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.