Monday, October 27, 2008

Many Heartfelt Thanks

Thank you all for the wonderful responses to my last post. I really do appreciate the outpouring of affection for the big guy. He continues to be just fine, and aside from a little fuzzy thinking, I am feeling quite well myself. My dad is not only an accomplished Brego rider, he is also a neuropsychologist who specialized in head trauma (and yes, he still lets me ride) and he has performed all sorts of scans and probing questions. I am in good hands.

I let people know I was going to be taking a break, not to instill fear or drama :), but because last time I went for a week without posting, I had many concerned people emailing me asking if Brego is ok (I'm looking at you, Funder). So, between packing, and organizing every last penny, I wanted to give people notice that we're ok, but I will be immersed in the Other Life for a bit. And maybe that's not such a bad thing.

As for the fall, it has helped to learned that it does happen, even to the best of us. My engineering brain always reaches for a root cause, however. As Beckz mentioned, the distance really wasn't that long. Surely, the answer could not be that Brego lost his brain/concentration? Well, I have the benefit of watching the video in slow motion, oh about a hundred times, and I even sent it out to my trainer/friend in Texas and we all came up with an idea. Brego was attempting to do the "front foot tap", where he glances his front foot down on his departure over the fence. He's done it a few times, and if I had more time I could dig up some video, maybe another post... But I have never done anything about it because he managed to pick it back up and clear the fence. Anyway, this front foot tap went bad, either from the footing or fatigue or mental lapse and when his left fore slipped instead of tapping, he brought his right fore down to catch himself and the deal was sealed.

Losing his brain is a wildcard. Front foot tap I can work on. Even misplaced, the front foot tap points to confidence and insecurity issues, which we can always improve on.

Here I am, rambling on. My point, and I do have one, is Don't Dispair. Brego and I are not on a permanent break, and I think an introspective rider acting conscienciously is what draws people to this blog (or Brego's flat out handsomeness. Either one.).

What is life without a little existential angst?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Well, Not Quite A Bang

About a week ago, I mentioned that this weekend would be chock full of horse goodness. We had the show hosted by my boarding barn on Saturday and then the New England Hunter Trials on Sunday. Well, the New England Hunter Trials were postponed until November 16th. So that left me with plenty of time and horse to play at the show on Sunday.

First off, my favorite 3rd grader did a pair of walk-trot classes on The Brego. They did awesome!


Next, I coerced talked my dad into riding Brego for the adult walk-trot. My dad has not been on a horse in about 5 years, has never ridden English and never posted the trot before. But he was a complete sport and did amazingly well! Brego's trot is NOT easy to ride, so I am doubly proud of him.

Brego and Dad

A little coaching from the rail

Victorious! A Handsome Man and a Handsome Horse!

Next came the adult lead-line. This time I took Dad around on my old TB mare. He always did love Hobby more!

Wave to the crowd!

Brego played in the adult leadline class as well!

Good sports, all around

Next came the costume class. This year, I dressed as a Ringwraith. Ok, yea I am a nerd. And I didn't have time to put together a whole new costume when this costume continues to ROCK! As in "spook horses and make small children cry" ROCK!


Despite the costume, Brego still looks sweet and cuddly

Notice the Eye of Sauron embroidered on the leather faceplate? Nerd!!

Practicing in the costume before the class

Waiting to go into the arena

Killer Brego

He's so very scary!

After the costume class, I did the 3' jumpers. Brego had good pace, and I felt like our distances had improved, but I got his too deep twice and we took two rails. I was pretty pleased with his round. We blew one lead, but all in all, not too bad.

Fall Horse Show from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

So that's the good stuff. Now comes the part about the Bang. The final class of the day was the Gambler's Choice jumper class. They set up a nice assortment of fences, including some Swedish oxers, slanted poles, 3'3" planks on upside down cups. I formulated a plan which included 10 fences. We had 60 seconds to complete the course and I figured that would be enough. We aren't very fast.

I was first in the class and we picked up a good pace. I started with an easy 2'9" plain square oxer to get us going. Brego jumped it big, but fine. Then I made my way around my course. I had a couple of hard rubs, a couple of rails, but in general, Brego was jumping well and my distances were pretty good. I felt much better this round than the previous 3' round. I jumped my tenth fence and there was no whistle so I came around to go back to fence 1, the easy square oxer that I have schooled literally 100 times and Brego had jumped well at the beginning of this trip.

As I lined up the oxer, I thought again about the whistle, distracted, then about two strides out, it looked long. Doable, but long. I figured it would cost a rail. I felt Brego coil and then we went forward and not up. Brego crashed through the fence and we both fell. I got the wind knocked out of me and Brego carefully got to his feet. People rushed over and helped me up and led Brego away. I was fine. Brego was fine. I felt him all over, checked his head for soft spots, blood. His mouth was clean and his nose was clean. he was bending his head in both directions.

So I decided to get on and jump a small fence, you know, "back in the saddle". As I mounted up, Brego stole a mouthful of grass. That's my boy. I was so relieved, he was ok. We jumped the small fence fine, both a little stunned and uncommitted. And then I took him back to care for him.

