Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Inner Fashionista

I spent the rainy weekend shopping for clothes. People that know me well, know that is something I NEVER do. I do not swoon over a cute pair of pumps. I do not coordinate. But somehow, my inner girly fashionista was awakened when I realized that the opening hunt was this weekend! The Blessing of the Hounds marks the official start to formal season in hunting!

So I was on the prowl for appropriate attire. I hit up Goodwill first and found a very nice 100% wool jacket, charcoal grey, that would be a nice warm cubbing jacket. Although I REALLY want a tweed, any classy jacket in traditional colors will do, so this jacket fit the bill, all for $4. It needs new buttons, but is otherwise in mint condition.

I then went to the local tack shop (aka horse crack pusher). I cannot get out of that place for less than $100 and this weekend was no exception. I found a used black 100% wool hunt jacket, probably close to $250 new, for $75. It fit very well, so of course I had to have it. I also picked up a new white dress blouse and stock tie, with a jazzy white pattern on the fabric. Finally, I rounded out the look with a simple gold stock pin, not too bling, fashionably conservative. They did have the cutest wool tweed jacket there, in my size (of course) for a mere $150. I wanted it so bad, but then I figured out how much more I needed to buy stall mats for my new barn AND I wouldn't get an opportunity to wear the jacket until NEXT cubbing season, so I couldn't justify it. I think this is the first time I have been honestly upset over not buying clothes.

Anyway, I look very dapper in my new threads and I can't wait to show them off this weekend. I also thoroughly checked and my flask fits in both my vest pockets and in the inside pockets of my wool coat. Whew! Disaster averted!

As for Brego, he got a "tidy up" trim consisting of ears and whiskers today so he will be looking spiffy. For the big occasion, I will be braiding his forelock and possibly trying to do something with his nubbin tail.

Oh yes, I have been riding as well. Yesterday, we worked on dressage. I watched a video showing Phillippe Karl and got inspired to concentrate on Brego's rhythm and cadence through his lateral movements. You always see the "finished product" and it was great to see horses in the middle of their training scale. Yes, they were doing the half pass at a walk, and they were going so slow, but in perfect rhythm and bend. So I realized I need to stop pushing Brego through his movements at a probably artificially quick speed for his level and let him really swing through them in better cadence. This had the extra benefit of restraining me from over-cuing to push him along. I could be softer and quieter with my aids, get the same bend and effort, and let him figure it out at a more relaxed and comfortable pace.

In fact, the theme of the whole night was relaxation. And in that spirit I figured out that I was blocking with my hip on the canter departure. So when I sat deep, relaxed and let my hip open, instead of falling forward, Brego had a really nice and light departure. It was a real pleasant ride and it all came about because I decided to ask for more while asking with less.

Tonight, we did a conditioning ride. I haven't ridden a committed conditioning ride since August, so I was interested to see how Brego did with only the foxhunting to build his wind. We did three 5 minute trot sets with 2 minute walk intervals and then three 3 minute canter sets with 3 minute walk intervals. During the canter sets, as our route took us through the arena, I would jump little 2'6" jumps set up and then canter out of the arena, to simulate more of a cross country feel. I even jumped a 2'6" bank at the end of the sets. Brego did very well and was completely recovered in less than 10 minutes. So I can honestly say that this is the fittest he has ever been and I can thank foxhunting for getting him that way.

Much to do this week. I have a jumping lesson to work on my form on Thursday. Then I have the Opening Hunt on Saturday. Then, almost as an afterthought, we have our final schooling 3 phase for the season on Sunday. Brego will likely be tired in the dressage on Sunday, but I am interested in how he attacks cross country after hunting Saturday. Our goal is to go and have fun (and coach the SO) so no real pressure. I intend to take it easy, especially if we have some great runs on Saturday, but if Brego manages to show off some of his new departures, I won't complain. :)

Saturday, September 27, 2008


I am getting prepped for the big move in a month and in looking over my meager monies, it's time to insure Brego. Emotional reaction aside, I could not replace him for a comparable horse with all my money tied up in the farm. And I do believe that after some time, I would want to ride again. So I am looking into mortality and loss of use (he's much more likely to be injured and happily live with me the rest of his life, but I will need another horse to play with).

