Ocala Festival Part 2 – Cross Countrraaaayyy

Welcome to what is always the best part. Settle in.

post XC hair vibes

We are no strangers to Training at the Horse Park by now, with this being our 4th run at the venue. As usual the course was 100% entirely different from any other time before, and our goal here was to have an easy, boring round to put a nice little deposit in the confidence bank before we attempt to tackle Modified.

While the courses for Festival are listed as “Challenging”, I think pretty much every Training at FHP is on the challenging end of the scale. In truth, I thought this one was overall a little softer than a couple of the ones we’ve done here before. They gave you a lot of inviting single fences to get going before hitting you with the first combo (unlike last time where there was a pretty intense bank combo starting at fence 3) and there were several nice long gallop stretches to get into your flow or regroup in between things (unlike another previous time where it was jump turn jump turn jump).

That’s not to say that it was easy though, because it definitely wasn’t. It had pretty much everything you can possibly have on a Training course, including their trademark coffin, a jump in the water, skinnies, an ABCD sunken road combo that was pretty big, and two waters. Welcome to Ocala.

My concern for the first 5 jumps is that it wouldn’t be interesting enough to catch his attention and he would start looking for fun things to spook at. That’s one of his favorite pastimes. So we left the box with intention, and I asked him to really get out in front of my leg and pay attention, no sightseeing. He was great over 1, strongly considered pretending to spook at the videographer next to 2 (but didn’t), pretended to mini-spook at a big rock on the way to 3 (just like I knew he would when I saw it when we walked) and then made the turn to hop over the steeplechase at 4. All that was an easy peasy lope-over experience. He thinks he’s a big boy now.

Fence 5 was a cabin, after which we hung a hard right to our first combo, 6AB. This was a hanging log on the edge of the crater, 8 strides through the crater and out over a skinny wedge. Super good boy through here, very professional.

“I know what I’m doing” – Presto, always

After that we had a nice gallop stretch to 7, a table, which he loped over so casually that it was honestly insulting. Then we made the right turn to the coffin at 8ABC – MIM rail, two strides to a ditch, 6 slightly bending strides to a corner that was snugged up to a tree. When we walked the course the afternoon before I didn’t think about how the sun would be in that combo the following morning… the shade from the tree put the entire corner in shadow. Presto really didn’t see it until the last stride, but he was a genuine boy there and went anyway.

After that we had another long gallop stretch to the first water. Here we had a steeplechase brush fence set about a stride before the water, with a slightly bending line to a skinny-ish rolltop. Some of you may remember that a couple of shows ago is where we encountered our first jump in the water, which Presto did not understand and we very nearly parted ways. We’ve since schooled those a couple times to make sure he got it, so it was a different story this time – he locked on and went straight to the rolltop with no problem.

“what, like it’s hard?”

Then we had another little short stretch, crossing back through the tree line and hanging a right over the MIM oxer, then a rollback left over another table. He’s to the point now where I really can just let him keep coming to these and not have to help him with his balance anymore. He’s matured so much in his strength and and his style since last fall.

After that it was another little gallop stretch across the field to the most challenging question on course – 13ABCD. It’s not often you see a D element on a Training course! This combo was a ramp, four strides to a pretty decent drop, 4 strides to an up bank, and then 3 strides to a slightly angled skinny table. Trainer’s instructions were to ride it like a gymnastic at home. My concern was that Presto might rocket launch himself off the bank and make the 4 strides to to upbank difficult to get. And while the 4 did ride slightly tight, he was quite mature here and didn’t do anything particularly extravagant. He marched through that combo straight as an arrow and looking for the flags.

have you ever seen a smarter child

Getting through that one felt a little bit like “home free” but there were still a few more left. Next up we came to the second water, which had a house a stride before the water and a skinny house out of the water. Presto is Pro at these by now, no problem. Then it was a nice ping over the wagon…

at which point I realized I had ample time left, so I just let him coast the rest of the way home and over the last jump.

Ultimately we came in 16 seconds under time, which I was happy with… Modified speed is about 40mpm above Training speed, so I wanted to open him up a bit more on this one and just let him flow more. And in reality, it didn’t feel fast in the slightest, or like I was having to push him. He’s much more balanced and confident jumping out of stride than he used to be, so less set-up time equals a faster round even when you aren’t actually adding much speed between the jumps. Just a few months ago I was still having to help him a lot and we’d have a couple time penalties but his last 3 rounds have been easily double clear, with time getting easier and easier to make. Every time out he’s shown improvement.

Post XC debrief

Our double clear helped move us back up the leaderboard to end up 5th on our 30.7 score, although if not for that stinkin rail we would have won. That was a little painful to realize. Still though, it was the quiet, chill horse show we were looking for in order to get the green light for Modified next month at Majestic!

10 thoughts on “Ocala Festival Part 2 – Cross Countrraaaayyy

  1. “Settle In”: cue me wriggling in my chair to get comfy and wrapping my hands around my mug of tea. I’m so happy to read your adventures and see you doing so well!


  2. Presto is fit, powerful, enjoying himself, so strong and capable, expressing his Personality, and an absolute joy to read about. I just get this sense of “I am such a happy healthy horse!” from every single one of his pictures!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Love it.

    Question: Maybe a blog post idea… If there was no modified, would you be eyeing a prelim or something else with Presto? Like a couple years ago when modified didn’t exist, what would you be looking at now? Just curious based on how the levels have changed…


    1. No, I think he’s still a good ways off from Prelim. Modified is pretty much exactly where he’s at right now in his development in my opinion… Training has become a bit too simple for him to learn much from what he’s doing, but Prelim is still a whole lot for a horse of his age and experience level. I think Modified will be just bigger/more complex enough to keep him learning and focused and challenged but not too much so as to overwhelm him. If Modified didn’t exist we’d prob be doing a lot of jumper rounds and XC schooling to try to build up the height and complexity for a while, but it sure would be a much harder move up (which is why Modified was created in the first place, and it’s fabulous for just this reason!).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yep, I understand the reason for modified, I was just curious what your thinking would be if modified didn’t exist. Would prelim be too much. Which I think you answered that you do think it would be too much right now. Great next stepping stone, glad you have it available! Have fun!


  4. Congratulations! Presto’s abilities at this point almost seem limitless. If you want to try, he is happy to give it a go. Amazing. ❤️
    How much of an effect do you think his water treadmill sessions have played on his strength development?


  5. Presto is so cool! I also loved watching your position through the ABCD line. You look so smooth and steady! What a fantastic pair! Congratulations!!


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