Sunday, March 11, 2018

Barrel Racer Blues



Trax and I are in the beginning of our season with the Queen Creek Barrel Racing Association.  So far it has not gone well. We have had 2 races and ended up with broken pattern and a very last place with a 22 second run.

Here is a link to the 22 second run.  His first barrel is almost always pretty nice, but 2 and 3 we seem to lose all forward momentum. 

Our broken pattern run was my fault because we were wide on #3 and when I put my leg on to push him over, he side passed right over past the the barrel.  I'll own up to that one as being my fault.  I don't have a video of that.

The one I won't own up to was This little dirty trick he pulled.  That duck on the 3rd barrel was all him.  However I am less concerned with that than I am our other two turns. If he does it again, then I will be concerned.   But today I am talking about one and two. Once again, we lose forward momentum.

This was not at the QCBRA, which I was really glad for, because these sorts of runs will not get us anywhere near a year end award.  (which is my goal)  It was another little local race and I was glad I went, and while I didn't hate the run, I think we can do better. 

I'm no trainer, and of course I get lots of great advice, and I am working with a trainer who I like.  But at some point in time I have to do some of my own thinking.  Don't get me wrong,  I appreciate every bit of advice I get from all my friends and my trainer.  I pay attention and try all if it and keep what works and file away what doesn't for another time, or another horse.  However, the one thing I always come back to is that this is my horse, and nobody knows him better than I do, so sometimes I get further by using what I know works over what someone else thinks I should do.  It doesn't always work that way, but sometimes.     

So I think on it, and I think on it, and I think on it.  I lose sleep over it. (stupid I know)

How do I get him to keep his momentum going around the barrels. 

When I am riding it feels like two things are happening. 

First my trainer has me saying "Here" when I want him to rate down to turn the barrel.  I sometimes wonder if he isn't confusing it with "whoa".  Lord knows we have worked on that command for a really long time!

Second, this horse has a really bad habit of planting his front foot and swinging his hip to turn.  I blame it roping, but who knows.  It could just be how he has always done it.

So he "stops", swings the hip slices off the back of arch and then comes around.  Often times he comes around really wide.  Although we seem to be getting better about full turns so that is good. 

We are losing our shape. 

I work on shape with this horse constantly.

At a trot he will shape around that barrel like a pro. 

The minute I add any speed at all, he slices and dices like a damn food processor. 

Part of it could be me.  But I don't think it is all me.  If I ask for the shape and there is no barrel, if we just do a random turn, he generally does fine.  So I am not sure what the deal is. 

So after a lot of thought and watching some videos of some better horses I came up with a plan.  Today we tried it. 

 Today's goal was to move out a foot wider from where we usually are in our turn.  It was my hope that doing this will make it easier for him/us to keep our shape instead of slicing. 

We worked on it for about an hour and a half.  It was a lot of arguing between the two of us. 

We didn't start on the pattern.  It started with nothing but right hand circles, and we switched to left hand, and then we switched them up, and then we went to the pattern. 

I would say "go wide and round and keep your momentum"

And he would say, "slowing down for the short cut!"

And I would back him up and slow him down and we would do it again.

and again

and again.

When we got it at a trot we progressed to a lope.

He really hates to slow lope a pattern.  He will trot it just fine, but loping not so much.   However today I insisted.  When we lope he tends to want to just trot when we get to the barrel. But what I really wanted was for him to keep the slow lope even going around.  In order to do so he had to really get off of my leg which I admit to hitting him pretty dang hard with.  I did try asking nicely first but he just blew me off. 

It took many many tries at a lope to get it right, but finally he did.

Then I asked him to go faster and to do it right.

The first time he went right back to slice and dice on the very first barrel.  I got after him pretty hard and we went back and did again. 

The second time he made a perfect beautiful arch around the first barrel and kept his momentum.  He came out of it and picked up his lead so I pushed him on to number two.  I had quit saying "here" and started saying "nice and round" and he went out and around with out losing his speed.  He was a little bit wide coming out of it, but I wasn't going to split hairs at this time, and it wasn't out of control so we just went on.  His 3rd barrel was a perfect arch and so I let him have his race for home.   

Of course I told him how amazing he was, and that I knew he could do it, and he trotted around the arena very proud of himself and licking and chewing, so I knew he was thinking about it.  I let him work out his anxiety and then cooled him down. 

