I'm currently hanging out in Sidney, NE...watching a 4-H horse show and waiting for the evening performance. Moon and I are the gunners (1st out) in tonight's performance. I'm so excited!!
We are 3 rodeos down and haven't gotten anything done yet. I was a little depressed after the 3rd run because Moon is simply not clocking.
Our first rodeo was in Monte Vista and it was a WPRA rodeo. Due to a comedy of errors the day before, I didn't get left on Thursday like I had planned. To top it all off, I overslept Friday morning and barely made it there in time to make my run. Actually, the whole Monte Vista thing was just 'weird'. The whole day before had been a mess, I got to MV with barely enough time to warm-up...but in spite of it all, Moon warmed up well and we were ready to go when it was our turn. Moon had a fantastic first barrel and he felt good running into the 2nd barrel....But he was really rating and right when he started to turn, I looked down at the barrel. Doink!!
There is an invisible string between my hand and my eyes. LOL. The instant my eyes drop down...my hand comes up. I stopped faulting Moon for tagging that 2nd barrel quite awhile back and have really been focusing on figuring out exactly what *I* do that causes that little tag of the barrel. It all boils down to just a matter of a few inches of where I 'look'. Moon is rolling into the turn just fine....maybe creeping back into the pocket a little bit, but no shouldering or diving...but if I do not keep my chin up and looking forward...he just catches the edge of the barrel with his shoulder. The instant I drop my chin and let my eyes drop, my hand comes up and Moon just sets his hind leg and rolls into the turn.
So that was that for Monte Vista. I was actually more disappointed at how slow Moon clocked than I was at hitting the barrel. I'm not sure what is more frustrating...having a time that woulda picked up a check or running a full second off of where I know he should be clocking.
The next day we loaded up and headed up to Norwood. Now this is an arena that I know Moon loves and can really clock in. I pretty much figured all we needed to do was leave the barrels standing and we would be in the money. We were also the gunner at this rodeo. That was the only thing that had me a little nervous. The last time we were the gunner, Moon went flying by the 1st barrel because there were no tracks to follow. The saving grace is that this pattern did have a fence right off of the 1st barrel, so I knew Moon would have a reference point.
And we made a smokin run!! The only bobble was on the backside of 3rd. If felt his inside front foot stick a little bit and he had to lift himself out about a 1/2 a stride before he straightened out and left. Other than that....It was just awesome.
When Moon crossed the line and I sat up and eased him down, I was fully expecting to hear a time well into the 17 second mark.
I just about fell off when the announcer said, '18.79'. I thought I misheard him. I was like, 'That can't be right.'...And then the announcer said, 'Those big turns will cost you.'...And I was instantly livid.
WTF was he talking about? BIG TURNS my ass! Moon was 'in' every single pocket and there was NO WAY that 1/2 a stride coming out of 3rd cost us more than a 10th.
Afterward, I talked to several girls I knew and they were as shocked as I was at the time that was announced. These girls know Moon and they know how he can clock. There was NO WAY that the time he ran was a full second off. I was so mad, I even went to the secretary's office to ask them about my time...and of course, got nothing accomplished. What is written down is the 'official time'. End of story.
It's very, very seldom I question anything at rodeos or even the jackpots. I do try to act as professional as possible, but this was too much. Tell me...How does a horse that has a smokin run on perfect ground have a slower time than the year before...when he ran in mud that was over his fetlocks? Last year, we ran and placed in Norwood, in d.e.e.p., sticky mud and he still ran an 18.6. NOBODY that watched that run believed that it was an 18.79.
But it got me to thinking...
I have talked to 3 different girls now who have had horses that were not clocking where they thought they should have been...and all three of them ended up with the same conclusion from 3 different vets...
Pain in the front feet.
I got to thinking about it...You know, Moon has not been clocking like normal for the last month. He's been consistently 1/2 to 1 second off of 'normal'. Okay...I'm used to getting taken out of the money by hitting barrels...or just being a couple of 10ths off...But 1/2 to a full second off?
I mean Moon was pretty consistently running well below the 18 second mark on a full pattern and now, the only run we have had that has been below an 18 was in Montrose...where he still ran 2 10ths off of his 'normal' times there.
I thought about this all the way to Cortez that night and I decided to see how our run in Durango went before deciding to pull his shoes or not. After the last fiasco with the whole shoeing deal, I told myself I would never ignore my gut again.
The next morning we pulled in and got ready for our run in Durango. They redid the ground in the arena in Durango...so even though it had been raining on and off the whole 3 days, the arena was not a lake like it had been the year before. It was beautiful, deep sand. I was stoked. That kind of ground is Moon's forte'. If he can't clock on that...There is definitely a problem.
First was good, 2nd started to be good, but we ticked it again. This time I didn't exactly rotate my head down to look at the barrel, but I didn't keep my eyes up and out far enough. End result...Still 1/2 a second off. A friend video taped the run for me and I could see that Moon is not running like usual. He isn't struggling...but he definitely isn't striding out like usual.
I pulled those front shoes that afternoon.
Now, you guys know I love my farrier. In all this time, I have never felt like he has ever done Moon wrong. He's shod Moon twice since we got back from Arizona and the first time he re-shod him and 'fixed' his feet, I mentioned to him that I didn't really think there was enough shoe under Moon's heel bulbs. It's one of the biggest problems you see in barrel horses. People/farriers are so worried about a little bit of shoe hanging out there and the potential for a horse to step on it when they are running...That they have a tendency to use a smaller shoe or set the shoe forward. My farrier said there was plenty of shoe back there. The next time he re-set Moon, I definitely noticed that it looked like Moon's heel was migrating forward...and not leaving enough support for the heel. The last couple of weeks I have noticed changes in Moon's fetlocks. Nothing that I could pinpoint or even describe....They just looked 'different'. Not puffy, not hot...Just different. It was bugging me...but since I didn't have anything specific to point out to people, nobody else could see what I was talking about and my farrier basically told me I worried too much...
But 24 hours after pulling Moon's front shoes...He fetlocks look normal again and I realized what I had been seeing...strain! He was holding tension in his front fetlocks because his heels were pinched. Moon is a horse with about as perfect a feet as you can get. I have NEVER had a single issue with him in all of these years. And just because he is 15 now, doesn't mean he is automatically going to start changing and breaking down. The level of care this horse gets...he should be going strong into his 20's.
I got some funny looks from people when I told them I pulled his front shoes and left his back ones on. That is not the normal routine. However, Moon does need those back shoes. Without that trailer on there to support his heels, he starts stabbing his toes...Which is the reason I started shoeing him in the first place. Technically, Moon has never needed front shoes. Sooo...I'm going to try this for this next few rodeos. Barefoot in front and shoes in back. LOL. I hope it works.
I have been cold-hosing Moon and giving him some Asprin to help get any inflammation in his front feet out. I really hope this is the ticket...and my boy starts clocking again. He seems much more relaxed and is moving his front end around better.