Sunday, August 23, 2009


Today I rode Brego in the arena before making any changes to his feet. I wanted to see if I could feel what I felt yesterday on the hunt in a controlled environment. I was really dismayed when we fired up the trot and it was there: the rocking, the stiffness, the unwillingness to go forward.

I took Brego back to the barn and rasped the breakover on the shoe more to the outside. I didn't do a complete job (hard work on a hot, humid day), but I did enough so that if there was a breakover issue, I would be able to tell.

I headed back to the arena and asked for a trot. He was much improved! What a relief!! His right fore seemed to be back to normal but now his left was wonky. He also was able to soften down and didn't feel like he was jackhammering his legs. Whew.

So now Brego will get a couple days off and his breakover will be improved in my absence by my incredibly dedicated SO. It's back to work out of state for the week. When I return next weekend, we have another big hunt day. I am sincerely hoping that his shoe issues will be resolved, that I am not torquing his legs with every stride, and I can enjoy the rest of the hunt season without incident!

Tally ho!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

First Hunt of the Season

Today was my first hunt of the season. The cubbing season officially started on Wednesday, but I was out of town for my new job. As a result, I had not ridden Brego all week. In addition, Brego was shod on Tuesday and the farrier put Equipak on his soles. I was a little nervous to see how he would be in the shoes, without work, and seeing the hounds for the first time this year.

I was right to be nervous. The first 20 minutes of the hunt were filled with squabbles and fights about how he should listen to me and not just run up through the pack. I was keeping a tight hold on his face and he finally reacted by rearing straight up. Not a levade, a full fledged rear. Since we were on the side of a hill and in the midst of the pack, I stayed centered and let him come down. He never felt out of balance or I might have taken more drastic action. As it was, I had three long seconds to think about how completely surreal the whole experience was.

He had one more outburst and then we hit our first open gallop. After he blew off some steam, he settled down and I stopped holding onto his face and he stopped retaliating. The rest of the ride, he did very well, but it was very hot and humid and he tired quickly. The rest of the horses tired as fast so we all retired early. He jumped well and honestly and aside from his mental resistance at the beginning, he was otherwise a good sport. He is a very dominant horse, and I was wondering if a week of not seeing me would go to his brain. I don't tolerate rearing, so I am hoping that this is an isolated incident.

As for the shoes, I have mixed feelings. He felt off, not right, not striding forward at all. Of course, riding at top speed in a hunt over crazy terrain is not the best way of assessing way of going. I am going to ride him tomorrow in a more controlled environment and see what I can feel. He felt like he was rocking from side to side at the trot, and over exaggerating his action, like he was trying to move with flippers on. The farrier put the breakover on the shoes in the middle and he likes it on the outside, so I am going to see if I can rasp/wear in a breakover for him where he is more comfortable. I was also riding him in bell boots for the first time in his life and he might have been objecting to those floppy things as well. I will ride without tomorrow and see if he is improved.

We did cross one rocky stream and he was fine, so the shoes are doing their intended purpose. But I am not thrilled with how he feels in them. Maybe he is getting used to him. Before the hunt, I rode him on a polo field (i.e., very soft ground) and he felt like he was trotting on concrete, very harsh, no suspension. That worries me, but it's too early to really say. I should know more after my ride tomorrow.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

The Turning Point at the Pace

On Friday, Brego and I had a jumping lesson in the neighbor's jump field. He was a bit naughty, running and bucking, but he has an excuse. For the last week, we've been stumping and grading his pasture, so he's been in a tiny pen. One thing I have learned over the years is that Brego needs his turnout to play and the way he plays is by kicking up his heels and running. If he doesn't get his turnout, he plays under saddle, which is a lot less fun for Daun.

Anyway, he jumped very well, very strong, even overjumping the smaller fences. He was perky to the fences, forward, ears forward and then would blast off the ground. I've said it before, but I really think he enjoys jumping. I got some good instruction on my leg and my balance and riding from a safer position, but mainly the lesson was to get him out and jumping before....

