Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brego Update - December 2012

Wow, it's been over a year since my last update.  Another gentle reminder from a reader guilted me encouraged me to give an update.

When we last left our heroes, Brego broke into the Area 1 Novice circuit and about to start an exciting hunt season as an official whipper-in horse.  A few weeks after the August 2011 update was posted, I had an unfortunate fall while hunting.  I became unbalanced during our first gone away and, due to my poor position, ended up on his neck.  Brego slowed immediately but I still managed to fall face first into the ground and suffered a mild concussion and broken arm as a result.  Thus endeth my hunting season debut as whipper in.

After surgery, I managed to make it back for the last few hunts, but the season ended and we fell back into the slumber of winter.

By January, I was on the mend, but poor Brego was doing poorly.  Nearly a year before, we had a cracked molar removed, but the ensuing infection went relatively unchecked, despite many rounds of antibiotics.  Brego competed the entire season in 2011 with an infected sinus and never indicated any discomfort or unwillingness to work.  He never went off his feed, never failed to drop his head to be bridled, never gave any indication.  I underestimated his generosity, but by January, he was clearly not getting better from the antibiotics and saline flushes.  So we took him to get an MRI which revealed that the entire left sinus cavity was blocked with solidified mucus.  He was operating at half his lung capacity and must have been in great pain from sinus pressure.  We opted for the "flap surgery" in which they cut open his skull beneath his eye and physically scrap out and clean his mucus membranes up into his sinus.  It's even more dreadful than it sounds.

Brego's surgery was a table procedure and despite the good surgeon's intentions, ran longer than the 60 minutes scheduled time.  Brego lost too much blood and began to crash on the table and they scrambled to get him closed up and blood pressure restored.  It was a tense 40 minutes in the "wake up room", but they eventually got him breathing on his own again and to his feet.  Once he was up, his stoic heroism kicked in and he shuffled to his stall.

Less than an hour off the table.  The red patch is blood-soaked gauze stapled to his face.
He stayed in the hospital for four days, each day he was brighter and more himself.  By the time he was home, he already felt better than before the surgery and he never looked back.  He did his first 12 mile hack of the season just 2 months after surgery, his first show three months, and was back on the Novice circuit by summer.  He worked harder, and faster, than ever before, now that he had both sides of his head in use.

A week later.  Staples closing the flap clearly visible.  The tube in his forehead is for additional flushing.
A sobering lesson, to be sure, on just how great his will to work truly is.  I never knew how bad it was until the very end.

On the eventing front, we went out four times recognized in 2012.  Our first outing saw our very first XC jump penalty at a recognized event, in which Brego locked onto the training level ramp right next to the novice log.  I was not forceful enough in pulling him off and he literally ran into the novice log while still looking at the ramp.  Complete rider error and took me quite by surprise since he is usually solid.  He definitely thought he was correct however, so we do need to work on our communication while on course.  While hunting, I expect him to take the lead and make decisions so I can focus on the hounds.  On XC, however, he really needs to jump the fences I say and not what strikes his fancy!

Stadium warmup - Valinor Farm
Despite our slow start, our next three outings gave us a fourth and two second place finishes, including career best scores of 33.5 (Snowfields HT) and 33.1 (Valinor Farm Horse Trials).

Final Fence XC - Valinor Farm
We wrapped up our show season as hunting got underway in August.  This year I managed to stay on (mostly), but we suffered some confidence blows due to poor footing.  Despite having evented all summer barefoot and sound, Brego needed better traction for hunting.  We had one slip where we both went down and then I had shoes and studs put on him.  He moves like rubbish in metal shoes, but there is nothing for it.  It's too dangerous to be slipping while in full gallop on a hunt, and as a staff horse, we don't get to pick our footing or our speed.

Pre riding a hunt territory with good friends.

