Thursday, February 26, 2009

Awake, Dark Prince

So yesterday, I sat down and produced the 2009 Brego Calendar of Events (Linky on the sidebar of my blog).  I went through the local shows and a couple recognized and plotted our course.  There's lots to do, even allowing that I won't do it all.  There's a five-show event series from a local barn with year end awards.  There's a USDF dressage show not far from me.  A couple of Combined Training shows at venues that also host recognized events (so excellent courses).  My hunt is hosting dressage shows, hunter paces, and more.  The USEA Beginner Novice championship for Area I is in Connecticut in July.  I am not sure if I am going to go for it, considering I am trying to stay local (and cheap).

But even without a couple of barns (who are late in posting show dates) listed in my calendar, we have a full roster: two to three shows a month until October, all within 30 miles, with $25/class entry fees.  Oh and cubbing season starts in August.  I love it!  

I am forgoing any showing in March and so our first outing will be late April.  That gives us about 6 weeks.  No problem.  Brego has lost a lot of weight, too much for being out of work, in fact, so I am upping his hay again.  Not to original, blubber-inducing amounts, but more.  I want him to lose weight because of conditioning, not because of starving.  I now feel like he is "trim" enough to start conditioning work though.  I no longer shudder when he trots across the pasture. 

It's going to be a fun year.  Local, low-key showing without pressure can only improve us, so when we get the farm under control, we can attack the recognized circuit with more confidence and experience in 2010.  It's important for me to remember that 2008 was the first year we really showed at all, our first events, our first dressage shows.  So we are no means behind schedule.

Here's some inspiration for all of us (click to embiggen):  Brego jumping a 3'3" triple bar.  He really is good, isn't he? (Ignore the rider :) )

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Back to Indoors

We went back to the indoor today. It's been awhile, to say the least. I think it's far to say that Brego and I are out of shape and coordination. Our brains are willing, it's our bodies that are the problem.

Brego is a smartie and hasn't forgotten a single thing. He's not as quick off the leg or soft, and certainly is crazy stiff to the left (his bad side), but he was cooperative and certainly put in an effort.

I don't think either one of us are in a hard core work frame of mind, so honest effort is plenty good enough.

A neighbor from down the street was also riding in the indoor. She has Saddlebreds and comes down to ride a few nights a week. We hit it off and are already planning all the exploring we are going to be doing in the summer. It's nice to be surrounded by horse people. So including our new friend, that makes 6 out of 9 houses in this little area that have horses. We've got dressage mustangs, cowboy versatility Quarter Horses, Saddleseat Saddlebreds, trail horses, minis, Standardbred sulky trotters, and of course, our two eventers/foxhunters.

Maybe I won't miss the big shows so much this year. I will have plenty to do just keeping up with the Joneses.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Where's Brego?

He's right outside at the moment, but the question pertains to his blog. Where's the Brego blog?

It seems I am having false starts this winter/spring, and in some way I am. I get inspired to ride and then the cold, dark evenings makes me more inspired to read than to walk Brego up and down our icy driveway. The sun shines bright on the weekends, and then a 25 mph gusty north wind inspires me to appreciate the sun from the barn, or from the chicken coop.

It's still winter, but we're experiencing an early spring. I thought I felt it coming, but I wasn't sure until I heard a report from a friend, a neighbor, that a bear is out of hibernation, and Robins are back. Compelling signs. Also, as I drove to a friend's for dinner last night, I saw a forest of small blue tubing stretched from tree to tree. Someone thought the sap would start running soon. Sugaring season. It must be an early spring.

Regardless, back on the homestead, I have been incredibly busy with things NOT Brego. I try to get out everyday and run a metal brush through his coat, he's shedding terribly now. And I slip him some squash slices and we talk of old times. I check his blubber rolls and note miniscule progress. Brego is right here and he's doing fine.

This blog, however, is in danger. I've had some well documented security concerns come up recently (No, dear S, not you) which made we want to rip the whole blog down and never mention Brego's name in public again. Maybe just an eccentric fan of the big guy, but Brego is private property, housed on private property and nothing would ruin me more than losing him. Nothing.