I decided to go ahead and post the video. I hate the "horse crashes" types of video. And I honestly think I know what went wrong, since I have watched it many times. Warning: The fall is pretty scary. My sister was filming and I know it scared her half to death.

Gambler's Choice Class from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

So what happened? A couple of things. The distance is a bit long, but not a full stride long or anything crazy. Brego plants his hind feet to jump at the proper place and then reconsiders. There's a confidence problem there, no doubt. Also, my ride was not helpful. I was thinking about the whistle, thinking about being done and didn't help him. I didn't tell him what to do, just rode him through. My TB mare would have looked at that distance and just jumped farther. Brego, at the end of a ride, and the end of the day, in the deep sand, probably felt my indecision and couldn't make the call himself. He's a green horse and I gave him a bad ride. I didn't stick to my plan and quit at 10 fences and I didn't stay with my horse. We had a great ride and then it all came crashing down, in the blink of an eye.

I asked a couple of people who's opinion I trust, after they witnessed the fall, if Brego should be jumping. They both said yes, but he needs a better ride, a more accurate ride. Any horse can make the same mistake, but I think fundamentally, Brego is lacking confidence. Even in the absence of my direction, he would have been fine if he had just jumped. He still had plenty of pace, plenty of gas. But for whatever reason, he didn't think so. And the question of confidence is my responsibility. We need more fundamental homework, more grids, more canter poles, more free jumping where he gets to make the call. He's a smart boy, he can make the call.

This post was very hard to write. Even though we are both ok, no sane person would walk away and not feel some guilt or sadness. I am so very lucky that Brego was not seriously hurt and that he jumped again. He is no doubt sore and I have everyone at the barn on high alert if he starts acting strange. I've checked on his twice so far today and will make the trip out again soon. He really is ok, and I am so thankful.

With the upcoming move, I am going to be taking a break from blogging. And from jumping. I need to clear my head and it's hard to do in a public forum. I know everyone will understand. At this point, it is my sincere hope to end this season, not with a bang, but with a whimper.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Off Topic: A Brief History of Daun

This blog is primarily about The Brego, but since I am but his humble blog-communicator, it might help to know more about me, if for no other reason than to fire off random facts about me if/when you meet me in real life, just to freak me out.  

I was one of those kids that was born loving horses.  I have wanted to ride since I was, oh, one and a half.  By three, I had convinced my parents to start taking me to riding lessons, which they dutifully did (bless them!) until I was twelve.  I started riding English and marvelled at my big sister who was brave enough to canter.  It took me years to canter.  Years.

My first lesson horse: Swede.  I am five.

I fell off a Palamino in first grade and broke my arm, the only broken bone I have received (knock on wood).  I didn't keep me off horses, though.  In this picture, I am actually sitting on a horse, now long cropped off.  Again, sans helmet.  My parents were crazy.

At least I got a cool cast!

When I was five, my wonderful parents bought me a pony.  Well, actually, they bought me an unbroke two year old Arabian gelding.  My parents are well intentioned, but knowing what I know now, that might not have been the best choice.  But I was in love with the Black Stallion, so my dad did the best he could to make me happy.  So, Ben and I grew up together.
Ben and me.

Ben was boarded a few miles from home, so Dad and I bonded every weekend when we went to "see the horses".  I took a few lessons a month during this time, mostly in a western saddle by a saddle seat trainer.  I did all I could to stay on.  Ben was quite the crazy unbroke horse I was riding around (with no helmet).  

When I was ten we moved Ben to a barn across the street from my suburban house in Texas and I became one of those barn kids that spends every daylight hour riding and hanging out.  I started taking hunter lessons again and taught Ben to jump little cross rails.  There was a lot of pressure at that barn to sell Ben and get a proper hunter.  When I brought this up with my Dad, he was mad.  "We could never sell Ben!  He's our horse!"  A very good lesson, Dad.  Thanks for instilling responsibility early.

Ben and me.  Yes, that is a mullet.

I gave up the Hunter Medals dream and just played with my horse.  Ben and I moved around a couple of times, until we landed at another barn that was home to a string of Paso Finos.  At 14, I started working for the owner of the Pase Finos, mucking and feeding mostly.  He eventually let me start to work with the horses.  They were amazing.  I learned a ton about horses working at that barn.  I was a teenager and I woke up at 4:30 am every day and went to the barn.  Got to school at 7 am.  Went to the barn at 4 pm after band practice.  And I never missed a day, not Christmas or any other holiday, for three years.  

Tom and Me and Ofrenda de Fe.  National Champion Amateur Owner.

When I graduated from high school, Ben, at 14, went into retirement.  My dad continued to pay his board while I went to school.  My university had an IHSA team, and I decided I wanted to try the competitive hunter scene again, so when I went home over my Freshman summer, I was on the lookout for a new horse.  I had long since outgrown little 14.2h Ben.  I went back to work for the Paso Fino owner (I very much love and respect this man.  The best horseman I have ever known.) and through him I made connections which landed me with my Thoroughbred mare.  She was basically gifted to me thanks to the Paso Fino owner cashing in a few favors for me.  She was three and fresh off the Florida circuit, a high talent horse I could have never afforded without help.  I named her Hobby.

