Thursday, November 29, 2007

Shout Out

I am all about supporting the local community, especially when it's a community of horsey people. A ton of work goes into every show, schooling or rated, and I get to just show up, pay my fee, and take my ride. My thanks go out to the organizers, volunteers, judges, and professionals who make each show possible.

I was really thrilled to see some excellent photographs from the Fall Formal show photographer, Cheryl Stephens! I bought 4 pictures from her to be framed and proudly displayed and she was kind enough to send me these excellent digital copies. Plus the service was friendly and very personal. All photos are copyright by Cheryl Stephens Photography.

You can see Brego's complete album as well and pick out a few pictures to hang on your wall. You know, because it's the totally hip thing to buy random pictures of a horse you don't even know. It's all about the art, people! :)

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Holy Butt Dapples, Batman

I finally got to see my boy during daylight hours today and he has exploded into a serious rash of dapples. Must be that new diet!

That is one greasy fat horse! :)

(I admit it. I have a thing for butt dapples.)

Those of you with a good attention to detail will notice the lovely spur rubs on Brego's sides. Yep, spurs are now banished until such time as I can control my leg. Even though I wore tiny nubbin spurs, there is no excuse for a rub, body clipped or not.

So sans spurs, I rode. Brego did exceedingly well without them. His "go" was maintained through a squeeze of the calf. Some of our lateral work required more leg, but I can fine tune that. In general, I am happy to be rid of the spurs, since they should never be used for forward anyway. Now I can focus on improving my leg without inadvertent rubs.

For having over a week off, Brego did awesome. Normally, even with a few days off, it's back to square one with asking him to listen, and move off my leg, and bend, etc. Today, he must have felt great, because it was like we never took a break at all. He was listening and moving off my leg and did reasonably well with bending. It was really great to be riding. Even the short time off made me really miss his big trot. I felt right at home once we started out across the arena.

Ah, and being the oh so clever person that I am, I found a 7" loose ring for $25 shipped to my door from So now I get to check the sizing on a "throwaway" bit before shelling out for the Kangaroo bit in the UK. So between my 6" KK and my soon-to-be-delivered 7", I will know whether he will be more comfortable in a 6.5" or a 7".

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Big Mouth

Well Brego's new 6" KK Ultra is too small. Some days, I just want to cry.

I was so excited to go out to ride, having been off for more than a week. Then I had to work late, then I got stuck in traffic for an hour, then I forgot his (new up-sized 58") girth, and then the bit was too small. It's so small, I can't even ask him to suck it up for me for a couple of days to check out how he responds to the copper alloy. The risk of his big lips getting pinched is too great. The boy must be growing or something. Good thing I am seeing the saddler again on Saturday.


So now I am going to shell out the big bucks and get a 6.5" or a 7" Kangaroo bit from the UK. Merry Christmas to me!

When people ask me the number one problem with eventing a draft, I have one answer: tack.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Check out with the Chiropractor

Every quarter, I take Brego to my vet to get checked out and visit the traveling chiropractor. My vet is very good, but the chiro is pure genius. I get chills watching him work, seeing the obvious enjoyment in Brego's face, and knowing that tomorrow Brego will move noticeably better. My chiro is also very knowledgeable and opinionated in all things equine, including not just osteopathy, but dentistry, hoofs, saddle fit. He's worked all over the world, for some very big name riders, so I trust his opinion a lot.

Last time I saw him, he said Brego was "fine" but he wanted to see him bigger. After my dressage instructor freaked out two weeks ago about how big he was getting, I thought that he just might be big enough for my chiro. I was also concerned that all the heavy work Brego has been doing this fall would tell through his joints and I would get a lecture. I did get a lecture, but it was not quite what I expected.

I got there just in time to see the horse ahead of me get worked up. My chiro gave a tongue lashing to the poor Andalusian owning people, about how the saddle didn't fit, he had poor teeth, his jaw was a mess, his sacrum was a mess, etc.

Yikes! What would he say about my perhaps not quite big enough, hard working boy?

The first thing the chiro said to me was "Is this the horse you brought before?" Surprised, I said, "Yes, you've seen him before." I thought for sure he would have remembered Brego. My chiro has remembered individual cracks in horse's hooves before. He looked him up and down and said, "I had to look twice, I can't believe how much he has changed." He then went on to comment on his musculature, his coat, his conditioning, how it has all improved and congratulated me on making such a difference in a short amount of time. This is very high praise!

