Since my Fire horse temperament mare, Cerise, did so well when I schooled her last week I took her yesterday to a barrel race and entered her. She seemed really happy to actually be competing since we have spent so much time lately on schooling. She likes being the center of attention at the barrel races so even though I took my Yang Ming horse temperament, Remi, I decided not to ride him around and keep my focus on Cerise and the race. Remi was quite happy with this arrangement and munched hay at the trailer.
I can feel Cerise getting stronger and more balanced and she warmed up very well. She also likes the little S shank hackamore I have been running her in. It is very mild but helps her lift her front end and flex more easily. As I have said many times, she is not the horse temperament I would choose for barrel racing if I were a serious competitor but it sure has been fun for us to learn together. Cerise is very forgiving if I make mistakes but if she does not understand what I am asking her to do she backs off eating and loses weight. I could tell after we schooled last week that the shifting to her hind end when she was running fast was starting to make sense to her because she could see the reason was to make a smoother turn.
When we were working the barrels slow Cerise could get around without really setting hard to rebalance but when we started going fast she would fly past the barrel even when she was trying to slow down. Rather that make a big issue of the barrels and perhaps sour her on the pattern I decided to stop doing the pattern and simply focus on teaching her to slow down quickly and turn. As you can imagine how a Fire horse temperament mare would look at this she thought I was losing my mind. I would send her fast across the pasture and then sit down and ask her to slow way down and then send her fast again. Eventually, she decided it was better to just not go fast so I had to try something different.
The problem was that she was not listening to my body and preparing for the slow down so it was hard for her. Instead I started loping her in circles slowly but asking her to stop, back and turn around and lope off again. Cerise actually liked this and it got her listening to my body better because she never knew how many steps back we were going to take or which lead I was going to ask her for. After doing this exercise for a few weeks I started sending her fast again and then asking her to gather and slow down quickly and she listened to me and shortened her stride. Now we really have something to build on. I also did counter bending exercises at the walk and trot to help her come up through her withers and shift her weight to the hindquarters.
All this work paid off as she ran a very smooth pattern and improved 1 full second off her time. It was still not a competitive run but by far the best we have ever had. I am not at all in a hurry because Cerise is doing a sport that she likes but is absolutely not built to do. Barrel racing horses are usually very strong in the hindquarters so they can make the quick acceleration/deceleration moves required. Most Fire horse temperament horses are not strong but can be very agile and quick. I feel that if I can help Cerise learn to gather before the barrels and stay smooth in her turns she will be fast enough between the barrels to make up for not being able to push off as hard and fast. She loves to run home and when she realizes she can run this fast between the barrels I think she will really get excited but first she will have to learn to shorten her stride quickly and we are making great progress. Madalyn