I am floating on cloud #9 right now....
Frosty finally put together an absolutely beautiful run last night and I got a little taste of what I have thought this horse was capable of all along.
It came at just the right time too because I was sort of starting to wonder if it was ever going to happen or maybe it was just wishful thinking on my part.
We finally got back to barrel racing a couple of weeks ago and the first run back, Frosty went down with me on the 3rd barrel. We pancaked on the backside of 3rd. One instant I'm looking at the gate prepared for the run home, the next I'm looking up at the sky, realizing my butt is on the ground...and so is my horse.
It's all good. He was fine. I was fine.
The ground was not the greatest, but it didn't warrant a fall. Frosty is notoriously lazy with his feet and it finally caught up to him. The fall did not freak him out all that much. I had kicked my feet free and let go of the rein and he got up and loped 'home'. Then he just stood quietly at the gate waiting for me to catch up to him. LOL.
But I guarantee...since then...He has paid more attention to moving his feet quicker through the tuns. So in all reality...it was a good wake-up call for him.
We skipped the other barrel races that weekend, but I did enter the local weekday jackpot rodeo that is just a few miles from my house. The ground at this arena is notoriously poor and at this time I really think that Frosty needs to get some experience learning how to handle his feet and body in less than ideal conditions. He's definitely not been running hard enough to hurt himself...or even me, should he go down again. And if he can't handle himself at slow speeds, he sure as heck isn't going to be able to handle himself when he finally gets around to running faster.
As our goofy luck would have it...We drew up in the performance. For the last 2 years, I'd try like hell to get Moon in the perfs there and almost never drew up that way, so I'd draw out. The slack is run in the heat of the afternoon and I wouldn't subject Moon to that because of his breathing problems. With Frosty, it doesn't matter when we drew up. Pretty ironic huh?
Poor Frosty...It was his first rodeo performance...lights, loudspeakers, loud music and a big crowd.
I can honestly say, I had no idea how it was going to go. Frosty has been around all of that before, a lot actually....but he's never had to make a 'run' in those conditions. But again...Might as well start getting it out of the way while he is running slow than to wait until later.
All in all, he didn't do too bad. The only place he got a little freaked was coming across to the 2nd barrel. There are grandstands on both sides of this arena, so he had a cheering crowd behind him and a cheering crowd coming at him and he wasn't sure he wanted to run toward all of that noise. He bobbled all over the place before the barrel (I don't think he ever saw the barrel) and made a big, sketchy loop around the turn. He did regain his focus though, found the 3rd barrel and turned it pretty well. He sure wasn't trying to lean like he was the run before, when he fell down. LOL. Stayed nice and upright. Lesson learned!!
The biggest problem that Frosty still has is, not getting his lead change going into the 2nd turn...which causes him to have to hop on his hind-end through the turn. Obviously, when a horse is in the wrong lead in a turn, they are completely unable to pull that inside hind leg up to balance on.
As you all know, most of the reason it took me so long to get Frosty to the point where I thought competition was even warranted was the fact that he struggled so much with his lead changes.
Some people won't run a horse until they are fluent in lead changing...Some people just start going and let the horse figure it out. As usual, I somewhere in the middle on that. I do think that a horse needs to at least understand that a lead change is required, but they kind of have to figure out on their own when and how to get that done. I started competing on Frosty when I knew, that he knew, he needed to make that lead change, but whether he accomplished it or not was still pretty hit or miss. He was doing pretty good when I was running him to the left, but since switching him to the right, he has not been getting that lead change.
Now, there are exercises that I have used on Frosty to work on his lead changes, but I stopped doing them when I was working him on the barrel pattern because he was beginning to think more about the lead change than turning the barrel. In short...It was freaking him out a little too much. Frosty is not a quick thinker and it was too much stimulus for him. I went back to doing nothing more than stopping him well before the barrel, letting him settle and then kicking him off again in the correct lead and letting him make the turn. The only goal was that he was hopefully building some muscle memory so he didn't have to 'think' about the lead change, it just happened.
I exhibitioned Frosty 2 times before the race. Both times, just loping him up, setting him down, waiting for a second and then letting him lope around the barrel, in the correct lead. I just wanted him to get a feel for the ground (which was beautiful) and refresh his muscle memory before his run.
And boy did it work. He came in and made about as pretty a run as you could ask for. He rated, changed his lead perfectly and just flowed around the turns. Bellisimo!!! He was trying to run a little harder, but not much...He's still hesitant about opening up...which is perfectly fine right now....And he STILL shaved a full 2 seconds off of the time he has been running. Up to this point, Frosty has been running 3-4 seconds off of the fastest time...but this time he was only 1 3/4ths of a second of of the fastest time.
I'm so stinking proud of Frosty. I so needed to see a glimmer of hope that he really did have the potential I kept thinking he had...and boy did that feel good. :-)