Hobby and me.  Sophomore in college.

I spent the summer working with my mare and then brought her back to school with me in the fall.  I joined the IHSA team and had two great years riding and showing.  My mare and I did well, but not well enough to even make it to any AA shows.  I became president of the IHSA team and the coach and I started to quibble.  I was spending all of my time in horses, trying to compete my mare, trying to improve for IHSA and to make some money, I was also working at a polo facility.  

Warming up a polo pony for my owners.

The polo facility taught me how to pony horses, how to gallop, ride fast, wrap, treat horses like horses with lots of turnout.  It was great.  When the disagreement between the IHSA coach and I finally came to a head, I dropped off the team, sent my mare home to Dad (again, thanks Dad!), and stopped riding.  I started playing ice hockey.  I was burned out of showing, of having a mare so talented I could never live up to her, of the complete inanity of the hunter judging.

I went to grad school and flirted with the idea of bringing my mare up and riding again in New England which HAD to be better than Texas.  I ended up winning a scholarship to go to school in England, so I had to shelve that.  I continued to play hockey in England but didn't ride.  I went to a few yards while there and it was hard to be around horses that were so inaccessible.  I was very, very poor.

When I left England, I returned to Texas and brought my mare out of retirement.  I gave her to my dear college friend who was with me on the IHSA team.  She used her as a lesson horse and practice as she got her own lesson program off the ground.  I continued to live without horses for another  five years until I could convince the SO it would be a good idea.  I wanted to be back into horses, but I was still bitter about competing.  So I thought I would just get a nice trail horse, a big solid fellow, with so little talent I could never be held unworthy.  

I am not kidding.  I seriously looked for the most unremarkable horse I could find.

And I found Brego for the price of meat.

The rest is written many times on this blog.  As for Hobby, I eventually got her back from my friend and now at 19, she is the schoolmaster for my up and coming SO.  The mare continues to have amazing talent, but now it's someone else's responsibility to live up to it.  :)

As for Ben, he passed away in December 2006 at the age of 27.  He was with my family for 25 years and my Dad still can't talk about him without choking up.  That's how my family feels about horses.  I do realize every day how lucky I am to have the family to support my horse crazy youth.  Hobby is still my Dad's favorite (although he is starting to appreciate Brego).

The Great Tack (Information) Swap

A dear reader asked if I would make a general call out to the readership asking for Draft tack leads.  I have talked about tack on this blog several times, always citing that the hardest part about eventing a draft is finding high-quality, performance oriented tack to fit.

As for me, some of my stuff is custom made (saddles/breast plate), some is draft-sized (bits/reins) and some is warmblood-sized (bridles/saddle pads).  The hoof boot debacle I have discussed ad naseum, and I don't use leg boots (yet).

I usually don't promote specific products/merchants here, since every horse and rider situation is different and what works for me doesn't always work for others.  However, we have about 100 readers of this blog, all interested in drafts, I would assume, and obviously all brilliant for finding this blog interesting.  So please comment and post with your draft-sized tack recommendations!

Specifically, I have readers interested in the following items:

  • Pull on bell boots
  • Fly Sheets
  • Jumping Bridles (plain caveson)
  • Overreach boots (heck, any brushing, jumping, etc boot)
  • Saddle Pads (every day cotton variety)
  • Nylon BreakAway Halters
  • Nylon Padded Halters
I allow anonymous comments on this blog, so if you have any info about where to buy these items for a full draft, or are looking for other items yourself, please post!  If we get a lot of good info, I will make this post a permament link for all visitors to the blog to review.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Diet Update

Brego's diet has been slowly evolving. I dropped the Rice Bran and added a nutrient-dense light feed. Last time I updated the diet was June 1. So here is the most recent makeup of his diet:

2 parts Triple Crown Senior
(14% Protein, 10% Fat, 11.7% NSC) = $16/bag

2 parts Kent Feeds Omegatin
(15% Protein, 20% Fat, 22% NSC) = $29/bag

1 part Triple Crown 30% protein supplement
(30% Protein, 3% Fat, 9.8% NSC) = $29/bag

1 part Triple Crown Light
(12% Protein, 3% Fat, 9.3% NSC) = $16/bag

[I've posted the rest of this content before, but it is nice to repeat for new readers. I've been wrestling with diet for awhile.]

He gets good quality timothy blend hay, but not free choice (which is a very good thing). I also occasionally give him a few pounds of Triple Crown Safe Starch (11% Protein, 6% Fat, 8.8% NSC) as additional forage. I don't think he needs it, but it's conveniently packaged for trailer rides and shows.

NSC stands for Non-Structural Carbs which is, in general, the main component you are trying to lower in an EPSM-related diet. Conventional horse feeds contain 30% or more. Brego has never shown any symptoms of EPSM, so we are less strict about NSC. Some owners target for 10% or less which is really hard to do with packaged food. There's a lot of discussion about the EPSM diet, and I don't think we have the final answer yet. I believe a healthy diet has more going on than just the NSC count, such as fats availability and exercise level. I basically listen to what Brego tells me and am not afraid to adjust ingredients up and down.