He took pictures of Brego to compare to the originals since he couldn't believe how good he looked. He told me that what things he did find in the exam were typical of any horse in work, nothing to be worried about, just bring him back to maintain him. He made a point of telling me to keep doing what I was doing, Brego was looking great. Oh, but he could be a bit bigger. :)

That's when I dropped the bomb that Brego was jumping. To say he was disappointed would be an understatement. He then gave me the lecture about how he was too heavy, it would crush him, he's not meant to jump. I told him I was jumping 2'6". Then my vet jumped in to say that was not very high. My chiro wavered and said, "Fine, it's good for his brain, but no higher!" Well, there ya have it. Doctor's orders. We are officially capped at 3' (which is a bit higher, but come on, Brego canters around a field bigger than 3' without jumping anything).

He also gave me some good tips on trimming Brego. His feet are a constant issue since they tend to be very flat. Although he is completely sound barefoot, he still has a lot of flaring from two years ago. Finally, I asked that they measure his height, since he seemed larger, and draw a new coggins with his new show name, all ready for the Spring 08 season. Brego measured out at 16.3 3/4 hands. Which means he's grown, either skeletally or muscularly, about 2 inches since I have owned him. Go, Brego!

It was a relief to a get a clean bill of health after Brego's recent back stiffness and to get validation that the diet and conditioning program were working well to get him fit but not overdoing it. The last thing I want is to tear him down when he is still pretty young. Brego will get another day off and then we'll start some light hacking. Perhaps I will even get to finally try that KK Ultra bit!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Eyes Wide Open

EDITED: The context of this post is extrapolated from the discussion and work of others online. Specifically, the compiled list of eventing fatalities was referenced from a discussion thread on the Chronicle of the Horse Forums. All references to the list should include the original citation. Please also note that this post was originally uploaded 11/24/2007 and considerable discussion and energies have taken place by all interested parties. The information contained within it should be considered dated.

I haven't ridden since the last dressage show, letting both Brego and myself unwind. I have been using my "riding" time to study up on the cerebral aspects of the sport, read some interesting dressage books, and generally try to enrich my knowledge of horses.

But then I saw this thread of Chronicle of the Horse announcing Eleanor's death. There's been a lot of discussion on the event forum there about the deaths this year during competitions. Although I tend to consider upper-level eventing and what Brego and I do as different sports, 11 deaths in a year is seriously sobering.

What is going on? Is it the demise of the long format, the infusion of of warmbloods, more technical courses? In this post, someone details what they have found researching.

A list of eventing deaths from August 2006 - November 2007:

Sherelle Duke (IRE), 28, 08/20/06, Brockenhurst (UK), Advanced HT, rotational fall, horse fell on rider, head injuries

Mia Eriksson (USA), 17, 11/04/06, Galway Downs, CCI**, Fence #19, rotational fall, horse fell on rider, ruptured aorta

Kim Hyung Chil (KOR), 47, 12/07/06, Doha, Asian Games CCI*, Fence #8, table (1.08m in height), rotational fall, horse fell on rider’s head and upper body

Amanda Bader (USA), 32, 02/17/07, Ocala, Preliminary HT, Fence #13, table, rotational fall, horse fell on rider, head/neck injuries

Amelie Cohen (FRA), 30, 03/11/07, Fontainebleau, Novice, Fence #7, rotational fall, horse fell on rider

Jo-Anne Williams (UK), 34, 04/18/07 Sapey ODE, Novice, Fence #8, ‘bench-style obstacle’, horse somersaulted, rider thrown clear, displaced aorta (inoperable), also reported as head injury

Julie Silly (FRA), 17, 05/05/07, Novice HT, Jardy, ‘straightforward fence’, rotational fall, horse fell on rider

Elin Stalberg (SWE), 19, 07/21/07, Bollnas, CCI** or CIC**, 3rd last fence, corner, rotational fall, horse fell on rider

Tina Richter-Vietor (GER) , 32, 08/04/07 , CIC** Schenefeld , Fence #2, ‘easy-type’ fence, rotational fall, horse somersaulted and rider ‘catapulted out of saddle’, broken neck

Anke Wolfe (GER), 40, 08/15/07, Neu-Wulmsdorf, Novice HT, final fence, rotational fall, horse fell on rider