The poor guy was drenched in sweat.  He still has a ton of hair and it was pretty warm today, so he was pretty hot.  He did get a nice cool bath and got to roll in the pasture afterwards. 

So here is what I think.  I think that being who he is, I am better off making him take those turns just a little wider to help him stay round, until staying round is second nature to him.  I am not going to say "here" anymore because I really think it confuses him.  I am going to keep insisting that he run the pattern at the speed I choose and not let him push me around just because he likes to run.  That way I can make sure we are doing it correctly before we just go. 

Oddly enough, all the fear of him going too fast or being out of control is gone.  I still get nervous before I run at an event, but not afraid.  That part is a big deal for me.  So YAY!

These are a few of my favorite shots from the 22 second run.  Our confidence is growing, and we are way better than we were even a few months ago.  I know it is a process, and I'm working with tough horse and zero experience on my end, but I am happy with our progress.  I really hope this new plan helps.  I guess we will see soon enough!








Sunday, February 18, 2018

Fearlessness

The word fearlessness keeps coming up to me these days.

Someone said to me "I admire your fearlessness"

Someone else said, "It is so cool to see older women out there competing" (in regards to riding)

There are a lot of us actually, I think. We are the ones who have always loved horses, but had to get out of them for one reason or another, and now are back and trail riding isn't enough for us. We want more. We want to compete. We want to race, we want to work cows, we want to rope, we want to be better horsewomen. It isn't that there is anything wrong with trail riding. We still do that too, and I darn sure am not making fun on people who are content with that. So please don't think that I am

Maybe it is a midlife crisis sort of thing. Perhaps we are trying to buy back years of our youth by pushing ourselves in events that are generally dominated by younger women.

The funny thing is that while I think, like anyone, we want to be competitive and win, for most of us it is more about the DOING. It is about not going to our grave regretting the things we did not try.

Are we scared? Hell yeah we are!!!! But damn, most of us have been through some pretty hairy stuff in our lives and lived through it. So why in the world would we let fear take us out of the game now?

Every single time I compete in any event, whether it is barrels, sorting, or Versatility Ranch Horse, on my way to the event I am literally sick to my stomach with nerves. Once I get there and get into the saddle, I am much better. But that 3 or 4 minutes right before I take my turn, I generally am shaking from nervousness

It isn't fear of getting hurt, it isn't that I am afraid of my horse, and I really don't care about making a fool of myself. I don't know why I am so nervous. I just am. For the most part, once I clear the gate, I'm ok. (maybe not so much in barrels- but in everything else)

So when the person said to me, "I admire your fearlessness" I laughed so hard. My fear of dying with a ton of regrets, just happens to be stronger than my fear of failure

About a year ago, I got bucked off that buckskin horse Smokey. He got me good and face planted me on a patch of dirt that was hard like concrete. I ended up at the hospital, nothing broken, but my shoulder will never be the same again. I have bones sticking up and limited movement. There are times when the entire right side of my body goes numb.

When it happened, TC asked me, "So are you done with horses now?"

What?

Why?

I got hurt but I am no where near done yet! As soon as I was able to get myself back in a saddle I was there. Of course I had to have someone else saddle my horse because it was 2 months before I could lift a saddle up the high.

I still think about that day when I am riding from time to time. Not in the "Oh I might get hurt again" frame of mind, but in the "What could I have done to shut that horse down before he dumped me" frame of mind

Since that day instead of slowing down, I have sped up. I go faster, I ride harder, I ride more aggressively than I ever did before. Maybe because I got bucked off and I didn't die? I don't know.

All I know for sure is that I refuse to be held captive by my age, by my trepidations, or by someone saying to me "You aren't good enough."

I don't care. If I am not good enough, I will keep trying until I get better. Or maybe I won't get better. Maybe I'll keep looking like the worst rider out there, but the smile on my face will be huge because I am........OUT THERE!



Saturday, February 10, 2018

Dear Boarder.....

Dear Boarder,

Your horse is a pain in the ass.  Remember how your previous facility told you to find someplace else to board?  There is a reason for it. 

Sincerely,

The person who takes care of your horse.






Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Paint Horse Conversation




It is no secret that I love this horse to pieces.

Even when I hate him, I love him.

He loves me too.

We have a connection that transcends anything I have with any of my other trusty steeds.  Melody is special and I love her too, and Killian is just a solid rock.  But Trax.....we are connected.

