Behind the Stable Door - Alex Bragg

International Event Rider, Alex Bragg, has worked with us as a brand ambassador since 2015. Alex first started feeding Protexin Equine Premium to his horse, Zagreb, who is one of the tallest horses on the eventing circuit at over 18hh! Since then they have made their mark on the eventing map with top placings at CCI5* level to include 2nd at Pau and 3rd at Luhmühlen in 2019.

Together with his wife, Simmone, Alex runs an event yard from their home in Somerset. With an exciting string of horses and some excellent results in the past few years, Alex and his team have the 2021 Olympics firmly in their sights.

We recently caught up with Alex who told us exactly how the rugby playing farrier, ended up as an event rider representing his country on the world stage!

Has it always been love at first sight with eventing and at what point did you decide to make a career out of the sport?
“It was more like Eventing found me, rather than me finding Eventing. I rode as a child participating in pony club games, horse ball, and show jumping before I stopped riding at 16 years old. My sporting direction changed, and I played rugby for several years. It was when I met Simmone (my now wife) that I had my first experience of Eventing. She managed a large livery yard and enjoyed competing at Eventing. I met her through becoming the main farrier on her livery yard. When Simmone fell pregnant with our first daughter Ellouise, I started riding her event horse to help keep it fit. Simmone suggested I had a go at eventing, and I embarked on my first competition in a Novice at Stockland Lovell horse trials, and so the journey began. I rode a few horses for other people over the next few years, but it was after I completed Blenheim Palace in 2009 on ‘Down into the Light’ that we decided we would try and develop a business in Eventing.”

What would a normal day be like for you in the months leading up to the eventing season?
“The household gets up around 6.45am. The children check on their ponies and Simmone will often feed our yard. 4 times a week I get up and do my fitness training, 20 minutes on the exercise bike followed by some core strength and stretching movements.

We all have breakfast together and I drop our older 2 children to the next village at 8am so they can walk the final 20 minutes to school with their friends. I come home and see Simmone and my youngest off to school before calling down to the yard for the first horse to be tacked up.

I have a 5-10 minute meeting with the staff over a cup of tea to discuss the day and anything that needs addressing before starting to ride. We follow a structured training plan that we set for the horses so we can get them fit and in peak condition for their main events through the season.”

If you were to give one bit of advice to your younger self, what would it be?
“The best bit of advice I’d give my younger self is be patient. I was so eager to improve and win that I would sometimes put so much pressure on myself and others around me. I would still be a little guilty of this, but I have definitely got better.”

What would you describe as your secret weapon?
“My secret weapon would be my family, they are my strength and inspiration. They keep me grounded, they pick me up when I’m feeling low, and if I ever need motivation to keep going, I only have to look in the eyes of one of my girls and that is enough reason for me to never give up trying.”

What would be your top training tip to aspiring event riders?
“Develop feel. Try and develop your riding so you become in tune with the horse, this will help you understand your horse more. Consider your actions, and how they are affecting the horse, listen and feel the feedback your horse is giving you. This builds a partnership that you will need for all disciplines.”

As someone that has been placed at numerous CCI5* competitions, what traits do you think make a true 5* horse?
“A true 5* horse firstly needs to have jumping scope. The courses are so technical as well as big, you need to be able to focus on control rather than worrying about whether you can jump the fences or not. Then it’s whether the horse has the heart and spirit. A 5* horse needs to want to face the challenge ahead, it needs to be able to have a wobble on the course, put it behind itself and fight to recover for the next fence. The rest is down to training.”

If you could have the ride on any horse, who would it be and why?
“Michael Jung’s horse ‘La Biosthetique-Sam FBW’. For me it’s the best horse our era of eventing has ever seen. He was consistently amazing in all 3 phases and dominated the sport during the whole of his advanced career. Plain and simple, who wouldn’t want a horse like that?”

Who are your role models… both in eventing and out of it?
“I have several people that I admire in and out of eventing for different reasons. I think I look for characteristics in people that will help develop myself as a person. Andrew Nicholson’s mental strength and work ethic has forged him a long and successful career with horses. Muhammed Ali always made a showcase of every display. He played with people’s minds, he entertained the media, he entertained the world and he became a legend. Winning is vital, but it’s ‘How you win’ that people remember. This is something I always say to myself; how do you want to be remembered?!”

What is your favourite Protexin Equine Premium product?
“Amongst the amazing range of Protexin products my favourite is ‘Acid Ease’. Our horses always look healthy and in great condition and I think nutrition and well-being is essential for this. Acid Ease contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate, as well as kaolin, pectin and L-threonine which together act to buffer excess acid and soothe the gut lining. This is part of the foundation in every horses feed on the yard.”

The old saying is no foot no horse, but it is also true to say no guts no horse. What steps do you take to look after an event horse’s guts/digestive tract whilst travelling and away at a competition?
“Travelling long distances can take a lot of energy out of horse. It’s important to keep the horses system working as normal, allow the horses to eat plenty of forage, keep them hydrated, try and keep travelling as stress free as possible and if you’re travelling for very long distances, consider taking your horses off of the lorry every 4 hours to stretch their legs. The horse’s circulation is helped by movement, plus this is healthy for their minds. If you have a horse that can stress with travel, try administering ‘Quick Fix’. We’ve had great success with this. Quick Fix is a highly concentrated probiotic and prebiotic paste to rapidly re-establish the horses gut microbiota in times of stress or change."

Thank you, Alex, from all of us here at Protexin Equine Premium we wish you and your team the best of luck for the rest of the 2020 eventing season and beyond!