Monday, June 24, 2013

The Road Goes On Forever....

...And The Party Never Ends...

It hasn't been much of a party for Moon lately. We are working on softness, roundness and impulsion!

Moon thinks he has died and gone to hell.

Just for fun, I went over and had a lesson with my farrier...who is also a reining horse trainer.


He was most certainly NOT impressed with Moon...Or me, for that matter. Somewhere along the lines, I got tired of struggling with Moon and just started letting him travel the way he wants to...and it is nowhere near how it should be.

I pretty much knew that, but...Dang, I get tired of struggling with this horse, so I quit working on the things I need to be working on for the rest of Moon's life.

His nose is out, he's bracing on the bottom of his neck, his shoulders are down, his back is hollow and he is strung out behind in the hock. That's just Moon. My problems are; I go from not asking enough to being too heavy handed, I don't sit down in my saddle and I don't use my legs enough. I guess you could sum it up in one word...TRAINWRECK!!! LMAO!!!

So the trainer is giving me instructions and we are just floundering around...Moon is over-reacting to everything and I feel like an idiot. I know this stuff. WTH????

Well, ya gotta get through it to get too it...So we just kept working and working and working until Moon decided to stop acting like an idiot. The trainer just kept telling me, 'Don't stress, just ask him and let him figure it out. Stop trying to force it.'

It took a little bit, but I finally settled back into 'trainer mode', switched off my 'this is personal' attitude and let Moon start working through things. The trainer noticed and said, 'Thank god. I was starting to wonder if you even knew how to ride.'

Finally, we were able to get down to business. Most of the work the trainer had me doing consisted of lateral work, some bending and working on turnarounds. LOTS and LOTS of turnarounds. The trainer uses a lot of turnarounds to help get the ribcage picked up, the back to round a little and the shoulders mobilized again. We finally got the turnaround mastered, but getting Moon to ride out of it and hold a soft, rounded frame while impulsing from behind...WOW!!! That is going to take some time.

We have been working on it every day, for the last week. I am trying not to over-do it because it is going to take some time for Moon to build up the proper muscling all along his back to carry himself the way I would like for him too. But then we have days like today and it's all I can do not to kill him and we just keep working and working and working until Moon realizes that no matter how radical he gets, it isn't gonna end until he gives me what I am asking for.

When we get to this point, I will be happy...

Ideally, I would like to get to this point...

Mostly what we look like right now is this...
LOL...Okay, so only occasionally does it get this bad...But Moon has had his moments where he is like, 'I'm not giving you nuthin. I'm gonna throw my head up, gap my mouth and put all my weight on my front legs and flip my hindquarters around like a top.'...It's oh so fun when he does that, but it just goes to show just how heavy I have allowed him to get on the front-end.

In all actuality though, I have enjoyed dropping back into 'trainer mode' and getting re-centered again. I enjoy finding the holes and fixing the holes and not always having to think about, 'How does what I'm doing translate into competition?'. It just does in most cases.

Out of curiosity I put Moon on the pattern, with no other intention than to just see what was happening where...and WOW!!! We are going to be taking another week off of competition and just working on s.l.o.w. work. The holes I found are a walk mind you.

He wants to flatten out before he even gets to the first barrel, flip around it and he isn't even out of the turn before he throws that head up and tries to charge out of there. Interestingly enough, his entry to the 2nd barrel is perfect...he drops his nose, rounds and stays nice and soft right up to the point where he starts to leave and then whoop...up goes that head, out goes the nose and he wants to charge off. His entry into the 3rd barrel is good as well, but on the backside, again...up goes the head, out goes the nose and instead of charging off, he drops to a walk.

Now, here's the thing...I really don't care where Moon's head is as far as up, down or level. That means nothing in barrel racing. What does matter is the fact that when he throws it up and sticks that nose means he has lost the lift in his ribcage, the roundness in his back is gone, he's dropped his shoulders and lost all impulsion from his hindquarter.

If he can't control himself at a walk...There is no way he can control himself at a run.

