Saturday, July 28, 2007

Eventing Tack (to fit a Percheron)

One of the biggest challenges in eventing my Percheron gelding is, surprisingly, not dressage. It is finding eventing tack to fit a draft horse. I guess there's not much of a market for jumping saddles that come in extra-wide!

I played saddle roulette on Ebay a few too many times and ended up with a saddle that didn't really fit. It took three weeks for Brego to completely backslide and go hollow and convince my ex-saddle fitter that the saddle wouldn't work. I decided to stop gambling with my horse's back. After all, if I was going to subject him to the humiliation of learning to event, he better be darn comfortable doing it.

So I found a new amazing saddle fitter, who just happens to be a saddler herself. She also works with Borné Saddlery. It took just one ride in a Borné saddle to convince me, I just had to have one. And not just any one, I wanted the eventing model! So I had the saddler get the measurements and my new saddle was on order.

I had already been able to locate a hunting bridle which would be big enough for Brego. Bobby's warmblood size tends to fit smaller drafts. He needed thicker straps on his bridle because, you know, he's so manly. And he looks really nice in the bridle. I am riding him in a french link egg-butt snaffle and he is doing really well. Since he does both dressage and jumping in the snaffle, I have no need at this time to get another bridle to make bit swapping at shows easier. I do have both rubber and web reins, if I feel the need to switch it up.

I am having my saddler custom make a jumping breast plate for Brego. It will be made to match my fabulous new saddle. I am also having her make some leather brushing boots for me. I tried the Woof XL boots and they fit around his 10 inch cannon bones, but were too long for his 10 inch long legs. The N.E.W. Maximum Performance boots fit lengthwise but are just a touch too short around his legs. At his level, he doesn't need boots really. He's barefoot and hasn't stung himself yet. The jumps barely come up to his knees so he's not having to scrape over them. So the boots are a long off goal, unless he indicates that he needs them sooner.

Well today, my saddle came in and I am so thrilled with it. I had been riding in an Albion and it was a little too small and deep for me. It definitely hampered my freedom of expression, if you know what I mean. This new saddle is custom made for Brego and for me and it felt so good riding in it today. It's also very pretty with the white accent stitching on the dark buffalo hide flaps. I asked that the rear blocks be removable so that I could take them out to lengthen my leg for dressage. I am still a bit far off from being able to afford a dedicated dressage saddle, but I intend to buy another custom Borné. Doesn't my boy (and my butt) deserve the best?

First Dressage Lesson

Today was Brego's first dressage lesson. The lesson was even more special because it also happened to by my first dressage lesson as well. Talk about the blind leading the blind! I have to say, that although jumping gets the heart pumping, dressage (even my pathetic attempt at it) is pure fun. I was really impressed with what little I knew, but then once I got the hang of it, how well Brego responded.

It's like this whole time we've been together, we've been speaking with a 20 word vocabulary. It's pretty hard to build a partnership with speech like "Me fast go. You turn right." My first lesson today at least doubled my vocabulary and it turns out that Brego had been waiting for me to learn the correct words all this time.

It was very fun to get such a positive response out of Brego, but it was also very hard work! Twenty-six years of riding tends to give you some bad habits, you ride almost reflexively and lose awareness. I had to really focus on my hands and if I lost concentration, my outside hand would drop, rotate in and go soft. I also nag Brego with my legs to keep him going. We spent considerable time just teaching him that when I say move off my leg, I mean it the first time, not the fifth. He was slowly catching on.

Not surprisingly, I am very one-sided which makes Brego very one-sided. I am weak to the left and drop my shoulders. When I focused on tensioning my right abs, I stayed straighter and amazingly, just like that, Brego was able to balance through a left turn. It's hard to describe to someone who doesn't know horses that the effect of me using my right abs caused a 1400 lb animal to suddenly right himself. But it's true, and I am still reeling at the discovery.