Today we went to our second hunter pace. The course was over 10 miles long and very rocky, as in mind-blowing rocks everywhere. I put the epoxy shoes on Brego plus some sole guard to cover his soles from all the rocks. When your foot is 8" wide, there's still plenty of exposed sole to get poked by a protruding rock, even with protective "shoes" around the perimeter. The whole epoxy and sole guard application took about three hours to apply and cost $90 in materials (I did the labor myself). Ouch.

Brego started strong, but halfway through, he lost the sole guard from his right foot. Then he lost half of the epoxy border from his left hoof. And then it all went downhill from there. We were five miles from home, in the deep woods, and we were suddenly barefoot in the worst terrain we have ever ridden at speed over. Brego was a soldier and we got home safely and he even jumped gamely two hours into the ride, but I could tell he was foot sore and I was really upset. We finished with the slowest time and dropped our team to dead last. That is unfortunate, but the worst part is how bad I felt asking Brego to work. He was never three-legged lame or gimpy, but I can feel him and he was uncomfortable.

Riding a foot sore horse is NO fun, and it's unfair to ask him to work under those conditions. So I have resolved to put steel shoes plus a sole pack on him for the hunting season. I have a good farrier, whom I trust, that works with Hobby and she's never looked or moved better. Three months of not worrying about Brego's feet during the hardest work of the year is worth the money to me (and shoeing a draft is twice as much money as my Thoroughbred).

The plan is to get him shod this week and see how he likes shoes. This will be the first time he has worn them his entire life. Then we will pull them for the winter and reevaluate in the spring. Maybe it was the record rainfall and less than ideal pasturing situation. Maybe he really can't stay barefoot in the North East. Maybe he can't stay barefoot with the increased workload. I don't know, but I do know that he is too good a horse to keep gambling with solutions that can come off at any time. Boots don't fit him and I have tried the synthetic epoxy route, so now it's time for shoes. It's not a decision I make lightly, but I think it's a good one for what he needs to be comfortable as he works.

On Monday, I start my new job. I will be out of state for four weeks for training before I start working out of my house. I will be back on the weekends to hunt and tend to the farm, but I will miss riding during the week. And I will miss Brego.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dressage Show Videos - Arabian Show

I have finally uploaded the videos from last weekend's dressage show. I appreciate your patience as it takes over 2 hours per video to get it downloaded from the camera, edited, rendered, uploaded to Vimeo, etc.

In rewatching the videos, it appears that by the second test (four warmups and an hour of waiting), Brego is moving forward per say, but he's really strung out and needs to be better balanced. He's a good boy, trying hard for me, but I was wrong to ask him so much, when instead I should have focused on the quality of the work instead of go, go, go. It's a good lesson to learn, and if I had stopped chasing him so much, my position would have improved and I would have been able to ask for more balance.

The judge astutely commented as such in the general remarks: "Lots of activity but needs more half halts for balance." I interpret her notion of half halts as "balancing" instead of "go and whoa".

Regardless, enjoy the videos, and good boy Brego for giving such an amazing test considering the circumstances! There's almost a stretchy trot in there in test 3! Woot!

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Brego and the Arabs

The Arabian show at the fairgrounds was a big success. The dressage classes were small and had a variety of competitors, from Friesians to Thoroughbreds to Arabians. There were a lot of last minute cancellations and most of the volunteers were running the Arabian Breed classes at the same time, so we ended up without a ring steward for dressage. And that's where things started to fall apart.

After the third rider, the ride times were abandoned since there were so many time gaps. So people scrambled to go early, but there was no well defined order of go. And without a rind steward, people were forced to ask the judge when they might go, and since she was overwhelmed with, oh, judging, things sometimes got out of hand. Couple the timing chaos with a horse that flipped out and needed to be aced, but no one was sure if it was legal (albeit not advisable), so there was an ensuing argument with the judge. Sigh.

The good news is that Brego won his Training Level 2 test with a 67.1%. We scored three 9s for trot work, a definite first! Brego was forward and relaxed, but I felt like we were not well put together, like we ran the pattern, but didn't show a good presentation. Then for Training Level 3, I ended up warming up four (FOUR!) times before we actually got to go. By that time, we were both hot, thirsty, and sick of dressage. I was on Brego's back for 1.5 hours!

