After looking at the pictures and realizing that Moon is rating way before the 2nd barrel...I decided to implement a tactic I have seen many other girls do with their ratey horses...give him a little tap of the bat on his outside hip when I felt him start to set early for that barrel.
In spite of the fact that you occasionally see girls randomly whomping their horses during a run...applying the bat is supposed to be strategic. Jockeys for race horses know this and practice the art.
I have been watching one girl in particular...and one announcer jokingly and unflatteringly called her 'the bag lady'. It's because she tied a plastic bag to the end of her bat and she doesn't whomp her horse with it...She shakes the bag and the rattling noise is all her horse needs to hear to drive him deep into the pocket. I sort of thought about imitating her plastic bag...but I was afraid it was a little more than Moon could handle. It's not that he is scared of a plastic bag...But Moon only needs the mildest of encouragement. That is the reason I use a bat with a big, flat popper on it and not a string end bat. The popper bat makes a good noise, but doesn't sting.
Normally I carry my bat in my left hand because the only two places I really use it is at the first barrel if Moon is dragging the turn and I'll lay it on his shoulder and tap or right before we cross the eye...Moon has set up on me a few times right before the eye, so now I give him a pop on the run home to keep him trucking until we are across the eye line.
In Salida, I felt him rating before the 2nd barrel and gave him a couple of pops on the left shoulder...but I don't like doing that because I actually think it encourages me to sit up and lift my hand...which is NOT what we want to happen.
No, when I watch other girls successfully use a bat to drive their horses deeper into the pocket, they always apply the bat to the outside hip.
Since I still have to think so hard about remembering to loosen my reins and not start sucking up on Moon on the run to 2nd...Switching the bat from my left hand to my right hand is simply impossible. Not. Going. To. Happen!! LOL.
I took a gamble in Golden the next morning and put my bat in my right hand and prayed that Moon didn't drag that first turn. He didn't. He sucked around that first barrel and shot off for the 2nd. About 3 strides out, I felt him start to cock that hip out and start to rate. I dropped the outside rein, threw my left hand forward and reached back and popped him on the butt. Moon gassed it...
And crashed into 2nd barrel. I don't mean tagged or tapped it...I mean we crashed that sucker!!
The instant I dropped that outside rein and reached back...I knew it was a mistake. Moon just dropped his shoulder and dove into the pocket.
Well, if I had ever had any doubts about the necessity to hold Moon together with both hands...I got that question answered...He's not ready for one rein riding.
Afterward, I spend some time talking to the girl who I was attempting to emulate. She had seen my run and understood what I was going for...We both agreed that Moon is rating too soon and the attempt to pop him into the pocket was a good idea...I just had the wrong length of bat.
To be able to maintain a 2-handed approach to the pocket and still have enough bat to reach Moon's hip, I needed to buy a dressage whip. That would give me the extra length I needed.
Of course the thing with Moon is...While we crashed the 2nd barrel like we haven't done in quite some time...I figured he got the point that rating way the heck back there was not acceptable. Chances are, I wouldn't have to worry about actually having to pop him on the butt again for a few runs.
See, this whole 'using Moon's intelligence' thing in my favor is actually paying off. Before, I thought I had to correct him multiple times and things often went from bad to worse. Now I realize that even if we don't get the end result I had hoped for, once I have corrected Moon at the appropriate time...the next time I don't have to correct him. I can just go back to focusing on the usual stuff.
We were up in Kremmling the next morning, so I had one chance left to see what we could do.
The next morning...I swear Moon was losing his ever-loving mind. It was actually cold up there in the mountains and Moon was shaking like a leaf and charging back and forth on his lead while I was trying to saddle him. I wasn't entirely sure if it was from the cold or if he was having a nervous break-down. He had me a little freaked out and I was kind of thinking about turning out. I can't say that I have ever seen him act so goofy. I decided I would warm him up and see. That is quite possibly one of the hairiest rides I have ever had on this horse. He actually tried to BUCK with me. BUCK!! Moon!!! Those two words just do not go together. Moon doesn't buck. I would have called it quits right there if there hadn't been a couple of other horses acting the same way with their riders. We were all looking a little nervous. LOL.
I just working him, checking tack, working him some more, checking tack again...and working him some more and he finally settled down. He wasn't shaking anymore and I couldn't find a single thing wrong. I had a couple of people watch him move and everybody said he looked fine. I guess the cool air just had him feeling froggy as all get out. **Note to self-Start carrying his light blanket in the trailer.**
As goofy as Moon was acting...I knew full well he wasn't going to need any 'encouragement' in this run. I put the new dressage whip back in the trailer. LOL.
I tell you what...that was a super nice run. Clean, smooth and it felt effortless.
Only problem is...We didn't clock.
Once again, I was shocked at how slow his time was. An 18.62.
I don't get it. Normally when Moon feels like he is just floating along and has smooth turns...He clocks. Heck, even when our runs feel crappy...He clocks. Like I said before...I am used to taking myself out of the money by hitting a barrel...Getting outrun?...That hasn't been a problem before and it's a little disturbing.
I don't know...but it's back to jackpot city for us for awhile. I want to continue to focus on cleaning up our turns and getting super consistent. I think the reason we aren't clocking when we have clean runs is because we are unintentionally safetying up a little to get it done. There is no safetying up in rodeo...unless the ground is bad...However, if safetying up is what it takes to get those clean runs...Then going back to the jackpots at least has the potential to pick up a check in a lower division.
Obviously having such an incredibly sucky year has been disappointing. However...I can't and won't allow myself to wallow in self-pity. I look around and there are 20+ girls who have had a very similar year. One lady was winning everywhere she ran earlier this year and hasn't had a decent run in 2 months...Her horse is consistently turning in front of the barrels and if she does get a clean run, he isn't clocking. Another gal has consistently had the winning time at every rodeo she has ran at...and hit a barrel every.single.time. There is so much more to this business than just having a fast horse and taking a stab at it. Which brings me to a topic I have been thinking about most of the summer...