In studs, he finished the season strong, the most times the hounds have gone out in a season in some time.  Of all the things we do, Brego loves the hunt the most.  And he loves the hounds, often predicting their actions, or sensing them, before I see it myself.  He endured bee stings, he ponied the huntman's horse, he trailblazed after rioting hounds, he tolerated whips and shouting and general chaos, and he did it all professionally and with minimal fuss.  Just a good boy.

Cubbing Season
Formal Season

 I said it last year, and I will say it again: Brego continues to improve.  In every way, a now healthy Brego was a force to be reckoned with and far surpassed any reasonable expectation anyone could have of his level of performance and attitude.  Coming into his 11th year, he has already done so much and given me so much, he really doesn't owe me anything.  At this point, we will continue to push quality at Novice and hunt as long as he loves it.  He has so much still to teach me.

Picture perfect

Have a wonderful new year, everyone.  Be safe and enjoy your precious horses.


Sunday, August 7, 2011

Brego Update - August 2011

At the gentle urging of some readers, I have come out of hibernation to give a quick update on the Big Brego. Brego continues to improve, and at a ripe old age of 9, is really hitting his prime.

Warm up fence before stadium - Snowfields HT, Maine


On the show scene, he has been in the ribbons at every show, schooling and recognized, and just finished his USEA Novice debut in Area 1 in second place, 1 point off the leader. He truly loves to ride across country, but his gallop stride is not quite effortless so Novice is where we shall stay for a long while. Area 1 is quite competitive and the questions are often max height and width, so plenty of excitement. He can make the time without truly stressing his body and the 2' 11" heights allow for rider errors. Of which there are plenty. Rider errors, that is. As has become apparent in the last year, Brego surpasses me in talent, so Novice is a nice place for me to take lessons and hone some much needed skills. :)


Fence 19, Novice Course. Who is more tired, rider or horse? :)


As an extracurricular activity, this year Brego will be a regular whipper-in horse for my hunt. He possesses a keen hound sense and, while not bottomless, certainly has the ability to stay with our drag pack. He is also steady to obstacles and with excitable horses, so he is dependable as a lead.

Brego's versatility and generally enthusiastic attitude is a huge portion of our success. He absolutely loves his job, he loves to jump and he loves to ride to hounds. He is literally bursting with excitement when we go out on course or in the first gone away. In this way, I am truly lucky, because no amount of training instills love into a horse's heart. I get asked often how I get him to do the things he does. I do not "get him" to do anything. He loves to do it. I just hold on for the ride.

Friday, April 2, 2010

And Back To Your Regularly Scheduled Brego

Oh, what fun! Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so ends the 2010 April Fool's day joke. Good memories.


For those of you who were excited to purchase a book about Brego, I salute you and your complete vote of confidence, not only in my writing abilities, but in Brego's ability to win Rolex AND inspire the single greatest actor of our time (after Harrison Ford, pre 1998 of course).

All in good fun, of course, and remember, I do this every year. You have been warned.

Anyway, in real life, Brego and I are gearing up nicely for a pretty low key, but hopefully successful season. We've been meeting our 4 rides a week goal and Brego's fitness continues to impress me. I always though taking four months off over the winter would wreck a horse, but he bounces back every spring better and better. He is still a bit shaggy, so until I get to body clip him and tame that wicked mohawk, he will remain under wraps. He needs to be presentable for his public, after all.

The big ado is that there is a schooling dressage show at the end of April. Which in itself is not a big deal, since we are very realistic about our dressage potential, but this is a special show because it's being hosted by my fox hunt. So a lot of my good friends from the hunt will be there. And as they watch us go around, amid the jeers and jokes, they just might remember that it was Brego that bounced them off the trail or took that wall in such glorious form, so I want him to do well. You know, to show my hunt. Why? Because.

Anyway, after the dressage show, we will have a break while we school fences and get ready for the Groton House summer classic and a two-phase derby. I am looking forward to jumping again, but I am most looking forward to cross country. We've gotten so much rain recently, we've been hacking on roads and the fairgrounds and I can't wait to get out and just ride.