Other things I learned were to ask for him to bend around my inside leg, something he was very resistant to. I had to "play" with my inside hand to ask for his nose to come in, while simultaneously tapping with my inside leg to pick him up. Oh, and don't forget my strong outside hand, I've got to support him. Lots to think about all at once, but when I managed it, I was rewarded with two or three steps of the most lovely, honest trot. And that is how greatness gets started, I think.

The good news is that as a duo we are not hopeless. My very patient instructor was pretty impressed with Brego, even when I dropped him at the trot. She said he had a very "elastic" trot and he was a nice mover. High praise from someone with her own gorgeous Fourth level warmblood. She also said I was a good rider and I was good enough to train him to do what I wanted. All I need is some guidance and self control!

I told her that I am shooting for a schooling event at the end of September in which Brego will make his Beginner Novice debut. The Beginner Novice dressage tests are all pretty basic walk/trot/canter, but he will need to canter a 20m circle. She understood immediately the challenge we have ahead of us, but seems to think it's doable. I just need to work really hard between lessons to retrain both Brego and myself to speak a new language. I am very excited and can't wait to get started.

(I promise to have pictures of our next lesson!)

Thursday, July 26, 2007

New Home for the Eventing Draft

Brego made the big move yesterday to a new facility. He will be in a 7 acre pasture with his best buddy, Hobby, and all the grass the horse can eat. I apologize for the quality of the picture, it was taken with my phone. That gray blob over Brego's (on right) withers is the far fence which is made of stone. It's a good sized pasture!

We'll be cutting back his feed and watching for signs of laminitis due to all that grass, but both horses were so happy, they never raised their heads the entire hour we were fussing over them. The best part: Even though we received more rain this week (another 3 inches!), there was no mud!!!

I know people say horses don't show much emotion in their faces, but the look on Brego's face was that he was very happy and very relieved. It's all worth it!

Now if will only dry out enough to ride! Luckily, I have a dressage lesson on Friday at an indoor so he will get ridden at least once this month!

Monday, July 23, 2007

What's In Your SmartPak?

In preparation of moving Brego to a new facility where someone else will feed him twice a day, I have ordered his supplements using SmartPak, a brilliant idea. His supplements come individually wrapped with his name on it in daily servings so the new barn simply needs to pop them open and pour them on his food each day. Simple. Easy. Brilliant.

So what is Brego getting these days? For our first couple months, I thought I would keep it simple. He will have access to salt blocks so I will not be adding an electrolyte. I will take additional electrolytes with me to shows or camping but he won't need them everyday. I will keep him on a joint supplement and Glanzen 3 because it provides additional fats.

In a previous post, I talked about trying to reach the magic 20% fat ratio in Brego's feed. The new barn will feed our custom blend mentioned before, and the Glanzen 3 supplement will provide additional fats.

I am excited to see how it all works out! Yay for someone else feeding Brego twice a day! And yay for SmartPaks!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

No Hoof, No Horse

Brego has great feet. I've been lucky. When I first got him, his feet were very long and neglected (pictured right), but they were not contracted. To people who love natural barefoot trims, no contraction is a very good thing. He had severe flaring however, and that is a battle I wage even still.

It was my goal to keep Brego barefoot throughout his eventing career. I don't plan on him ever competing above Novice, so the course should not be so difficult that he will require studs. If the terrain is slippery and I get tired of scratching the events, I will likely invest in custom boots with studs. His feet are just too good to put shoes on just for traction. I have taken him through some very rocky terrain in the Texas Hill Country and he does just fine. I was pretty proud of myself, living the barefoot dream, working him over rocks to keep his feet in good condition, watching his gaits improve as his flares came under control.

All hubris.

This year has taught me that the great undoing of barefoot horses is mud. I am not so insensitive to the terrible drought in other parts of the country to outright curse the amount of rain central Texas has received, but I am darn close. Enough with the rain already. Two plus years of drought has tempered my anti-rain sentiments so I bit my tongue and was thrilled to have whatever moisture we could get. Until now.

