Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Brief History

On the few occasions when I have been lucky enough to rub shoulders with other eventers, and the topic of my chosen mount comes up, I can honestly say that I have never been laughed at. People are really very gracious.

They sort of pause, look my horse up and down, and say, "He's a what?"

I answer, "A Percheron. You know, kind of like a Clydesdale, but without the beer."

Another pause.

"And you're eventing him?"

I reply, "That's the plan."

And then it happens. They ask the same question I ask myself almost every week as we work on fitness, and lightness, and not plodding around a course.


Why, indeed. The short answer is: 'Cause he's there. He's my horse, the only one I have. And I am fond of him and not really eager to replace him for my eventing fancy when I haven't even gone to a single Horse Trial, yet.

I originally bought Brego to be a back-country trail horse. I needed a horse that could carry me, a 30lb solid western saddle, and about 60 lbs of gear all day in rough terrain and quiet enough to stand picketed all night. You add everything up, and I needed a horse that weighed in about 1500 lb. I like the Percheron breed because it tends to be lighter than the other heavy drafts like Belgians. They are not so far removed from their "war horse" days. So I went out and found the cheapest young gelding I could find, knowing that all he would have to do is walk down a trail and stand quietly. Ha! I obviously had no idea where we would end up.

I ended up boarding at an eventing barn and immediately saw how it was different from the hunter show world I left behind. Up to that point I thought eventers were the "crazy ones" who jumped solid fences. Once I got to understand the sport though, I fell in love with it. I saw a small horse jumping logs in a field and I thought, well I wonder if Brego could do that. To my surprise, my trail horse could! I got lucky with Brego, no doubt about it. And now I feel compelled to see how much we can do.

The long answer to "why eventing?" is that I think the horse has some athleticism and talent and the sport of eventing is primed to take advantage of it. He will never be a rock star at anything, but I don't need a rock star. I need a horse who is "quality" and who will be my one horse for the next 20+ years. I need him to have many skills because I like to do many things. I am not so well off that I can have a specialist breed of horse for every occasion, so Brego has to try to wear many hats. He's pretty game for most fun and he seems to be liking the jumping. It has really improved his confidence in everyday matters. He tackles problems better on the trail. What little flat work I have done to make him more obedient has made a difference even camping overnight. In short, he just needs to be "used" and interacted with and he soaks everything up like a sponge.

I think it reflects not only on Brego's quality but on the quality of the "Combined Training" sport as a whole. It's a sport dedicated to producing the best of an individual horse. Off-the-track-Thoroughbreds, cow ponies, even drafts can play the game, because the game is so geared towards an individual's best, not some quantitative measure. Sure it would be great to win, but the majority of eventers aren't in it for the ribbons, and I am not holding my breath... It's a sport that welcomes all as long as you are committed to working hard and doing well by your horse.

Let's list all the sports I could not take Brego into, regardless of his talent, because of his breed/confirmation:

  1. Barrel Racing
  2. Track Racing
  3. Pacers
  4. SaddleSeat
  5. Hunters
  6. Endurance
  7. Reining
  8. Western Pleasure (Just the thought of him trying to do the gaits makes me laugh)
So.. I could do some sort of driving, although Brego hates driving. I could probably do well at Competitive Trail Riding. And I might have fun at the very lowest levels of Dressage (with obligatory tail extension). Or I could do a sport like eventing where you don't have to be a specialist (at the lower levels anyway), you can be a generalist and the people are kind and you will learn something. And really, that's what I want. I want Brego to be a generalist. I want him to be the kind of horse I can put any type of saddle on, and go spend a day and have it be pleasant. I want to be able to swim him bareback, overnight with him in the mountains, follow the hounds, move the cows, explore the world, or race down a country road. And eventing is the one sport I have found where everything you do in preparation for the sport (legging up, sets, dressage, grids, etc), makes your horse better for all around fun. None of it is "for showing only". It encourages the generalist. Or, better put, it encourages the all-around sport horse.

So although I don't think US Eventing had Brego in mind when they drafted their Statement of Principles, he embodies a lot of what makes eventing great. And that makes me love the game even more.


equestriankid said...

I really admire your beliefs and support of Brego. I wish more people were like you in the horse world!

Serena said...

I love this post. I re-read it, like, monthly. :)