, left without getting stuck or slipping, headed straight for where I was looking on his 2nd barrel and stayed straight and true between my reins. He inhaled the 2nd barrel and flew towards 3rd. Now 3rd is where we have been having a little problem lately. Moon has been wanting to lean before he gets to the turn and I have not been good at picking either of my solutions; I could either pick my hand UP and hold him off the barrel OR I could just drive him an extra stride. Not doing either has resulted in dinging the 3rd barrel...Which has NOT been Moon's fault. I'm not going to say that I did a great job of riding him to the 3rd barrel on this day, but I did pick an option. Normally I go to 2 hands between barrels and for whatever reason, on this run I did not. I just picked my left hand up and pushed it forward...the whole way. LOL. But I never took my eyes off of the spot I picked for him to run to...about 4 feet out and 4 feet beyond the barrel. The tune-up Moon got the day before must have stuck in his mind because he wasn't trying to lean into the turn until we got right to the barrel and then I felt him want to turn. I kept my hand up and drove him on by...by a full stride. LOL. It's exactly what I wanted him to do.
Not everybody was happy with my clean run. ;-). The snippy lady who told me if I wanted to make a run I would have to take the open slot was rather pissy when she handed me my 1st place money. LOL. And interestingly enough, someone I consider a friend, came up to me afterward and congratulated me, but couldn't resist throwing in the comment, 'Just think of what your time would have been if you had got him in the pockets and hadn't run past the 3rd barrel.' I just smiled, thanked her and walked away. Leaving her standing there talking to herself about how much better I could have made my run. I may not have won much when I went to Arizona, but I learned a TON about the power of positive thinking and how much attitude (yours and others) affects you. I was more happy about being able to place Moon exactly where I wanted him in the turns than I was about actually winning the barrel race. If he hadn't won it and we had still had the run that I envisioned in my mind before I turned him lose at the gate, I would have been thrilled. In my mind, he ran the perfect pattern, on this day, in this arena, for these ground conditions. It was just a welcome bonus that it was good enough to win it.