So, if you have equine insurance, please feel free to comment with your company and any recommendations. I am also interested in people telling me what they think Brego might be worth, so I can calculate Fair Market Value. PLEASE do not post that information to the blog! I don't want some crazy intraweb nutter getting any nefarious ideas. Email me privately at eventingpercheron at gmail dot com. And if any nutters are reading this, Brego is a dangerous sod who kicks strangers, takes 3 hours to load in a trailer and has a noxious flatulence problem. Plus he is chipped and has a gps theft recovery system installed, which seems like overkill because I am pretty sure he's worth about $38.42 in today's US dollars. Trust me, no one wants this horse.


My hunt this weekend was rained out. Instead of crying about it (ok, maybe I cried just a little), I put together a small snippet of our dressage work this week. The camera ran out of batteries after two minutes which just goes to show you that all the whiz-bang technology in the world can't fix stupid.

Anyway, the first part of the clip is an example of the shoulder-in to haunches-in work we have been doing at the walk. It's not the best example of our work, but please notice the horse in the background. Yep, that becomes important.

In the second half of the video, I am attempting to do the same, but now the camera is from the side. Do not be fooled by Brego's head set. He may look stunning, but this work is very incorrect. The cadence of his steps is inconsistent, he is not working through his back, lots of tension in the jaw, and neither one of us are happy.

Brego had started the day relaxed (before the camera was rolling, of course), but then when the walking horse appeared, he tensed. Of course, I did not realize the presence of this horse was a problem, because we have ridden with him before. The rider is very nice and we've never had any issues. But the horse does wear chains around his pasterns which make a jingly noise which may remind Brego of a work harness, which he truly is afraid of. Regardless, this horse gaiting up behind Brego with the chains rattling fried his brain and he went from bendy and relaxed to this crappy tension stutter. His frame is NOT correct for his training and he has false elevation. It's important to see the distinction.

It took me 15 minutes of battling him to just give up and go outside. Immediate relief from Brego and I finished on two nice canter departs in the outdoor. Just another example of complacency in action. We've ridden in that indoor dozens of times, even with the same horse, so I had assumed his resistance was internal. I need to remember to always give him the benefit of the doubt, and look around to see what might be bothering him. As soon as we left the arena, I figured out what was the true problem.

The next day I just worked on easy things that required no mental energy. I rode for 15 minutes and then loved on him. He's a good boy and deserved the break.

Brego Accolades

Wiola, my favorite instructor who won't move to the US just to teach little ol' me :) , awarded The Brego Blog with the Arte y Pico Award! Woohoo, thanks so much! I believe this award connotes artistic superlatives, which the big boy certainly deserves. It's hard NOT to make every picture fantastic when your subject is so handsome.

In the spirit of viral propagation, I bequeath this award to five blogs which I think also contribute to the greater Art.

1) Flying Changes - Incredible prose and enviable lifestyle, I greet each entry like a special treat, sneaking into my crazy workday to give me a moment's pause. I also cannot wait for her horsey novel.

2) Food for Founder - I recently discovered this blog and I already love it. Great pictures, inviting approach and always interesting. You will learn something here.

3) Jumping Percheron - Gotta give a shout out to my girl, Klein. Lots of great photos and descriptions of all the important foundation work necessary to start a jumper. This horse has so much potential, I can't wait to see where she goes.

4) Daring Fireball - A little Mac cross over for you... John is so interesting, even when he is commenting of esoteric punctuation marks. I learn ten things a day about all manner of things, from politics, to mac software, to typography. He condenses the highlights of the daily web and adds his own insightful quips. Love it.

5) Strange Maps - Probably the best blog ever written. Every article is jaw-dropping fascinating, and I am not even into cartography. I save each entry until I get home from work so I can really focus and immerse myself. One of my favorites.

There are some Rules that come with the Award:

1) You have to pick 5 blogs that you consider deserve this award, creativity, design, interesting material, and also contributes to the blogger community, no matter of language.

2) Each award has to have the name of the author and also a link to his or her blog to be visited by everyone.

3) Each award-winning, has to show the award and put the name and link to the blog that has given her or him the award itself.

4) Award-winning and the one who has given the prize have to show the link of “Arte y pico” blog , so everyone will know the origin of this award.

