Monday, December 31, 2007

Back from the Mountains

I hope everyone had a safe and happy holiday. Brego and I enjoyed our week and a half on the road, visiting two very beautiful parks. There was not a whole lot of "eventing-related" activities, so I will just skip to the pictures, for those who are interested.

Cedar Lake Pictures

The rest of this post is largely ramblings from a week of brain rot and reading bad fiction, so feel free to skip it.

Despite the optimism of the weatherman, it rained enough while we were at Cedar Lake to seriously limit our riding. We got one good day of 10 miles of rocky trails in. Brego did fine, but then ended foot sore. I had wanted to buy him some boots before we left, but had trouble finding any that *might* fit. I had hoped if his feet stayed dry and he was rested, he would do ok. I absolutely believe horses need foot protection when they are asked to work outside their typical acclimation. Brego rides on rocks at home, but the mountains provided a different kind of rock, almost mini boulders, which gave him more trouble than the flatter, smaller rocks he's used to. Also, it's always wet in the mountains, the fall leaves soaking up the moisture, so his feet became softer and softer as the trip went on and riding became impossible. I have since ordered the only off-the-shelf boots which might work and if they don't, it's off to custom boot land.

Like all good trips, I learned some interesting things about my horse. We're entering our third year together, and Brego is definitely changing as he matures and comes into his own, so the horse I thought I knew finds new and exciting ways to surprise me. For example, he's been camping many times a year for the last few years. In fact, for the first two years I had him, that was all I did with him: trail riding and camping. He has learned to stand tied to a high line for days at a time, going out on long, rigorous trails, and relaxing the rest of the time. One of the parks we went to last week had pens for the horses and so a highline was unnecessary. I thought this would be a good thing for Brego since he would be able to move around more freely and the pens were large and spacious. I was surprised to see that Brego hated the pen, he would push against it and clamor the gate. He much preferred to be picketed out on the side of a hill than stand in a level pen.

Brego has been on pure pasture board since I have owned him, and even for a couple years before that, so the notion of a stall for him is very confining. He's had to be stalled a couple times for health reasons or weather, but it was 12-24 hours at most and he was returned to turnout. He definitely does not like blatant confinement.

So partly though this observation, and through other clues, I began to see that Brego was restless. He was no longer content to stand and munch hay most of the day. And when we got three days of rain and couldn't ride, he became downright boisterous, tossing his head and being naughty during his thrice daily in-hand walks around the camping area. He was quite a handful, always obedient, but brimming, almost trembling, with energy. Not exactly the laid-back, take-it-all-in-stride drafty I had known. His feed was even reduced to compensate for the relatively lack of activity.

Since it was cold and wet in the mountains, we packed up early and headed to our favorite Texas park, McCown Valley Park on Lake Whitney. The weather was warmer and the trails are pure sand so we could move out and burn off all that energy. After an 8 hour trailer rider, Brego came off the trailer about to explode. Instead of being tired, he was ready for fun. So I decided to longe him to see if I could get him to calm down for the night. He certainly made a spectacle on the longe, bucking, farting, his "saddlebred" trot, all just exploding out of him. When Brego decides to cut loose, it's very impressive. But if you happen to be standing on the other end of a cotton longe line (at least wearing gloves), it can be pretty scary. But to his credit, he never pulled on me and even though he kicked out and bucked, he never came into the circle either. He would toss his head and kick and squeal. Although he never threatened me, I made sure I had the whip ready to reinforce my space just in case. He is a big dominant horse, and I need to be very careful to never let him know he's bigger and stronger than me. He eventually got his ya-yas out and then stood quietly overnight on his beloved highline.

We then hit the trails. His feet had dried and the trails were sandy and we had a great 12 mile ride with lots of trotting, and an occasional log to jump. His condition held up well, not even breaking a sweat in the 50 degree day, and he finally got enough exercise.

So to sum up, Brego likes his independence. Even with less food than his usual ration on this trip, he wants to continuously move about with untold energy. Also, he is strong and powerful, but still very much eager to please. His strength is not just physical, he has a very strong presence and force of mind. He is maturing in many ways, but still just a baby in others and needs playtime to blow off steam.

