It's not just the days that fly by here...It's the entire week. Here...and then gone.
I didn't put a weekday run on Moon this week. He's doing so good, outside of not being in top condition, that I don't see any reason to keep testing the waters. I might be a tish fearful that I am going to run out of clean runs...And I sure hate to waste any and all of those that I have on practice. :-)
Moon just needs a lot of loping to bring his wind up and we've been working on some stuff in the desert that definitely involves him getting his heart rate up.
I totally forgot to finish a post on a very exciting contact I made in December. A Mr. Floyd Bolton contacted me via email in regards to the practice barrel pattern I posted on...oohhh...like 5 years ago now. The Ultimate Practice Barrel Pattern. This pattern is directly from an article that was written in the mid-80's about the Bolton Training Pattern and it is the patterning technique with which I use to start all of my barrel horses to this day. Mr. Bolton has since retired from the barrel racing world, but still, to be contacted by such a great trainer?....Pure awesomeness!!
Even better was the fact that Floyd gave me his phone number and asked me to call him. Once I got my nerves under control, I did just that. And what a fabulous conversation. Floyd gave me all sorts of insights into barrel racing and some tips to work on with Moon.
One of those being that I need to work on being able to lope him in a straight line and shape him and then be able to move him into the direction he was shaped and away from the direction he was shaped, while he is still traveling in a straight line.
Moon's worst tendency is to get stiff as a board, especially going to the left, and the instant I pick up on him, he wants to turn. There is very little to no; run straight, shape, get in the pocket and then turn. Moon is all; run straight, turn!. It's hard on him physically and hard on me too, cause even when he's doing better, he still jerks me around quite a bit.
That was one of the problems I was having a hard time getting through to EW. I sort of knew what Moon was doing, but I wasn't getting any help trying to figure out how to work on it OFF the barrel pattern. And I don't mind saying this...Moon does NOT need more patterning. The horse runs a perfect freaking pattern almost to the stride...every.single.time...as long as I don't do something stupid to yank him out of it or do the wrong thing and not get him a.r.o.u.n.d. the barrel. What I needed was some help figuring out how to work on this and get Moon a little softer OFF the pattern. Mr. Bolton enlightened me on how to do just that.
When I tried to do it as Floyd told me to, Moon just lost his mind and started charging all over the place. I was like, 'No wonder I'm having problems during my runs'. Geez!!! So I broke it down so it was a little easier on Moon. We start a nice circle and of course Moon knows how to lope a circle and will pick up and hold his frame nicely, then we just ease out in a straighter and straighter line until we are loping along across the desert. Then I break Moon down. Let him walk along for a little bit and get his air, then we pick up a circle the other direction and do the same thing.
This did not go as smoothly as it sounds at first. The instant I would ask Moon to widen his circle and straighten out, UP would go his nose and I'd instantly get a stiff jaw. It took a loooottttt of correction first day for goofball to get tired enough to settle down and start trying to keep that nice soft jaw I was looking for. I don't care about head position and I wasn't doing much to rate his speed, other than to keep him from bolting off. All I wanted to feel was Moon maintaining that soft lower jaw while he cruised along. Once he would do that for a 1/4 mile or so, winding through the desert, I'd break him down and let him air up. Let me tell you...Moon can cover some ground. LOL. It's really good for him to have to cover some ground too. It frees him up, but it also teaches him that HE is responsible for controlling his speed, not the arena fences and all of the bushes out there means he has to actually think about what he's doing and where he's going. He ran through a few of them before he decided that when I asked him to move over, I probably had his best interest at heart. LMAO!!!
It's such a simple exercise, but man, will it tell on your horse when you start doing it. It's probably a little more difficult for a horse like Moon who is both, made a little straight behind AND is very lazy. Not lazy, like Frosty is lazy, but lazy in that he doesn't really think he needs to hold a more correct position. Moon is perfectly capable of carrying himself in a nice frame; slightly lifted back, engaged hindquarter and a soft jaw...But he prefers to flatten out over the top, stiffen in the jaw (which causes him to brace on his lower neck) and let his hind legs get out behind him. It's a common problem with horses that are made a little straighter behind, like Moon is. It requires a little more effort on his part to stay gathered up and stay soft and he really doesn't see why he should have to. It's much more efficient and energy conserving when he just gets to travel flat and stiff. And we all know that Moon is Mr. Efficiency. His life motto is, 'How can I get this job done with as little effort as possible?'.
Moon really hates me right now because he's not getting away with doing it the way he prefers...But oh well. The way *I* want it done is better for him in the long run. He's starting to figure out, again, that he can give me some shape without an instantaneous change in direction and that was the goal that Floyd said was important. Having that discussion with Mr. Bolton and then working Moon on this particular tendency reminded me that you always need to train against a horse's natural tendencies during the week, so you can go make that one (or two) runs on the weekend and not have to work so hard to make it happen. Moon's natural tendency is to want to be stiff and flat. So all week long we work on softness and suppleness and then when we go to make that competition run, even if he only gives me 50% of what I asked for during the week, we are golden.