The rain is destroying my horses' feet (among other terrible things, like ruining hay crops, but I will try to stay on topic). We've had 8 inches of rain in July alone. We are +17 inches of rain for the year. That is, we have had a whole year's worth of extra rain by mid July. Not only does it cut into my training and riding time, but it is undoing all the hard work of the "barefoot" protocol.

Brego is currently boarded at a barn with sensitive pastures. The Hill Country of Texas is not a prairie grassland. It is a rocky and arid and scrubby place. The owners of the barn have wisely decided that in this year of plenty they will rebuild the pastures they have lovingly cultivated by seeding and fertilizing. That means when the pastures are wet, the horses need to stay off. And it rains inches every three days. So, this year, Brego is spending the majority of his time in a 2-acre denuded paddock, up to his ankles in this black mud. His feet are so soft and sensitive, that when he does get to come out of the paddock, I can't take him on the usual rock trails that last year he trotted down with pleasure.

I am moving Brego to a new facility in August where he will be turned out on grass. Even if it rains, he will be wet, but he will be standing on wet grass instead of in mud. I expect it will help some, but his feet will be sensitive until we get an extended dry spell. His sole has lost some of the concavity we have built because his soft feet just "splat" under his weight as he stands in water. Thrush is also a major concern, with monthly treatments trying to undo the bacteria and fungus living in the manure-mud slushy he calls home (Did I mention the mud paddock is not picked?)

So last year when I was bragging about my horse's great feet and how he could do anything, I have now learned just how dumb I was. Horses will do that. Horses love exposing stupid.

I am hoping that by this fall, Brego will be able to compete barefoot. But if not, I need to order those custom boots very soon. Of course, he won't be able to wear them during the dressage phase. But if the courses are as sloppy as most of the pastures and trails I have seen this summer, he is going to need some help.

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.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Measure Progress, Not Perfection

It's no secret that one of Brego's greatest challenges is becoming balanced and getting off his forehand. He's young, out of shape, and only been in serious under-saddle training for 6 months. Asking him to be truly balanced is a lot for him at this stage.

Which is why I measure progress and not perfection. It can be sometimes discouraging to saddle up and anticipate carting around his 800 lb head for an hour. So I am trying to make it a goal to not just ride, but try to ride with quality and see if I can get him to self-balance. Since I am not a great rider, again I have to be happy with progress and not perfection. Today we made progress.

I wanted to take advantage of the unseasonably cool weather (high of 82 in July!!), and do some canter sets. It has been so warm recently that I have not pushed his fitness level along. So we did 3 five-minute trot sets and 2 three-minute canter sets. After a 10 minute walk down, I picked up the reins and he seemed eager to go, so I thought I might work on some lateral moves to get him to balance back on his hind end.

Earlier in the day, I had discussed work-in-hand with my trainer as an option for Brego since he needed a lot of support learning how to balance back. Asking for a shoulder-in in hand was a great way to learn his balance spot. Well, I didn't work him in hand, but I did ask for shoulder-in and haunches-in along the far fence of the 10 acre event field. He did really very well, considering that a month ago just doing the speed work would have wiped him out completely.

So imagine my surprise when I give him a pat and head towards home and he breaks into the most lovely, forward, and surprisingly light trot. I was ecstatic! Where was the 800 lbs of head in my hands? Where was the pokey western-pleasure jog he is fond of? I sat this delicious trot all the way to the barn where I could yell for a camera because "Brego was doing something amazing!"

I circled him at the trot a couple more times and ended on a great note. He was different, lighter, cruising along. He wasn't perfect, I am not about to proclaim the war is over. But there was a hint of what could be if we work together and I learn this fancy dressage stuff. There was definitely progress.

