Once the YEH wrapped up on Friday we were able to kind of switch from business mode to eventing fan mode. The spreadsheets got tucked away (well, the tangible ones anyway, the ones in my head live there all the time), no notes were taken, and we didn’t have to be at the showgrounds early since the 5* XC wouldn’t start until the afternoon. We took advantage of the relatively free morning and headed up to Bartville Harness & Tack.
I don’t really need any tack (what a weird statement to make), so I managed to survive this particular trip unscathed. No money was lost from my wallet. Michelle though, who always needs baby halters, got a whole box full of them.
After Bartville we headed to the show and got dropped off over by the stabling so we could see the horse that Holly was grooming for and put some stuff down in their tack stall. As we were standing there at the barn I happened to glance over my shoulder and who did I see out for a handwalk?
I mean, I’ll totally admit that I’m a stalker but this time he sought ME out. I tried not to be super creepy watching him walk past but I’m not sure I succeeded in that.
From the barn we headed over to check out more vendors, getting a closer look at all the ones that were down in the infield. Again I didn’t fall victim to anything but I did quite enjoy creepily stroking a few saddles and bridles. By that point they were on the last few horses of the 3* so we headed out toward the cross country to see the last ones leave the start box and pick out where we wanted to wait for the 5* to begin. Ultimately we settled on the first water, since it had some bleachers we could park at to wait and post where we were on Instagram to continue our swag giveaway game.
We watched the first few horses come through the water and then packed it up and started to travel around the course. We stopped at all of the major points of interest like the owls, the coffin, the brush combo, the post rails, the down bank, the vee, etc. Since the track kind of ran back on itself we could usually see several jumps from any one location, which made it great for spectating. Pretty sure we saw horses jump basically everything on course.
By the time we made it to the far water (the point at which the course turned around and went back the other way) we thought it was the best place to see as much as we could, so we decided to just stay there for the last group of horses. The crowds weren’t too bad compared to other 5*’s I’ve been to, so we were able to get right up to the ropes for a good view of almost everything.
The longer we stayed at the water, the darker and darker the sky got. I refused to move until we saw Mason come through, and he was one of the last horses of the day. The rain that had been predicted for the afternoon was finally moving in, making for some pretty dramatic dark skies. I was starting to wonder if Mason would end up stuck in the pouring rain or not. Finally though, there he came out on course. Holly got her phone out and brought up the live feed so we could watch him come through the beginning of the course (not that they showed much since Boyd was finishing up at the same time and whenever Boyd is out the camera rarely leaves him). I had an ear on the announcer, an eye on the live stream, and the other ear and eye on the hill, waiting for him to show up. I’ve learned that I would make an absolutely terrible owner for an upper level horse, I was really nervous with him on course. It probably sounds weird to say that I feel very invested in that horse, but I do. He’s just so similar to mine, and I’ve been watching him since he was a 6 year old, so yeah… I’m emotionally invested at this point. It’s nervewracking when he’s going around and you don’t have eyes on him. All three of us were in the same boat though, and Julie sneakily videoed our whole ordeal in hyperlapse, which is funny as hell in retrospect.
Finally though, he crested the hill, hopped the big table, and headed for us at the water. He was really bold through there, although he stumbled a bit up the bank and just about gave me a heart attack. Luckily he’s catty and recovered quickly, hopped the log and the skinny, and galloped away looking strong. We could see him go down into the dip where the vee was (and we could sorta see the big screen in the other field) and then over the roller coaster and down the big bank. After that we tried to pick him up on the live stream but again they showed very little of him after that because now Lauren Nicholson was on course. Gah. They’re killing me with their lack of Mason coverage.
Not long after Lauren came through, the rain finally caught up with us and the skies opened up. Great timing for the riders since everyone got finished just in time. Naturally though the water we’d been parked at was at the very far end of the course from the entrance/parking, so we got to enjoy a nice long (LONG) hike through the woods in the pouring rain. Every square inch of me was soaked to the bone – shoes, hair, backpack, you name it.
By the time we got back to the car the rain had pretty much tapered off (OF COURSE) but by then we were all a sad bunch of drowned rats. We got back to the airbnb, changed out of all our wet clothes, and ordered delivery for dinner. I deserved every bite of that cheesesteak after all the walking and then the total submersion.
The next day it was COLD. Like ok probably not that cold to locals, considering how many people I saw walking around in shorts (SAVAGES) but it was in the 50’s and I was a popsicle. I’m a Texan, I spend 8 months of the year acclimated to 90 degrees or higher. I also really didn’t have enough clothes for that weather, because part of my plan had been to buy a hoodie or a vest, thus I didn’t pack any, thus when I didn’t actually find and buy either of those things I was a little SOL. I put on my thickest sunshirt (lols, Texans are stupid) and my only jacket which was pretty lightweight. We went out to breakfast, sat outside because it’s what was available, and I proceeded to freeze my ass off. Michelle was also cold so she went a couple doors down to the Hallmark store and came back with some beanies, one of which I promptly stole and pulled over my entire head and face.
My nose was cold, okay? But then the nice lady brought me my hot chocolate, so I had to emerge slightly to drink it.
I was a little warmer after the beanie, hot chocolate, and some pancakes, but I still made it the first priority as soon as we got to the show to find a sweatshirt or something. I remembered seeing the cowl neck Noble Outfitters sweatshirts at one of the vendors so we headed straight there and found one blessed non-hideously colored one left in my size. I guess I wasn’t the only cold person because when I paid the lady at the register asked if I wanted her to cut the tags off so I could wear it out. Indeed yes, yes I did. With another layer added I was much happier, so we proceeded to the stands to find our seats just as the showjumping was about to start.
We didn’t get the cheapest seats but we didn’t get particularly expensive ones either, and I have to say they were pretty good. Definitely close to the action and with a really good view. Comparable to the view you get at Burghley, closer up than Kentucky. I know Michelle and Dusty and Julie got some good pics with their real cameras. My ass was starting to get a little cold on the bleachers by the very end but otherwise no complaints. The crowd went absolutely WILD for Boyd, and it was kind of fun to be there when an American(ish) finally won a 5* after a 13 year drought. I was mostly impressed by the representation of the American Thoroughbred – there were some REALLY good ones… I can’t wait to see how PD’s Sea of Clouds (Malibu Moon x Jolie’s Halo x Alydar) develops as he gets more experience, that is one seriously nice horse. For a 10yo OTTB at his first 5 star I thought he put in a fantastic performance. He had a nice TB in the 5yo’s too, by Union Rags out of a Meadowlake x Herculean mare. Lots of really nice sporty TB’s to see throughout the entire weekend.
That’s a wrap on our latest adventure! Between Ocala and Maryland I feel like we crammed a lot into one week, although I was definitely tired by the time we got home. We walked about 30 miles, and that last 6am flight home was a killer. I think we got a lot accomplished though, and definitely had a good time catching up with friends. More fun things are in the works!