As for me, it took quite a bit of courage (and a beer) to get on him after seeing what he was capable of on the longe. I have a healthy sense of self preservation and have been scared by him a couple times in the past when he has erupted large. He's never done anything malicious, but even a playful buck from him can send you flying. I found that letting him blow off steam on the longe and then immediately moving into some more advanced work under saddle brought his brain back to me. He was full of tension at first, but he worked down and became more relaxed and pliable. He was all business, like a good boy. This was a good lesson for me on how to handle him in the warm ups at shows, where he is apt to want to play. I love him dearly, but I am not an overly brave person. I don't look at wild, high horses and say, "I want to ride that!" The key to us being a working partnership as he gets more fit and more powerful, but not quite mature enough to control his brain, is building the confidence I need to stay with him and bring him back to me. Only time will tell if I can successfully do that.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Brego Claus

Brego and I would like to extend all of you warm holiday greetings. Brego has been very nice (and only slightly naughty) this year, so he has his hooves crossed for his greatest wish: all the dried mango slices he could eat. There is no sweeter gift on earth, according to him.

I hope you and yours have a wonderful holiday and I will post again upon my return from the Ozark mountains with lots of pictures. I am putting together a post about Brego's feet as well so look for it in early January 08.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Found: Outside Rein Connection

I learned a lot at the clinic in Boerne this weekend and I think I am on the right track to encourage Brego to stretch out over his topline. Obviously, getting a good stretch is more than just throwing the reins away and sitting balanced, it's about the horse seeking the outside rein connection. That pesky outside rein again... I am sensing a theme.

So we worked on moving off the leg (again! never enough with Brego) and asking for and answering the outside rein connection. There were some pretty challenging circumstances to overcome (see below) in order to focus on relaxation and connection, but I think I was able to get what I needed to work on it at home. The clinician was very thoughtful and acute. She was respectful of my goals with Brego and listened for my input. I thought she had a great eye and wonderful feel and was very positive about Brego in general.

More photos here.

Now on to the challenging circumstances. It was completely my oversight by not checking the conditions of the footing before hauling out of town. I made an incorrect assumption that the farm had a covered arena as the weather has been pretty terrible for the past week. When I arrived, both of their gorgeous (non-covered) arenas were underwater and we were working in a pasture on the side of a rocky hill. Next time, I will call before I haul. Knowing my goals of relaxation and stretching, I would have likely stayed home and worked with my excellent regular instructor than try to fight the distraction of Brego slipping, sliding, tripping, and falling into holes every lap around the pasture. To their credit, the good people at the clinic were very accommodating and helpful, but it was a lot of money and time to spend in pretty horrible footing. I would have rather sacrificed my fee and not risked Brego's confidence, especially since he started refusing to canter the second day and when I pushed him into it, he promptly slid on all four feet. Not fun. I do hope I get a chance to ride at the farm again though, because it was really lovely!

Secondly, I understand that I am working on training a green horse and that I am also pretty green to dressage. I acknowledge that although Brego should be fine in distracting situations, he is actually the worst in warmup rings with lots of activity. He's young and I get nervous. I also knew that I wanted to work on exercises that require a great deal of focus and relaxation and have everyone involved (the rider, the horse, and the clinician) have their complete attention on what we were doing. Knowing all this, I signed up for two private lessons, even though there was a cheaper option to take semi-privates. My first ride went as well as could be considering the footing. My second ride, however, consisted of 20 minutes of instruction while another horse cantered around the arena in the opposite direction. Picture a very tight and wet arena filled with jumps so we are using just the perimeter of one end of an arena with several jumps to negotiate around. So two times a lap, I got the distraction of having a horse heading straight at me and since the footing was poor and the arena was tight, occasionally the horse came quite close. It was pretty distracting, and I could tell Brego was bothered, but I try not to be "that kind of person" who whines about everything. The real problem though was that the clinician stopped my lesson and got on this horse and left me standing for 20 minutes, just as we were starting to get some nice relaxation. In fact, we had just gotten what we wanted to the right and was about to switch directions to the left. By the time she got back to me (an arena change and potty break later), Brego was cooled out and mentally checked out and I was pretty done myself. So the lesson here is: Next time I will speak up, because I can't expect other people to respect my lesson. I know the limits of my horse and myself which is why I make a point of taking private lessons and paying for them.

