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.