I should note that when I switched to giving Brego monthly Adequan shots, I dropped his SmartPak entirely (Dare I mention that his "blackening" supplement failed to deliver as promised?). So he is no longer getting any other supplements. Besides apples, that is.

Out With A Bang

I went to the barn today planning on a conditioning ride. It was a gorgeous, sunny day with some crisp fall air. Perfect weather to work up a sweat.

We worked three 5 minute trot sets with 2 minute walk intervals and three canter sets. The first two canter sets were 3:30 and the final set was 4:00. Brego recovered in under 5 minutes. The horse is on fire! I can thank fox hunting, because he has never been more fit in his life.

And I have good reason to need him fit and fighting because.... *drumroll* El Brego de Oro will be entered in the New England Hunter Trials this weekend. Wait a minute! Have I lost my mind? Not one week ago, I said I was NOT going to enter. Well, it turns out that they are going to offer a Novice division at the trials. Fifteen fences, 2'6" max height, 1 mile course. Ah... a course for the rest of us.

So Brego and I will be representing our peeps (read: Hunt) next Sunday.

But before we do that, we are going to be riding in the show my barn is hosting on Saturday. I am going to take him in one jumping class, to save him for Sunday, but the costume class should not be too rigorous. Oh yea, Brego will be scaring little kids again this year.

People are excited about the show, and with good reason! Just today, two ladies and their beautiful horses trailered in to school in the facilities. I was riding by on the way to my conditioning sets and to my surprise, they came up calling "The Eventing Percheron!!" Turns out they read the blog. Worlds collide! It was a little strange having a conversation with people who are "strangers" who know so much about Brego and I. I started to tell them I was moving in two weeks and they reminded me that they already knew! So fun!

Oh and before I forget: Thanks or reading, it was great to meet you guys! See you next week!

So Brego is fit and we have one more weekend of complete horsey goodness before the move, the funds drying up, and the winter. I am excited for the competitions, since Brego and I have made some major improvements since last time we went out in public. It will be a great way to see out the season.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Brego Blog Wins Fame

I apologize to everyone for being a bad blogger.

I am at the end of a release cycle at work, which means evening and weekends belong to the Other Life. I did manage to ride Brego twice this week, once working on dressage and once on jumping. I did not go to the hunt this weekend, because it was an "away game" which is about a 3 hour drive to the joint meet. It is also a live hunt (coyote) and I wasn't sure if I was up for that. I am truly a conflicted animal lover/pacifist/red meat-eater/fox hunter.

My friend in Texas sent me some Phillipe Karl dvds and I have thoroughly enjoyed learning about how much I don't understand how to train. :) Just kidding, it's been very educational to see other horses progressing by a much estemmed professional and doing the conversion in my head for Brego. Let's see, if that gorgeous perfectly balanced, perfectly relaxed warmblood stallion in the video takes 3 oz of pressure to shoulder-in from the trot, that means.... carry the one... multiply by "Draft Constant"... divide by "Green Coefficient"... to make Brego do the same thing should take... 3 oz of pressure. Wow, I am way behind on my homework!

Brego really enjoyed the in-hand session and I found him much more responsive when I finally got into the saddle. I need to remind myself to start with advanced in-hand work more often.

As for the jumping day, I set up some small fences, about 2' high and just worked on a consistant canter and counting my strides. I really need to train my eye better. I found that I could count accurately from about 4 strides out and if I didn't see it then, I would see something bad at 2 strides and think "Oh shit, we've blown it". So I really need to get better at seeing it at, say 6, and then if I don't see it, do something about it.

I then set up a 2' 9" course and worked on rollbacks. We have a fun show this weekend hosted by my barn and Brego will be in the 3' jumpers class (and costume class). He was a star and I could tell that the counting helped that round as well. I am trying not to overanalyze my position which is Step 3 in my Twelve Step Program of "Enjoying Your Horse. Here. Now."! I did feel more secure and reading the technical aspects of the course helped me to keep back and get deep distances for tight turns. I heard from spectators that I looked much better, so I am going to run with that! :)

But the real reason for this post is that the Brego Blog has been so lucky as to receive a wonderful award from a very cool blog that I have just discovered: Baba Yaga's Mirror.

There are so many really great blogs out there about horses that to choose five would be difficult. I will need to give it some thought and get back to posting about it.

Two more weeks until the big move to Brego Farms so things will continue to be a little hit or miss on the blog. I fully intend to document any fun outings, but the posts may slow down for the next couple of weeks. Better grab hold, this could be a bumpy ride!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Blanket Closeout

I never do this on the blog, but....

There is a HUGE draft-sized blanket sale going on.  I got Weatherbeeta Taka Light, Medium, and Heavy blankets (87") for $125 combined.  ONE of those blankets retails for $225.

So winter is coming, if you need cheap blankets for your big horses, go here.

I have the Taka for the TB and I love it.  I also still really like Schneider's Big Fella line, but at these prices, I picked up extra blankets for Brego.

Happy shopping!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Hunter Pace

Today is Columbus Day for those readers outside of New England. New Englanders take Columbus Day very seriously, much like Texans celebrate Texas Independence Day and Confederate Heroes Day (don't ask), and as such, I had the day off from work.

