Monday, June 9, 2008


A major heat wave has hit the area, with highs in the mid 90s and high humidity. Brego and I were definitely feeling it last Friday when we did finally schooling before the weekend Hunter show. I was debated whether to enter Brego into the 2'6" or 2'9" hunters. I knew I didn't want to wait all day until the Jumper classes.

The Friday schooling was an unmitigated disaster. Brego took down nearly every rail in the 2'3" course. He was out of breath, couldn't get his leads, misfired. We were all over the floor. I was frustrated. The last time we jumped, he nailed every lead and left all the rails up. How could we possibly go to a show if he can't even jump 2'3"?? Granted, this was a minor, minor schooling show, and hunters no less, so the humiliation factor was low. I wondered if he was just exhausted. We've been working really hard the last couple of weeks, trying to get fit, trying to get prepared for the impending eventing season. Was he just plain tired?

He was so out of breath it really scared me. He couldn't jump 8 fences without hanging his head and just blowing. After a break, I set up one final 2'9" oxer to see if he crashed through it like all the other fences. To my surprise, he jumped it from so far out and so high, I was completely thrown out of the saddle. So that deepened the mystery. If he was so exhausted, why did he make such an effort on a larger fence?

I decided to scratch the little hunter show and give Brego five days off. I would go and read my cool new dressage books, enjoying some free time in the evening (a rare thing indeed). I called my trainer and told her the situation and she recommended I give him Saturday off, take him to the show on Sunday, and just school him. Just to get him to a new place and see if he was still unfocused.

So Brego got Saturday off. Then Sunday dawned as one of the hottest days in Maine. We arrived at the show at 8:30 and then, in the grand tradition of hunter shows everywhere, we waited. And waited. And waited. Brego stood tied to the trailer, or to a fence under a tree in the shade, for six hours. Six hours! Just to make sure it was nice and hot.

Finally, the three thousand classes covering every single permutation of 18" fences were over and it was our turn. By then, most of the competitors had left so it was just 8 or so in my classes. Brego warmed up fine. We spent pathetic little time on the flat, due to the heat. I just made sure I remembered my canter cue, either lead would do fine at this show, and in we went.

The first course was fine. The corners were tight. I definitely need to work on turning. Brego is loosening up his neck in dressage, but definitely not cantering around a course. It's like he's on rails, very stiff and resistant. No big deal, it gives us something to work on. Anyway, I felt like I was really pushing him around he course, and my leg suffered as a result. It swept back over the fences and my elbows were so far out I almost took flight. I was trying to make the course look "quiet" like a hunter.

The second course was much better. Brego took a rail, and it was the weirdest thing. The stride was correct, he overjumped the one before. I wonder if he just didn't see it. Anyway, after the rail I decided I was going to screw the "hunter thing" and rode more aggressively. I even reached back and popped him before a fence. Man oh man, did Brego smarten up! He was awesome. We cruised around and I am very happy.

Finally after the 2'6" class, they had a free schooling at 2'9". I took Brego around a few fences at 2'9". He was such a pro, didn't look at anything, and really put in a good effort. Not bad for baking in 95 degree weather.

So now Brego gets his 5 days off. I will read my dressage books and try to visualize me not flying like a chicken over fences. I will plan some softening and bending exercises. And then next week, cross country schooling! The last piece to the puzzle will hopefully be put to rest next weekend and I can go into the upcoming schooling events with full confidence.


Stacey and Klein said...

Go Brego and Daun!!! Great pics!

Beckz said...

I bless him. I love the pictures. He has such an awesome technique in front

Dressage Princess said...

You placed in both classes and didn't even mention it?! What a pro you are!

I love your snarkiness about hunters, and I share your distain, but I have to say that looked fun! Nemo can't jump, but I'm on the lookout for a pinch jumper...

Daun said...

Ha! Thanks, gals. Brego was a lot of fun.

Dressage Princess, my disdain for hunters has been hard earned over a decade in the trenches. Granted, I never got to the big AA shows to see some impressive riding. I think the local schooling scene is not even the same sport.

Every horse at the local show was counter bent through the corners. Every one. Some horses, in the medal classes!!!, trotted every fence (like, didn't even have enough impulsion to break into a canter on landing) and got medal points.

And then there were several dead lame horses packing kids around 18" courses.

Hunters at this level is a racket, designed to get money out of kids riding dead horses. Luckily, my barn, even though it is hunters, really prize horsemanship and the kids are knowledgeable and good little riders.

Ok, rant over. I know I will really burn some people, but after showing since I was 8 in hunters, including IHSA, I can finally say enough.

As for the placings, I was more impressed with Brego's ability to stand patiently and then still be responsive and honest, than "beating" the other kids at the show. I appreciate the vote of confidence from the judge, but my form is abysmal and Brego is no hunter.

We are eventers, through and through. Now we need to prove it. :)

Maybe Mae said...

Love the photo of Brego with the ribbons -- I agree with HP, you placed and didn't mention it! :) At first, while reading your entry, I thought you meant you were going to take him to the show but not actually compete. It wasn't until I got to the ribbon photo that I realized you were entering the regular classes. Congrats, though!

I also love the photo of you reaching back to give him a whack before the fence.

Daun said...

Maybe Mae,
Sorry the entry was a bit confusing. I was going to scratch if he showed signs of being unfocused or fatigued. But Brego is always a pro at shows so we went ahead and entered two jumping classes.

The whack was fun, but a bit late. He responded well though. I've gotten into a habit of holding him back to make a distance which really messes with his balance and impulsion. I need to be more conscious of pushing him up to make a distance. We never stop learning. :)

Chris said...

Thanks for sharing the video and photos! The video was awesome to watch - what a beautiful, beautiful horse you have!

Simply Marvelous said...

Bravo! Such a great performance after waiting for 6 hours! Love the photos, beautiful horse!

Shadow said...

Hi Daun, I just found your amazing blog and have been reading and re-reading every single post like a rabid dog!! I have had my Belgian Draft/Thoroughbred for seven months as of January 20, 2010. I originally got her to be my eventer, XC, stadium jumping, everything, all around, dream horse. But you know how the story goes, they act soo much better in their home environment than how they will when you actually take them back to your place. Well, that's Bella for you. She's kind of nuts. She gets WAY too excited running around in the outdoor arena. She leans a lot and throws her shoulder around. One time she got so out of control in the outdoor arena and she leaned so much, that she tripped and flipped and fell on top of me. Needless to say, I am STILL recovering from that fall. And that was last August. But even more so, I have to ask you a couple of questions:

1. Did Brego ever rush up to the jumps? How can I get Bella to stop rushing up to the jumps?
2. Does ground work help improve balance? Like how so?
3. How can I get my horse to canter slower? The usual half halt does not work when I am going to the right. That is her worst side. She leans so much even more than going to the left, I'm always afraid we're going to fall over when we are turning. And she has random bursts of speed all the time.

I haven't given up on her because: A) I have seen the magical rare moments when she reveals her true talent and skill and potential. B) My parents won't buy me another jumping horse, so I'm pretty much stuck with her unless I find a way to raise ten thousand dollars overnight for the wonderful eventer in my barn.

But for a mare, she is the sweetest horse on ground, even though she does take advantage of my 108 pounds and drag me around a little bit.


Belgian Draft/TB cross
Turning 7 this June 20th ( I don't know when her actual birthday is, she's a rescue horse.. Looong story.. )
About 1600 pounds