So I want to pack up my toys and go home and keep our modest achievements to ourselves. And I am not hyperbolizing the modest thing. This year, I will likely not make a recognized event. I might just do local shows and wish Andrea good luck at the AECs from afar. I might not make it to too many lessons. I might condition the entire year for a good ride foxhunting, instead of a clear round eventing.

Lots of reasons, really. The economy takes all my precious money out of showing and puts it into my farm which will yield something equally precious called food. I am still unsure of how/where we will train and with whom. I am not thrilled with the Organization called Eventing these days, which chews up good horses and rewards bad riders. So my mind is filled with more and more thoughts, but I am finding less and less positive material to share on the blog, even if I could maintain some anonymity.

I mean, the reason people like the Brego blog is because we go out and do stuff. Well, how boring would it be if we didn't do stuff for a year while the farm got underway and money was stuffed in mattresses? What if the Eventing Percheron never evented at a recognized show again?

I think the most likely outcome is that the blog continues, with perhaps less posts, with some expectations set about just how awesome a middle-aged adult ammy can ride a fat draft horse three months out of work, with some idea that life gets in the way of sport.

As for the internet nutjobs... don't be one. I hate the few bad apples. I hate our modern world peppered with FEAR. I might take the blog private or I might continue to trust that most people are inherently good. That's a tough call I need to make soon.

A not so positive update (except the spring part!), but an update nonetheless.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Moon Ride

I am on a mission. I need to get Mr. Tubby McFatNeck down to an appropriate size before the real conditioning season begins. This involves some complicated horse shuffling to make sure the old TB mare gets as much hay as she can eat, while Tubs is limited to, what he believes is, a pitiful amount.

I also tacked him up and went for a moonlight ride. Well, I also had a headlamp, and I am glad I did. Last weekend, on my solo trip through the woods, I noticed all the animal tracks along my property. It was like Grand Central Station: deer, rabbit, coyote, fox, and maybe cat. Tonight, illuminated in my headlamp, were literally dozens of shiny, iridescent eyes staring back at me as we rode along.

I was a little creeped out, but Brego was solid, like it was the most normal thing in the world to go for a trail ride after dark, in deep snow, followed by critters. He is so brave-o.

We're just walking for now, but we'll be packing down the trail for trotting in about a week. Any exercise is good exercise at this point, as long as it's easy on the joints. Poor McFattens.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Riding Alone

I may come as a shock to most of my readers, but I almost never ride alone. In fact, I can count the number of times I have ridden out alone with Brego on one hand. Although I am not the bravest person on earth, when it comes to the Brego human projectile probabilities, the reason is not one of safety. It's because my SO rides, same sport even, so I always have a fun, competitive, wonderful riding partner.

I've been feeling a bit like it's a hole in our training, the riding alone. On cross country day, Brego always does well once we hit the course and he is focused. And the one recognized overnight event we went to, Brego went without the old mare, and again he did fine. But still, the long solo rides, where you rely only on each other, are important. So I have tried to formulate how to diplomatically say, "Honey, I am going to go out on a fun ride and I think you should stay home and comfort your hysterical, herd-bound mare."

Turns out, I need not worry. Riding alone is an undeniably good skill, so it took little convincing. Brego and I would set out alone.

I could tell the heat of the day (38 F, 3.3 C) was affecting the big boy, he was unusually agreeable as I tacked him up and left the property, the old mare screaming for him in the background. We went out into the woods and the deep snow was definitely an asset. No matter what Brego wanted to do, he was obligated to work hard walking forward. I even rode him in the loose ring snaffle, preferring if he got naughty, that he pulled instead of reared. We had a great ride, tough going, but magnificently beautiful. He was great, never offering to misbehave.

When we finally turned for home, Brego tried to run back. Every time he got quick, I would turn him around and make him trudge through deep snow AWAY from home. He's a smart boy and quickly learned the fastest way home was to go slow. Even when we got within ear shot of home and the old mare was calling to him, Brego kept his cool and delivered me safe and victorious after our solo venture. One of many to follow.

Wanting to capitalize on this glorious day and the equally good mood of my horse, we tried some skijoring. Brego barely glanced at the skiis as the SO took a few passes by while we watched. Finally, I attached the tow rope and tossed it over. I urged Brego into a walk and he pulled the skier, noisy skis and all, over the pasture (the only place around with moderately packed snow). He was completely nonplussed, never thought about it, maybe a bit amused at the clumsy, flat boards tripping up the human. Complete fun.