5) To show these rules.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A Fox Hunter's Burden

Brego got the day off today, but I did not. An aspiring foxhunter's work is never done. I have yet to decide on one of the most important details of my appointments.

What shall I drink from my flask?

The Contenders

I went to the liquor store and loaded up on all the little hotel-sized bottles I could find in "appropriate" genres. I could immediately rule out Tequila. Bad things happen when I drink Tequila. And vodka was also out. Too many martinis. Just. too. many.

Representing some of the finest liquor available (*cough* in my price range *cough*) were Jameson Irish Whiskey, Maker's Mark, Sheffield Sherry, Malibu Rum, Hennessy Cognac, Courvoisier Cognac, Baileys, Grand Marnier and VSOP Champagne Cognac. The requirements were that it had to be "warming", had to sit well on an exercising stomach, and palatable enough so I wouldn't embarrass myself by blanching while sipping at the stirrup cup.

It's tough, practicing for this glorious sport. It requires a lot of dedication and attention to detail. Such is the burden I assumed when I decided I wanted to be a hunter worthy of the tradition.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Altitude Sickness

I don't know why I did it. Maybe it was because the indoor was filled with round bales and I couldn't ride dressage. Or maybe it was because I talked on the phone with my friend in Texas who is preparing for a big jumper show. Or maybe I just needed to know if we could possibly jump around a "Big Girl" Hunter Trial course in 6 weeks.

Something unknown compelled me to walk out to the outdoor and set up some fences, dragging standard after standard into place to build... what?

A triple bar.

A 3 foot, 3 inch triple bar, to be exact.

Don't worry, I had the camera with me as well.

Brego warmed up slow. I thought he was tired from foxhunting. It turns out, he was just bored. He barely lumbered over the 2'6" warm up verticals. But the first time I brought him down the line to the triple bar, he locked on. I could tell he was thinking about it. Something new, something different. He jumped it but knocked the back rail with his fronts. The second time he made the same mistake.

Biggest. Jump. Ever.

But the third... he figured it out. He launched over that fence and I felt the free fall on the backside of the jump. I felt loose and unfit and barely able to crouch over that tremendous jump. But man, that horse can fly.

Percheron Jumping a Triple Bar from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

Watching the video, the expression on his face, that boy was eating it up. His had a spring in his canter and just banged off the ground. He cleared it by at least a foot and a half and he was very tight with his knees and his hind end. Average rider. Extraordinary horse.

So we have much to do, but Brego is technically ready for a move up. I, however, am not. Watching my riding made me cringe a bit. More no stirrup work and more grid work should get that leg back under control. I really felt I had figured it out about a month ago, but I haven't been able to recapture the tightness. I need to talk with my jumper trainer about the back side of the fence. It all comes unravelled there and I think it's because I am not strong in my position. If anyone has some good articles/video on how to ride the backside of a big fence, I would love to read up on it!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Ware Bees! Again!

Another fun day hunting. The leaves are changing and there was a thin frost on the ground as we pulled into the meet. I decided to ride Hilltop today to keep it slow and easy. I am very glad we did because the territory was unbelievably rocky. It's the kind of terrain that is rocky, mixed with mud, and hidden under leaves so horses cannot pick their way and think they are landing on turf and instead land on sharp rocks. After nearly four hours of hunting, moving fast, Brego was noticeably foot sore.

So I packed his feet with magic cushion and put him in his boots to take the sting off. Poor guy. I will likely not hunt that territory again until I get better hoof protection.

Brego did alright at the back of the hilltoppers pack (riders wishing to jump must stay at the back), but he had a lot of trouble at the beginning and each time the hounds voiced. He could not understand why we were so far from the action. He never acted up, but his energy was high and he jigged and I am glad I was on him to turn it into a teaching exercise. He's not quite packer safe at hilltop, but we had a pretty positive experience.

