Texas Rose HT – cross country !!!

Our great stadium round on Saturday afternoon really boosted my confidence about XC even more… I woke up feeling ready to kick some ass and take some names. My ride time was 9:09 so by the time I got to the show grounds, fed, watered, cleaned the (disgusting) stall, and checked Henry out to make sure he was good to go, it was time to get ready. He looked bright eyed and bushy tailed, and I told him that the bank was going to look big and scary but to trust me and just keep going forward. He just pinned his ears and glared at me, then immediately begged for a cookie, which I’m pretty sure is Henry’s version of “Don’t insult me, I’m a professional. Now get me a cookie, slave woman.”. So I did.

Cookie for Henry? Henry. Cookie. Cooookieeeee. Me. GIVE.

I got on him around 8:45 and headed over to XC warm-up. Again my tactic was to keep it as short as possible so he didn’t get too hot (it was only about 80 degrees but also 80% humidity – gross). Since the cold water sponging worked so well before stadium, Bobby brought a bucket over and we did the same thing again. We took one big lap of the field at a trot, a couple laps at the canter, and opened up and re-collected his gallop a few times to check for rideability. After a little breather we jumped a coop and a table a few times under Amanda’s direction, one time of which I completely botched by micro-managing (thanks Henry for the butt saving, sorry I tried to kill us). I gave myself a stern lecture about letting the horse go forward and leaving him alone to do his job and we jumped it again with much more success. Amanda gave us her blessing and then off to the start box we went.

Bobby got short clips of us leaving the start box and then coming through the second water towards the end.

The awesome pro photographer got several great pictures, one of which is my new favorite picture of Henry EVER, but it could take a few days to get them so they’ll have to be a separate post.

But – there’s HELMET CAM! Sorry bout the early morning glare when we’re headed into the sun. It just is what it is. And I continue to fail at cleaning the smudges off the lens. Sigh. I guess I’m just a really smudgy person.

The play by play:

Henry came out of the box calmly and all business, looking for the first jump. He hopped over it easily and then we headed to the stair step. I thought he might be a little distracted by the highway traffic but nope – he focused on his fence and took me right to it. He jumped it so well, so balanced and with such good power off the ground from the base, right then was when I thought “We’ve got this in the bag”. He landed galloping after that and I let him go a little until the vertical logs at 3. He came back, but it took a few half halts. He was eating it up.

Then it was up the hill to the table at 4, which he jumped just as well as fence 2. I started getting a little excited about how awesome my horse is. I really wish I was a more eloquent writer so I could better explain to y’all exactly how he feels on cross country… it’s phenomenal. He’s made for this. Amanda suggested that we jump fence 5 slightly right to left so that we landed on a flatter surface instead of a downhill one. That worked out perfectly and let us roll right along to the up bank at 6 without as much interference from me. We jumped up the bank and then turned right to splash through the water and jump out over the cabin. He was a little surprised at the water but charged right through with no questions asked. The cabin was easy, and then I let him roll a little bit again to the table at 8.

After 8 I distinctly remember thinking “OMG I can’t breathe and we’re only halfway done.” and started trying to make a more conscious effort to exhale. Henry seemed non-plussed though, as he happily jumped the Trakehner at 9 (which he also jumped the crap out of, as you can see by the face full of mane that I got in the video) and rolled down the hill toward the oxer. Honestly at this point I was kinda just a passenger… which is why you see less of his ears in this video and pretty much only hear me saying whoa. I supported him to the base and kept him balanced but otherwise was trying to stay out of his way so he could figure things out on his own. Big boy pants and all that.

And then… the bank! Henry spotted it several strides out and I felt him go “What the holy hell is that giant CRATER?”. I gave him a little verbal encouragement, closed my left leg, and he surged forward again, cannonballing off the bank. If there was a picture, GERONIMO would be the perfect caption. We landed so far down the crater, and with such gusto, that I had to really sit him on his butt and stick my right spur in to get him turned left up the hill toward the chevron. It was a little bit of an “oh shit oh shit oh shit” there for a second (which I probably would have said if I had enough oxygen to say anything more than “whoa”), but as soon as Henry got his eye on the chevron he made a beeline for it. Fantastic pony is fantastic.