When Trax needs to tell me something that he deems very important he does a thing.  He will walk up to where I am and touch my hand with his nose.

This is not like "Do you have treats?" touching. It the equivalent of the kid tugging on your pant leg and then pointing at something they want.

He will touch my hand and then point his nose at want he wants me to see.  He will do it again and again until I get the message.  It is his, "Mom, we need to talk" signature move.

A long time ago, before I had split all my stalls into the size they are now, they were big enough to house 2 horses easily.  He had been gone at a trainers for a while, and a different horse had been moved in with Melody so when he came home I put him in with Killian.  They have known each other for a long time, and I think that this was before I realized that Killian had decided that he hated everyone.

Trax came to the gate where I was standing and touched my hand with his nose and then looked over at Melody's pen.  I didn't get the message.  He walked a circle and then came back and did it again.  I still didn't get the message.  He did it a 3rd time, and I did get the message.  It was "Please let me go over there, this guy is going to kill me tonight."  I said back to him, "Oh you will be fine, you've lived together before."

The next day I came out to Killian pinning him in the corner biting the crap out of him.  He was a torn up mess, and terrified.  I felt so bad.

So now when Trax says, "Hey Mom, we need to talk." I always listen.

Recently I have been trying some different feeds with him.  He doesn't really need grain.  He is a fat boy.  But because of the joint supplement he gets, I need to have something to use as a top dress.   I have switched back and forth from Progressive Grass Balancer, and Nutrena Special care.  Both are low starch, special care I believe is also lower in fat.  Both are loaded with Amino Acids for muscle.  I believe the Progressive is a little higher.  I've also switched between a couple of different joint supplements, trying to figure out which one I like.

Usually he goes right for his food, pushes the pellets out of the way to get at what ever yummy stuff he can find.

Last week he went to his food, nosed around for a minute and then came to me, touched my hand and looked over at his tub.

I said, "Sorry buddy, what we have is what we have."  But made a mental note of his request.  Clearly he was asking for something that was missing, but I really didn't know what it was because of all the swapping. .
At this time he was on the Progressive, and Tight Joints, and Topline Extreme.

The next day he did the same thing.

And again the day after.

In the morning I would check to see if he left something uneaten, but he is eating everything, which is typical of him..  But he really wanted something else.

Today I finally brought home some Special Care.  I didn't change anything but that.  He went to his food, took a small bite, looked up at me and bobbed his head, and then went to chowing down.

He doesn't like the taste of the Progressive.  I find it odd, because it smells much more palatable to me.  But what do I know, I'm not a horse!!!

Luckily the Special Care is much cheaper, so I am good with his decision!   I just think it is cool that he has figures out such a solid way to communicate with me.  It isn't like I ever taught him this.  He is a pretty smart old man.


In other news our barrel racing is coming along.  We still have so much to work on, but my trainer says we are making progress.  Here are a couple of more pics from a recent Gymkhana.  If things work out right we will hit a race down south on Saturday.




I hope everyone has a great weekend, and I hope my cold weather friends are able to stay warm!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The "Shoulda Woulda Coulda" club.

A few weeks ago, BEC and I were at a sorting, and as usual I just couldn't "get anything going".  I had some ok runs but nothing to write home about and definitely not in the money.  We were joking around about how funny it is that the riders enter the jackpots, and of course everyone wants to win money, but when it comes to the buckle runs it seems as though everyone loses their minds!  It is like that buckle is ten times more important than any cash reward.

I laughed and said, "If I go through this season without getting a buckle I'm going just gonna go buy one that says 'Never won a darn thing'."

She laughed and came back with, "Now I know what to get you for your birthday!  A buckle from the Shoulda, Woulda, Coulda Club!"

It was pretty hilarious, and I went in and rode my best that day but not good enough and once again went home empty handed and a good amount broker than I was when I got there.

BUT I did have a good time and learned a little more so that was good.

Fast forward to the next weekend.

I had been chatting with my young friend Jillian who used to board here and work for me.  She likes to sort too and is pretty darn good at it.  We had not gone together since she moved her horses home to her new horse property.  I asked her if she wanted to tag along and to my surprise she said yes.  So I picked her and her trusty steed Spur up and we headed to the other side of the world valley.