Despite all this, though, Brego did very well. I think he is really starting to understand the outside rein (well, more like I am starting to understand it) and he is seeking the connection if I can be sensitive enough to answer him. I am going to try to see my regular dressage instructor some time this week to go over these improvements and get her input as well.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Wanted: Long & Low

I've been reading an interesting book about the anatomy of a horse and how Rollkur and other hyperflexion techniques are antithetical to the desired loose swinging back of a well schooled dressage horse. I've never even been tempted to try such a technique on Brego, mainly because he suffers from going behind strongly and really encouraged front to back riding in his early days. The last thing he needs is more front to back.

I am happy to say he is getting much better from behind, and is learning to elevate and support his weight. However, a huge hole in his training is going Long & Low. According to this book, this exercise is critical to allow his back to loosen while strengthening his neck. If he is asked to elevate too quickly, i.e., before his neck is properly built up, he will use his back to carry my weight and will tighten and over strengthen his back muscles. One side effect of this is non-parallel canon bones as the movement through the back is shuttered by the tense muscles. A brawny horse like Brego needs it more than the average horse, because he will bulk up his back and lose some of that elasticity and "shwung" he currently exhibits. In other words, improper strengthening too soon will make him a worse mover. Not something I want to experience!

I have attempted Long & Low a couple of times in my completely uneducated way. I have been pretty unsuccessful, but I think it's so important, it is the one thing I want to work on at the clinic this weekend. We may not get it completely, but I want to understand how to work on it properly by the time I leave.

The clinic will be at Kinswood Farms and I hope it dries out enough to get some good work in. They also have a xc course, but I will ignore that siren song until I learn what I need to keep Brego loose and happy through his back.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Bending in the Rain

It's been a long week of rain and cooler temps. I was able to go out and do some work in hand on Tuesday and we worked on properly backing using his back. I was asking him to drop his croup and take big deliberate diagonal steps back instead of hollowing his back and stepping back, butt high. He did it correctly the second time I asked, so I gave him a cookie and put him away.

Yesterday, I was finally able to ride, but only up to a trot due to wet footing. I was really interested to see if we would have any "bending" discussions or stiffness in the arena. I am happy to report that Brego seems to have learned something from Sunday's exercise and the issue never really came up. He was pretty loose and flexible the entire ride and it was actually very pleasant. No leaning on the inside rein at all. He was not as forward as I would like, but still pretty balanced. I focused a lot of my outside rein connection and not throwing the rein away which is one of my really bad habits. He did occasionally feel uneven behind, but I trotted him out and couldn't see anything. I have decided to get films taken of his hocks when he gets his dental done in January, just to get a baseline, since this year will be a big jump in his training.

His walking shoulder in to the right is getting pretty darn nice, a nice 30% angle for a couple of steps before I ask him to walk on. His shoulder in to the left is still not back, I have to do more corrections to get him to do more than just bend his neck and try to run through. But in general, the shoulder in work was 25% easier and lighter.

He's been stealing some food recently so he looks a little porky. I decided to do two 10 minute trot sets, at a reasonably medium trot, to see if I can burn some calories. It was too dark to leave the arena and too wet to do any canter work. He trotted fine and I even asked for a couple steps of shoulder in at the trot to break up the tedium. He did great to the left, really understood what I was asking. To the right was so poor, I had to bring him back to the walk and reinforce the shoulder in at a more manageable speed.

Most horses are pretty one sided when they are getting started, so his issues are not surprising at all. What might be interesting is I recently underwent some Craniosacral Therapy myself. The therapist said that I was completely blocked on my left side and had limited sacrum movement. Hmmm, just the side Brego is stiff on. Coincidence? The therapist said I had received some blunt force trauma to the left side of my head at some point and it had wedged my skull and spinal column joint so I had limited mobility. She was able to "unstick" me and I have noticed some subtle improvements in the way I walk, comfort while driving and laying on my side. It will be interesting to see if me being more even helps alleviate some of Brego's one sidedness. The only thing I can say so far is our ride was very "pleasant" and non-contentious, even with some advanced (for Brego) lateral work.

I am going to a clinic in Boerne over the weekend and taking two private lessons with a trainer from Louisiana. I have decided to work on dressage for both my sessions, so hopefully we will get some good training to continue us down the path. Also, I can't wait to get back together with my regular dressage instructor and show her some of the things we've been working on. With the holidays, however, that will have to wait until January.

