...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 every.single.day. 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...
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 incredible...at 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 out...it 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... ???