Okay, okay...The truth is...
He's still clocking fairly slow. The winning time at this jackpot was a 17.5 and we ran an 18.5. Which is a 3D time. I am fighting the temptation to feel a little weird about the slower times...And I'm not going to give into it, because...
This was a n.i.c.e. run. Moon fired a little harder than he did last week, snapped out of his 1st barrel a little quicker, ran across the pen effortlessly and then did...(wait for it)....
Actually neither of us did anything wrong. I almost picked my hands up and started to point with my inside hand and then I caught myself and dropped my hands, evened them out and gave Moon a little check with the outside rein and he just glided into that turn as smooth as could be.
I did feel him slowing down as we got closer and I let him. He wasn't bracing, he wasn't dropping his shoulder, he wasn't pushing his ribcage and hip out. He just slowed down like he was a little unsure and was really paying attention to what I was doing up there. We both held our position and Wheeeee!!! around the barrel we went.
He was still galloping along 'til about 1/2 way to 3rd and when I picked my outside hand up and evened out the reins, he picked up speed and he was a lot more confident rolling into and around that turn. I let him stretch out for home, asking for him to run but not pushing and he felt nice and relaxed.
A little reining horse slide in the alley and he strutted out of the gate, not even huffing and puffing. It just don't get much better than that.
Okay...So now I have to tell you the funny part...
About 10 minutes before the barrel race started, I had Moon ready and was just wiling away the time and I got hit with the biggest case of the nerves I have had in a l.o.n.g. time. My stomach knotted up, my heart was racing and I thought I was going to throw up.
It's not all that uncommon for that to happen when I'm running Moon. The thought of running him sort of always makes me physically ill. My hands shake, my legs shake, my throat gets tight and I am a bundle of nerves.
For the most part, I am able to control it once I get on and get my focus on getting him prepared. I try and time my getting on and getting set to run (last cinch and tack check, rubber bands on and bat loop on wrist) so that there are only one or two horses running in front of me. Waiting until the last moment I can to get on has helped keep Moon's nerves from getting the best of him as well and makes our gate entry relatively easy. Tonight I miscounted the rakes and got on one rake ahead of where I needed to and Moon was getting hot. I made him long trot up and down between the trailers, but he would not stop and stand for even an instant. I could feel him getting a little frantic and I had a 'ding, ding, ding' moment. I told him Whoa and pulled his head around. Moon gives easily. I let go. Feet moving again. Whoa and head around to the other side. He gives. I let go. Feet move again. Repeat, repeat, repeat. It took the whole time the 5 racers in front of me ran to get him to stop moving his feet...But he did. He stood, finally took a deep breath and relaxed.
I was the first runner in the next drag, so while they drug the arena, I worked on riding him up, stopping and then making him sweep around. Ride up, stop, sweep around the other way.
By the time they called my name, Moon's focus was entirely back on me, he was thinking and he trotted straight up to the gate and walked in as quiet as you please. Set up and made his run.
This little tactic reaffirmed a suspicion I had from last week. Last week, I did a lot of bending and flexing, back and forth, arcing and counter-arcing and worked Moon up to and away from the gate, back toward and then away from the gate...and he had a nice, relaxed run then too.
Moon wants to get hot and a little radical at the gate and I have been working too hard at avoiding letting him get that way. I have just been sneaking him up there and hoping to avoid any sort of a blow-up. Once I said, 'No, you ARE going to keep your brain and if you don't, your going to work harder.', he gets a little rattled, but when I get after him and make him work, he gets focused and forgets about his nerves.
This is such an important lesson for barrel horses to learn and I was sort of missing the click to get Moon over it. I think this will help me get over my nerves as well. It gives us both something to do, something to focus on while we get mentally prepared to make our run. And I just cannot even begin to tell you how important that mental preparedness is for BOTH parties.
After Moon got walked out, untacked and while I was digging his Back On Track blanket out, I could hear him rooting around outside the tack door and pretty quick, he had the door flung open and was staining against his leadrope so he could see inside the tack compartment. There is NO DOUBT what was on his mind...
Hey, I did good. Now give me my treats woman!!
He got 2 handfuls!! The big dork!!