Finally Moon and I are on track!!
We had a GREAT run in Queen Creek. Nice, clean turns, left all the barrels standing and was only a few places out of the money and only about a 1/2 a second off of where I think Moon should be running.
I get that Moon is not the fastest horse out there. He's probably never going to blow the doors off everyone like some horses can. But he is capable of clocking with the tough horses on a regular basis when we get some consistency to our runs.
I think that is fixing to start as of the QC run. The leg first technique worked like a charm on Moon and for the first time, maybe ever, I could feel how ratey he was before he even got to the barrels. Moon's style of rating has long been my sticking point. He is a very free-runner and he does not drop in the hindquarter to rate like I prefer a horse too. Moon drops his whole body and very often the feeling I get is that he has actually sped up going into a turn. It is not a feeling I enjoy, hence my long-term problem of pulling on him. And now because of it he's anticipating the getting pulled on part and over-rating long before he needs to.
I've always known that if I could just consciously figure out what the right combination of cues was that set him for the turns, it would just click and feel right. The being conscious of what it took was the part I was having such a hard time getting.
I'm not a naturally athletic person. I was/am abismal at sports; I'm not fast, I'm not agile, my hand/eye coordination sucks, I'm more apt to duck away from a ball coming at my head than I am to instinctively reach out and grab it...So yea...This level of riding is hard for me. I have to work at it. I have to think about it. I have to consciously understand what I need to do to make certain things happen...because a lot of it doesn't just 'come'. Once I get it, I'm pretty good about being able hold onto it and developing it...But all this time, I KNEW I was missing a key piece of information. The one piece that would bring all of the other little bits and pieces I knew and understood together.
That key piece was 'Leg first'.
The instant I put my leg on Moon going to that 2nd barrel and felt him rounding and shaping for me, without even touching his head...I KNEW everything was going to be right on this run. THAT is what Moon needs from me to do his job the right way and he did it well.
If I had any doubts about whether it worked or not, I got my question answered on the 3rd barrel. I almost brought my hand back when he was a couple of strides out from the turn. But all morning I had been 'coaching' myself...If the hand wants to move, use the leg...so when my hand started to come back and I felt both Moon and I getting stiff...I took a chance and dropped my inside leg on him. He bent a little, not as much as he had for the 2nd barrel though...and I came so close to reverting back to my old habit, but I gritted my teeth, bumped him harder with the inside leg and he bent more and we skimmed by the 3rd barrel.
That old lady was right...If your leg is ON, your hand is completely freed up. The instant I dropped a leg on Moon and felt him bend just a tish, I was easily able to move my hand forward. I was thinking, OMG...That is soooo cool!...and then he was turning the 3rd barrel and running for home.
Moon thoroughly enjoyed that run and has been in a good mood all weekend.
Oh yea...And while we were warming up, I was practicing getting my leg on him and bending him from the ribcage...Moon knows this, it's something I train for, I just got to where I was so focused on his head that I was completely forgetting to use my legs on him during a competitive run...
But when we went in the gate...Not an ounce of gate anxiety. He went straight in, straight up the alley and picked up the correct lead to leave for his run.
I think what happened is when Moon started getting so radical at the gate, I started taking ANY pressure off of him, that included my legs and then I just got to where I forgot to start using them again during the run. This time when we were getting ready, I just kept using my leg and when Moon would get over-reactive to them, I'd keep him moving, bending and flexing through the body until he got over his anxiety and relaxed about the pressure again. This time when I headed him to the gate, I was able to put my left leg on him and move that hip over, so he tracked straight and then picked up the correct lead.
I'm telling ya...This is a really good feeling. After our Scottsdale run..I threw my sucker in the dirt and I was so ready to give up on this horse. It's NOT the horse!! I knew that! I was ME!! I just could not figure out what the heck to do anymore and I was so tired of embarrassing myself trying to make runs on him and I know it was hard on Moon, mentally and physically...and I figured it was just better to quit before he hurt himself or I ended up teakettling over his shoulder during one of those horrid runs...
But now...I think we both feel like we got this. Moon is feeling better than ever and I have regained my confidence. All of the sudden...due to two words from a total stranger, "Leg first"...And we are gonna start running balls to the wall man!!!