From then on I knew the rest would be smooth sailing. He didn’t even blink at the Weldon’s Wall at 13, and he was going so confidently that I took Amanda’s suggestion of angling the bending line at 14ab.

angling the B element

He honed in on both and rode perfectly through it, taking the second element at a pretty decent angle way to the right side. After that he pretty much just cantered home over the red cabin, through the water, over the ridiculously wide table, and then the last brush box. My goal for the XC was to let him make some decisions on his own, baby him less, and let him just keep coming forward… I feel like we accomplished all of that. We came in 15 seconds under optimum time to give us a double clear XC, finishing his first Novice on his dressage score of 36.3. I’m beyond proud of him and couldn’t help but get a little teary eyed when I hopped off and loosened his girth and thanked him for the ride. What an incredible opportunity this horse is – it’s an honor to step out of the start box with him.

Henry was absolutely foot perfect the entire weekend and really rose to the occasion, just as he’s done all season. And even better – we moved up to 6th after XC! Since it was an open division USEA has our amateur placing listed as 3rd… it’s kinda cool to see those 4 Novice Amateur points on our record. I couldn’t have asked for a better debut from this super pony.

On to AEC in September! At BN… boo. I kinda wish he handled the heat better so I could do another event and try to get more qualifiers at Novice instead, but it’s just too hot. We’ll go back up to Novice after AEC. This boy has earned his move up (and the entire jar of cookies he ate on Sunday).

Texas Rose HT – dressage and stadium

The great thing about being in the Novice Horse division was getting to run XC in the morning on Sunday, when it wasn’t 9000 degrees. The bad thing about being in the Novice Horse division was having to do dressage and stadium late in the afternoon on Saturday, when it was 9000 degrees. Bobby did his dressage around 11 and his XC around 2… he was 2/3rds of the way done (and in 2nd place in Open BN!) before I even got on for dressage. Grumpy and hot and ready to get it over with doesn’t even begin to describe it.

first attempt at dutch braids!

By the time I got on for dressage it was mid-90’s with 50% humidity. I’m a diehard about wearing a coat even when they’re waived, but I’d been a constant puddle for 8 hours already by that point and just couldn’t bear it. As soon as I got on I knew Henry wasn’t feeling it in the heat either, because he pretty much trudged to the warm-up ring like he was marching to his death. We trotted for a few minutes with my spurs basically embedded in his ribs before I realized I might as well just give up on the warm-up. I could either spend 30 minutes trying to get him forward and likely use up all of his energy before stadium, or I could just let him be and get through dressage with as much energy as possible reserved on tap for later. I chose the latter, because having a great dressage just wasn’t as important as having a great stadium. Not here anyway, where our mission was to finish with a happy confident horse.

Lackluster is a pretty good word to describe it. He was a good boy but he had no energy from behind and kept wanting to drop his head and fall on his forehand. For a 5 minute warm-up, I’m ok with that. Also, why is Novice Test A the longest test ever? God, even I was getting bored. But considering just a couple months ago his test was filled with the word “tense”, it was actually pretty amusing to get this test back and see “lazy” and “needs more energy” the entire way down. Our score of 36.3 (not gonna lie, that was a bit of an ouch) left us in 9th after dressage, but I was just happy to be done with it and ready to get on with the jumping.

so many LOLs

I only had a little over an hour between dressage and stadium, so I hosed him off and tied him in front of his fan to cool out as much as possible. After a quick tack change it was back on and down to the warm-up for stadium. Henry walked in, saw the jumps, and immediately went “I’M HERE TO PLAY, BITCHES!”. Totally different horse than I had in dressage warm-up, and in fact I handed my whip to Bobby lest I get completely run away with. We trotted a couple long and low laps, picked up the canter, jumped 3 fences, then went to the shade to wait our turn. He was huffing and puffing quite a bit, having a hard time with the heat, so Bobby kept sponging him with cold water which really seemed to help a lot. After what seemed like a couple of eternities it was finally our turn.

I was really really happy with the round. The rhythm was good, he was brave, he was careful, and it actually felt easy. He got many many pats and many many cookies for his double clear. I can’t wait to see what pictures the photographer got! Other folks were not so lucky in stadium, and we moved up to 7th place.

screen grab of the guitar jump because it was super cool

After Henry was bathed and put away, I was off to meet up with Amanda Merritt of Anchor Equestrian for an XC course walk to get some tips and pointers. She helped me at Greenwood too and I thought she was great, so I had arranged for the same “XC walk and warm-up” with her at Texas Rose as well. She had a few helpful tips and ideas on how to ride some of the more technical elements, which was greatly appreciated, and said she thought we’d be just fine. I thought so too, but it was nice to hear it from someone else who actually knows what they’re doing.