I talked with some of the staff who invited/suggested I ride in an upcoming Hunter Trial which our hunt usually does well in. I was the only new member to get the invite since you have have to be ready to jump and jump big. It's for confirmed first fielders with jumps at 3' to 3'6". It's over a couple of miles. The staff assured me that if I could event novice, I would be fine both technically and conditioning wise. I am mulling it over, but I will have to see. It's in a month and we're supposed to go school with the hunt at some point to practice and I will make my decision then. Brego is ready for a step up, if his conditioning is there, and a hunter trial which is not timed would allow me to go at my own pace. But the fences will be big and some of the staff are three star riders on very capable horses so they may even be playing it down a bit.

I'm not sure we're ready to run with the big dogs, but I am so tempted. Especially after riding hilltoppers today. I am a total hunting junkie and the thought of going fast and jumping big with my hunt makes me happy. Brego seemed to also be frustrated with today's pace, but I am not sure if he knows what he is getting himself into. It's up to me to say when.

Oh yea, and we hit more bees today. Brego was stung six times and although he hopped sideways a bit, he never acted up. It was also early in the ride and his energy was HUGE so I was really proud of him for not taking advantage of the excuse to kill me. Luckily, I was not stung.

This is my least favorite part of the week, because now I have the longest amount of time to wait until the next hunt. And next week's territory is one of my favorites. Lots of big fences and open fields and NO ROCKS.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Brego Salon

I decided to body clip Brego on Thursday. Once I got started, I realized it as a bit premature. His hair was not as long as I thought, but once you make the first cut.. you're committed. Anyway, since it is still early in the season, I went with a full clip, minus legs. As it gets colder and his work winds down, I will go with more conservative clips. In Texas, I clipped him about once a month. I am not sure how often I will need to clip here, but since I jumped the gun, probably more often at the beginning.

The whole initial rough cut took about 40 minutes. I used the big Andis Progress Horse Clippers. After a day of the hair settling, I will go back with little battery-operated clippers and clean up the lines. I like to do the clips over two days so you can see the results better.

I made a short time-lapsed video of the rough cut. It's not too exciting except it's fun to see how busy the barn is and how nicely Brego stands without drugs or twitch for the whole 40 minutes. Public Service Announcement: I know my jeans don't fit well and yes, crack kills, so avert your gaze if you are troubled. :)

Winter Body Clip from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

The barn owner happened to catch a few pictures of the cute 3rd grader on Brego with her iPhone. She sent them along so I can post them. I do not own these pics, their copyright is held by someone else, yada yada yada. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Walking Then Cantering

Brego and I had a great dressage session today. He was bendy and listening. We were sharing the indoor which is the size of a small dressage arena with 4 other horses and he did a great job staying focused and changing direction and bend in all three gaits. The other riders were equally skilled and considerate and we all made it work. Yay for a good barn!

Anyway, we worked again on the shoulder-in to haunches-in transition at the walk. He was awesome on the left bend and better on the right bend. We also did walk-canter transitions and he actually did one correctly to the right! One out of 8 or so schoolings, but I am so thrilled. We got one, no trot steps, big elevated departure, very soft. I couldn't believe it. He is just so cool. We worked to the left as well, but it was not quite as solid, although his left canter is still very nice.

I've been obsessing over Brego again because he did one line yesterday jumping in the sandy arena where he cross fired. But then he did some nice changes for me over and one stride after the fences and seemed really balanced. Then I thought his right hind was puffy again but when I checked today, it felt really good. So I think I am just in major OCD mode and I need to relax. Brego's excellent dressage work today shows me he is feeling good and interested in work. I really wish I could have gotten some video. I promise soon.

In addition to being the object of my obsession, Brego has been making the rounds as a general "Good Guy". On Tuesday, he was the mount of choice for the cutest 3rd grader on earth. He listened very well to her even through her legs did not extend below the flap on my dressage saddle. He walked and trotted for her, a perfect gentleman and then she rode him outside and he trotted her around. It was so cute. His little rider was so proud of herself on top of that big horse and you could tell Brego loved the attention. He loves little kids. And I LOVE that this horse goes from fire-breathing fox hunter/sensitive dressage horse to a very quiet, gentle chaperone for a precious child.

Then the next day, he provided jumping lessons for my SO who is battling confidence issues with the old cranky TB. He was also a star and performed very well (and did not cross fire once). He is rapidly turning into the kind of horse I trust to be appropriate for the rider. And by evidenced by his dressage work today, toning it down for his other passengers did not deaden him to my aids.