My hunt hosted the Fall Foliage Hunter Pace out of the kennels so I was sure to sign up. We competed in the field division which is supposed to pace along at first field speed. Well, it was basically the pace from hell. We got lost about six times. Brego was not enthusiastic about leading the pack instead of following. He sucked back quite a bit and my jumping bat was as effective as limp noodles in getting him to move out. But he still managed to jump everything I asked, even if he slowed to a trot to look at it before going over.

He led our team across a deep river crossing and through some pretty treacherous trails, in between us getting lost. So all in all, I can't fault him one bit. He got us back to the trailers safely and only 12 minutes over the optimum time which was good enough for second place.

I made a mental note of the work we would have to do to school cross country on our own in the spring before we start eventing again. I almost think he does better by himself than leading a small group. He tends to "look backward" at the horses behind him and slows down for them to catch up which is not conducive to forward movement towards fences. The last time I schooled cross country with another rider he was terrible until we separated and we were on course alone. Then he listened and moved forward. He just doesn't like to lead, I guess.

Anyway, schooling for eventing is a long way off and Brego is in no danger of becoming a staff horse for the rest of the hunting season. So middle of the pack is just fine and that is where we are both most comfortable. It was an otherwise beautiful fall day and the colors were incredible. Not a bad way to spend a bank holiday.

Hunt Video

I put together a short video of a few quiet moments from the Opening Hunt last weekend. We did not capture any of the fast action on film, but were at least able to show the hounds and field. Trust me, hunting is much more exciting than this video portrays!

Opening Hunt from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fifteen Minutes

I made the front cover of the Rochester Times, and it wasn't for all the usual reasons!

The Rochester Times covered my hunt as part of a three part series and for the third installment, they chose a picture from our Opening Hunt Tea. So there I am, doing what I do best: Eating!

Oh well, at least they didn't publish the picture of me falling or clinging to Brego's neck after he hung his knee. I look quite dapper in my canary vest!


The New Barn

We headed over to the soon-to-be new house today to measure the barn and drop off a pallet of stall mats. We close on the property in a little over two weeks and everything is done, finalized, checked off, approved, etc. So barring any sort of catastrophe or financial meltdown (har dee har har... cry cry), we're good to go.

Part of the pasture

The house is amazing, but the horse part of the property is a work in progress. The land is a little under 6 acres and mostly wooded, although there is a 1 acre clearing that is move-in ready, just need to run some electric fence. The "barn" is actually a garage, or a shed, with two sliding doors. It has a solid cement floor and is beautifully framed with a little loft. It just isn't a barn. So, we're going to make it into a barn for this winter, enough for two cozy stalls, and then dream about a proper 4 stall barn next year. The long term goal is to clear and seed 3 acres total and have a cross country course on the front acre.

The "Barn". I WISH that tractor is mine, but alas... no.

Cutest hay loft on Earth (good for 100 square bales)

Side view of the barn. Cute as a button.

Mine! (soon...)

More barn.

The plan is to build two 10 x 11.5 foot stalls and have a 8 foot aisle way at the front where the big sliding doors are. The stall size is not ideal for the Big Brego, but it'll have to do. And he will only be in during serious weather. The barn has electricity and there's a year-round spring right outside the door for water. It's, er, rustic but I am so excited to have Brego at home.

I will be updating the blog with our renovation pictures in a couple of weeks. Between the fox hunting and the move, we're not doing a whole bunch of eventing, so I hope people don't mind if I stray off topic.

Gratuitous Leaf Shot. Don't you wish you were here???

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Funk Begone

If I am really honest with myself, I would admit that my confidence took a pretty significant hit last weekend when Brego fell and then hung his knee. I spent the week if full doubt, as any good neurotic horse owner would.

Am I asking too much of Brego? Can he really jump 3' consistently? Should I even be riding first field? Is my riding causing Brego to fall and hang his knee? Is my riding dangerous? Is Brego's jumping dangerous? Is this the reason people don't jump drafts? Am I being unfair to ask him to jump when he is obviously untalented?

Yea, I've been a lot of fun to hang around recently. I am definitely in a horse funk. Whenever Brego or I make a mistake, I read too much into it, taking it as a "sign" that we are in way over our heads. Real horses, you see, never blow a distance, or take a rail, or hang a knee. Real riders never blow a distance, or get ahead, or fall off. It's times like this that the doubters and the naysayers get very loud in my head and I start to believe them.

I had a pretty terrible jumping session on Thursday. My form is improving, and I jumped nothing but low spreads to help Brego with his knees. But I felt like he was terrible. When I watched the video, he was a star, getting me out of some serious mistakes. I don't know why he felt so bad when he was obviously jumping well. My eye is way off these days. Brego's stride varies from 9 feet to 14 feet depending on his own energy level, or the stars, or whatever. And I know I am supposed to package him up into a perfect canter and then not stress the distance. But when you are sneaking up on his maximum spread, you need to be more accurate than that. And the perfect canter? Sometimes I wonder if I would even know it if I felt it.

So of course, more doubting. More questioning.