Maia Boutanos (FRA), 29, 09/01/07, Moulin-Coulandon, Novice HT, Fence #5b, ‘fall of horse and rider’, ‘obstacle not fixed’ according to regulations

Eleanor Brennan (UK), 20, 11/17/07, Ocala CCI**, Fence #18, table, rotational fall, horse fell on rider, head and chest injuries

(Note: in this list, the European Novice is the equivalent of our Prelim level)

The killer is rotational falls, at speed, over Prelim or higher fences which cause horses to land on the rider's head and chest. Rotational falls occur at the lower levels, up past 3' or so, but the speed is not as big of a factor and the rider is thrown clear or the horse lands on the legs and pelvis. And of course, the table fence, which killed Eleanor, is strikingly present in the list.

A lot people want answers, and of course, I want the USEA to address it, or at least admit there is a problem. Eleven deaths all due to a similar fall is not a statistical abnormality. While I do not believe we can lay the blame solely at the demise of the long format, there is a certain amount of fallout from the way courses are built today. I think Denny Emerson said it best in his post on Chronicle of the Horse:
There will be some rule maven on here who can correct me if I`m wrong, but I`m pretty sure that the speeds of 520 for prel, 550 for int, and 570 for adv have been the same since I started eventing in 1962.
But the x-c courses are very different than "back when."
Nobody who has been really "in the sport" for say, 15-20 years, will argue that many, if not most x-c courses have become much more technical.
This past summer someone was describing some advanced track they`d just watched as being like "a three mile Hickstead Jumping Derby over solid obstacles."
But the way horses generally get faults in jumping derbies is by having the rails fall down, not the horses.
As horses have to be slowed down and set up to negotiate technical questions, it then stands to reason that, in order to make time, the riders will "book" at the fairly straightforward ones.
Even our very greatest, Bruce, Mark Todd, Blyth Tait, have missed and had crashing falls, so what chance does a mere mortal have to always get the right distance on a horse that is "flying low" at high speeds, often tired, to make the time?
Sure, you say, the rider doesn`t have to make the time, he/she can slow down and ride better distances from better balance, but good eventers are first and foremost competitive people who want to do well.
I know, partly because I am one, and because I`ve spent the last 45 years in close proximity to thousands of them.
So if we are determined that we want more technical xc courses, and it seems we do, then I think our speeds may well be outmoded.
Heck, we`ve already done away with the heart of "speed and endurance", why not go the rest of the way and try lowering speeds by, lets say, 20 meters a minute, to 500, 530, and 550 for the 3 upper levels?
It might not be the answer, but at this point, we better try something, probably a number of somethings, if we want this sport to survive.
The way it`s going now has got to change, and fast, or some outside entity will change it for us, which might not be the worst thing in the world if we are found to be unable to police our own sport for the wellbeing of its participants.
I am way past thinking "It`s just an accident, and accidents will happen."
Not like this, not this many, no way.
For many reasons, I have capped Brego's competitive jumping height at 3'. I will not ask him to compete higher than Novice in eventing. But after reading about the upper levels of the sport, and I am not even going to start talking about horse deaths which is a much larger number, I think I might cap myself as well. Everyone told me at my first eventing clinic that I would outgrow Brego's abilities and need to get a proper eventer. Well, what if I don't want to outgrow them? Three foot solid fences is still looking pretty big to me and we have so much to learn to even get to that level of competition. By the time we get there, eventing may not even exist in its current form, having been sanitized into jumping derbies + high level dressage by the public outcry.

I don't have any answers. The only comfort I have is that I trust my horse, and I know we can be partners for the foreseeable future, with no pressure to move up to where the consequences of a mistake are too grim. Everybody be safe out there.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Fall Formal Dressage Show

Yesterday, Brego and I (and some of our closest friends) went to the Central Texas Dressage Society Fall Formal show. Overall, it was a lot of fun and we all did very well. As the day wore on, however, it became obvious that Brego was definitely tired of showing. I have decided to scratch Pine Hill in two weeks and so the Fall Formal will be the last show of the season. We both need a well earned vacation.

The day started early, with Alyssa riding at 8:42 am. I did not ride until 1:40 pm so there was a lot of standing around as the day got hotter and hotter. I was worried that Brego would be sapped by the time I got around to riding, and I was not feeling so hot myself so I considered scratching and ending the season early. After longing him to see if he was still stiff through his back and determining that he was actually moving very well I went ahead and rode just to get another "experience" under our belt and hopefully chase the "warm-up demons" away. I was not expecting anything miraculous since both of us were so ambivalent about the show.