(I know lots of people are interesting in conditioning. I am doing some more reading over the holidays and will come up with a condition schedule to start implementing in the spring. My first event is going to be April 5th, so that gives me plenty of time to get him tuned up once spring hits.)

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Counter Flexion

I had some good friends visit Brego today and give me some tips for how to deal with his resistance in corners. My arena is not really fenced and on one corner in particular, Brego would like to run out and visit his buddies in the field next door. So the typical ride involves some minor disagreement about Brego bending softly through the corner, staying forward, and not popping his outside shoulder while singing "La la la, I can't hear you" to my aids. The disagreements have occasionally escalated into more of a pulling contest, not something I am very proud of. Pulling on the inside rein never works, it just causes Brego to stiffen his jaw and neck as a defensive posture and spin out his hind end, shifting his weight forward.

I was at a loss of how to solve this problem, and my dressage instructor has been a little under the weather, so I was talking about it with a good friend of mine and she volunteered to come down and help out. So she rode him through the corner, felt immediately what I did, and started trying to get him to soften his inside jaw, with varying success. She did manage to break through, however, and the magic ingredient to this gourmet meal was "Counter-flexion" through the corner.

It is important to me and Brego's training to fix him from back to front, so I wanted an exercise to do in the corner which would shut down his outside shoulder, and take away his locked inside jaw without disengaging his hind end. I think it's really important to keep that inside hind moving under and working and it allows his weight to come back. Counter flexion was the key, because I could isolate and eliminate his strong inside jaw, by physically shifting his shoulders to the inside, holding it for a couple of steps, then asking for straight, then back to a pure bend. It is sheer genius that my friend was able to show this to me, and really improved Brego's lightness off his forehand and resistance to moving through the corner.

This is where we started. I would like to turn left, but he wants to keep going right. He bends his jaw to a point, but then starts pulling and I pull back. His outside shoulder has popped out and my pulling up and back makes it worse. I am behind vertical. His hind end is flagging out somewhere in Oklahoma. He is overbent and has broken his poll to haunches connection, losing power. His gaping mouth illustrates how much we are not communicating. Gross all around.

I've tried to put together some pictures of this breakthrough. Unfortunately, the video did not come out.

Here's a correct bend to the right, tracking right:
Here we are still tracking right, but now he is bending left. Notice how his left front is almost crossing over his right front. Both his shoulders have been shifted to the inside. For this to be possible, he has to balance back on his haunches and stop leaning on my hands to resist through the corner. It's not just about bending his head to the outside, it's about relocating his front end and asking for a bend, keeping the haunches to poll connection.
When he would stiffen his jaw in the circle, I would ask for a counter bend for a couple steps and then shift him back to a pure bend, again through a couple of steps. It was a deliberate shift in his balance back and forth and I would also briefly move my inside bend hand forward and drop contact for a fraction of a second to ensure he was not leaning. It was amazing how much he self carried when I took the hand away in the bend. I would then reestablish contact and ask for him to straighten and then pure bend again. And here we have a much nicer walk as a result. He is more elevated and lighter on the front, not to mention more responsive and engaging that inside hind to push off.
Next we moved on to the trot. He found it much harder to counter bend at the trot, understandably, but it had the same lifting and lightening effect when he did. Both the pictures below are counter bending.

And then working back into the pure bend. A nice forward trot where his jaw is supple and his hind end is engaged. Not bad for 20 minutes of (hard) work.

Lesson learned: Work smarter, not harder. I cannot win a pulling contest, but I can change his bend and move his shoulders. I am so thankful to my friends who helped me to crystallize my thoughts on how Brego was moving and for giving me another useful tool for my tool box.

Updated: I've done some reading and it appears I've made a couple of errors today which I wanted to illustrate. First, in a counter bend, your former inside rein becomes your outside rein and you should not diminish contact with your outside rein through the bend. That allows the horse to pop the outside shoulder, albeit, the new outside shoulder. So my misguided thinking that it was keeping him from leaning on the outside hand was not correct. Secondly, in a head-on photograph above, his head is tilted and this is also a fault. If he were correctly counter bent, then his head would be vertical and gently flexed to the outside.

