Oh man...It feels soooo good to have pretty much ALL DAY to ride again. The weather has been gorgeous, my work load is significantly reduced and me and the ponies are getting with the program!!
Good news...Being out on pasture all day + the cooler temps + a little moisture has greatly improved Moon's breathing. He won't be ready to go to the SD race coming up. He's had too much time off so he's no where legged up enough to go makes runs on and his system is just starting to recoup, so I don't want to stress him. I will be able to start riding him again though and am hoping he'll be ready for some races later in October.
Frosty is finally starting to get back into shape and man does he feel good. In a good way...Not the 'I feel so good I'm going to buck you off' way. LOL. He made such a solid run his first trip back in competition that we are not practicing the barrel pattern per say. It took forever and a day to get the pattern right on that horse, but he's as solid as a rock on it now. Mostly we just lope circles around a single barrel to reinforce correct body position, build strength and encourage keeping a relaxed attitude about turning. Since I don't want to make a bunch of practice runs on the barrel pattern, but still need to work on speed, I have been using the pole pattern to make Frosty have to work a little. I've worked Frosty on the pole pattern some over the years, but never really asked him to 'run' the full pattern. I have mostly used it to help encourage his lead changes. Well, I decided to ask for a little speed on the pattern (not expecting much) and by golly, the buckskin surprised the heck out of me. He has that pattern down solid!! The only place he struggled even a little was the lead changes at the end poles and that is the common weak area for a horse just learning to run the pole pattern. A few more trips, with some speed and I think he'll figure those out. I never would have guessed he would be so good at it. Looks like I'm gonna have a pole horse too. LOL
Frosty is handling the speed work well, in fact, he actually seems to really enjoy it, but it can't all be fast work. I have set up a few trail obstacles and we have been working on those every day. It makes for a nice breather break, to walk/trot over poles, work on sidepassing over poles, back through cones or poles, turn around in the box, etc. Frosty is getting there. It's just going to take continued work to build finesse. The other day I put his curb bit on and worked on Ranch Pleasure. I need to get him a little softer in the face, but once again he surprised me. He just hit a nice little jog and a slow, steady lope and just neck reined around the arena like you would expect an old, broke horse to do it. LOL. Nothing left at this point except to break out the rope! :-)
I haven't been on The Big Bay horse for going on 2 months now and the last time he was ridden regularly was like back in March. I kept saddling and ponying him whenever I could, but just wasn't getting him rode. I wasn't sure what he was going to be like when I started working him again. Of course, I lunged him before I stepped on for his first ride back, but was pleasantly surprised to find, he's exactly the same horse he was when I quit working him. God I love mature horses!! When their minds get right, they become so e.a.s.y.!! Now I just need to stay on him and get him moving forward in his training. I did have to laugh though...The horse is as green as grass, don't know a thing except walk, trot and a little bit of lope and I tootled him through the barrel pattern and he's like, "Oh, I know this!" and just trotted up to the barrel, stopped, backed a couple steps and waited for me to tell him it was okay to go around the barrel and on to the next one. Now THAT is when you know you are a barrel racer. Your horses are barely broke, but they know the barrel pattern. Hahahahaha
Speaking of knowing the barrel pattern....LJ is wanting to be a barrel eating machine!! He has the pattern down pat, both directions, and is hunting those turns. Unfortunately...He's only loping the pattern and going far to slow to 'hunt the turn'. He's trying so hard, he's getting bound up in the turns. Okay, so if I learned anything from the hell I went through with Moon...I did learn how to alleviate this problem earlier in the training program. Too bad for Moon that I learned it afterward (although I am using the same technique on him now and it is helping), but I won't make the same mistake on LJ. Horses like Moon and LJ get very intense about getting into and making their turns and in the process they loose their forward momentum...the result is consistently hitting barrels. The key to convincing these kinds of horses that the goal is to go a.r.o.u.n.d the barrel is 'breaking their zone'. Breaking their zone means little more than opening up the pocket to the point where the horse releases the barrel and is merely loping a circle around the barrel.
All it takes is long trotting or loping the horse up to the barrel normally. Helping them get positioned is fine, but once you feel them lock on too much and want to lean or fade into the pocket, you set them down, roll them away from the barrel one complete turn and while they are still coming around and have their shoulder up and moving, ask them to leave in a larger circle. It just takes doing it a couple of times to figure out how big of a circle you need to ask them to make so they are released from the turn. For Moon, it takes a 30-40 foot circle before he releases the turn and just lopes a circle. LJ, being green and not as sure of his intensity yet, only requires a 20-30 foot circle. I've heard it also works if you set them down, roll them around and simply ride off away from the barrel. I haven't done that, but it's the same principle...The whole point is to break the zone and get them thinking and moving forward again.
I am super excited about the little paint horse. He is gonna be so cool. He is also getting slow work on the pole pattern (which I think he will be amazing at) as well as learning about navigating trail obstacles. So, so much for the little red horse to learn yet. :-).