I was pretty glad to have low expectations after our Training Test 2. Warmup went relatively uneventfully which is reassuring. It seems that he is getting less rambunctious with all the other horses cantering around him. It also helps that I longed him first, a practice I mean to continue in the Spring. We then sat around for 10 minutes before going into the arena for our test, which is a big mistake. Brego went to sleep. Then when he realized he had to work again he was resistant and sluggish. He even broke from the canter during one of our circles earning our first 4 for a movement! Woohoo! It was a good lesson for me to learn because everything that happened in the test was a direct result of our pre-class preparation.

We got a 30 minute break and then I went in again to warmup for our Training Test 1. This time, I really focused on forward forward forward, instead of "please don't buck and kill me". I also did more leg yielding exercises and basically treated warmup like one of my lessons, where he is always "on" by the end of the hour. I also took him directly from trotting in the warmup right into the ring, with no standing around. When I went in for our second test, he felt more alive. I was really happy with the test. I felt that he had improved greatly in quality, he was more precise in his transitions, and more consistent with contact. We only ended up scoring 1% higher than the earlier test, and I attribute that to the fact that feeling like your horse is moving better doesn't alway look like he's moving better, especially when you've mastered the art of making your horse look easy.

So the net result was favorable. We scored 65% for the first test (Video: Training 2), even with our 4, and placed 2nd out of 10. We scored 66.1% for the second test (Video: Training 1) and placed 2nd out of 4.

In all other ways, the show was a resounding success. Brego behaved in warmup. I successfully got our best show performance (in feel, if not in looks) out of him. He came out of both tests without heavy breathing and no sweating, a testament to his increased level of fitness. He did one stride of the miracle canter in warmup and then I regressed in my riding and he followed me back down. The rest of the competitors and spectators were extremely kind and generous and gave Brego lots of pats for being a good boy (even when I was mad at him). People were genuinely impressed with his ability and I didn't get any Dressage Queen vibes at all, which is really wonderful. Friends came out of the woodwork to read for me, give me tips, and cheer me on. It was a great day.

More Photos

So now we will rest. Brego will get one ride this week with the new KK Ultra bit I found locally in 6" (Wonder of wonders!!) to see if his head explodes from the copper. He has a chiro appointment next Sunday and then I plan on some nice long camping trips to decompress.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Biting Nightmare

Brego is not an easy horse to bit. In fact, most of his bits have come from the UK, an expensive proposition. My dressage trainer would like to see him in a loose ring, instead of his egg-but snaffle, so I am once again on the hunt for a new bit.

But it gets a bit more complicated. Brego has a low palate so he requires a double-jointed snaffle, or a French-link type snaffle. Additionally, he has in the past had a strong reaction to bits with copper inlays directly on his bars. His mouth swelled up and he had trouble chewing for 12 hours. I put in an emergency call to an equine dentist. Not a pretty sight.

So I need to a find a double-jointed loose ring snaffle, preferably with no/low copper, oh and it must be 6”. Yea, good luck. I am leaning towards attempting to get a Kangaroo brand or Herm Sprenger brand alloy, even though they do contain some copper, to see if he can tolerate a copper alloy. Hobby really loves her Sprenger loose ring, and I want to try it for Brego. As long as it’s not pure copper directly on his bars, he might be ok. He has gone in a French link, where the center link was pure copper, with no ill effects.

Unfortunately, I don’t know of anyone with a 6” that I can try, so I will probably end up buying one, having it shipped from England, and praying his head doesn’t swell up from the copper alloy. What else would I do over the Holiday Season?

If anyone knows of a bit “renter” with a loose ring, double jointed, 6” Sprenger or Kangaroo alloy bit, please let me know. I would love to “try before I buy”.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Dressage Lesson 6

I just had the most amazing dressage lesson. I know I know, I always say that, because each lesson blows my mind in some way. But this lesson was truly bordering on miraculous.

It didn't start so well. Earlier this week, Brego and I had a fight. It started as a disagreement on bending, which escalated into an argument over turning in a circle, and ended with a drag out fight. And even though it ended on my terms, no one wins when you fight your horse. The net result of the fight was that Brego was understandably defensive during our next ride and we spent a lot of time in Remedial Land, working on simple bending. I am actually pretty ashamed that I lost it on Brego. It is a complete failure as a rider. But, I promised myself I would publish the good, bad, and ugly on this blog to paint an accurate picture. And it doesn't get much uglier than that.