Tommorrow will be another day, and we might not make progress, but it is days like today when I remember why I am trying to train a Percheron to compete in one of the toughest equestrian sports on earth: Because he just might do it and surprise us all with his quality.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Horse of a Different Color

Brego, to my great dismay, is brown. Those familiar with the Percheron breed will know that brown, or "bay" to horse purists, is not common. In fact, it's downright spooky. So either Brego is a freak of nature, more so than we originally thought anyway, or there is some factor which is causing his black hair to turn brown.

Determining if Brego is a bay Percheron is more than just satisfying my vanity, because, I admit it, I want a gorgeous black horse with flowing mane and tail. No where in my childhood dreams, did I say: I want a ratty, burnt looking horse with split ends and a tail nubbin.

The truth is, if Brego is meant to be black, then there's some environmental factors at play which is changing his color, and some of those factors could be related to nutrition. And that's a serious topic. If Brego is deficient in something, so much so that it makes him bleach out, then I need to investigate.

The first step is determining if he is, indeed, a freakish bay Percheron or if he's supposed to be black. I sent a sample of his mane hair off to be tested and in no time, I had my answer. When tested for the Agouti factor which dictates the "bay gene", Brego came up empty. In other words, he was "aa" which means "Only recessive allele detected. Black pigment distributed uniformly. The basic color of the horse will be black in the absence of other modifying genes."

So he's supposed to be black... whew. So why then is he brown?

There are lots of reasons for sun bleaching:

  1. Copper deficiency
  2. He has a fading gene which there aren't tests for yet
  3. Too much Texas sun
  4. Sweat stuck in his coat breaks down the hair faster
I spoke to my vet about a copper deficiency and she feels it is unlikely, but I can run the blood test if I want.

Since he is pastured in Central Texas, there's not a whole lot I can do prevent sun damage. My only hope is to make his coat so healthy it can resist the damaging rays. The only thing I have been doing is to make sure to hose him down completely after working to remove as much sweat as possible. I might also try adding paprika to his diet in the fall, to see if that improves next spring's coat. Another option is to clothe him in a fly sheet for UV protection. These are all things I need to consider if I want the beautiful black horse of my dreams... although he is kind of cute as a bay.

Area V Adult Summer Camp

I was recently asked to write up my experiences at the Adult Summer Camp for Area V. I have included it below for grins.

Attending the Adult Summer Camp for Area V was the very best introduction to eventing I could imagine. I already knew some about horses, coming from a hunter background, but learning about eventing was like seeing a whole new world open up. Rainey Andrews was tremendously generous with her time, effortlessly shifting her attention from rank beginners to some truly great horse and rider combos. She even offered more sessions during her free time so people could soak up all of her immense information. Max Corcoran stepped right into her role as clinician with all the grace and expertise she uses daily at her job as head groom for Karen O' Conner. In additional to teaching the students about conditioning programs, she spent endless time covering the more mundane but very important topics of braiding, wrapping, feed, supplements, turnout and (everyone's favorite) tail pulling.

The Summer Camp was hosted at one of the most amazing facilities in area V, Cedar Creek Farms. Most students' jaws dropped when they saw their work and play accommodations for the four short days of the camp. The immaculately groomed farm included a airy covered arena with PA system, schooling
Trakehner and ditch in front of the cobblestone aisled barn, and more distinct cross country schooling areas than I could count from the complimentary ATVs we got to play with. Perhaps event better than the farm were the meals, which included excellent fresh food with plentiful lounging beverages. It was the best vacation resort, er, eventing facility I have ever seen.

In addition to the excellent instruction, the students got to participate in some of the finer aspects of living in Mabank, Texas. Students were treated to waking up at a lakefront property complete with wave runners. They even got to celebrate the clinic with a surf and turf meal at the local country club, all courtesy of Allison Freeman, our most gracious host. Allison tirelessly looked after all of her guests, even providing special accommodations for myself and my friend when her mare fell sick. She provided the rest of the students with free use of her ranch, equipment, beverages and perhaps most entertaining, her excellent wit and humor which was never in short supply. She succeeded in making everyone feel like an honored guest instead of just a clinic student.

