I was going to lope Moon up to the 1st barrel, check to make sure he rated and then trot around that barrel, repeating the same thing at the other 2. But Moon didn't pick up the lope he just hit a long trot...since he felt soft and was moving well, I just let him long trot, at the rate spot I squeezed my hands, felt Moon collect himself correctly, so we just continued on with the trot around the barrel. He wanted to take off after coming out of the 1st barrel, so I sat him down. Stopped. Stroked his mane and waited for him to shut off. He did almost immediately. We picked the trot back up, trotted to the rate spot on the 2nd barrel, I squeezed my hands and he collected for me and we continued around the barrel. Upon leaving the 2nd barrel, he again tried to charge off, so I repeated the stop, back, settle. Waited for him to fully relax and we trotted to the 3rd barrel, again Moon collected nicely, so we continued on around. Ronny never said a word, just watched.
It's not a popular theory to stop a horse on the straightaways between barrels, but this is where I felt him getting excited and wanting to charge through my hands, so this is where I corrected him. I was kind of scared about what the clinician was going to say about that. When I looked at him, he was nodding. He said, 'You know, you are the only one who corrected your horse at the times when he wanted to run through your hands. Good for YOU!!' (Wheewww)
He asked, 'Now, why didn't you stop him before the barrels too?'.
I said, 'Because when I squeezed my hands, I felt him collect. He lifted his withers and his back and was square to the turn'. On this I knew I was correct...but I asked anyway...'Didn't it look like he rated?'. The clinician shook his head, No, but he immediately said, 'If you could feel it...That is ALL that matters'.
'Now', he says, 'What exactly IS the problem?'. So I filled him in a little bit on the history and how I have felt for a long time that Moon was simply outrunning me and I want/need him to come back to me, so we can improve together. Ronny nodded his head and said 'Good plan'.
He said, 'Two things; Shorten your stirrups one hole and I want you to line your chin up with that horse's poll'. He touched his own chin and pointed directly at his horse's poll. So I did what he said, practiced lining my CHIN up with Moon's poll.
I'll admit, I was a little worried about having my stirrups that short. I thought, 'Oh hell, this horse is going to eject me when he rolls through his first turn'. I mentioned this to the clinician and he said, 'Okay, think about this...If you curl your back and stick your chin out, how does that make you feel in the saddle?'. I tried it, trotted around a little bit, felt pretty secure and definitely felt like I was more up and over Moon, so I went down and got lined up to make a run.
I mean...You want to talk about night and day difference. Because I was a little worried I might get ejected, I opted to really focus on keeping my chin lined up with Moon's poll and of course, that kept my eyes out in front of him. Moon rolled through that pattern and I didn't even touch his face. THAT'S the feeling I have been striving for all this time...and I didn't even have to think about it.
Moon ran a couple strides out of the 3rd turn and I sat up and he slid to a stop....a NICE one. LOL.
The clinician's were kind of wide and he said, 'Holy Hanna, that is a NICE horse!!'.
(insert grim smile)...I said, 'I know, I have just really struggled to figure out how to ride him and I was doing all of this weird stuff to try to make this happen and that happen and I have him all messed up'. The clinician said, 'You can't call what you just did, messed up'.
So that began the conversation about how easy it is for me to put training runs on Moon and yet, I get so blanked out during a competitive run.
The clinician said, 'That is happening because you are NOT breathing. The instant you hold your breath, you rush things and a horse like this will just start working too hard. You have to breath!!'.
So that brought up the gate issue thing. I clinician looked at me in disbelief when I told him what a fire-breathing dragon Moon becomes (sometimes) at barrel races and the work I am doing to rectify that. The whole time I'm talking, the clinician is looking at Moon (whose 1/2 asleep by now) as if he was trying desperately and unsuccessfully to see this horse as a fire-breathing, losing his mind, dragon. But he finally shrugged and and acknowledged that this is not an improbability. He said, 'Then, it's probably you who are causing him to get that nervous'. I kind of shrugged, 1/2 agreeing with him, but explained my theory on how all of this came to be, because I have never had a horse get gate issues before and this time Ronny nodded in agreement.
Ronny asked me to take Moon through the pattern one more time, slow again and make sure he was ending on a slow, positive note. This time I did stop Moon at the rate spots and at both of the places coming off of the 1st and 2nd barrels where he wants to charge forward. Those two spots are very important because those are the two spots during competition that Moon gets ahead of me and I am left to play catch up...Which almost always results in a downed barrel for us.
Finally! Someone how thinks the same way I do...That while it is important to get up there and ride your horse, if you want to really clock...But at the same time, it's important that your horse not charge through you. They need to be conscious enough of you to wait for you a little bit too. THIS is how teamwork and timing are built between horse and rider. It really is part of the horse's job to only run as fast as his rider can ride.
That concluded the 1st day for Moon. And I wasn't sure that we were going to get much more out of day two. Without the ability to put Moon and I into competitive mode so Ronny could see how quickly things fell apart, we really don't have any problems. But Mother Nature smiled on us...Although everyone else thought it sucked...Heavy rains throughout the night and into the next morning meant we had to move to an indoor facility and here was a place Moon could easily view as a competitive setting and show Ronny his dragon side....