So tonight started with me explaining to my very patient trainer how I fought my horse and pulled on his face and now he's having trouble yielding his jaw. Super. So we get started and he's off on his left hind. Super. We pull the saddle and check his back and yep, it's tight on the left. My trainer gives him a little massage and we longe him a bit and he works out of it. We decide to focus on deep topline exercises to ask him to stretch and if he got worse, to call it a night and scratch him from the show on Saturday. Along with the fight shame, I started to feel like I had been pushing Brego too much. He was breaking down, it was all my fault. So, strike two.

He ended up working out of his muscle cramp well and we worked on leg yielding at a walk to help him stretch out laterally. Minor breakthrough there: Say I am leg yielding to the right. I would cue with my left leg, but then I would lift my left hip and put my weight on my right hip, thus blocking Brego from actually moving over. If I weighted my hips equally while cuing with my left leg by letting it grow long and half-halting with my right hand, then he moved right over. Was it the most straight and perfect leg yield? No, but it was major improvement.

We then worked on cantering, where Brego would push through the outside shoulder, ignoring my inside hand. I have to admit, I am a little bit fuzzy on how this all went down, but after much confusion on my part, I managed to relocate his shoulders to the inside, which forced him rock back and balance himself and then, for one complete 20 m circle, I was riding a Baroque master. I don't know what it looked like, but he was elevated in front, I had no weight in my reins, and he was holding himself on this perfect bend on a perfect circle and all I could do was sit quietly and scream "This is not my horse! This is not my horse!". It was a miracle, pure and simple.

I then worked on the other lead and was able to reproduce the canter at about 80%. Again, miraculous, but not quite the same level of sheer difference. I was just floored, completely beside myself and I kept babbling to my trainer, "This is amazing!! This is not my horse!!" And she calmly said, "This IS your horse. He's always been capable. Now he knows enough to give you a nice place to sit." And that sums it up perfectly. He was no longer lugging and falling and crazy out of control around this tiny circle. He was up and balanced and the circle seemed huge and all I had was a nice place to sit. I still don't quite believe it, and I am sure it was only 30% of what real balance feels like. But it was a whole new world.

To go in one week from fighting over a simple turn, to this feeling of effortless sitting is almost too much to bear. I just hope we can capture one ounce of that canter for our dressage test on Saturday. I am going to check Brego tomorrow and if he's sore, I will scratch. But if he's well, we're going to see if we can take this new act on the road.

Then he will get a week off and a work up by his favorite chiro/osteopath. Hopefully, he will be feeling better by Pine Hill on December 2nd. But if not, no big deal, he's done enough this year and we can rest up before the spring season.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Adventures in Hunting

The adventure began after battling rush hour in Austin. I hooked up the trailer, loaded Brego, and headed out for Brenham. A good friend from Dallas was going to be at Pine Hill in Belleville for the recognized event, and she was gracious enough to let me crash on her rented ranch.

The sun had already gone down by the time I got out of Austin, but I have a trusty GPS unit in the truck that helps me find the turns I need. After a couple hours, I left 290 and turned onto a rural road and my GPS unit said only five miles until my destination. And that's when the road ended. To be fair, there was a gravel road that continued on, but it was not thrilling to be bouncing along it with my "non-rural" LQ trailer behind me. After a couple miles down, crawling along, I noticed that I had not passed a single place where I could turn around. Wonderful. So I pressed on. About 4 miles down the road, I came to the wooden bridge. A bridge that I decided I couldn't drive over. It was pitch dark, the middle of nowhere, 4 miles down a single lane road that I could not turn around on, and all that went through my head was the "Deliverance" banjos. This was rural.

I studied the bridge and decided that since the creek was only 6 feet below, Brego would survive the fall if my trailer crashed through it. Plus, that's what insurance is for, right? I creeped across it and to my great relief, the bridge did not crash. After my heart rate slowed near normal, I continued down the dirt road, praying that I would find the ranch, my friend would be there, and I hadn't gotten the weekend wrong. This was not the kind of place to be stranded.

