How do you make Henry happy? Well ok, give him Oatmeal Cream Pies and back scratches. But, ya know, if you insist on riding him, how do you make him happy? Point him at a cross country fence.
It’s been a, uh… long time since we’ve been out on XC in any capacity. I really thought we went schooling last fall but I scrolled back through the blog a bit (until my eyes crossed, which granted was pretty quickly) and couldn’t find it, so… it’s been at least a year I think? Maybe longer. He got that awful bruise last November and was out for 2 months, then I brought him back slowly, and right when he was pretty much back to normal covid happened, and then by the time that settled enough for things to start opening up again it was hot AF, so… time accumulated quickly.
I have to admit that I was in a little bit of a weird head space the night before. I wasn’t nervous or scared or whatever, but I also wasn’t particularly excited either. I felt… weirdly apathetic. I quite literally had a dream that Henry pulled a shoe and I couldn’t go and my reaction was a shrug and an “oh well”. Maybe it had been so long that I’d just forgotten. Maybe I’m just too distracted with other things in my life right now. I dunno. It was weird.
I did put up a poll on Insta to ask which pompom I should wear, though, and rainbow won with 64% of the vote. The people had spoken. Rainbow it was.
Henry was a little skeptical when I threw him in the trailer before dawn, but when I unloaded him at Pine Hill he surveyed the area, closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and I swear to god he smiled. He knew exactly where he was and he seemed pretty pleased about it. I tacked him up, got on, and walked down to warmup. Where the first thing trainer shrieked was “I VOTED FOR NAVY!” – because she did indeed vote for the navy and cream pompom, but hey what can I say? Do a better job campaigning for your candidate next time I guess. Instagram’s poll uses the popular vote, it’s totally fair. Rainbow won fair and square.
Anyway, after we warmed up on the flat a bit I pointed him at the smallest log in the line of jumps, and he cantered up to the base, peered down at it like “WTF IS THIS A TRICK” and leaped awkwardly over. Uh… yeah. A little rusty. We came around and jumped the BN one, then the N one, and by then he was like “ooooooooh right” and we finished on the T one. Once the group was done warming up we headed up the hill and Trainer gave us a couple jumps to string together – Training 1, a boat, up the hill to Training 2, a train car. Henry jumped the first one and it was like I just felt his brain click. He landed galloping, marched up the hill, and gleefully hopped over fence 2. He’s baaaa-aaack.
Then we headed over to 3, where he got a little too cocky. On the first approach I went to rebalance and he was like GIRL NAH I DO WHAT I WANT… so I pulled him up, because no you’re most certainly not going to run flat at a Training rolltop thank you, and we reapproached much more politely. We had our discussion and that was that, he settled back into normal Henry XC mode.
I didn’t want to do a whole lot with him since 1) it was his first time back out in forever 2) he’s still not fit yet after his easy summer. After that we just did a few more combinations, including one of the Prelim ones.
We didn’t jump very much, but it was enough. We were both pretty happy by the end, remembering exactly what we love about all this, and where this horse truly shines. When we were warming up I was a little worried it would be a total shitshow and we’d both be terrible, and while sure there was definitely some rust, it really wasn’t bad. It all came flooding back pretty quickly. The dressage is a slog, the showjumping is meh, but give me a hundred Henry’s for cross country. I certainly wasn’t feeling apathetic about the outing anymore by the time we were done thanks to that wonderful creature, who was having a grand time being back in his element.
Now that the weather is cooling down I can plug away a little more at his fitness and hopefully get out for more schooling and lessons. Maybe we can even make it to a one day show or two over the winter, if the weather cooperates? I think he would like that… or at least the cross country part.