In short, the clinic farm surpassed my wildest hopes and showed me just how hard eventers work and play. I cannot wait until Allison hosts another summer camp and I hope I am first in line when she does.

It Takes A Village

The top eventing horses in the country certainly have an entourage. They are surrounded by excellent grooms, farriers, vets, nutritionists, chiropractors, masseurs, acupuncturists, smoothie ladies. Although Brego is not about to debut at Rolex, he certainly has his own supporting staff who help make sure that he is not only able to perform in eventing, but that he is as comfortable and happy as possible. Because he is a non-conventional breed, the regular workout prescriptions for Thoroughbreds don't apply, or maybe don't apply as well, so I like to get extra help from the pros to tweak my program.

Perhaps his favorite "service provider" is his chiropractor. I take him every quarter to get a look over by a certifiably brilliant bone cracker. Brego got to go see him last week, and when he saw the special padded stall where the chiro works his magic, he tried to drag me in. Ahhh, nothing beats a good "alignment".

I was a little concerned this time around because I have been having a lot of saddle fit issues and he had been jumping (a new development since his last visit). I was afraid the chiro would say, "Goodness, this poor horse is in shambles! Don't you know Percherons aren't supposed to jump?"

The news overall was very good. Brego had no major issues, a tweak here and there and he was good to go. His hips and sacrum where moving freely, his stifles and hocks were excellent. He had one patella and a vertebrate in his neck adjusted.

Instead of lecturing me on jumping a draft horse, I got "I really like how he's filling out, but he needs to be bigger!" Bigger?? Sheesh, I spend all my time trying to trim Brego down to ease the wear and tear on his joints. "No, bigger muscle! He needs a bigger butt!" Ah ok, that's reasonable. But considering Brego's butt already has its own gravitational field, I was dubious.

Still, I heard it straight from the doc. Continue doing what I am doing, step up his exercise, and make his butt bigger! Oh, and don't let him get too fat.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Misery, Thy Name is "Dressage"

One of the really excellent things about eventing is that it compels you to be a "well-rounded" rider. You have to compete over three phases and each phase highlights strengths (or weaknesses) in your training program. The three phases are:

  • Dressage - Emphasizes submission, knowledge, and precision
  • Speed and Endurance (Cross Country) - Emphasizes fitness and bravery
  • Arena Show Jumping - Emphasizes power and accuracy
To Brego, nothing beats a good short gallop down a field over a little log. He loves Speed and Endurance (although he's pretty shake\y on the endurance part these days... fatty!). The Show Jumping is coming along nicely, he is working on being precise and grids are helping him learn his feet. His biggest weakness, however, is Dressage.

It's not really his fault. In all my years of Hunters-dom, I never took a single Dressage lesson, not even for cross training. I am an average rider, not exceptional, so the control of my seat, hands, and legs is a work in progress. And, last but certainly not least, Brego has an unfortunately large head. That noggin must weigh a quarter of his total weight, dragging his forehand ever downward, defying any attempts to balance him up and back.

Dressage, for us, is a work in progress. I am arranging to have my first ever lesson with a wonderful dressage trainer in the next couple of weeks. Hopefully, she will steer us down the road to more balance, grace, and responsiveness.

In the meantime, I need to work on my salute!

(More photos here

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Feeding the (fat) Equine Athlete

What exactly does one feed a soon to be Eventing Percheron? Well it's a good question, and there is an ever-evolving answer. The topic of feed has come up quite a bit recently. I am lucky in that the current place I board allows us to feed our own feed, which is a wonderful luxury when you have both a fat and out-of-shape Percheron and a skinny and tough-keeper Thoroughbred. I need something which conforms to the EPSM recommendations by Dr. Beth Valentine in order to prevent Brego from having trouble in the future, but at the same time, it would be convenient if I could simultaneously put weight on the skinny Thoroughbred.

