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.


Anonymous said...

I'm glad to hear that nothing too terrible happen with Silly Brego and that you are just fine :)

I hope everything goes well with the shoes! Feet problems make me so neurotic, and Key is always full of them. If the shoes become a non-option, I'm sure you'll figure out something to do with him. You always do :)

Anonymous said...

It may take him some time to get used to shoes and bell boots - it does feel different.

I wouldn't worry too much about the rearing - since he hasn't done it before. A horse that has too much energy and has nowhere to put it may just go up. Or he may have just been upset by the pressure on his face. I doubt it will prove to be a problem - although it sure is unsettling when it happens!

Susan and Becca the Percheron said...

Glad you're OK, Daun. Rearing is a VERY SERIOUS ISSUE! And I hope this is the one and only time he does that on you.

Do you have a farrier who is accustomed to doing draft horse feet? As you know, Brego's feet aren't like the dainty little TB hooves and it takes a farrier with some know-how to do them correctly and not mess him up.

We have hard clay soil here. I have front shoes on Becca (she gets trimmed and reshod every 4-5 weeks to the tune of $120 each time. Ouch. But I feel better knowing that I have a farrier who knows how to do a draft's feet.
You know what they say...No hoof, no horse!

JeniQ said...

Wow a full rear! Sure hope that's a one time thing. I sure do understand your hoof issues. I'm currently interviewing farriers as mine is expensive just for Bonnie ($180 for trim and shoeing on a QH) , I asked how much to just trim Rosie - he said he'd tell me AFTER he finished her. *shakes head*

Erin said...

Glad you're ok. What type of bit did you ride Brego in?
How often do you plan to hunt Brego? I hope to hunt with my full Perch gelding when he gets to be old enough. :)

Daun said...

Thanks all, I am hoping the rearing is a one time thing as well. If he does it again, I will be more prepared to discipline.

I am riding him in a 7" waterford mouth elevator gag with the reins on the second (of three rings). It's milder than the bit I rode him in last year which was a butterfly driving bit with the reins on the curb and a curb chain.

I don't think the bit was the problem, it was how I was using it (duh!). I was really holding him back at the beginning and not giving him enough release. I was afraid he would bolt and run. Now I have a better idea of his limits, I will give him a better ride and allow for him to blow off steam without going straight up.

Jennifer said...

Glad you're okay, but can I ask the "elephant in the corner" question?

If he felt off, why were you riding him? Why put him through it, after a week off, on such a rough terrain under such stressful conditions?

IMHO , it doesn't seem quite fair to him to expect a fair ride if he was hurting. If the shoes caused pain adjusting to them, the rear wasn't a moment of defiance, but perhaps a moment of "hey human lady, get off me. hurts enough to carry me, not to mention you, too."

Glad the ride wasn't worse...

Daun said...

Jennifer, I appreciate your candid concern.

I try to be very honest on this blog and as a result, people often get the impression that I tell the whole story, which in the interest of brevity, I often do not.

There were some extenuating circumstances pressing me to ride, but I assure you, if I felt Brego was in danger, I would not have.

What I did not say is that prior to the hunt, I rode him in a field and had several people watch his way of going. There was some paddling, as his way of going is not square. He paddles in this way 50% of the time even with a barefoot trim until the breakover is corrected. In short, I trim according to his movement, not in accordance with his hoof. So the paddling per se was not new, but a symptom of a breakover issue.

He was also in bellboots, something new, and the action he had was reminiscent of when he wears boots, again which are not painful to him, but exaggerated.

He gave zero indication of a hot nail, or an improperly seated shoe.

Every step of that ride, I was analyzing, I was thinking of him. I brought him from a gallop to a trot for almost all fences to assess his footing and confidence to the fence. He was never gimpy, or sore or ear pinning or uneven. He pulled to the fences, no refusals (which he might do if he is foot sore). He just wasn't his usual self.

A lot of reasons this could be: off for a week, excited at the hunt, distracted by the footing. He does not bound into a lovely balanced trot the first ride in a week under the best of conditions. So there's a lot of external influences I was weighing as well. It wasn't black and white. If he was painful, it is.

As for the rear, I know Brego and he does that. Usually, it's more of a levade or a shot sideways and squeal, but it's always at the beginning of a hunt when he wants to go and I have to hold him back to not endanger the rest of the field or run over my field master. I expected some fireworks, it is in his character, especially after not being ridden for a week. The fact that he settled as expected after a gallop and did not continue to resist showed me it was his brain and not his body that was objecting. In fact, he wanted to continue long after I retired for his sake due to the heat and humidity, calling after the departed field.

I can say with 95% certainty that the rear was related to my holding of his face, not a noble thing at all, but not a pain response to his feet.

Sometimes putting my candid thoughts in public is not the best policy, but those who know me know that I would never knowingly endanger Brego. I have halted lessons when he felt not right, I have fired trainers who pushed him too hard, I have retired from several hunts last season when his brain was not in the game. Life's too short to gamble with our lives.

Anonymous said...

A kodak moment for sure! But perhaps a scary one?
Great blog!
I love horses