Now Brego gets a couple of days off while I obsess about when the perfect time to body clip him will be. It's getting down into the 30s at night, and his coat is coming in, but he is sweating a lot during work and is acting a little hot. What to do, what to do....

Monday, September 15, 2008

Foxhunting Fashionista

I have a gotten a few questions about foxhunting attire and so I thought I would pass along what I have learned. I am by no mean an expert, but I am reading everything I can get my hands on as fast as I can.

There are lots of great resources out there about foxhunting. I have several books on order, but I have also found some good information online. I found a good write up on attire which answers a lot of McFawn's questions about boots. It even has a nice attire matrix if you scroll all the way down. If you would like to see pictures of the coats, etc, I like to drool over the clothes here. There is also a nice glossary of terms in case I throw something up here that sounds strange. Finally, COTH has a nice hunting forum and Foxhunters Online has a searchable archive.

As for my clothes, I am still assembling the proper tack, saddle blankets, and attire for eventing (all three phases) and now foxhunting (another similar but very different set of requirements). So my black wool coat is not a true Melton and my canary vest does not quite fit. My show breeches are too green and I need to get a nice set that are tan or beige. And of course, I wear field boots. I need to find some dress boots (without tops for the ladies, tabs sewn in but not sewn down. :) ) I did finally find a fitted saddle pad for my jumping saddle (instead of a square pad), so Brego should be good to go.

All hunts are different and my hunt (still makes me laugh to say "my" hunt) tends to be a little more relaxed with attire. For example, our staff consists of women, but they wear the pink coats and brown top boots. I talked with my fieldmaster on Saturday and she said my field boots would be fine, but I am going to try to get new ones as soon as I can afford it. I am scanning ebay for a proper Melton, but am not holding my breath for something in my size. Still, you can get lucky. I also need to find a proper velvet cap. My Charles Owen show helmet is not offensive, but with the white logo on the front, it's not traditional.

I do have a nice flask with a stag on it... now I just need to fill it. Any suggestions, Stacey? I ask because your consumption of Wild Turkey is legendary. :)

Anyway, I hope that answers people's questions and if you have more, pass them along. I am learning as fast as I can and I might have just stumbled upon the answer!

Saturday, September 13, 2008


Another outrageously fun hunt today. Brego was very responsive in his new bit, NOT the waterford baucher I thought I had (and which is likely packed away in storage) but an old 7" straight bar two ring butterfly, complete with curb chain (C in the pitcure). I put the reins on the lower curb setting and it was likely suddenly being called "M'am" by your delinquent adolescent son. Show some respect, boy!

Anyway, I started the ride with the dreaded "snaffle hands", constant contact anticipating the pulling and the running and the fighting. Brego let me know, ever so politely, that snaffle hands hurt with a bit with some curb action and I clued in. So I got out of Brego's face and only stepped in when I needed more brakes. And Brego agreed to be responsive and stop when asked and we all had a fabulous time.

Again, we rode first field, mostly behind the field master and she and I had a blast running and jumping. Brego took on two big coops that only the field master and I would brave and didn't even look twice at them. He was professional and had only one slip the entire ride in very soupy conditions. He seemed to be blowing as hard as the other horses in first field at the checks, but I would prefer if he were a bit fitter. It was unusually warm and humid though, so that might have been taking a toll.

Regardless, we officially joined the hunt and I can't wait until next Saturday.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Have Bend, Will Travers

Brego is a new man, er, horse after his chiro work. His left canter is much improved and he feels so bendy and relaxed. I've had two fantastic dressage rides on him since the chiro work on Monday and he just gets better and better.

Our big mental breakthrough was getting a couple steps of haunches in (travers). I had been attempting to teach Brego how to step in the direction of bend as opposed to shoulders in (where the horse is moving in the opposite direction of bend). He was not getting it at all. I tried working in hand, I tried getting the bend from a standstill and then pulling my outside leg back and asking him to move his haunches. I tried a bastardization of turn on the forehand. Admittedly, I am not an experience dressage rider, so I am sure my weight was all wonky, etc, but Brego usually manages to figure out the intent of an exercise despite my muddled clues.