It was cold that day, and I guess because of that, there were not as many people there.  I called BEC, she was otherwise engaged, and my other close friends S&J were also not there.  But I still knew most of the folks who were there.  There were some pretty good riders there.  The same riders I lose to almost every week, so I went in with zero expectations.

In fact, with as cold and windy as it was, I had almost talked myself out of going.  I had a flat on the trailer the night before, it was wet and cold, and it is a long drive, and I thought, "Why do I put myself through this?"

But Jillian was ready to go, and for her sake I did not want to back out.

I
am
so
glad
I
didn't!


We did a few practice runs, Melly and I did pretty well.  One of my partners let some cows through, but it was only a practice so it was no big deal.  Jillian and I did 2 runs together and totally kicked ass.  Her horse (who I had the chance to buy and passed on- kick myself every day for that decision) is so damn cool.  She is a pretty handy rider too.

First up was the Jackpot.  With my first partner I got 3 cows.  Not great, but clean.  The cows were sticky that day so everyone was pulling low numbers.  With my second partner I got 7 more.  I knew that some teams had gotten higher so I was just sitting there holding the cows, minding my own business and they called out the winner for the jackpot.  It was guy I will call GRRRR.  (inside joke)  He won with 12 cows.  Then they said the second place winner was Cindy with 10 cows.

WAIT

WHAT?!?!?!?!

OMG!  I just took second!!!!!





I literally could not stop grinning.  Yes I was excited that I won some money, but mostly I was excited that I wasn't last.

We didn't win by default.

We actually beat some pretty decent riders.

We didn't suck!

Next up was the 1-2 class buckle run.  My first run went pretty well.  I was with a rider that I had ridden with before and we went in and did a pretty good job.   I was having a little trouble getting a certain cow and got to going too hard and fast.  My partner yelled at me to slow down, and when she did I came back to my senses and we got the job done.  We came out of that run with 5 cows.

 On my second run I was paired up with a rider I knew was pretty decent too. She was riding a pretty little roan mare and of course I was on my great big roan.  So we went in joking about roan power!

I went in first while she held the gate.  I put Melly on our first cow but she got a little too into it, and accidentally cut him back the other way.  (This is where my playing with cows in the practice pen may have got me into trouble)  But we got him turned around without too much trouble.  It cost us a little time, but after that things started to roll pretty smoothly.  This was the better herd of the 3 we had to use, so they moved along pretty nicely.  My partner did her job and I did mine both in the gate and in the herd.  We came away with 7 cows.

You can see that run here

To be honest, I had lost track of how many cows I actually had and I was sure that someone else had more.  When they called the winner of the buckle and I heard my name my first response was, "No Way!"

Then I almost cried.

Next up was the buckle run for the open class. There were only 4 riders.

My first ride was with GRRR and we did a pretty decent job.  He yelled at me, I yelled back at him, and we made up when it was all done, because the run was clean and I think we had 8 cows.  He is a good rider and pretty darn competitive, so I was glad I didn't mess up.



My second ride was with a gal I had been watching. She was good...really good...and I went in the determined to do my best. They had changed the herd out for this series of runs, and this was the crappy herd.  The 1 and the 7 cows were just bad. They wouldn't do anything you wanted them too do.

She and I were hittin and gettin and those dang cows were coming through like butter.  I am not even sure what number we were on, I just knew that we were having a pretty darn good run.  I also knew that we were running short on time.  She was bringing 2 cows towards me from the left.  I was facing towards the right after chasing off a different cow.  All I had to do was push my horses shoulder over and peel off that inside cow while she drove the good cow through.

I don't know what happened.  I put my spur on my horse and she wouldn't move.

So I kicked her again even harder and she finally moved but that 2 second delay let that dirty rotten sucker get past me and we got a no time.  I felt so bad for the other gal because, although I didn't know for sure, I was pretty sure she was in the running for that buckle.  I hate it when I screw up someone elses chance to win.

GRRR ended up winning the open buckle.   It was cool, he earned it.  But later the announcer told me that if I hadn't let that cow through, I would have walked away with both buckles and 2nd in the jackpot.


So there it is, my first ever buckle!  I didn't get one till I was 54 years old.  But of course I didn't even really start trying to win one until a year or so ago.  So I am pretty happy with that.  I know it wasn't a big win against a ton of riders, but hey, we all have to start somewhere!