Brego put on a brave face and was definitely forward through the test, but I was really frazzled. The Training Level 3 test is always bizarre, but I managed to make it not flow at all. Brego broke in the left lead canter, most definitely my fault and then I blew the halt at G. We were riding the training tests in a long arena and I halted at I. Yea, I. As in, I didn't know that letter existed, as much as I live in training level and the short arena. Oh well, it was only 2 points for an error, coupled with our 4 in the left canter. We ended up with 61.7% which is a completely decent score, regardless, and placed 2nd.

I will get the videos up soon. It was not my nicest riding, but I can't fault the big boy for not going forward. He was a very good sport to put up with the confusion and the constant warm up, now sit for 10 minutes, warm up, now sit. He was very tired by the end and we still had to hack home, a 30 minute walk from the fairgrounds.

Brego will get lots of rest and I am going to bump his feed back up. He's in pretty consistent work now and can use the extra calories.

Friday, August 7, 2009


I just had to share. Green horses don't stay green forever. Even acknowledging that fact, progress often catches me by surprise.

I went down to the fairgrounds to do a short gallop to loosen up the big boy and get him into a "forward" mindset before tomorrow's show. I went by myself *gasp* so I was a bit nervous. Brego was looky for his mare-friend, but otherwise perfectly behaved.

We got to the big open field and I did some trotting in circles to check the brakes, steering, and balance of my ride. All checked out, suspension felt good, so I asked for the canter and headed out over the 20 acre front field. Brego settled into a nice open canter and I found myself relaxing.

No leg, no pulling, perfect self balance, he kept the same tempo in this steady, glorious canter. There was no squeak from my saddle, no huffing and puffing from either myself or the horse. I am finally strong enough to keep myself up in two point without touching the saddle, letting my legs, hips and back absorb his huge stride. There was silence. No, not quite. I could hear each individual footfall. ba-da-dum ba-da-dum ba-da-dum.

Normally, Brego requires riding in the canter. He requires leg to keep going, or hands to slow him down, seat or chest to balance. It's a lot of work. But today, he required nothing from me but to enjoy the flight.

It was. Flying.

Repost: The Brego Identity

I ran across a thread in an online forum which pondered whether Brego was in fact a full Percheron or if he was a Thoroughbred cross. The implication is, of course, that his talent is the result of the light horse cross and I was glossing over that fact to promote him (and myself, I dare say). I got a good chuckle from the debate. Anyone who has seen Brego in person has no doubt of his lineage.

In the interest of full disclosure, here is a repost of my original discussion Brego's breed:

Of note, is the fact that when that was written, Brego was some kind of crazy orange/brown from the sun in Texas. Since moving to New England, he looks like any other black horse, which is consistent with the Percheron breed.

Here's a post where I show pictures of his feathered feet and hooves. And here's a conformation shot, showing his plow horse-like short canon bones. If anyone has any light to shed on the Big Boy's history or background, I would love to do more research!


Dressage Lesson 11: Bring on the Pain

We've been blessed with sunny, warm weather all week. I think it's been almost 7 days since it last rained. Unheard of!

Yesterday, I took advantage of the dryness and took another dressage lesson. It was warm and the humidity was low, but Brego was not engaged. It felt like we've had a major regression where he was heavy in front and he felt like he was about ten feet behind my leg. I wormed him on Wednesday morning and I wonder if he was feeling a little under the weather.

So instead of working on the tests for tomorrow's dressage show, we just worked on getting him thinking forward. It ended up being a marathon dressage lesson, just over an hour, and we only took one walk break. The rest of the time was trotting, transitions, canters, halts, turns on the haunches, shoulder ins. I was amazed that instead of getting tired, Brego got softer and more forward. I was exhausted, however!

