Yaaaaaaaaaaaaay, the best phase! I was hoping that if I dragged the show recap out long enough I’d have the pro video by the time we got to this part, but yeah that was probably overly hopeful. Granted, now that I’m posting this I’ll probably get it like this afternoon. Whatever.
Presto had XC on Sunday around noon, and the morning seemed to take approximately 79 hours to pass. You know you’ve reached a whole new collective level of boredom when everyone is sitting around listening to Cardi B (supplied by me – it’s surprisingly good XC pump up music). When Megan went to put Presto’s bridle on she basically had to kneel on the ground to do it, he was so asleep. He swore he was exhausted. That’s a lie, he’s never been exhausted in his entire life. I didn’t trust it, and I was right, because as soon as he made the walk down to XC warmup, crested the hill, and came out into the big field, he perked right the heck up. The edge of the course at Texas Rose runs right along a major interstate, which I was a little concerned about, but he didn’t seem to give a crap about that. He did look a little excited though, especially the first time she cantered the little house in warmup and his body was up somewhere near the top of the freakin flags. It was one of those “YOU HAVE FUN WITH THAT, SEE YA LATER” moments where you’re 110% glad it’s the pro riding and not you, and I took my leave to head over to the bleachers at the second water where I would be able to see most of the course.
Course pics from Lorri Hart in the XC Course Walks group
I haven’t really looked at a BN course in a long time, and this one was interesting. First of all I’m pretty sure BN grew, because a couple of those tables were bigger or at least wider than I remember. Also I’ve never seen a BN course with two black flag options so that was something. The start box and the first two fences were pointing directly at the interstate, then you turned left along the fenceline, went over a little bridge, jumped a little house, went over another bridge in the treeline, then popped out into the big main XC field where pretty much everything is. Presto cruised over the first 3 just fine and was cantering along really nicely, so Megan relaxed a bit and just let him be. Then he popped out into the big field and didn’t get very far up the hill before he just slammed on the brakes and spun like a top. He was nowhere near a jump, and we aren’t quite sure exactly what he spooked at, but he disappeared out from under her in the blink of an eye. BIG spook. My only guess is that he finally got his eyes on the big field and everything in it (jump judges, umbrellas, videographers, vans, cars, golf carts, photographers, people, dogs, bleachers, EMTs, etc) and it shocked him for a second. I mean, in all fairness he’s been XC schooling a grand total of twice, and there’s never been anything out there but the jumps. It was a lot of new stuff to take in.
Poor Megan, bless her, was clinging to the side of his neck like a spider monkey. All credit to her, I’d have been on the ground for sure. Presto trotted a few steps with her on his neck and then stopped dead, which allowed her to clamber and climb and shimmy her way back into the saddle. It took a little while, but he stood quietly while she did it, and thank god she’s athletic and nimble. It was a truly great save. Naturally I was not yet videoing when all this occurred since it was still quite far away from where I was standing, so I’m majorly hoping the videographer got it. You can BET I’ll be posting that. Anyway, once her butt was back in the tack (to the chorus of many cheers from all of us in the bleachers) they picked the canter back up and resumed their course like nothing ever happened, heading easily over the table at 4 and around to the hanging log at 5.
Their first black flag option was at 6, where they came up a decent little hill and could either choose a teeny log or the bank up. It was kind of weird to me to have an option here for BN, that bank has always been on the BN course and it’s a totally appropriate BN question that has never been an issue, but whatever. She chose the bank, and it was definitely uneventful.
Then they passed by the first water, which wasn’t flagged for BN but she rode through anyway as a “free” opportunity to get his feet wet.
Then another little log thing a little ways past the water. He gave that one extra clearance.
After that they cantered along the camber of the hill and then swung a left to the brush, which was the tallest fence on course. Especially if you’re Presto and don’t understand how to brush through the brush yet. No touchy, he says. If the photographer didn’t get a pic of this one I will legit cry.
From there they came to the second option on course, which was IMO kind of bizarre. They could either jump the teeny little intro log jump, or a weird half ditch thing. The ditch only had the front of it defined with a log, was dug out behind the log, and the hole filled with shavings. It looked bizarre to me. Why not just a real (shallow) ditch? Or at least define the back of the hole with another log? I wasn’t sure how horses would read it, and judging by all the skid marks and disturbed ground from the first BN divisions that had gone the day before, I’m not sure it was well-received. Megan didn’t like the question without a back rail to define the ditch, so she opted for the little intro jump. It made the approach to the next fence a little more meandering, but better than confusing a green horse with a weird ditch.
Then she made the S-turn back around to what we ended up calling the fire pit – an A frame hanging log thing with a literal fire ring of bricks under it that were filled with mulch. It was an interesting way to make a ground line. None of the horses seemed to care though, Presto included.
Then they headed from the back of the field and turned toward the far fence line. There’s a lot going on over there – a big lake, lots of people, tons of upper level jumps, a field of horses, etc. I could see Presto’s tail (aka his freak flag) getting higher and higher as he approached that side. He was getting a little wild.
Megan sat her butt in the tack and brought him back to trot (where he did his best purebred arabian giraffe impression), and they hopped over his little baby “corner”
weaved through the upper level stuff, and headed to the brightest damn table I’ve ever seen. I didn’t know neon blue was a color until I saw that thing, and the contrast was painted hot pink. It looked like they went to the Oops paint aisle at Lowes and bought whatever was on sale. Presto got a little rude/rank to that one in that he just wanted to blast right over it without really listening to her (they were in the open field now and he reeeeaaaally wanted to yeehaw) but clearly horses don’t give a flying f about neon.
You could see that his little hamster was starting to fall off it’s wheel here… not from the jumps (I think he barely looked at any of those, they were mere distractions) but from everything else he was seeing. Baby brain overload. When they made the turn after the table to come to the big water he got an eyeful of bleachers, people, water, the videographer station van, along with a mess of jumps, and he shot sideways.
As soon as he got close enough to register that it was water and he was supposed to go in it, his brain clicked back on and he went forward immediately, hopped in, cantered through, and carried on his way like no big deal. And it seemed to give him enough of a reality check to make him more rideable again. He was considerably more polite cantering away from the water than he’d been leading up to it.
From there they just had two more Oops paint jumps, the lime green and blue one
and then the last fence was the world’s teeniest little lavender rolltop, which I didn’t get because I was too busy running to the finish. Seriously, it was the smallest jump on the entire course. Barely a speed bump by that point. Not interesting.
He finished the course with no jumping faults but a handful of time due to the Big Spin and subsequent spider-monkeying back into the tack, and the various bits of gawking. I just wanted him to go around and have a positive experience – which he did – so I didn’t give one shit about the time faults. He’s shown us that he’s brave and finds the actual XC part of things quite easy, although his greenness definitely did show in other ways. Totally fair and to be expected, he saw a whole lot of new stuff that day. Overall I was pretty impressed with how he handled it. I liked that even when he had baby moments, he was able to quickly move on and keep going. That was A LOT to see and A LOT to do, and he did it! Megan did a wonderful job not just to stay with him but to keep him focused and keep him moving forward. I know without a doubt that having her riding him now is absolutely the right decision for him. You can see him learning and blossoming so much in such a short period of time.
And with that completion, we officially have ourselves a bonafide event horse! It was pretty fun to pull up his name on the USEA website and see a record, not gonna lie. There’s really nothing you can complain about with that debut effort, especially at a big recognized show at a venue like this. Kid is a rock star. Kid also got a buttload of oatmeal creme pies (which he was into) and smooches (which he wasn’t).
Presto is getting a bit of a break this week and then it’ll be back to work to build on this effort and get ready for the next one!