Saturday, December 29, 2012

Brego Update - December 2012

Wow, it's been over a year since my last update.  Another gentle reminder from a reader guilted me encouraged me to give an update.

When we last left our heroes, Brego broke into the Area 1 Novice circuit and about to start an exciting hunt season as an official whipper-in horse.  A few weeks after the August 2011 update was posted, I had an unfortunate fall while hunting.  I became unbalanced during our first gone away and, due to my poor position, ended up on his neck.  Brego slowed immediately but I still managed to fall face first into the ground and suffered a mild concussion and broken arm as a result.  Thus endeth my hunting season debut as whipper in.

After surgery, I managed to make it back for the last few hunts, but the season ended and we fell back into the slumber of winter.

By January, I was on the mend, but poor Brego was doing poorly.  Nearly a year before, we had a cracked molar removed, but the ensuing infection went relatively unchecked, despite many rounds of antibiotics.  Brego competed the entire season in 2011 with an infected sinus and never indicated any discomfort or unwillingness to work.  He never went off his feed, never failed to drop his head to be bridled, never gave any indication.  I underestimated his generosity, but by January, he was clearly not getting better from the antibiotics and saline flushes.  So we took him to get an MRI which revealed that the entire left sinus cavity was blocked with solidified mucus.  He was operating at half his lung capacity and must have been in great pain from sinus pressure.  We opted for the "flap surgery" in which they cut open his skull beneath his eye and physically scrap out and clean his mucus membranes up into his sinus.  It's even more dreadful than it sounds.

Brego's surgery was a table procedure and despite the good surgeon's intentions, ran longer than the 60 minutes scheduled time.  Brego lost too much blood and began to crash on the table and they scrambled to get him closed up and blood pressure restored.  It was a tense 40 minutes in the "wake up room", but they eventually got him breathing on his own again and to his feet.  Once he was up, his stoic heroism kicked in and he shuffled to his stall.

Less than an hour off the table.  The red patch is blood-soaked gauze stapled to his face.
He stayed in the hospital for four days, each day he was brighter and more himself.  By the time he was home, he already felt better than before the surgery and he never looked back.  He did his first 12 mile hack of the season just 2 months after surgery, his first show three months, and was back on the Novice circuit by summer.  He worked harder, and faster, than ever before, now that he had both sides of his head in use.

A week later.  Staples closing the flap clearly visible.  The tube in his forehead is for additional flushing.
A sobering lesson, to be sure, on just how great his will to work truly is.  I never knew how bad it was until the very end.

On the eventing front, we went out four times recognized in 2012.  Our first outing saw our very first XC jump penalty at a recognized event, in which Brego locked onto the training level ramp right next to the novice log.  I was not forceful enough in pulling him off and he literally ran into the novice log while still looking at the ramp.  Complete rider error and took me quite by surprise since he is usually solid.  He definitely thought he was correct however, so we do need to work on our communication while on course.  While hunting, I expect him to take the lead and make decisions so I can focus on the hounds.  On XC, however, he really needs to jump the fences I say and not what strikes his fancy!

Stadium warmup - Valinor Farm
Despite our slow start, our next three outings gave us a fourth and two second place finishes, including career best scores of 33.5 (Snowfields HT) and 33.1 (Valinor Farm Horse Trials).

Final Fence XC - Valinor Farm
We wrapped up our show season as hunting got underway in August.  This year I managed to stay on (mostly), but we suffered some confidence blows due to poor footing.  Despite having evented all summer barefoot and sound, Brego needed better traction for hunting.  We had one slip where we both went down and then I had shoes and studs put on him.  He moves like rubbish in metal shoes, but there is nothing for it.  It's too dangerous to be slipping while in full gallop on a hunt, and as a staff horse, we don't get to pick our footing or our speed.

Pre riding a hunt territory with good friends.

In studs, he finished the season strong, the most times the hounds have gone out in a season in some time.  Of all the things we do, Brego loves the hunt the most.  And he loves the hounds, often predicting their actions, or sensing them, before I see it myself.  He endured bee stings, he ponied the huntman's horse, he trailblazed after rioting hounds, he tolerated whips and shouting and general chaos, and he did it all professionally and with minimal fuss.  Just a good boy.

Cubbing Season
Formal Season

 I said it last year, and I will say it again: Brego continues to improve.  In every way, a now healthy Brego was a force to be reckoned with and far surpassed any reasonable expectation anyone could have of his level of performance and attitude.  Coming into his 11th year, he has already done so much and given me so much, he really doesn't owe me anything.  At this point, we will continue to push quality at Novice and hunt as long as he loves it.  He has so much still to teach me.

Picture perfect

Have a wonderful new year, everyone.  Be safe and enjoy your precious horses.