Other highlights include our first solo conditioning set of the season and Brego did very well by himself. He's a brave boy.

So far, he's been foot perfect barefoot. We've managed to master his over-winter protocol to keep his feet concave and hard. If you recall, this time last year, Brego was foot sore over rocks. Last week, I did my trot and canter sets on a gravel road because it was the driest place to ride. Not a smooth gravel road, a road with rocks. Brego never took an off step. The secret to our success this year was frequent stalling at night to give his feet a chance to dry out and, no foolin', a heat gun. A heat gun, as opposed to a hair drier, is quick and relatively quiet. You can see his feet drying out as you watch and you get a real thorough dry. Drying his feet kept them from "splating" even in very wet conditions. I am a convert to the heat gun, it has really made a difference this year.

Once I get the big man presentable, we will be back to posting pictures. I hope everyone has a great weekend!

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Brego On a Bookshelf Near You

The past year has been crazy. Not only with the farm work, but also super secret plotting, nay, planning for an ultra-special Brego extravaganza. Today, I am pleased to announce that I have signed a deal to publish a book about Brego entitled: Brego Versus World: From Chub To Triumph.


Part inspirational story, part "How To", and part Sci-fi fantasy, Brego Versus World is just pure fun. I've been working very hard on the rewrites, and tightening up the plot, and of course, the endless photo shoots. My editor, without whom none of this would be possible, is just starting to come up for air. And so far the advance reviews for the back cover are looking pretty good.

Brego is the horse I've always secretly wanted. Ever since I bought him from Daun for a six-pack of beer, I've been watching his career as an absentee owner. Now that people realize his potential, I look forward to taking him to the next level. Just as soon as I get him back from Daun. -- Max Corcoran, head groom for Team O'Conner.


Brego Versus World just gets better and better. Every page has a new, delightful twist on this hard-luck guy beating the odds to win [Kentucky] Rolex [Three Day Event]. Who knew a draft horse could be so compelling? Plus, the recipes are healthy and delicious! -- Funder, of Blog-o-sphere Fame


Brego has been an inspiration for me, not only in my acting career, but in my life. When I faced down 10,000 orcs at Helms Deep, I asked: "What would Brego do? How would Brego manage to triumph over grave evil?" This book had all the answers I needed to keep living the Brego dream every day of my splendid life. -- Viggo Mortensen, actor

I am so excited to be able to break this news on my blog, since it is my faithful readers over the years which have kept me writing and exploring just how amazing Brego can be. We are currently working out the logistics of the book signing tour and the commemorative t-shirts, but once those details are finalized, I will of course let everyone know.

So congrats to Brego! And, of course, to me! And I hope everyone runs out and reserves their advance copy of the greatest book in our modern age (no, it will not be on Kindle, so stop asking).

Cheers!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Gradually, then Suddenly

Spring appears to have arrived in her typical fashion, gradually then suddenly. The garlic and other bulbs are up and we're getting sunny, 60 F degree days. Not much to complain about, really.


And so a curious thing happened. I rode Brego two days in a row: a rare feat not seen since last November. And somehow in that time, our rides turned from casual hacks to Working With A Purpose.

We rode our first conditioning ride of the season yesterday. As I always do, I assume we start with zero. Brego looks, to my eye, better off than he was this time last season. His feet are much better, more concave and harder, and he's not named Tubby McFatNeck. All good things. So even though I start from zero, my zero is still a work out. We did two 8 minute trot sets and one 1 minute canter set. He recovered in under 3 minutes of walking, so I know I hit the sweet spot. Not too much work, but he did break a sweat.