So when I arrived at the hunt today, I felt dread. The grass was very slick from dew (flashbacks to last week's fall). The crazy rider who cut me off was there (flashbacks to last week's blown oxer). I was actually afraid and doubting Brego's ability to not kill me. Would he fall again? Would I finally learn that he is not supposed to be doing these things? Would he hang his knees and this time fall on me?

The members divided into three fields and I fell in behind my trusted field master in second field. No first field for me. We set off and Brego came alive. He was strong and willing and obviously not traumatized from last week's debacles. He tore off after the hounds like he'd been doing it all his life, ears perked, completely ignoring the quaking rider on his back.

The first fence was a coop. A big coop, almost exactly like the one where he hung his leg. I forced myself not to panic, made sure he saw it, and willed myself not to think about falling. He jumped it perfect, perfect distance, perfect speed, just doing his job. He continued to be perfect the rest of the ride, getting the correct lead I asked for, jumping everything cleanly and easily, stopping in balance, on his butt when needed quickly and without a fuss, crossing rivers, slogging up muddy fields, galloping steady again and again.

Brego does what he does because he loves it, and he loves to please me. He tries his best, but even in all his brilliance, he is a green horse and he WILL make mistakes. And I have to convince myself that it is ok. It is not some cosmic sign that I am screwing him up. He will tell me when he doesn't want to do it anymore. Right now, he wants to do it and it is easy for him.

Brego gave me a gift today: a perfect ride. I CAN ride this horse, and I do it just fine. I have lots of time to perfect my form. Lots of time to improve in every way. But it's also ok for me to go out and ride hard for fun because he loves it, too. So he forgives my mistakes, and I will forgive his and we will keep going on together.

So I hope my funk is on its way out. I want to enjoy the rest of the hunting season without overthinking anything. Brego is performing better than most of the horses out there and he's a favorite among the members. However, it IS good to have a little reality check so I have decided to definitely NOT ride in the New England Hunter Trials. Twenty-five training level fences is not something either of us are ready for. I am going to go and jump judge so I know what I am getting myself into... next year.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Pick Your Poison

A reader asked me to elaborate on my worming protocol and I was surprised to find out I have never really addressed it on the blog. Huh, and I thought I rambled on endlessly about every aspect of Brego...

Anyway, when I first got Brego, he had all the classic signs of being wormy and I completely missed it. Long, frazzled coat, no top line, poor condition, big belly, no energy, etc.

I took Brego to my vet for a chiropractic adjustment and she damn near pulled an intervention and gave me the scoop on worming. Like all vets, she can tend to be an alarmist, but unlike most vets, she researches the latest and knows her stuff. She maintained that most horses (in Texas anyway) carried worms that were largely Ivermectin resistant and so to not even bother with the "cheap stuff". She also said that larger horses run a greater risk of carrying a parasite load because people cheap out and buy them one tube, even if their weight calls for more.

So here was Brego, wormed with a single tube of Ivermectin on who knows what schedule his entire life. Classic.

So we got to work. She recommended a Panacur Powerpak to get rid of the blood parasites and heavy worm load. This is her protocol verbatim:

Protocol for Treatment of Blood Parasites

Give one box of Panacur Power Pak dewormers, 1 tube per 1000 lb horse
per day for 5 days

Wait 10 days

Give one tube of Quest Gel or Quest Plus per 1000lb horse

Wait two weeks

Give one tube of Quest Gel or Quest Plus per 1000 lb horse

Wait at least 5 days after the last dewormer to start Sefacon
treatment (for EPM, if necessary).

You can deworm the horse every 2 months with Quest or Quest Plus and
if you choose to rotate wormers, you can give Equimax every third time
instead of Quest. You can also give Anthelcide EQ every third time.

I have modified the protocol slightly. I always rotate between Quest Plus, Equimax, and Anthelcide EQ. I also ALWAYS give the proper dosage which gets very expensive because I basically need to buy an extra tube of everything. I am careful not to overdose with Quest, but I do occasionally double dose Equimax, as I recently reported.

I did talk to my vet about daily wormers and she was not fond of them. She saw parasite loads in horses that were supposedly on daily wormers, some of which may be unreliable barn help. I know we had lots of trouble at previous barns getting the help to deliver supplements daily. So now I give paste wormers and record the data in a calendar so I am sure Brego is being wormed. I also switched from oral joint supplements to Adequan IM for partly this reason.

I also support Brego's system around a worming by adding priobiotic to his feed, making sure not to overwork him, being sensitive to foot soreness or other side effects. I have also given holistic remedies in the past to support the kidneys and livers as they help flush the toxins, but I am out and have not replenished the supply.

After I switched to the more aggressive worming protocol, Brego started to grow a better coat, dapple up, get a topline, get more energy. It was a complete 180 degrees. I am no longer ambivalent about worming, even though I tend towards more holistic care. It's a necessary evil to keep Brego as healthy as possible.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008


I am definitely on the mend today. Brego and I had a semi-serious dressage session today. I asked a little more of him than yesterday, but did not physically push him. My shoulder is much improved. I am able to put my arm behind my back and carry things now. Woohoo!