I know I posted about this on facebook and everyone congratulated me there, so please don't feel like you need to again. I just wanted to share the entire story.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"Counterfeit" or "Surviving our worst fears"

After our very pretty but very slow run on 12-2 Trax and I went back to the practice pen.  SS had told us that our patterns are really nice but that it was time to start riding more aggressively.  So that is what I decided to do. 

Sometimes my neighbor uses my arena-vator and whenever he does he works my arena too, which is super nice. However one of the last times he did that my barrels somehow got moved down towards the middle of my arena.  Due to my extremely busy schedule, they have just stayed there.  But at the gate end of my arena there is also a wooden trail bridge.  So "riding more aggressively" has almost gotten me into trouble when that bridge comes up so fast.  SO, I took the time to put my barrels back at the far end of the arena where I like them.  That gives me an extra 20-30 feet to stop before we are forced to jump the bridge. 

It was 6 am last Tuesday morning, there was  pretty good chill but it wasn't even cold enough to need gloves or a jacket.  Just a hoodie kept me plenty warm.   I pulled my mighty steed from his stall, and gave him half a flake of hay to munch on while I tacked him up.  I never work my horses on a totally empty stomach. 

We did our usual warm up routine.  We WTC until he feels soft and relaxed and lopes with his head down.  Then we work on our smaller circles and my body position.  We work on posting, on me relaxing my rib cage so he will relax his.  You know, all the things my great trainer has been teaching me to be a better rider.

We did our usual trotting of the pattern, and then a slow lope of the pattern and every thing was right on the money. 

Now before I go any further, let me back up just a little.  One of the reasons I have always been trepidatious about letting Trax run full speed, is because I have seen him buck.  I'm not talking like out in the pasture buck.  I'm talking about in the round pen, full on blow up and rip the lead rope out of my hands.  I have seen back feet higher than the top of the round pen.  I have always been just a little bit afraid that if he ever took to bucking when we were at a full run, he would kill me. 

Over time and as we have been practicing our sprinting around the arena, I have gotten over that and was finally at a point where I was beginning to trust that he wasn't going to do that.  Granted there are time when he will do a "oh I think I want to buck" crow hop, but he isn't dedicated to the buck and I can always bring him out of it very easily. Usually it is coming out of the 2nd barrel and he is usually telling me to get my spur out of his side.  The fact is, I had laid aside my fears and begun to trust my horse again.

Now back to that morning.

So we were at the point that I was ready to "go for it".  I felt good.  My horse seemed to feel good to me.  We were working well together, the time had come to just do it.  We trotted a circle, and I took a deep breath and pushed him into a left lead lope.  We lined up with the center barrel and I pushed my hand forward and asked him to go. 

We came up to the first barrel, and I waited till the perfect moment to sit down and say "easy" and then we powered around that barrel with what felt like a text book turn.  My hand was right where it was supposed to be and it was flat like it is supposed to be.  My butt was in the saddle and I drove him forward with my seat.  We exited in the correct lead and completed the second barrel just as nice.  We committed to the full turn, powered around the barrel and raced off to number 3.  The 3rd barrel is usually our best so I was very excited for our progress!  We made a beautiful turn and I let go of the saddle horn and we raced for home.

Right about the time we past the barrels my 18 year old broke freaking horse blew up.

This was not "Oh I think i might buck"

This was, "Oh yeah, I'm bucking!"

He bucked all the way to the end of the arena.  Including the extra 20-30 feet I added by moving my barrels. 

I did not come off, but I just barely stayed on.  Luckily it wasn't the 2 hind feet over head buck, but it was the all four feet off the ground buck. 

I finally got him stopped by running him into the fence.  I should have pulled his head around, but to be honest I was just trying to hang on at that point. I yelled at him to knock his shit off, and then took him around the arena at a fast trot for about 20 laps.   Meanwhile I am doing the instant replay through my brain to figure out what it was that set him off. 

I had spurs on, but they are short shanked ball end spurs.  Very mild.  Just enough to get him off my leg when I need.  Maybe my leg went back behind the rear cinch.  Maybe I kicked him to hard (no I wasn't kicking- I don't think).  Maybe it is the cold.  Maybe his shoulder hurts.  Maybe he stepped on a rock. 

OR

Maybe he is just a counterfeit SOB who will never be able to be trusted. 

Ouch. 

That one hurts.  It hurts my heart to think that about my favorite horse.  But lets face it, we are not talking about a 3 or 4 year old green horse. 