The big goal of this season is conditioning. Last year, he was almost perfect (after treating for Lyme) that the only thing I could ding him for was his conditioning, and that is 100% my fault. So this year, I am mixing things up a bit. I am going for longer duration trot sets first. Last year, I increased quantity, not duration of trot sets, maxing out at a measly five minutes. My final conditioning set of last season was three 5 minute trots and three 4 minute canters (at Novice Speed). This year I want to finish at three 15 minute trots and three 5 minute canters. That ought to do 'er.

I am also reevaluating feed. Brego has always been on a high fat, low starch diet to minimize the risk of EPSM. However, a friend passed along an article about feed and performance written by a man who trains Thoroughbred race horses. Brego is not a thoroughbred, by any stretch of the imagination, but he doesn't exactly fit the draft profile either. He's not 2500 lbs, he is not massively muscular and his workload doesn't involve slow, continuous work for 8 hours (which is ideal for the slow burning fats). In every respect -- lifestyle, work level, even body size -- he is a warmblood-ish sport horse. He is only Percheron in breeding, in other words, and so this year I am going to experiment with feeding him less like a draft and more like a sport horse. That is not to say I am going to throw some sugary sweet feed at him, but I am going to up his carbs (for fast burn, high intensity work) and see what he does.

My most common complaint last season is he "ran out of gas" at the 4 minute mark on course or in hunts or in conditioning sets. And that is very typical of a horse running out of fast burning fuel. He would recover fine and then we could go again, once his body had pulled in some fat. So I want to make sure he has the fast burning fuel he needs. I might even play with glucose loading before a big show, if I feel like he is doing well. I had him tested for EPSM last fall when we were diagnosing the Lyme problem, so I know he is negative. I will give him a year of eating more like a normal sport horse and then I will test him again in the fall and see how his body is handling the change in diet.

I am not planning on a lot of shows this year, due mostly to the farm and work monopolizing my time. But I am shooting for riding a minimum of 4 days a week. We have the first show of the season, a schooling dressage show, at the end of April. I intend to ride the Groton House classics and I hope to meet up with Andrea at UNH in October for our big recognized show. I've schooled there and it's a tough course, in my opinion. Then a fall of foxhunting and a winter of skijoring. We actually didn't get enough snow this year for skijoring, I was only able to work with him twice the entire winter. Oh well. There's one truth in New Hampshire and that is winter will come again.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Cross-post: Wind Storm 2010

I haven't been doing much riding, but I have been doing MUCH living! Some of you may have heard that New England was hit by a fairly big storm last week. At the peak, 1 million people were without power.


The animals rode out the storm just fine, but my nerves were a little frayed by the end of it. Brego was very brave and sane and for that I am always thankful. Things could have been much worse.

I wrote up my experience on the farm blog. If you want to hear about the closest I have ever come to a full out panic, check it out.

I hope everyone else is safe, warm, and doing well. I should be back in training by the end of the month, once the snow goes away!

Sunday, February 7, 2010

He Lives!

Where has the winter gone? I am quite ashamed to say that I have ridden Brego a total of three times since the new year. But each time, he is relaxed and fun and as smart as ever. The boy remembers everything, and unlike last year, I am not worried that we will be behind once Spring truly arrives. We will do just fine, with maybe some special care taken to conditioning.

A terrible photo, but not a bad ride, considering...

I've been battling a virus myself, so getting back in the saddle today was a good test of my own abilities. We went across the street to the indoor for the first time this season and did some walk/trot/canter. Nothing too crazy. We finished with some nice simple changes. Brego is definitely not as strong as he was at the end of last season, lurching a bit into the canter, carrying himself a little low, but his brain was sharp and his overall fitness was good. No heavy breathing, no sweating, soft jaw, plenty of go. He really is so much better since his Lyme treatment, both mentally and physically.

Only a couple more months until we begin our training for real. Hopefully, we will get some snow to cover the frozen ground and we can continue our fun rides. He's been doing well with skijoring practice, but no photo evidence exists, unfortunately.

Until then, we'll just muddle through and every ride this winter will be a gift.