We ended with some really nice canter work and then I had to call it a day. My trainer was very impressed that Brego even knew some of these moves, even though we did not execute them to perfection. I told her that I have schooled turn on the haunches from the beginning because it disengages his locked shoulders and gets his weight back. The exact exercise was performed trotting a 20m circle. At twelve and six o clock on the circle we reversed direction by transitioning to a walk and performing a walking turn on the haunches and then trot off immediately. Brego did exceedly well at this exercise, with nice crossing over in the front on the turns. I thought it would be too much to ask on that sized circle, but he did very well and it got him stepping up under himself nicely. We also did lengthenings on the long side of the arena and collecting to a volte in each corner. All the transitions worked their magic and we ended up with nice work.

My homework today is to take him for a short gallop to get him thinking forward and then the show is tomorrow. I will not be riding the tests in advance, unfortunately. I will watch videos and try to visualize our ride instead. The ultimate goal is forward so I don't want to drill the tests. I will be tweeting our progress through the show.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Big News #3 (Con't): USEA Article

Great news! In addition to USEA publishing an article about Brego, the author has graciously sent it along and given me permission to post it on this blog!

So without further ado:

USEA Eventing Percheron Profile

If you enjoy the article, please contact the USEA and tell them they are doing a great job!

Big News #3: Brego in Eventing USA, USEA's Magazine

A dear reader found the article before I had a chance to post this, but the Big News #3 is now out in the wild.

Brego is profiled in the United States Eventing Association's full-color, glossy magazine: Eventing USA. Those who are members of USEA will receive the July/August issue as part of your membership!

Three cheers for the USEA for their heartfelt work to promote the lower levels of our sport as well as putting together a beautiful article on the Big Boy. It was a distinct pleasure to work with them through the process. If you enjoy the article, please make sure you thank them for all their hard work!

Prepping for Dressage Show

This Saturday, Brego and I will be competing in the Open day of the Arabian Horseshow across the street at the fairgrounds. I can't tell if I am excited because we haven't shown in awhile, or because we will likely be facing off against Arabians (the very mental image makes me squeeeee with delight!). Lest someone read too much into that comment, please realize my beloved childhood horse, Ben, was a purebred Arabian. Regardless, I am excited.

Coupled with a week of sun (unheard of!), our rides have become downright joyous. We've been practicing on the turf of the fairground's parking lot (the best drained field in all the land). Sunday morning we had a nice dressage ride, working on the left canter transition. Yesterday, we just hacked, trotting and cantering around the 50 acre field. Brego was feeling good and strong, and I wanted to let him stretch out between our dressage sessions.

Someone asked in the comments what I did to keep Brego interested and willing in work. I've thought long and hard on this topic, and I think there's a couple of things at play. First, I am lucky enough to have a bright, intelligent, playful horse with no previous abuse history (that I can ascertain, anyway). Brego, himself, is always up to something. While my old TB mare can stand around flatly in a pasture and just enjoy the sun, Brego is always getting into something, exploring or destroying, depending on his whim.

So I take that observation with me under saddle. I try not to do repetitive tasks, but take a little bit of progress and then move on. I keep my rides relatively short, aside from necessarily involved conditioning rides. If he's good and on the aids, we're done in 15 to 20 minutes. Usually, our rides are 45 minutes, but we walk often so I can scope out my SO riding. He gets rewarded for short, dedicated periods of focus. Also, as a ostensible eventer, we also switch up what we work on. Some days we hack and go fast, some days we jump, some days we work on dressage, some days we play, some days we longe, some days we swim, some days we skijore(??). I think this variety keeps things fresh. Personally, as a rider, I like the variety for myself. After a week of nothing but dressage, I start to pick apart Brego and myself, looking too much for that perfect transition or that perfect cadance or what the hell is wrong with my hands?? I need to clear my head. Finally, due to our current farm, I have to hack out to every arena or riding area. Even the neighbor next door requires a short hack through the woods to get there, so there's always a period of down time, on the buckle riding, warming up and cooling off.

Riding is the hardest thing I have ever tried to master, and I will never master it. However, as an adult amateur, riding must, first and foremost, be fun. Brego is a very fun horse to ride, if I give him an opportunity to be himself and enjoy his work with me.