Which begs the question: How did this counter bend work? Since I believe it was the movement of his shoulders which affected the most good, and proper counter bending does nothing but flex the neck to the outside, was I doing an incorrect left shoulder-in while tracking right? It would appear so, and in doing so, letting his (former) inside hind leg off the hook, so to speak. So the next time I ride, I am going to see if it is the counter bending or the shoulder movement which he respects and makes him rock back. I suspect it is the shoulder movement, since this is the same "trick" I used with my dressage instructor to improve his canter. If I am correct, then doing a properly bent shoulder-in on the circle will have the desired effect.

In other words, is his stiffness the result of a stiff neck, or resistance to bending through the turn because his weight is not balanced back and he doesn't want to work the inside hind? Hopefully, I will be able to figure it out without resorting to more classical errors!

The good news though is that I am going to a clinic in San Antonio next weekend where one of the session will be dressage, so maybe I can get my questions answered there. I don't know if I will be able to ride with my regular instructor this week before I go.

A Hot Day's Fun

It was another 85 degree day here on Saturday (yes, in December), so I spent the morning body clipping Brego yet again. He has been sweating in the field. Then we hit the trails and had a relaxing ride through the baking Texas Hill Country.

At the end of the trail ride is the much anticipated gallop track. I had Brego going at a pretty good clip, but as we rounded for home, we both lost some steam and he dropped back into a canter just in time for the photographer. So the pictures were not nearly as exciting as I had hoped, but they're still fun! He may not look like he is going fast, but please note the excess reins flying back. Also, I look terrified in the pictures, but I wasn't. The only thing scary about that ride was how out of shape I am, my quads were burning.

The results from the poll so far show that readers want more pictures and video and I am happy to oblige. One limiting factor though is that I work a full time job and by the time I go out to ride during the week, it's too dark for capturing images. I do ride in a lighted arena, but sometimes I wonder if a full moon might illuminate things better. So I will try hard to get some good pictures and video on the weekends, when I can ride under the full blazing sun.

Since it is winter and I am limited on what I can work on during the week, I am not going to try to push Brego's fitness up a notch and just hope to keep him at this baseline and work on suppling instead. He galloped fine, but we both were more tired than we should have been afterwards. So there's a wakeup call for the spring. Over the next couple of months, I will hope to ride 4 times a week, where 3 rides will be dressage for 45 minutes or so and then one trail ride or schooling. I hope to spend one night a week working Brego in hand to up his responsiveness. So from a conditioning perspective, he's not getting much work. The dressage is working his topline right now, but not his heart and lungs. That will have to come when I can ride for longer in the spring.

I am also going to try to take better pictures of Brego's feet to chronicle his trimming progress. He is doing really well barefoot, traveling miles over rocky trails without a problem. But we still have flares to fight and some unevenness in his heels. It is one area of his care that I have not detailed a lot on this blog, mainly because I am not the primary person who trims Brego. I will get some pictures (and perhaps a guest blogger!) to start including hoof care into the blog.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Winter Training

Although the weather indicates otherwise, the lack of shows on the horizon signals the beginning of winter. Since I am currently enjoying how lateral schooling is elevating Brego's canter, I am planning on focusing on dressage through the winter. I would also like to save Brego's legs and only jump as a refresher until about mid-February.

Brego's calendar of activities looks a little thin for the next couple of months, with maybe an odd clinic, dressage lesson, or schooling day here or there. I am taking the boy camping for a week in the Ozark mountains over the holiday break to get back to our rustic roots. So that is something to look forward to, at least.

Then the mid term goal is to go to our first recognized event at Pine Hill on April 5. Hopefully, a schooling show will pop up before then to serve as a pipe cleaner.

In the meantime though, I have put up a poll to see what people are interested in seeing more of on this blog. It's been up for 6 months now, with a little over 50 posts, and I would like to refine the content to stuff people are more interested in. I started this blog as a journal for myself, to keep track of training, and to also chronicle things I get asked about a lot on online forums, like feed. Since there are a couple of regular readers however, I would love to actually provide more information that is useful instead of whatever rambling subject about Brego that comes to mind (and there are many). So feel free to vote in the poll and comment if you have more specific suggestions. Without the excitement of shows and other activities, I can try to fulfill all requests over this winter.

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Cross Training is a Good Thing

This post is all about why it's a good thing to leave the arena and enjoy your horse. We had another unseasonably warm day, up to 84 degrees here. We decided to head out to a local park to just go for a nice walk instead of schooling lateral moves in the arena. I've been focusing a lot on dressage recently, and I admit, I tend to obsess. So it's good to remind myself why exactly I bought this big boy to begin with: him and me on the open trail.