A terrible picture, but proof nonetheless...

A week's worth of riding, and two goals accomplished, in a single day. Nice.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Levitating Monster

After a walk in the snow which was, frankly, exhausting, I turned Brego out to "free longe" him which means I basically chase him with a whip and watch how he moves. I wanted to see how the he was doing, carrying all that extra weight around. Did he offer both leads? Pushing evenly at the trot? Stumbling or having trouble with the uneven ground? He did well, got some good air on the bucks, and charged over the terrain like it was nothing. I am excited to see how well he handles cross country and foxhunting later this year after practicing on snowy forest pasture.

Big Black Monster in the woods.

Coming over the ridge.

I hate the lady with the whip!!!

Magical headless horse levitates...

I am so angry.... grrr....

Wha? Look at me, I am handsome!

Hibernation Over

I am slowly emerging from a horse hibernation. Once I finally let go of getting some serious training done over the winter, I slipped into a complete slumber. I started researching things for the farm for spring (tractors, greenhouses, and soil, oh my!) and I am the type of person that grabs onto a topic and then analyzes it to death (my family says I have Asperger's, I say I am "focused" :) ). So I would occasionally walk by my window, see Brego outside and think, what a handsome horse, I should ride, and then go back to researching green houses. I also got sick and have spent the last 10 days in blissful rest.

Well about two days ago I woke up, startled, about how much we, Brego and I, have to do. We've passed the hump of winter, things are going to get warmer now. We're still in the middle of winter, don't get me wrong, but we're through the coldest and now we have the Great Melt to look forward to and then... glorious Spring and Summer. And then, bam, show after show after show.

I am still assessing how the last month has treated the big guy. I think he got work maybe three or four days. But in a way, this is also part of the plan. Brego ended last season with some big falls and a lingering puffy right hind that he was never off on, but I stressed about it endlessly. I've been watching his legs on his break and they are tight as a drum, the puffiness is gone. So that is an interesting data point.

So now we will begin the slow awakening. It WILL be slow because, I am ashamed to say, the boy is FAT. Not PHAT, like he was cruising around 3' courses last fall. FAT. As in, I have named him Tubby McFatNeck. Putting weight on a TB in the winter has forced a doling out of sweet hay in excess of what Brego probably definitely needed. For the first time in years, I cannot feel ribs on the old mare, and I did it in January. Additionally, I think I blanketed him too much, not knowing how we was going to handle a New Hampshire winter. He handled it just fine, in fact, I've never seen him happier.

So we have a little tubby and he's lost some top line, but in general he looks ok, a little round but not lacking in muscle. He's been turned out every day, and when dry, all day and night. So he's worked his big butt in the 2' deep snow.

Mentally, he feels the same way I do. He's over his break and wants to do something fun. I can tell by the way he rips branches off the trees and carries them in his mouth as he chases and terrorizes my old TB mare. Sometimes I think that boy will never grow up.

Anyway, we're still a good 8 weeks away from Spring, but it will be here before I know it and I have so much to do. Brego will get his annual xrays as soon as I can get the trailer out of the snow. For financial reasons, I am going to forego his front feet and do them on a biannual basis. I will do his hocks though, especially the left which was kicked. His hind end is the weak link in the rigorous training we do and I need to monitor his hocks. I also need to get a chiro out. After two falls and a kick, he is likely to be uneven and stiff. He is also going back on Adequan after a two month break of nothing in his body but good hay, clean water, and a handful of ration balancer twice a day. A chemical cleansing, if you will.

Today, we will go for a nice walk in the woods and do as much low-impact conditioning as I can. Maybe we will drag the skijoring rope as well. I am not starting at zero, but I am going to act as if I am until he proves otherwise. His joints are sacred and will not risk them. When it gets a bit warmer, the neighbor can water the indoor and I can ride in there again. Last time I tried, we quit in 15 minutes. The air was toxic. Then we will be able to work on bending and stretching and getting his top line back.

It's funny how the rhythm of life seeps into your brain. Four weeks ago, I couldn't even imagine getting excited about showing again. Now, I can feel Spring approach and I want nothing more than to spend it on the back of a good horse.