After my run, I took care of Moon and lounged around awhile thinking about how freaking awesome Moon had just felt on that run. I've had winning runs on him and nothing has ever come close to feeling as right as what had just happened. The first year I went to EW, he told me, 'You want it too much. You need to just let it happen.' CZ had also told me that I was wanting it too much and riding too hard, but she explained it in a way that my overly-analytical mind could comprehend. She told me, I was over anticipating things that hadn't even happened. I needed to just sit down a little, relax and feel what my horse was doing. She had watched me ride Moon and had me do a few exercises...to gauge just how responsive Moon was to my body. The fact is, I can ride Moon with just my body. That's how I train a horse. The reins are just a back-up. CZ was impressed and asked me why I worked so hard to control Moon through the reins (during a run) when I had a horse that was so light and responsive just shifts in body weight?
Honestly, I had no other explanation other than EW encourages people to ride the head and the body will follow. Again, I want to make it perfectly clear, I am not bashing EW's teachings!! He got me through a very tough spot with Moon and I learned A LOT from him. It was my own failure to adapt what he was teaching as Moon's running style has evolved. As Moon has gotten more solid, *I* should have felt when it was time to back off and just let him run. It's not that I didn't trust Moon, it's that I got fixated on perfecting what I thought I was supposed to be doing...and I never felt like I was getting it right. CZ's help reminded me that it doesn't matter if what I do is perfect or not...It's about doing just enough so that your horse gets around the barrels.
The next morning, I was up and ready to roll. I was dying to find out if I could replicate Moon's run from the day before...sans the causing him to blow off of the first barrel thing. Could I get a good run by simply riding his body and not touching his face?
Moon warmed up easy and stood quietly waiting for our turn. I'm sure the edge was off of him because it had been a long weekend already, but I was feeling quietly confident that we were on to something here and I think that your horse can always feel that and it helped Moon relax before our run.
I did exactly what I had done the day before. Gathered him up, kicked him off in the correct lead and the instant I felt him lock onto the barrel, I dropped my hands to his neck. This time Moon really ducked to the right and I had to pick my hands up to get him pointed back at the 1st barrel and then relaxed my hands down again (am going to have to work on gently releasing him for the run and not just dropping my hands). He took off like a shot, inhaled the 1st barrel just like he had the day before. This time I kept my focus, but instead of just letting Moon finish the turn, I swept my outside hand up to the outside rein to keep him straight and that of course lifted my hands up in the air. I felt Moon start to get ducky and divy under me. I'm pretty sure he was waiting for the pulling to start, but I caught myself, dropped my hands to his neck and he lined out to run. I know my left shoulder started to stiffen up as we got close to the barrel because I felt Moon stiffen under me and I forced myself to drop that shoulder. Moon started the turn just a hair too early because of it, but he kept moving forward (funny how they will do that when you are not pulling on their face. LOL) and cleared the barrel. He had to regather on the backside (so now I know what was causing THAT problem!! My stiff shoulder going into the 2nd barrel causes Moon to have a stiff shoulder and drops him on the front-end). I kept my hands down and let him have his head. He rolled out of that turn and was flying to 3rd. Again I felt that damn urge to sit up and pull, but I just wrapped my fingers in his mane again, picked my spot and didn't move.
I couldn't even tell you what that turn felt like...Moon was in and out of there so gosh-dang quick that it felt like one blink we were moving one direction and the next blink we were headed back out of the gate.
OMG!!! FINALLY a clean run again.
Moon smoked the run with a 14.927.
That gave us the 2nd fastest time in the race so far.
I was breathing harder than Moon after that run. LOL. He was all like, 'What? See how easy that is when you just let me do my thing?'
I didn't care where we ended up in that race...That run felt absolutely, unbelievably INCREDIBLE!!!
And not for an instant did I think Moon was going to hit a barrel. If I leave him alone, he knows how to get around a barrel. Now I know exactly what another barrel racer meant when she told me, 'Girls would die to have a horse that turned that naturally.' Of course, that was back when I was fighting with Moon to get him around a barrel and it didn't feel so awesome to me. :-/.
And for the first time ever, I'm not wondering what exactly I did that made that run a good, clean run and I'm not wondering how to replicate it. I KNOW!! That kind of run, Moon and I can make happen over and over again...because he's running the way he needs to be running and being allowed to turn the way he is comfortable turning. It feels exactly the way it should. I'm not up there trying to make a bunch of stuff happen that never felt exactly right anyway. That is what was causing my panic attacks. If Moon was on target and felt good, I was pretty sure there was something I was supposed to be doing, so I would start moving my hands around and inevitably messed my horse up. That's when Moon would start fighting me. He was right all along...I was the one who wasn't getting it right....Which is no big surprise...LOL.
At the end of the day...We ended up with the 3rd fastest time and a nice check. Most importantly though, I think that we finally found our groove. That run felt right, not lucky...and that is the key to finally becoming consistent. You cannot re-create luck, but you can re-create something that feels natural.