Cherry on top – JUST as we got back from the course walk we walked up to the video trailer (which was playing the Belmont on their big screens) right as the horses were turning for home. I got to stand there and watch a Triple Crown victory amongst a swarm of screaming horse people at a horse show on a video trailer screen. Pretty fantastic end to a great day.


Texas Rose HT: course walk and pre-game

For those of you who follow my $900 fb pony facebook page, you already know how this weekend turned out. But before we can get to the conclusion, first we’ve got to take a journey, and that journey of course includes a soon-to-be-famous (surely?) Course Walk with Bobby. Brace yourselves.

We arrived at Texas Rose Horse Park on Friday around mid-day, unloaded the boys, set our stuff up, checked in, and then got on to ride around. It was quite warm and humid so we opted to mostly just hack around the grounds, enjoying the beauty and wide open spaces of TRHP. It truly is the most beautiful facility in Texas, hands down. I can’t wait for AEC there.

One of four dressage arenas in the foreground and stadium warm-up in the background


riding with Bobby and Halo in the front field

AND THEN… it was course walk time. Bobby was doing BN and I was doing Novice, so first we walked our courses separately, then walked each others together. You know what sucks in 90 degree heat and crazy humidity? 3 course walks. But we’ve got a reputation that we’ve got to live up to now with our jump photos, so we suffered for the sake of art. Unfortunately, because we were about to die, we only did fun pictures for my Novice course walk. As suggested by Sarah, we did a “Where’s Bobby?” theme to start with, then it kinda morphed out of control as we got delirious from heat stroke, which is of course where things got funny.

nice inviting little fence to start with, heading straight towards the highway in the background


fence 2, a stair step box next to the highway


Very simple vertical logs at 3


decent size table at 4, off of an uphill approach


little slanty log on the hillside at 5


little up bank on an uphill approach. There’s water right behind that Training rolltop, which wasn’t flagged for Novice but if you didn’t go through it your approach to 7 was not gonna work.


cabin set a couple strides out of the water


another decent sized table at 8, very square but not too wide


to the Trakehner at 9


then it was a slight downhill roll to 10, the open oxer, which I thought looked small


11 was the down bank, which wasn’t actually that big of a drop but because it was set on a big hill, it looked ginormous when you were cantering up to it. Plus the landing was on a very downhill slope, which meant it would ride bigger.


to get to 12 we had to take a hard left after the bank and canter back up the steep hill, with the chevron jump at the top. This was a serious question because of the terrain.


straight ahead to 13, the Weldon’s Wall


14ab was two rolltops set on a bending line. Another good question, but I loved how there were a couple different approaches you could take on how to ride this. I dig it.


dead Bobby on the b element


another little house thing at 15, set a couple of strides before the water (which is shaped like the state of Texas. Because Texas.)


Our pimp cups took a water break at 16.


Another table at 17, this one not super tall but very very wide. Like 4 1/2 feet wide at the base. Honestly I tried not to make eye contact with it when I walked by.


and a cute little brushy box to finish

After the course walk I actually felt pretty good about it. I got a few raised eyebrows from friends when I chose Texas Rose as our move-up, because it’s not known to be an easy course, but I actually walked off feeling like this could potentially be perfect for him. The course was open and gallopy, which suits him well, and he has zero water issues so having two water crossings was no biggie. I thought there were a couple of legitimate questions but nothing super hard or unfair… it’s really well designed and flowed nicely, and there was a little bit of everything. Water, tables, trakehner, related distance, weldon’s wall, etc – great variety. The only thing I wasn’t too sure about for Henry was the giant-looking down bank followed by the sharp turn back up the hill to the chevron. Otherwise I felt like as long as I rode him forward and positively, he’d handle all of it just fine. Nothing looked super big to me either (except the width of 17, mother effer that thing was as wide as a house), which I thought was a good sign.

After the course walk I put XC out of mind because first we had to get through Saturday – dressage and stadium!