Well if I was lacking on media for dressage and stadium, you’re about to get more than you ever wanted from XC. Buckle up!
I kept waiting for the nerves to kick in about XC, but they never came. It was a beefy course. All the brush fences were boob-height (a very specific, scientific form of measurement), the ones that weren’t tall were WIDE, and the combos required competent riding. But I dunno, it just didn’t bother me much walking the course, and it still didn’t bother me as we got closer to Go Time. I respected the course, for freakin sure, it was the biggest “ask” we’ve been up against so far together, but I also knew my horse could do it no problem. I just had to keep him pointed between the flags, keep my leg on, and not do anything stupid. I really appreciate having a horse like that. He might be difficult in dressage and stadium, but he is easy-peasy on cross country and therefore worth his (significant) weight in gold to me. I was really excited for XC.
Your course walk this time stars Bobby, his puppy Walker, and fellow blogger/Texas eventer Wendy (she also writes for Heels Down Magazine, of which I am a fan and subscriber!) with her two giant white fluffs. I’m pretty sure they’re dogs but they could also be polar bears. Clearly Bobby and Wendy had been drinking and clearly the dogs are embarrassed. I felt like I was herding cats around, the course walk took so long with these two idiots, but it was kind of worth it for some of these pictures.
For as grumpy and sullen as Henry had been on Saturday for dressage and stadium, he was bright-eyed and bushy tailed as soon as I showed up on Sunday morning. He knew what phase was left, and he was jazzed AF to get going. He kept his head over his stall guard all morning, staring off into the distance. You never have to guess how Henry feels about anything, he makes it quite clear. Luckily we went pretty early so I didn’t have to sit around too much… I videoed a friend’s stadium, went over my course in my app, and then started getting ready. As soon as Henry’s boots went on and studs went in, his eyes assumed a permanently bugged out position that Bobby says was still present as we walked into the startbox. Game on, bitches. Henny came to play.
Fence 1 was a simple little log box thing to start, then across the field beside the interstate to fence 2. Some horses had been spooky here (there’s a lot going on, between warmup to the left and the road to the right) so I sat a little defensively and just let the jump come to us. Of course Henry was so locked-on that I’m pretty sure a tornado could have touched down next to us and he wouldn’t have waivered from his line. Henry is Pro at two things: resting mare face and XC.
After 2 we crossed over the little bridge and he thought it was a jolly time to try to run off with me, so he got a sharp HEY and half halt to remind him of his manners as we hung a left and then a right to get straight to the log oxer at 3.
That was no problem, and we were quickly away and up the hill to the hay table thingy at 4.
After that we were over to the first combo on course, a couple of small little rolltops that were slightly angled. It walked a 4 but as soon I jumped in I knew there was no way that was happening unless I absolutely hauled his face apart, so I just let him work it out and the 3 came up fine. A little long out, but still safe. Maybe I rode it more directly than I walked it or something. I dunno.
After that we headed to 6AB, another combo. The approach to this makes it a bit tricky, because you went down a hill, then back up again, hooking a sharp left to the small up bank, one stride to a big brush fence. Everything to this point had been pretty small and inviting, but that brush fence was legit. If you whoaed too much going down the hill, you’d have a serious momentum problem coming back up, making it more likely that you wouldn’t make it to the brush. I really needed to make sure I kept a lot of power coming up the hill. So I let him roll a bit, turned toward the bank, and really closed my leg to drive him up again. I got him a teeny bit close to the bank so that he would land a little deeper into the one, gave him a tap with the whip, and he was right there to hop over the brush easily, then through the water. Jump 7, a little house out of the water, was our only icky distance on course, I think because it was so small that I kinda stopped riding a little. Oops. Henry didn’t care either way.
After 7 we went left across the field to a corner at 8,
and looped back around to the second water. It was a big brush fence, through the water, and then another big brush fence on an angle. I was really pumped to ride this. The only thing I like more than big brush fences is jumping stuff on an angle, and Henry loves water, so I hoped it would ride well for us.
And it DID!!! So much fun. That was a blast, for real. There’s just something about flying over big jumps and charging through the water that appeals to my inner 5 year old. She was delighted.
Geez, eventing is fun, y’all. Especially on this horse. Don’t mind me, just having the friggin time of my life up here. Too bad they don’t let you loop around and do the fun parts again.
After that we were off and running to the trakehner at 10, down the hill to an open oxer, then down the skinny bank. No problems with any of that.
After the down bank, it was back up out of the basin and over the red barn at 13. Fun fact, I used to really detest this fence (y’all know how much I hate square tables) but meh, no worries when you’re on Henry. He jumped it super, right out of stride. Really hope the pro photog got this shot.
Then off to the little step jump at 14, which was little more than a speed bump by this point, to the option at 15. We could go straight and jump the world’s giantest Weldon’s Wall with a big ugly ditch in front, or we could loop around the opposite direction and jump just an open ditch. Henry is brave as hell, but he’s also only ever seen one Weldon’s Wall before, and it wasn’t nearly as robust as this one. I was 95% sure he would have jumped it, but Trainer and I decided to play it safe rather than risk him not understanding the question. We’ll jump the big one once I’ve been able to school that type of fence more thoroughly. Not interested in putting my horse in an unfair situation and hurting his confidence. He’s a fantastic XC horse, but he IS still a bit green to the level, after all. The loop around cost me a lot of time, but I was okay with that to make sure I had a confident horse.
The rest of the jumps after that came up pretty quickly one right after the other. First there was a 2 stride of wide, skinny houses that walked a bit short, so I brought him way back for that (because ain’t nobody want to leave a stride out of THAT shit… although I did see it happen…)
then a log oxer table thingy (technical term)
then the gallop to the last big brush table, the one I’ve wanted to burn to the ground since the first time I laid eyes on it. I was galloping up to it going “yeah, this thing still looks big from up here. The flowers are pretty though.”. You know you’re mentally ill when you’re galloping up to a big table, admiring the flowers. But Henry jumped the crap out of it, and it was a great last jump to end on.
We were a little over time because of our long route option (the speed was 470mpm, we’d have been right under time with the direct option), but I could not have given less of a shit. Henry felt amazing, jumped really well, and I never even felt so much as a hint of hesitation from him. He took me to everything and seemed super confident. I was so incredibly proud of him, I thought I might burst. The course didn’t seem to take much out of him either, since he strutted the whole way back to the barn.
Even though we left without a ribbon, I couldn’t have been happier even if we’d gotten a blue one. I showed up at TRHP feeling a little intimidated, and left feeling like we actually belonged. There were no big terrible mistakes, just little things that we need to keep working on. And most of all, I just plain had a ton of fun all weekend. It was relaxed, calm, I got to cheer on a lot of friends, and my horse was fantastic. It wasn’t a perfect XC run on my part, but it was a really good one, and Henry ate that course for breakfast. What more could you want from a horse show?
The full helmet cam video is here if you want to watch, and many thanks to all my friends who were able to grab pics and video clips for me. This run meant a lot to me, so it’s great to have so much media of it.
I officially CANNOT WAIT for next season!