The most exciting thing that happened this past weekend (at least if you ask Henry) is that someone got to dust off his XC boots and go for a whirl around his favorite stomping grounds.
It’s been… a hot minute since we went out XC schooling. Like I can’t even exactly remember the last time I took Henry, I think it was last fall or winter. It makes me sad to think it’s been that long, I don’t know where the time has gone or how that happened. I haven’t even thought about it really – Hillary asked if I was free and wanted to go, and I said of course. Naturally it ended up being one of the hottest days of the summer so far (it’s like Texas senses when you’re trying to have fun and then attempts to ruin it however possible) so we went early and I planned on taking it pretty easy with him. I figured we’d pop some warmup jumps, maybe a combination or two, and then canter around the Novice course. No pressure, nothing strenuous, just something to get our XC legs back and have some fun.
Hillary was stopping by to pick us up on her way to Pine Hill, so I gathered all of our stuff and made a pile on the driveway for quick and easy loading. It was kinda weird packing for XC again after it having been so long, I kept thinking I was forgetting something. Vest – check. XC boots – check. Figure 8 bridle – check. Breastplate – check. Neck strap – check. Saddle/pad/girth – check. Whip – check. Skull cap – check. I did forget to snap a pompom on the top though, so that was sad. And I didn’t even think about the helmet camera. Oops. I got all my stuff piled up, grabbed Henry to wait out front (he knew something was up) and when Hillary arrived we dropped the ramp, loaded Henry up, tossed my stuff in her tack room, and off we went.
We got there and left the horses in the trailer while we went to sign releases and pay, and Henry let his presence be known by screaming at the top of his lungs (he calls it “announcing his arrival”) a few times. He’s got a very distinctive, ear-piercing, high-pitched voice that is easily recognizable so I could definitely still hear him down by the office. By the time we unloaded and tacked up he knew exactly where he was and seemed delighted by the day’s agenda.
I got on and did a fairly quick warmup, not wanting to get him too hot. We stretched him out a bit, practiced opening and compacting his stride, making sure he was straight and between my hand and leg, etc. All the usual checkpoints before you start jumping. I came around and pointed him at a little blue box and he absolutely PINGED over it. This horse has zest for very few things in life (usually food) but cross country is one of them. After the blue box we popped a little rolltop then came around and cantered the first Novice fence, and he was feeling great and ready to go but was still super rideable too.
We started off walking around the Novice course, with Hillary jumping bits of it and the combinations. Since it was already quite hot I opted to save Henry for the end to string more stuff together, so we just hopped over a Training coop and then through the Training water combo.
They just redid the footing in the water and haven’t actually refilled it yet, and Henry’s mind was a little blown when he went to drop down the bank into the water and there wasn’t any water. It was like he hovered in midair for a second going “HOLY SHIT DID IT ALL GO DOWN THE DRAIN? AM I GONNA GO DOWN THE DRAIN TOO?”. He’s schooled that water so many times in his life, but never without actual water in it and it took him by surprise. I was amused.
After that we went over to the start box so I could string a little course together. I intended on just doing the first half or so of the Novice course, but once it went back into the woods I honest to god could not remember where the hell that course went. I ended up just kind of meandering around the paths and making up my own course as I went, which was like half N and half T. Worked out pretty well actually. He was in heat-seeking missile mode, so anything I pointed him at got jumped. He was very proud of himself by the end. We haven’t left the start box and cantered around a course on our own like that in a couple years now, so boy was it ever fun to get to do it again. There’s no more fun XC horse than Henry, even when he’s rusty.
I really need to make a point to get him out there more often. It’s gonna be hard to juggle two once Presto comes home but I’ll have to figure something out. Henry’s noticeably happier for days after he gets to go do some XC.