Walk to Canter Transitions from Eventing Percheron on Vimeo.

I put together a small video of our walk to canter transitions. Not as relaxed or refined as I would like, but definite improvement. To the left, Brego took a big trot step, but he was more correct to the right. To get any sort of transition like this is a huge accomplishment. I remember a year ago when I thought it would never be possible for a heavy horse like Brego, so dead to the aids and with no motor, to perform a walk to canter departure. And now we're schooling them!! I am learning to never say never with Brego. He always amazes.

I am also sitting the canter better although my leg is still swinging. I heard a quote recently that sums up my feelings on dressage:

To truly master Dressage takes five horses and three lifetimes.

Truer words have never been spoken.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Not Broken

Just a quick update...

I rode Brego tonight. We did a little dressage work, mostly just forward trotting while asking him to stretch. We worked on bending at the walk. He seemed his usual "I've been out of work for three days" resistant but not sore or otherwise broken. His legs were tight and clean.

I, however, am a wreck. Sharp pain from my hip to my shoulder on the left side. I was most irritated. The rest of the soreness is gone, so I am hoping this is just some deep bruising. I fully intend to ride the rest of the week because I am close to figuring out my jumping form. More on that later.

Sometime last week, I discovered several hard little nodules in Brego's skin. There was no hair loss but they were clustered exclusively under his saddle pad. I remembered in the farthest reaches of my addled brain when my Thoroughbred mare had these and they were caused by worms. Ew.

It's very wormy right now. The grass is nearly all gone and the horses are scrounging around in the dirt for food. There's about ten horses on five acres and the pasture is not picked, so it does tend to be conducive to worms.

Our usual worming cycle is every two months and I rotate with Quest gel, Equimax, and Anthelcide EQ. I give a Panacur power pack in the spring. Although I had wormed about 4 weeks ago, I went ahead and gave Brego a double shot of Equimax and in two days, the nodules are noticeably smaller or absent. I will double Equimax him again when he moves to our new farm in about a month. Then we'll go back to the regular rotation.

And for all of you who made it though my very boring discussion of worming protocol, I will treat you with another cool picture from the hunt last weekend.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

These Things Happen in Threes

Ah, the hunt. The long awaited opening day. I was dressed in my finest, Brego was braided, tack was cleaned. We arrived to the meet a bit early, enough time to chat and nip from the flask (I went with port, you purists!).

Is that a fox I see???

I had not ridden this territory and I was eager for news. The fences were big and not gappable because they mostly consisted of coops between pastures. First field must jump and jump around 3'3". Second field would jump some but very little. And hilltoppers would mostly watch. I checked out the coops and they looked good. Brego has done this sort of thing many times. I decided to go first, although my beloved field master would be leading second. First field master would be a three star eventer. I took another nip from my flask.

Waiting for the hounds

The Blessing of the Hounds was beautiful. The hunt hired a French Horn duet to accompany the meet and they were wonderful. They really set the mood.

Listening to the horns

The hounds were released and the blessing began. We had a front row seat because we were queued to go with the first field. Only three of us. The blessing was beautiful and we all had little booklets from which to read the prayer.

Brego always looks bored during ceremonies.

Anyway, first field riding. I picked up a position last in the field because I wanted to give Brego plenty of room to see the fences. Four strides as a rule. He is not so catty that he can ride behind a horse and see a fence a single stride out. We started out well, he jumped three fences very well and then, from the left another rider came careening by. Her horse's mouth was gapping and she could do very little to stop him. Three strides out from an airy oxer I was on line for, they cut over and took the line. She knocked Brego and I off the fence. This rider was not even supposed to be in first field and had joined up after we left the meet. Completely unacceptable behavior.

I circled Brego for a re-approach, but he was confused. This was a big oxer and he needed to really focus on it, but first field was already out of sight and second was hot behind us. He turned to join second field and again we missed the oxer. I called out to my beloved field master in charge of second, "We were cut off!" "Ride fast behind me!", she replied.

So we turned from the straight track and fell in line behind the master. We galloped around the perimeter of the pasture. We came to an open field and I could see first a field away. I asked for and was granted permission to rejoin. I galloped him across the field and resumed my position at the back of first field, now with four riders. One man saw me rejoin and asked what happened. I told him about the cut off and I had his sympathies.

On again, we cut through two more pastures and Brego jumped very well. The coops looked bigger from horseback but he knew his job and took them in stride. The a full flight across a field, a smile spreading across my face. Then I felt a bauble, a slip, and we were both down on our left shoulders. It happened too fast to comprehend, but I continued sliding and rolling away from Brego and rolled up over my head to land mostly on my feet in a crouch. Brego was already getting up to his feet. I ran the short distance up to him and my mind was going so fast. I scanned his legs, his hips, his neck and finished with his head. He was looking toward the first field, standing quietly, but ears perked and eyes alert. He was fine. I grabbed his reins and trotted him in hand after the field. Second field again rode up behind me and again my beloved field master took care of me. She halted the field while I mounted and then instructed me on how to regain first.