Well I went back to my books and really thought about the exercise. I got a crazy idea on what to try next. So today I spent a lot of time working on shoulder in at the walk, until it was very light and the bend was true and not on my inside hand. Then I opened my outside rein and used a little indirect rein on the inside hand to move his shoulders back to the track while keeping the bend with my inside leg, then in the same motion, I dropped my outside leg behind the girth and asked him to step over with his haunches. And he did it!! I couldn't believe how easy it was for him to understand keeping the same bend but shifting his body so that he was suddenly moving in the direction of bend. In my mind, it is a very advanced thing, but it must be easy for him to understand.

I got two good steps in haunches in, then deliberately asked him to straighten. I am really focusing on not "petering out" my aids when he does something right and we stop the exercise. I need to train myself to have crisp transitions into and out of each movement. Strangely, Brego was much better on the left bend in this shoulder in to travers exercise than the right bend. His right bend is usually his strongest. I will need to ponder more on what that means, but I am just so jazzed that he got it! And I taught it to him by myself, just by understanding balance and the purpose of the exercise. I feel like I am really starting to learn dressage, not just practice the patterns.

On a somewhat related note, Brego's swelling on the right hind is completely and totally gone. Vanished. My friend in Texas surmised that it was lingering because of Brego's pelvis being tilted to the right and he was "overusing" that right hind. Now that he is straightened, the strain is off his leg. Sounds pretty interesting to me, but I can't help but wonder... It had been getting better but seemed to stabilize into a wind puff type swelling with no heat. Then the chiro work on Monday and *poof* it's all gone. I don't know, but I am happy to have Brego's clean legs back!

The saddle fit went well, both saddles were spruced up. Wow, what a difference! It was much easier for me to ride the canters and no uncomfortable girl parts!!

As for this weekend, I was supposed to have a schooling show, but I scratched the show so I can go hunting instead. I feel like I am playing hooky from school, but I just want to go run around and not worry about competition. Plus, if I go hunting, I can pay them my membership dues and be an official member of a hunt!

The house inspection went well so we are full steam ahead for me to buy a farmette at the end of October. I can't wait to have Brego at home. Once the deal is done, I will have updates with pictures, etc, as we explore our new world.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To Pad Or Not To Pad

Hi all, I just wanted to drop a quick post about my saddle pads since I received some very thoughtful and good suggestions in my last post when I mentioned my saddles no longer fit.

I am a big believer in getting a saddle to fit as closely as possible without padding, but pads are really useful to assuage a situation like a changing back between fittings. Here is the situation on my two saddles.

My jumping saddle was custom made for Brego, so it used to fit perfectly. I used a plain, quilted jumping pad under it with great success. Over time, however, I noticed that Brego was a prolific sweater and after a big workout, I could literally wring out the pad. The moisture was seeping into the underside panels of my saddle and molding the leather. My saddle was getting ruined, and I couldn't keep up with cleaning it after ever ride. So I ordered a Thinline pad which acts as a moisture barrier. It sits neatly under my saddle, with very little outline, and adds virtually no bulk. It has worked really well. Now, however, that the saddle is too big, I have started using my Mattes pad under the jumping saddle in lieu of the thinline to bring up the pommel. This has alleviated my "issues", made Brego more comfortable, and protected the saddle. Once the saddle fitter fixes the saddle, I am going to go back to the thinline and plain jumping pad.

As for my dressage saddle, it was purchased used. I had my saddler look at the tracings of the original horse and see how closely they matched Brego. They were very close so I bought the saddle. However, I always ride with my Mattes pad under my dressage because the saddle is a fraction too big. Now that Brego has lost the weight, even the Mattes pad cannot lift the pommel enough and I am still having "personal issues". So the saddle fitter will adjust the dressage saddle to work with the Mattes pad again. The Mattes pad does a fine job as a moisture barrier as well, so I have no need for the thinline and my dressage saddle stays nice and dry.

So that's the current set up. Everyone who recommended a lift pad were spot on, and it is working for one of my saddles. The other saddle will have to wait until it is properly fitted, hopefully in a couple of days. What a brilliant readership I have!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Mystery Solved!!

Brego got a visit from the chiropractor today. I was excited to hear what she would find considering Brego's recent pronounced favoring of his right lead and his intermittent cross-firing at the canter.