A high fat diet, low in non structural carbs, fits both horses well.

I initially tried the alfalfa pellets + oil route and ended up having a ratty looking horse. After more research, I moved him to the new diet in January and he is filling in really well. Now he just needs more muscle and definition... something a nice eventing exercise program can give him.

I mix the feed myself into a big tub and then scoop out the daily allotments:

45%Triple Crown Senior
45% Kent Omegatin
10% black oil sunflower seeds

He also gets about a cup of oil on top, which is a mixture of fish and canola oil, pro-biotic, msm, and electrolytes when needed.

I am hoping to switch to Smart Paks soon to make the feeding process easier.

Brego is a little fat right now and not very fit. It's been raining pretty heavily all summer so far, so his regular exercise program has been on hold. So on days he does not work, he gets about 1/2 scoop (2 lbs) of the above feed once a day and free choice hay/grass. On the days he does get to work, he will get a full scoop (4 lbs) of the above feed. Brego gets fat just looking at food. He and I both are of the "drafty" type!

By comparison, the Thoroughbred gets about 8 lbs of feed everyday, whether she works or not. She is also on the same free choice hay/grass. And she's too skinny, in my opinion.

So the diet is constantly tweaked, hoping to get both horses to look as good as possible.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Brego earns his stripes, er, chevrons!

My new eventing skull cap cover from Sipp Silks came in Brego's colors: Royal Blue and Baby Blue. A soon to be eventing Percheron needs to look as stylish as possible! I've got the helmet cover, matching polo shirts, and some electrical tape for his boots. Now I just need to get a snazzy jumping pad, perhaps royal blue with baby blue piping.

Brego will be charming the ladies sporting his new threads at his next event... sometime after summer in the Heart of Texas.

Monday, July 9, 2007

First Cross Country Schooling

I took Brego down to San Antonio on July 7, 2007 for his first time to school cross country. There is a great farm called Indian Creek Farm which has a gorgeous cross country field, a large dressage arena, and two jumping arenas. For a very reasonable fee, you can trailer in an school in any of the facilities for the day.

Since this was Brego's first time, my goal was to simply "go clean". I wanted to see how he would respond to new fences and a new layout. Since he has only been jumping seriously since March, I am concerned that anything new will throw off this steadily improving confidence.

In addition to jumping cleanly, I was hoping to introduce him to water and to a bank. I did not necessarily intend to school him, but just let him check it out and see what he thought. Maybe he would process it a little and next time we came down, he would school them. Little did I know that my little adolescent Percheron was maturing into a very brave and confident boy!

I started in the lower jumping arena and worked on my departure from low fences. Through my own poor training in the past, I taught him that after a fence, he gets praise and the ability to stop cantering. This makes performing a whole course a little bit difficult when after each fence he says "Can I stop? How about now, can I stop now?". So we did a couple of low verticals and a small wall and worked on finishing the canter at the other side of the arena. He did surprisingly well!

Encouraged, I moved out to the cross country field. We went first to the water complex since it was a very warm day. He walked right in so we ended up schooling. Here is his first ever trot down a bank, into water, and jump out of the water. He is a bit awkward but absolutely so brave!

I then schooled some small logs to see if he would jump funny obstacles without getting a peak at them first. I don't think he ever peaked at them as he cruised right over them.

We finished up with the bank complex. I was a bit intimidated because, deep down, I sometimes question his athleticism and ability to haul his enormous draft butt over fences. Now he needed to jump up about 2'6" onto a grassy bank. Oh, and not kill me. He did just fine at the canter!

So encouraged, we tried to go down the bank. I let him trot up and held my leg and to my surprise he just jumped right off.

I think he's trying to tell me something... I think he loves eventing!

More Pictures Here