Since a lot of what I am working on, on myself is keeping my butt in the saddle and using my body and legs and lightening up in my hands, I realized just how much I have been holding Moon up going to the first barrel, pulling him around it and then over-riding getting into the 2nd barrel. Ding, ding, ding!!! Moon doesn't have a 2nd barrel problem...*I* do!!! LOL...That is exactly what Ed Wright told me too. LOL...I never said the man was wrong...I just said, that some of the stuff he had me thinking I needed to do was too much. ;-)

I started implementing the turnaround technique the trainer showed me in the areas where Moon is not carrying himself correctly. I think we made a 100 turnarounds the first day, just trying to get TO the first barrel. We probably did another 100 just attempting to get around the first barrel in a soft and rounded manner. Every time Moon would lose his frame, we'd stop and do a turnaround...or 2...or 5...however many it took for him to soften in the face, lift that ribcage up and engage his hindquarter. And then we would go around the barrel again...and again...and again. That first day, Moon was pretty determined he was going to just keep doing it the way he was comfortable doing it.

I've always heard that you should never turn a horse around, into the barrel pocket....but the more I worked on it with Moon, the more I realized that is exactly what a lot of horses that don't want to hold their frame need. All of this arcing away and counterbending?...All we are doing is pushing their ribcage OUT. Not UP like it needs to be. So what we are really teaching them is how to push their ribcages out, which enables them to drop their shoulder in and once that shoulder is dropped, they can get their face away and make that turn however they want to.

By picking up on the inside rein, asking for a little inside bend and then pushing Moon over from the outside, I am able to get his ribcage lifted up and his shoulders mobile again, so he had to round up and drive forward. He is figuring out that he needs to stay lifted up, round and driving through the entire turn AND maintain it as he is leaving the turn. And BTW...It has me keeping my butt down and using my legs more. I'm riding with as light of contact as I can, but Moon still needs a little help holding his frame, but I'm only using my fingertips to encourage him to stay soft in the face and using my butt and legs to squeeze him forward and encourage him to keep his energy driving forward. I swear, the first 3 days, I had to constantly remind myself to stretch through the calf, keep my heels down and create energy with my lower body again. There IS a direct correlation between my picking my heels up and clutching with my legs and Moon losing impulsion. Duhhhh!!! I know you dressage and english people know that one by heart. ;-)

I do want to note...I never once used the word 'collection', when describing all of this. Moon is the king of artificial collection. That horse can tuck his chin, suck his neck in and shorten his stride like nobody's business...and it has impressed a lot of the local barrel racers. LOL. However... He's totally faking it. When he does that, he's not using his neck, has no lift in his ribcage, no roundness in his back and totally lacks impulsion. It looks 'pretty' to the uneducated eye (and I see a lot of girls trying to duplicate it-Hahahaha)...but it's irritating as hell to me, when he does that and what I am really asking him to do is completely different. There is one lady who knows the difference, she's an Olympic level rider and I have talked with her about it once or twice and her suggestion was to get him on some cavalletti...So I'm finally getting around to building my cavalletti. What I am hoping to do is get Moon doing some free-work in the round pen over them, so it's not always ME being the one asking him to do the work. I'm hoping that if he has to work on it on his own as well that it will eventually become more natural for him. Insight/suggestions on that aspect are welcome... ???


Karen Burch said...

If you are looking to build up his topline you might try the Fabtron Deluxe Balancing System. And cavaletti. And walking up hills and trotting down. Sounds like you have your hands full with him.

I like the balance system, because it is hands off and lets the horse find his own balance. Working him in the round pen over cavaletti is a great idea, especially without you on his back, because it does the same thing.

Good luck getting him out of his old habits and into a new form.

Laura said...

Sounds like the farrier/reining guy gave you a lot to think about!

How does that quote go - something about the journey being as important as the destination...?


I've heard great things about cavaletti as well, hoping the hubby will build me some someday! I did try and free lunge Spencer over one in the arena, but he just kept going around it. Trying it in a round pen might work...

Keep us posted - your posts always encourage me to think and ponder things!

Cindy D. said...

Hey where did you find that picture of Trax and I??? (#3) Just kidding of course, but it has resembled that for us more than a few times. Not so much any more, but still sometimes.

I wish i had suggestions for you, but I am light years behind you, and seriously am here for the lessons! :)

kestrel said...

Yes to cavallettis, and also changing things up. Poles in a spoke around the barrel to step over at a walk and then trot...and hide one behind occasionally to get moon looking at where his feet are. If a horse is watching the footing...they collect themselves. Thanks for the clarifying words on collection. Nothing makes me crazier than people who don't realize it is from the spine, not the neck.