After the obligatory comment that "That's a lot of weight to be jumping..." (see, Stacey? You are not alone) she got to work. I guess this vet of fifteen years has never seen a big jumping warmblood. Anyway... Brego's front end was fine. His knees and shoulders checked out. He was blocked on the right side of his neck on his C2 vertebrate and his pelvis was twisted to the right and rotated forward.

What tremendous news! It was exactly in line with what I was seeing and feeling. Brego was very stiff to the left, like he couldn't stretch the right side of his body. And his left lead was flat and labored, while his right was powerful and easy. So the diagnosis made perfect sense.

She was able to set him straight and then, because saving for my new house is so BORING, I sprung for the acupuncture treatment after the adjustment. Brego soaked it all up, yawning and chewing, enjoying his endorphin high. Even an hour afterward, the horse was relaxed. His whole energy was relaxed. It was very cool.

So Brego obviously got the day off and I will do some light stretching tomorrow. The chiropractor recommend lots of forward work and no collection. Easy enough! Then Wednesday is my house inspection, so another day off. I will probably not jump him again before the schooling show this weekend. I want to give his hind end enough time to settle into the adjustment and hopefully hold it.

So even after the initial comment about jumping Brego, the chiro found nothing wrong with him that screamed ABUSE! DRAFT HORSE JUMPING! ABUSE! She even checked out his puffy right hind, which is decidedly less puffy these days, and couldn't find anything. In fact, he was better off than my Thoroughbred. The chiro is a former vet, so that's reassuring.

Now I can't wait for the saddle fitter later this week. Losing 8 inches off his girth and getting fit has really changed Brego's back, making it much narrower at the withers. My two saddles sit too low in front and it is causing some, er, "uncomfortableness" in my girl parts (Sorry, TMI!). So a nice adjustment... properly fitting saddles... we'll be all good.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Steuart Pittman Clinic Redux

It dried out enough in the backwoods of Maine to hold the cross country portion of the Steuart Pittman clinic outside. The footing was wet, but not muddy, and I am afraid Brego and I damaged the field pretty badly during our rides. The big boy is tough on wet turf.

Steuart was in his usual good-natured, positive role. He was very upbeat and funny with all the riders and had a great eye for balance and soft feel. I am really impressed with him. If I had infinite money and time, I would try to work with him more privately because in a group clinic setting, your time is limited and the focus is not as critical.

In general, I felt really loose in the tack and pretty run down. I am beginning to think I am fighting some cold off. I've felt a little run down all week and it definitely showed in my riding. I went right back to squatty, toes out, fall back in the saddle riding. Brego felt my vibe as well and was a consistent 20% behind my leg at all times. The only time we could get a nice jump out of him was when Steuart placed his baseball cap on the jump. Then Brego sat up and paid attention.

We had some trouble finding out way around the big water puddles, so our finale course was broken into "pre-water screwup" and "post-water screwup". In the first half, we were rocking. I felt like we had a good rhythm and Brego was jumping nicely out of stride, even with my sloppy position. The second half was definitely harder going with stickier fences. We lost our rhythm and impulsion and then we just scrambled around the rest of the course. I can't complain too much, Brego echoed how I felt. I just didn't feel like we were "on".

Pittman Clinic from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

Steuart was very happy with Brego and, once again, I got some nice feedback from him. He said not to stress too much about him putting his head down before fences. I have been worried about it, even enough to post on COTH. He said he was just looking at the fence and to not try to correct it unless Brego then had trouble getting off the ground. From what he could see, he thought he was fine and it was even desirable to have a horse look down at the fence and then use his neck and shoulders to lift off. It meant he was paying attention, like he should, but still using himself well. You do not want a flat jumper who never uses their neck or looks where he is going.

He also really liked Brego's form when we rode well. He brought up he knees and used his back. He said he was very honest and looked much more experienced and confident than last time he saw him. He asked me when I was going to take him Novice and I said late next year maybe. He thought that sounded really good.

So all in all, Brego put in a solid performance and was a very steady ride, even in extremely wet grass. I was not at the top of my game and it showed, but it was still great to get Steuart's feedback.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The People's Brego

The people have spoken and they overwhelmingly want more video and pictures. So, for your viewing pleasure, I present a video of Brego and I working on dressage.


