Sometimes I think my XC recaps are the only posts of mine that anyone reads anymore. Honestly, I don’t blame you… this is the fun part, is it not?
We walked the XC course on Friday afternoon before the show, since it was a one day affair and all my ride times were in the first half of the day. Also poor Steph had her first ride of the day set for 8:30 and her last for 6:15. Did not envy that.
After the International Festival in April, which is considered kind of peak difficulty, the courses at the Florida Horse Park tend to go back down and then rebuild in intensity again through the second half of the year. We knew this one would be pretty inviting for this venue (which is generally one of the more difficult ones here) and it definitely was. The jumps were to size for what you’d expect at the level, with a lot of tables, but there was nothing particularly hard or technical. The coffin and the big bank complex weren’t on the course, but they did utilize both waters.
It started out friendly with a wide gallopy ramp, then a smaller rolltop, then the first table. The rolltop was set a little bit angled on the path, so if you wanted to jump it straight-on you’d be weaving a bit to do it… we planned to just jump it on the angle. The first combo was at 4AB, a slightly bending 6 strides from house to house. The approach was a bit short, through some trees, but otherwise quite straightforward.
After that there was another table (which again, the more direct route would take you over it at a bit of an angle) and then the next combo down in the basin where there was another rampy house thing, and then 8 or 9 strides up through the gap and right over a corner. A pretty legit corner, and you only got a couple strides of straight approach, so that was a good question. We’ve seen similar (but smaller) at Training, and he’s schooled harder, so I wasn’t worried about it but you would def need to be deliberate about your path and ride positive to it.
Then we had another table (a collapsible one – fun to see the frangible technology) before the next combo, a smaller table, 7 strides to a skinny brush wedge. Again, a question to take seriously, but we’ve seen harder. Then it was another table before we got to the first water, a skinny house, 7 bending strides on a 90 degree turn to a rolltop heading into the water, and then a skinny table out of the water. The hardest part of this IMO was the fact that this was RIGHT next to the road, which is where the barns and all the trailer parking are. It would be very easy for them to get distracted there and blow past something.
After the water we had a MIM oxer, then a log ramp, then another table. Pretty basic. Then you got to the second water, which was a (you’ll never guess) table a couple strides before the water, then a skinnyish rolltop in the water. After that you were home free over a log box and a log table. There was plenty to do of course, but nothing that was particularly concerning.
To add a little spice to things, the FHP just started building this big bridge complex for their combined driving course, and it was just behind the first jump. Honestly I was more concerned with that than anything else, because it had never been there before and Presto can be weird about random non-jump-related things. He didn’t care though. He came out of the box all business and marched down to the first jump like a damn professional. What a difference a season makes.
Fences 2 and 3 went by without any problem (and I was kinda proud of him at 2, because there was an SUV with the back open sitting under a tree RIGHT THERE by the jump, and he put his eye it for a few strides but never waivered from his jump or balked in any way. Again… maturity at work?
He got a little crooked coming through the trees to 4AB, looking off into the brush, but it rode easy. Then it was over the table and off to the next combo, the corner. He pinged over the house, marched up the more direct route in 8, and hopped over the corner like he was out for a Sunday stroll. He put his eye on the corner as soon as it popped into his line of sight and went straight to it. Hunting the flags? Check.
Then it was over another table before the next combo, the smaller table to the brush wedge. Again, easy peasy, he had his eye on the brush from the second he jumped the A and marched straight down to it.
Then it was the peach table, which I saw a flyer to from a mile out and he did a super job of moving up to it but also keeping his balance up. Six months ago he was struggling with that still – not anymore. I did have to really get him back quickly after that to make the turn for the bending line into the water, but he was very rideable and made that one easy. Not even so much as a waiver of his focus.
We hopped out of the water over the table, then over to the MIM oxer, the log stack, and the blue table. Just like that we were already at the second water. I gave him a very positive and encouraging ride in here since we had a jump in the water, but it was never a question. Eyes on the jump and away he went.
Then it was to the log box, which I angled because it was easier, and badabing badaboom, over the log oxer and through the finish.
Overall? It felt easy for him. He never once waivered from his rhythm, and the course was so flowy and galloping that I didn’t really have to do all that much. He’s focused, he’s figuring out the questions, and his balance and gallop get better and better every time out. He felt very well within himself in every way.
We finished well within the time allowed, 14 seconds to spare without really even pushing, just letting him cruise. We didn’t move up any, but we didn’t move down either, and finishing on our dressage score was good enough to secure us 3rd place (one measly point away from the win – damn my brain fart in dressage!) behind two 5* riders.
Once again, this kiddo is proving his class. If I’d entered the Rider division he’d have won by a mile, but I’m endlessly proud of how well he’s been holding his own in these Open divisions with some top riders and really good horses. After all, he’s only 6, is being brought along by his amateur, and lives in what is essentially my front yard. He gets extra credit for that! Finishing on his dressage score in his second Modified… what a dude. The best part though? He still finds this all very easy. He’s getting better and better as things get harder.
We’ve got 2.5 weeks now til we head up to Aiken for Stable View, which will probably be the most stout and technical course he’s seen yet, plus will be our first out of town show together. Then he’ll get his summer vacay and we’ll start making a plan for the fall! It’s hard not to feel excited with a horse like this one… what a dream come true he is.