Another good thing is the dreaded 'half halt.' Don't know why they decided to call the half halt such a silly name. It should have been called for the horse 'momentary check in with rider because things may change right now dammit.' And for rider it should be called 'give a clear and precise shorthand cue with your body that things may change right now dammit.' To train: proceed in a path the horse knows. At the spot where you want your horse to pay attention an momentarily pause for further instructions,quiet your body, cease flowing with the horse. Reach your legs doooown like you are going to stop it with your feet, check slightly with reins, then relax proceed along path for exactly one or two strides...then change speed, direction, impulsion, anything, but make it random.
Voila. Horse pays attention when you ask, you learn to ask clearly. Hope that helps, you are doing such great stuff!

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

LOL...The sad thing is...I used to show Moon in reining and he was pretty decent at it. So I do know he can travel more appropriately, but over the years, I have just gotten lazy and consistently asked less of him. Too focused on this barrel racing thing and have been around too many people who tell me, 'Don't worry about all that, they figure out what they need to do.'

That very well might be the case for some horses and there are a lot of barrel racers who don't know and/or don't care, but I couldn't take it anymore. Moon was driving me crazy with his increasing tendency to throw that head up and stick his nose out.

kestrel said...

It's also hard on him, so it becomes a vicious circle where he's lazy at the job, gets sore, wants to get the job over with as quickly as possible, so gets more sore...

One of the funnest shows I've ever been at was a small show, I was just training up my hunter/jumper, also showing western pleasure. Decided to enter the barrels, and won it. A horse that can turn in the middle of a jump can damn sure turn on the flat! Had some pretty peeved barrel racers when they learned it was that horse's first barrel race ever. I think the distance between english and western is silly. It's all a human on a horse, for pete's sake. Take whatever works and use it!
You are doing an awesome job with moon, he is a tough horse...but then most of the great ones are!

Cut-N-Jump said...

Instead of the balance system thing as recommended upward in the comments, maybe put him back in long lines. You did this once before with your horses and had great results as I recall.

I had to go and change things up for a while too. Instead of being in the cart- I got back in the saddle. It will be interesting to see how it has affected my driving, since I know driving kinda helped with my riding.

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

I did work him in the long lines for a few days CnJ and I just cannot get him to stretch forward. Regardless of the different ways I have tried to adjust everything, he just wants to scrunch up and not impulse from behind. I'd drive him forward and he would just lose it and rip on his own mouth (have to use a snaffle because he will simply lug on the halter). I put out poles and was working him over them and Ugghhh...He just knocked and rolled them everywhere. That is why I was thinking move him up to the cavalletti. He HAS to pick his feet up and lift up or he's gonna end up on his face. LOL

And you are absolutely correct kestral...He overuses himself when he is not moving properly, gets sore and then really overuses himself even more to get the job done...which NEVER ends well in a run.

And I always have to laugh at barrel racers when they make comments like, 'Well this is not dressage...or reining...or whatever.' Really? LMAO

kestrel said...

With a smart old boy like moon, sometimes you have to up the ante. I had an old racehorse in to train that had resisted retraining, and did NOT wantt to look at his feet, and would freakin' panic if you made him! I finally resorted to lunging him over car tires. I built a lunging pattern along a fence that he could not run through, and spaced the tires so that he had to slow down and walk through them. It was hysterical to watch him try everything in the world not to have to go there...but it served two purposes. That darned horse learned that I would stay after it until he did it my way, and still avoided a saddle fight, and also made him figure his feet out since he couldn't just roll the tires away. Sometimes you have to be crazy inventive. the horse turned out to be a darling. Seems he got his brain unstuck somehow, and never did the old 'brain fry runaway fight' thing again. He even figured out that he kinda liked people. Strange...

BrownEyed Cowgirl said...

Hahaha...That's awesome kestrel!!!

Today was a good day. Moon's resistant and tough minded, but he's not stupid. Yesterday's wrestling match must have gotten through. I anticipate a few more good days and then another wrestling match, but eventually they do get farther and farther apart. ;-)

kestrel said...

That's awesome!

Shirley said...

How is this program working out now, a week later? Would love to hear how it translates to his barrel performances.