I finally came to the correct ranch and, although all the lights were off, I drove in and parked next to the arena. My friend arrived 15 minutes later, much to my relief, and I got Brego settled down into a pen. I stayed next to the pen in my trailer all night. There was not another horse in sight, so I knew Brego would be nervous all by himself. The night passed uneventfully.

I woke up and a heavy fog had rolled in, adding to the already growing nerves for both of us. I had to take the same cursed dirt road and wooden bridge out to 290 in order to make the meet. The trailer made it over intact once again. This time, I got pictures!

I arrived at the meet and was warmly greeted. I got Brego ready to go and hopped aboard. He seemed surprisingly relaxed for all the activity. When the hounds were released, he hardly spared them a glance. As the horn was blown, he barely flicked an ear. Hmmm, I thought, this is either going to be the best ride ever, or the worst.

I settled into the back of the second flight and we had a very pleasant hike around watching the 10 1/2 couple hounds work the fields. For about 30 minutes, we rode quietly, walking, some trotting. Then we hit an open field and the master of second flight mentioned something about trotting. Suddenly we were in a dead gallop. Now, to be honest, I thought that I have galloped Brego before. Wow, was I wrong. I didn't even know that Brego had this extra gear. He was tearing across a field, an unmanicured, overgrown field, and I am not so foolish as to think I am anything other than a slightly terrified passenger at this point. But, to his credit, Brego is no fool himself and chose his path very well, even at Mach 3. I remember being particularly impressed about how he avoided this gaping chasm in the ground where I had only just gotten a glimpse of it before it was beneath us.

We had a couple more nice runs and then retired. I did jump a little coop twice, but it was not anything particularly spectacular. Brego did his typical look look look chip jump at it. But I had to give him some credit. By all accounts, it was him that kept us safe today, not me.

I had a complete blast and can't wait to get back out there. As I anticipated, Brego did get upset when horses in the first flight galloped past him, but the hounds and the horn were not a problem. I wonder if he would do better in first flight, because then he would be in the thick of things, and not watching other horses gallop while he had to stay walking calmly.

As I drove home, a tired boy in tow, I reflected on how amazing this whole journey has been. I bought Brego in August if 2005 to be a trail horse. He did not much more than walk down trails for 2006. In March of 2007, I got an english saddle and started jumping him. He went cross country for the first time in July. He performed his first dressage test in September. And now he has fox hunted and we're off to another dressage show next weekend. That's quite a lot for a young horse to do in a single year. And yet, he does it with such obvious enthusiasm and playfulness. I am truly lucky to have such a willing and game partner for whatever adventure I can conjure up.

Early this morning, as I was getting ready to head to the meet, Brego suddenly got agitated. He heard something in the fog I could neither see nor hear. After a few moments, two black horses trotted out of the mist. They were the old Percheron team the ranch owners used to pull their wagons for their guests. They had come to see the interloper. I untied Brego so he could visit with them and as they touched noses, I was struck by the scene. Brego was magnificent, arching his neck, puffing his chest, trying to look tough for this little meeting. The old horse touching noses with him was probably mid twenties, an old black Percheron. Although he was obviously well cared for, his back was a little swayed, his joints a little angular, a little too much white around his eyes. Right before me was Brego today, but there was also Brego twenty years hence. And I was suddenly a little sad.

Our time with them is so fleeting. All that a person can ask for is one Good Horse in a lifetime.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Prepped and Ready

I got the trailer ready this afternoon for my solo trip to foxhunting country this weekend. During our short ride, Brego was listening well, so that's a relief. I am pretty nervous to take him out with the hounds. His one behavioral issue is getting amped up by running horses and going nuts. Well, I'm about to see how much he can keep his brain together as the field runs around after the hounds.

I will leave for Brenham after work tomorrow and stay the night with friends. Then up early Saturday morning to make the meet, and hopefully get some longing in before it's time to go... just to reinstall his brain.

I also tried his brand-new breast plate I had custom made for him by my favorite local saddlery, Capstone Saddlery. Like all of his tack, I couldn't find anything that would fit the big boy. The new breast plate was made to match my Borné Saddle and it's so gorgeous. I will get pictures of it this weekend and include it with my hunting trip report.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

The Un-Clinic is a Big Success

As I was making final preparations to leave for the clinic in Dallas early Friday morning, I received an email from host Allison Freeman saying that Rainey Andrews, the super-star clinician I was so eager to ride for, was in the hospital and the clinic was officially canceled. Rainey is going to be completely fine, no need to worry. She just wasn't up to teaching this weekend.

