Monday, January 7, 2008

Divergence in Training

On Saturday, something unfortunate happened at the barn. A dog belonging to one of the workers chased a doe into a fence and she broke her neck. Luckily, someone was there to dispatch her as soon as possible so she didn't suffer long. I let the worker know how displeased I was to have a dog chasing game for sport, so senseless. I am not a hunter, but I don't judge those who are. If you're going to shoot them, make it quick and use the carcass.

Anyway, as squeamish as I was, I decided to turn this into another learning opportunity for diversifying Brego's resume. I asked for temporary use of the deer and conditioned him to the smell of blood and the dead body. He was pretty alarmed to begin with, understandably, but after a few moments, I could lift the deer onto his back. Thus, my would-be event turned back-country game horse.

After that "positive" experience, I hosed the blood off of him, suited him up and we had a lovely ride working on moving truly forward and adjusting our pace within gaits. It went very well, he was able to bring his brain back from the truly bizarre experience before and go right back to work.

Many people think I am crazy at the barn for putting a dead deer on my horse. And, I admit, I probably am. But I think constantly about the future for Brego. Despite the optimism in this blog, the reality is if something was to happen to me, he would not be snatched up as an eventing prospect. And we all know that the best way to keep him off the truck to Mexico is to make him valuable at *something*. Sometimes, being a good riding horse isn't enough anymore. So I go out of my way to give him lots of different experiences because I don't know what he may be asked to do in the future, with or without me. Sure, a dead deer I can carry myself is a little extreme, but it's a good learning experience. We do camp in the mountains a lot. What if he needs to pack a dog, or a human and the smell of blood overpowers him. He mastered his fear with the deer and we built trust. He will be able to do anything I ask of him once this eventing lark is over.

Brego has done quite a bit in his short life already, sort of a jack of all trades, master of none. He has gone swimming bareback, overnighted in the mountains, followed the hounds, performed dressage tests, jumped a clean round. And now he's "packed game". One big thing left on my list which I have not done yet is move cows. Any horse in Texas needs to be able to move cows.

Back on target, we ended the day heading to the vet for a float. He had some nasty hooks and hopefully he will feel better now. The vet also aged him at 6 1/2 so he is probably a late spring, early summer 2001 baby. Would I had the papers on this boy!

1 comment:

MJChris said...


I,for one, don't think you're crazy. Every new thing you do with Brego is an opportunity to build trust and understanding with your big guy. I call it "spook work" and do all kinds of goofy things with our horses.

I also want to thank you for putting your journey with Brego out here for all of us to see. After reading your posts, I think I'm almost ready to get back on my gelding. (He threw the trainer at our barn and broke 6 of her ribs.) All we've been doing since is lunging, and while he tracks beautifully now with real hindquarter engagement, we're both getting really bored of it!