I stopped and took my spurs off.

Then we kept riding.

When my hands quit shaking we went back to the pattern.  Not quite as aggressively, and we did not race home anymore that day.  He was fine the rest of the time. 

On the bright side I know that my biggest fear just happened AND not only did I survive it....I rode it out.

On the down side, my trust level with this horse took a serious step back. 

Today is Sunday.  I have not been back on him since. 

Of course that isn't all due to trust.  Part of it is time related, and to be honest, he jacked my back up a little bit and it took me a few days to get over it. 

I had planned on racing him yesterday.  The only reason I didn't is because BEC texted me and reminded me that there was a buckle run at my favorite sorting facility that day.  So I scratched the race and went and chased cows instead. 

Today I will ride him.  I have decided that I will go back to round penning him before we ride for now just so he can get any of that crap out of his system before I get on.  I used to do that before every ride.  But he has been pretty good so I stopped.   Maybe some horses always need that.  I don't freaking know. 

I will try to figure out what caused it.  If he pulls it again.....I just don't know what I will do. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Getting our Groove Back Part 2

The race we went to was part of a 3 day event.  We entered in 2 of the 3 days.  Part 2 is what happened on day 2.

Day one was pretty decent.  I was so happy with how calm he was and how well he ran.  I was super excited to get out there again, and not mess it up.

Saturday I went out early and fed the horses, in order to give Trax plenty of time to eat.  I came out later and he had not touched his food.

Terrific.

I threw some hay to him instead of pellets and he went to munching so I knew he wasn't sick.  But now it was time to go, so he was forced to eat his breakfast on the go.  I put him in the trailer and off we went.

This time he was quite a bit more nervous, where as I was totally calm.  We did our time onlies and they were fine but I could tell he was wound up.  I put him back at the trailer and let him munch for most of the day.  As always we were at the end of the pack so we had plenty of time.

About 30 riders before us I usually get back on and start walking him.  I don't work him to death, but moving his feet keeps him calm so we walk.

It was pretty warm that day so we stopped in some shade next to an unused announcers booth next to the warm up arena.  Some one on the other side made a noise and my "broke horse" lost his shit.  First he went sideways, then he went straight up.  I had my hat in my hands and my silver and leather hat band came off and bounced against the saddle a few times which set him off even more.

I finally got him calmed down.  Got off of him and side passed him from the ground about 20 feet in both directions.  Then I got rid of the hat band, and got back on him.  We rode around until it was our turn to go.  He seemed pretty chill other than continually asking to leave the staging area. But he asked nicely so I didn't get too concerned about it. 

Once again we started off looking pretty good.  My confidence was up so I was going for it!

We got to the first barrel without mishap other than me forgetting where my hands should be


At this point I was still really happy with how things were going

I like how we are both looking for the next barrel.
Still feeling good about it all

came out nice and strong

And still felt ok at this point


I didn't recall being so wide on the second barrel

But obviously we were


This is where things all went wrong


This is where he decided to show me a short cut to the gate


This is where I said, "Oh snap! He's headed towards the gate!"

"Sorry Buddy- Still have one more barrel"

He is clearly not happy with me hanging on his face
Look at where his eye is looking even though he has started to give in.
Finally got his attention back
I love those butt muscles! 
We went in to #3 kind of ok

Until I went blank and forgot every bit of training.  Talk about money  not well spent!
I guess neck reining your way around is the new "thing"  LOL
Then I finally regained some sense and we got moving again. 
Of course racing home is what he does best.  
In the end, that attempted short cut ended up costing us dearly. We ran even slower than the day before.  24 something.  But we never broke the pattern so I guess that is a plus.

Back to the practice pen we went.  We had another lesson and cleaned some things up.  The biggest one being where my hands are. 

When I look at these pics I totally cringe.  I feel bad for my horse, and wonder if I should give it up.  But I won't give up.  As much as I hate seeing myself dragging him around by his face, on the other hand I know that he isn't helping matters some times by trying to do things his own way. 

We raced again a few days after our lesson. It was a real pretty correct run and where as we are usually about 6-8 seconds off of the fast time.  On that run we were only 5.  So that is major improvement.  Our last race with this particular club is in 2 days. 

I have high hopes for that day.  I probably shouldn't, but surely at some point it has to get better...doesn't it???