Although the clinician was MIA, Allison extended an invitation to all of us to come be her guest and use her facility as open schooling. Food and accommodations would be provided, just as if the clinic went on. Well, only a fool would pass up an invitation to ride at Cedar Creek Farms, Allison's little slice of heaven on earth, for the weekend. So we loaded up and headed to Dallas.

We got there just before dark and settled the horses into the posh temporary stabling. We met up with the other 10 riders who decided to come hang with Allison for the weekend and had a great dinner. We made plans to ride in two groups the following day: the beginner novice crowd (including me) and the novice and above crowd.

Saturday was a perfect day with gorgeous weather. We did our morning ride in the covered arena and worked on combinations and turns. Brego and I had a lot of trouble with the turns in that arena, and it really exposed some areas we needed to improve. After the arena session, two other riders took Brego for a spin just to see what he was like. The rider who normally rode a huge warmblood liked him, the rider who normally rode a pony did not. Brego is an, er, acquired taste.

After lunch, we hit the cross country course. Brego did water and banks like a champ. I jumped him over hutches and coops and anything that looked like it was beginner novice level. He never missed a beat and I even started to get that "taking a fence out of stride" feeling. He obviously started to feel how much better life would be if he would jump out of stride instead of chipping every fence, because he really started moving out.

After the ride, four of us took out the 4-wheelers for a little dash around the huge property. It was a blast, tearing around the dirt roads and 200 acre hay fields, crossing bridges, and moving through cow herds. What a beautiful peace of land. We got back just as the sun was setting to a picturesque view of a hot air balloon floating above the barn. After washing the road dust down with a few beers, we tucked in for Wurstfest where brats were served, appropriately, on a stick! Great times!

Sunday morning, we took the horses out on a long hack to the back of the property. It was good "foxhunting" training because we cantered down a dirt road as a pack and Brego was very much listening. It was a great relief since we are going out hunting for our first time next weekend. He also seemed to have plenty of gas, thanks to his new diet and fancy body clip. He had been working hard all weekend in pretty warm temps and never even really broke a sweat anywhere but under his saddle. He loves the body clip and I love it as well, so easy to keep clean and he needs so much less after-ride care.

We then rode up to yet another schooling area, where I took Brego over his first ever corner. And it was a narrow as well! I am so proud of him for being able to lock onto a fence that is only 4 feet wide and jump it without hesitation. That was the fence where Brego finally moved up to make a proper distance. I can honestly say that he has never moved up to a fence before, he always sucks back and chips. I think my little boy is growing up... He is starting to see the fence and think about it. And the trickier the fence, the better he does. Cross rails are sooooo boring. Brego wants to jump crazy narrow corners in the shade with only three strides of an approach because we are cantering through a dense forest!! He's turning into a bit of an adrenaline junkie.

We finished up back on the cross country course where I took Brego over some scary barrels. I think it's safe to say he is completely over his barrel phobia. I then took him through the water again and then got a lead off a training-level drop into water. He wasn't particularly graceful, but he was very brave. In fact, his uncanny ability to jump anything and everything I put in front of him won the hearts of all the riders. He may not be cleaning up in the placings, but his honesty is priceless.

Brego did well, but the real lasting impact of this un-clinic was the riders. Every single person, no matter what level, went out of their way to be helpful and generous. I think I got a wonderful tip or bit of advice from every single person there, and when I remembered to do what they said, my riding really improved. We missed Rainey for sure, but it was a very productive weekend nonetheless.

More pictures

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Only Half a Yak

I trimmed more of Brego's yak-like hair yesterday into what is commonly referred to as a blanket clip. This is his last chance to keep any hair at all on his body. With the near record heat, he's been miserable, even with his trace clip. He also is so thick bodied that even when it gets colder, his muscling keeps him warm.

I've got various weight blankets coming from Smartpak so I can dress him appropriately if I go full body. I will make the decision today after my ride.

Tomorrow we leave for an eventing clinic in Dallas. I am very excited to see what Rainey Andrews et al think of the improvements we've made in the last 5 months. At the last clinic in June, I told her that next time she sees me, I will be riding a different horse. I think she took it to mean, you know, a proper eventer. I, of course, meant a different Brego!

Not to mention, the hostess with the mostess, Allison Freeman promises a weekend of fun on the theme of "Wurstfest". Bratwurst and German beer, here I come!