Well darn...I didn't extend Moon and I's record to 4 clean runs in a row. Went to the most horridly run barrel race last night...At Westworld...During the Sun Circuit Quarter Horse Show no less...and it was just awful. It just drug on and on and on, the stupid secretary had the 1st draw all messed up and it took her forever to get the 2nd draw posted. I should have been in the 1st draw because I was entered well before the barrel race started...but no, I ended up in the 2nd draw and it was almost 9pm before I ran. The barrel race was supposed to start at 5:30. Just a total clusterf*.
That actually ended up being a blessing in disguise because the ground started out being just crap. The horses just weren't running in it and nobody could really tell why. They all just looked so checked up and hesitant...and it wasn't the riders. By the time I got to run, the ground was much, much better...Horses were freeing up and running and there was finally a run that was under 18 seconds.
I watch how the horses handle the ground, if I can, before I run, but I never really think of it when I'm actually running. Moon can handle himself on pretty much any kind of ground and very often when the ground is detrimental to other horses, that's the kind he likes best. I do my best to leave him the heck alone and let him do his job. Basically all I look for is particularly deep or slick spots where multiple horses have problems and then just try to be mentally prepared for that. I never try to 'help' Moon through those spots. The information that they are there just prepares me to probably expect a little slip or a deeper dig. But as the ground improved, I knew there wasn't any place I would have to worry about him and just put my irritation over the lagging race time out of my mind. You have to. When you make the decision to run, that's it...You just focus on making your run. If you're worried about the ground...You might as well pull out.
After standing for so long, Moon was a little slow to warm up, but after a good long pee and a healthy poop, he freed up and was ready to run. He wanted to get a little goofy when we moved from the outdoor arena to the indoor warm-up area, but I followed my new rule and didn't let him sit in the back corner, I put him to work and we loped a lot of circles until he decided it just wasn't worth acting silly anymore and settled down and got soft. When it was our turn, he trotted right up that alley and was easy to position for his run. He was mentally in the game and ready. That letting him hang back and trying to keep him from getting excited was just hiding the problem.
He fired so hard for that first barrel and when I feel him do that, it just makes my heart sing. He set into his first barrel perfectly and I knew he was going to snap around it. He's figured out that hock doesn't hurt anymore and he is back to pulling that inside hind leg up and just powering through his turn.
And then all of the sudden I was popped straight out of the saddle and was hanging on Moon's mouth for balance. I couldn't even think of anything to do...not much you can do except hold on. Moon's head came up and I literally felt him hang in the air while I was waiting for him to finish the stride and I was like, 'Damn it.' I never could get back in time with him as he ran across to the 2nd barrel, even though I could feel him hesitating...waiting for me to catch up...but I just wasn't in rhythm with him. Moon tried like heck to make a good turn and it was actually not a bad one at all, just a hair short because my timing was off and I caught the backside for the barrel with my knee and it fell over so slow that I didn't even think it was going to go down. We had a beautiful 3rd turn and I kept Moon running for home, even though I saw the barrel had gone down (actually I heard the crowd go 'awww', so I knew it had fallen behind me)...might as well use the run as wind training.
Outside the pen, I was wracking my brain to figure out how/why I got popped out of the saddle and then I realized I saw BOTH of my hands coming up and back when he popped me out and I was like, 'Crap...THAT problem again!'.
Pulled my hand off of the horn before Moon was all the way out of his 1st turn and Moon is so powerful when he pushes off, he just pops me straight up and back. The only thing I have to hold onto is the reins and that is No Bueno!!
I was a little miffed at myself. I haven't done that for quite awhile now and I don't even remember doing it. It didn't even cross my mind to remind myself to NOT do that before starting my run, which is weird because all this time, it's one of those things that I have had to really think about. It's a problem that started way back when I first started having problems with Moon's 2nd barrel and I started sweeping my hand up early to get him coming out of the 1st barrel in a better line for his 2nd pocket. It was not a good tactic to begin with, but as Moon has matured and gotten stronger and stronger, it's caused us a lot of problems. He's far to strong for me to hold myself down by just my legs alone (hence the getting popped out of the saddle and ending up having to use the reins to save my own butt. If I didn't use the reins, I'd summersault off the back of him. LOL) , so it's essential that I keep ahold of that horn until he is well out of the 1st barrel and running toward 2nd.
On the drive home I was thinking about how automatic Moon has become...do you know, I have not had him on a practice pattern in all of this time?...It was a little test I wanted to try and it's working. Moon is running exactly where he needs to run to and he is less anticipatory. I have no doubt the injections helped a ton, but I also think that Moon is at an age and has been doing this long enough that he doesn't need to see a practice pattern. He seems much, much happier this way.
The other thing I was thinking about was, with Moon having become this automatic, all I have to do is stay WITH him in a run. The 2 problems I have both arise from me getting ahead of my horse. Not holding my position longer when we are leaving the 1st barrel is a prime example. I haven't even completed Part A yet and my mind is already riding into Part B. Then when we get to the 2nd barrel, instead of staying centered over him, I anticipate him rating down and I lift up and try to push him around the barrel. I'm just riding faster than my horse is running. LOL.
So I made myself 3 notecards to stick in my back pocket. They say;
#1-Hold your position. Hand on horn and let Moon get out of the 1st barrel.
#2-Keep your butt in the saddle and DRIVE him into the 2nd pocket.
#3-Everything else takes care of itself!!!
That's it. That is all it takes. I just have to slow my mind and body and make them stay with my horse and we will be golden. :-)