We had a good 5 mile ride, across some pretty steep terrain. It was good to see that all the arena work has not made Brego go soft. He now has the fitness to really tackle hills and loved being outdoors. His Thoroughbred hunter-princess companion, however, seemed slightly insulted that she had to trod upon an unmanicured surface for so long.

Anyway, it was a great ride on a warm sunny day and really nice to take a break from the tough stuff, mentally and physically. We did have a little too much fun at the end, however.

At the trailer parking there is a field which has a mowed 1/2 mile track around the perimeter. I decided to just canter Brego around it, you know, to work on that lovely balance. As we got started, the strides just got bigger and bigger. Brego saw the open field and just begged to be let go. (This is the same horse who just "outgrew" his winter blankets) Well I let him go a bit and we go galloping down the track. Somewhere in the middle of the long side is a railroad timber jump, about 2' high. We were going at a good clip, so I opened my chest and sat up a bit to steady him and he listened and took the little jump in perfect stride. Ah, bliss! This is what cross country is about!!

We kept going on the track and as we turned for home, I really let him go. I think foxhunting has taught Brego the meaning of speed. He tore down this track with no urging, just loving his own power and speed. He definitely gave me incentive to keep him fit so he can manage such speeds without risking his legs over much. This track has excellent footing, even more reason to leave the arena more regularly.

Some drafts love to plow. Some drafts love to run. I am glad I got a runner.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Bulging Out At The Seams

Brego is starting to mature into his hefty self at a ripe ol' age of 7. I don't have any papers on him to know his birthday, but I was lucky enough to get him accurately aged at 4.5 and have thankfully kept track as time goes on. I am not thrilled about him bulking up, because I will get to make some tough decision about his jumping career. On the other hand, though, I am glad Brego is growing into his genetic potential. I can throw an eventing saddle on him, but at the end of the day, he's a draft horse, and he should never look like a Thoroughbred.

So good for porky Brego.

However, his blankets have started to look like some pop diva, way past her youthful prime, at her unfortunate return to the stage. In other words, a little tight. No one wants to see that. And since his body clip is almost grown out, and it's a balmy 70 degrees here in Texas in December, he will get clipped again and will need to be blanketed on the off chance we get some winter weather here.

Last winter, I bought him an 84" WeatherBeeta Arion (now discontinued) in medium weight, an excellent blanket with lots of features I enjoy. This year, the blanket has started to look a little, er, tight across the chest. Also, since he is clipped, I wanted to get a plain turnout sheet as well, for milder days. And maybe a heavyweight. Oh, and I need a cooler because he is still an active sweater. You can see where this is going.

Turns out, it's really hard to find a blanket much bigger than 84" off the shelf in all the popular brands, and those that you do find are cut for some mammoth Thoroughbred who is long and skinny, not broad through the chest, barrel, and butt like my guy.

Enter, Schneider's "Big Fella" line of blankets. It still makes me giggle to type "Big Fella". They've got sizes that go up to "Elephant" and they are cut to be broad. I bought a turnout sheet for my "Big Fella" and it is backordered, so I couldn't check the fit. I then ordered a heavyweight and hoody in 84", and it came in yesterday (very fast shipping). It's really well built, has some nice features, and an excellent price point. I am happy to say, it was made to fit Brego. So, unless he grows more (please, don't grow more), I will not need to venture into scary 87"-90" land.

I also bought an 84" Rambo Newmarket cooler so Brego wouldn't feel left out from the Cool Event Horse clique. It's what all the hipsters are wearing this season. Unfortunately, Schneider's doesn't make a "Big Fella" (hee hee) fleece cooler. The Rambo fits adequately, but it's too snug in the chest (and non adjustable, duh!) for long term use due to rubbing. Since I have the heavyweight "Big Fella" though, I should not need to double its use as a liner and it's fine for just cooling him out. Somewhere along the way, I also bought an 84" non-"Big Fella" fleece cooler from Schneiders and that didn't come close to fitting Brego. It now dwarfs Hobby who looks like a little sister waiting to grow into her big girl clothes.

Someday soon, I will replace the WeatherBeeta medium weight with another "Big Fella". It's time to stop denying Brego needs to shop at the Big & Tall store. That's ok, there's just more of him to love.