Just kidding!

Dressage Practice 9/6/2008 from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

Lest anyone gets confused.. The guy talking to me in the video is my jumping trainer. He is not training me, just chatting about recent events in the horse world, who did what at a certain show, etc. So I muted the sound since it's not really appropriate for the blog. :)

After a few days off, Brego felt great! His bending to the right is getting downright correct. His bending to the left is still a work in progress. In the video you can really see how much stiffer and less forward he is through the left. I am excited to see what the chiropractor says, because I think the unevenness is getting more pronounced. Or perhaps, I am asking more of him and his favoritism is more obvious.

Either way, I was very pleased. We did a little walk-canter work and even a leg yield at the trot. After talking theory with my friend/trainer during her visit this week, it's funny how much my brain just shut down and we did the same ol' same ol' work. So I am inspired to take Brego to my new dressage trainer up here so she can jump start us again. I think his bending work shows progress and I am keen to see what she thinks is next for us, especially my riding.

I noticed that in the video, my reins are getting longer and longer. He's taking less contact to stay soft and elevated, but I am resorting to the bad habit of "crotch hands". I need some coaching on that as well. I spend so much time of listening to how Brego feels, I don't focus on how I am answering back. So a little more body awareness is in order, as usual.

[Since it is a warm late summer day and we had a light, soothing ride, I would like say that this ride would have gone perfectly with a Sam's Summer Ale... for one third of my readers who wanted to see beer reviews.]

A Week In Review

I apologize for being a bad blogger. I have had a crazy week and am just now getting time to sit down.

On the Brego front, things are going well. My friend/trainer from Texas came up to visit and really liked the progress Brego has made. She was even brave enough to jump him over a big 3'3" oxer and he did really well for her. It was so cool to see him jump a big jump from the ground! He is so BIG!! He was even tidy with his hind end and it seemed so easy for him. She said his canter was much lighter so it was time to fix my position. I could no longer blame my canter position on him pulling on me!

We spent a few fun days being hooligans on horse back while the swelling from my bee stings subsided. The one over my eye caused some pretty nasty, eye-closing swelling. To take my mind off my new ugliness, we rode the horses out and cantered through the woods. Brego was tired from the big foxhunt, but he did very well and even jumped well in the sandy arena. Starting Wednesday, he got the rest of the week off. He has more than earned it.

Then, on Wednesday, I looked at a farm for Brego. I loved it so much we put an offer on it that very night. So now we're officially under contract as of late Friday night. We still have a long way to go before the deal is done, but I am very excited. It's a gorgeous house on 6 acres in the middle of incredible horse country. Less than 20 miles from all the hunt fixtures and shows, sandwiched between two big state parks which allow horses, with direct access miles of double track trails, with riding access to the fairgrounds which holds little open shows all years (and Farmer's markets every Friday), in the middle of a horsey neighborhood with two indoor arenas (which might be available for hire).

So if all goes through, we will be moving in November to a new farm where I get to wake up every morning and see big Brego out my kitchen window. I can't imagine a better life.

But because we will be leaving a wonderful barn which is tailor-made to producing excellent show horses, I am not sure how much real schooling we will get in over the winter without those facilities. But it IS winter, and after the hunting season, Brego and I will be taking a long break.

I still intend to show as much in the Spring (money willing). I am already qualified for the USEA Area 1 Beginner Novice Championships and I need one more top five finish to be qualified for the American Eventing Championships (AECs) at Lamplight in Wayne, Illinois. So eventing is still very hot for us. I also have a few shows still on tap in September and October before the move and all my money being tied up in a house and pastures and a wee barn.

For the near short term, the hunt this weekend was cancelled due to rain from Hannah. My Steuart Pittman cross country clinic on Sunday will be moved to the indoor to focus on stadium instead. I have still much to learn there so I don't mind. The chiropractor comes out Monday to check on Brego which will influence the rest of the season, if he needs a break.

I've got a couple schooling three phases and a schooling jumper show coming up as well. The pressure is off, so I am going for fun and to coach my SO. And, of course, I am going to set aside enough money to join the hunt this year so I have three more months of unrelenting fun on the weekends.