On again, Brego felt good. He was even and alert. We entered the woods and took our position at the back of the field. We jumped out into a field and again Brego felt fine. We took two little logs in the pasture and then we had one more coop back into the field were we all parked. The photographers were lined up, spectators along the fence line. Very busy. Brego felt fine, but when we got to the coop, I felt him hesitate, get a little deep, maybe look at the crowd instead of his job, and he hung a knee.

I am already pitching forward in this picture. I heard the hard knock of hooves on wood and I was thrown onto his neck. My recent riding position did me no favors. As Brego continued cantering, I pushed up off his neck. He raised his head, and either out of kindness or luck, heaved me back into a sitting position. I spent one more stride on his withers and then made it back into the saddle. In front of everyone.

I must say that Brego was a good man. He didn't drop his head or offer a buck to finish me off as I laid on his neck. He helped me back into the saddle and then looked for the next fence. Luckily, there was not one, just yet. The fields checked and I lost no time in telling my first field master that I was dropping to second field. My luck's good for three, I told her, and promised her a bottle of scotch at our next meet.

Bagpipes accompanied us may times during the hunt

Brego got a thorough check out and then we continued hunting for four hours, with long gallops. I could not believe how well he did from a conditioning perspective. Of other note is that the next fence he jumped, he cleared it by a nautical mile. I was happy to see he sharpened up after his near miss on the coop. Greenie moments happen, but he needs to stay focused, even with a crowd.

Still fresh!

Our final check was at a Christmas tree farm were customers were treated to the sights and sounds of the hunt. The hounds were incredible, plenty of voicing, and the pace was very fast. I stayed behind my field master the entire time and Brego finished strong, sweaty and tired, but completely sound and that's all one can ask for after this type of day.

Ambassador Brego

A family approached us to talk about hunting, and Brego was one of the few horses who would stand for the children. He loves children and gently lowered his head to smell their bellies. Then he let a little girl pet him on the shoulder while I answered questions for the parents. The mom asked the little girl if she wanted to learn to ride a horse, and the girl shyly shrugged. But she was grinning from ear to ear. Hooked.

The after hunt tea was too amazing for words. Brego settled into his hay while I settled into a couple of glasses of wine. After the adrenaline of the hunt wore off, the soreness crept in. I guess we fell at about 25 mph. I gave Brego a gram of bute and as much hay as he would eat and water he would drink. His appetite was good, but I have no doubts he will be very sore tomorrow.

Obviously, we scratched the show on Sunday. Aside from the fall, I think a little reset is in order regarding my position. I did jump grids on the TB and I might be on to something. More on that later.

I do love hunting though. It's a little mad, but the camaraderie is tremendous. At the tea afterwards, the MFH raised her glass to me: First stung by bees, now a fall at speed, and I love it more each time. Brego loves it as well. The hounds gave enough voice for me to really study how he changed. He followed the hounds closely, even when they were silent, and he just never gave me any clue he wanted to slow down or call it a day. So during the toast, I raised my glass to my horse. I never thought I would be so blessed.


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bad Day

Today's lesson went fine. We were supposed to work on my form, but as is typical, we ended up working on Brego. Brego was jumping fine, bored, but better than usual in the home arena. I don't know what happened, but my position fell apart.

When I got home and looked at the pictures, I actually cried. I don't think I have ever looked so bad in my life. Some pictures were just awful. I was pivoting over my knee, my leg swung back, and I jumped ahead. And somehow, the only comment I got from my trainer about my position was that I was hitting the back of the saddle and to stay up more. Once again, watching Brego was more fun than watching me.

So I don't know. I feel like it's not working. Total breakdown. After I calmed down, I studied the photos again. I think I might have some clue as to my crazy elbows.

There they are... taking flight again.

What is up with those elbows?? I know I want to do a following release at verticals, with some contact and support to get Brego off the ground. But why are my reins so long that when I take up contact while forward at the fence, I have to bend my elbows like that?? Well, it might just be that a fraction of a second earlier on the approach, Brego put his head down.

Checking out the tiny fence?

I have talked with many professionals about this and everyone assures me it's a good thing. And yes, it gets better as the fences get larger because he doesn't have to drop his head to his knees to see the top pole. But look at my reins. My arms are completely extended, I am even giving with my fingers, and he has still absorbed all the slack. And then when it comes time to jump...


Let's take a closer look...


I am not hanging on his face. In fact, in all the pictures, you could see contact in the reins, but the sides of his mouth were not stretched. I go from not enough rein to too much rein in less than a second and to keep the feel, I just absorb it back with my elbows as far as they will go.

What a bizarre problem. I think I am going to do some grids on my Thoroughbred (a much more consistent jumper who does not drop her head before fences) and work on a heavy crest release that I can push off of. Hopefully that will get my upper body back, give my hands something to do instead of take up the slack. And Brego should be fine over spreads with a crest release and he may be getting strong enough to be fine at verticals, too. I don't know, because I always maintain contact off the ground.

Just checking in... How's the breathing? Still with me?

So yea, not exactly brilliant riding, but maybe I might just be on to something with the elbows. And as for the leg... I just don't know. Maybe I just can't ride fences.

On that note, how about some nice sitting trot?

Highlight of the day: Flatwork