Henry’s first event: Day 2 XC

If you made it all the way through Day 1’s recap you saw that we got a little drenched on Saturday afternoon. However the miserable wetness didn’t stop there, as water started coming into the barns and we ended up spending an hour or so digging ditches, piling up sand and shavings, and diverting water. Luckily we were able to keep it from getting our ponies wet, but the process was NOT fun. As in, my rain boots were full of water not once but twice. That happens when you stand in a deluge for a while.

Saturday night I couldn’t sleep either (who needs sleep anyway), so this time I stayed awake thinking of my XC course and strategy. The course looked very do-able and straightforward (woot, maiden voyage for the CourseWalk app!) but I knew from our last XC school that if I was going to have a problem anywhere it would probably be the down bank.  Neither of us are fans. Plus I was worried about the footing… what the heck would it look like after several inches of rain?

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The answer: squishy. Really really squishy. The weather on Sunday was actually beautiful… all the rain blew out to leave us with clear blue skies and nice warm temps. But boy was everything wet. There was standing water on parts of the XC course and some shoe-sucking mud in other parts. Despite that though, it really wasn’t slick. Yay for sand. They did take out jump 6, which was a really simple little hanging log anyway, but in a pretty muddy spot off a turn that would have made it sketchy.

Again we kept our warm-up pretty minimal due to the fact that the footing in the warm-up area was deteriorating pretty quickly with all the horse traffic. We cantered a crossrail and then a tiny log and then took the little BN sized house at a bold canter to wake him up before heading to the start box.

In all of my lying awake on Saturday night I decided to put a whip in my boot in case I needed it at the bank. Henry is NOT a fan of the whip and if I carry it all the time he sorta loses his mind, but I thought it’d be a good idea to have it just in case. So off we went to the start box… 3… 2… 1… “HAVE A GREAT RIDE” and my trainer/barnmates went wild cheering. You should hear the lungs on those people. I couldn’t help but smile as I hit start on my watch and picked up a canter to jump 1. Regardless of what happened, this was hella fun, and if you’d told me last December when I bought this horse that we’d end up THERE in that position on that day, I never would have believed it. Leaving the start box with him was a really nice moment. After an 11 year hiatus from eventing there is no other horse I’d rather be brought back into it with.

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Away we went! Jump 1 was a very inviting log, no big deal. We landed from that and I opened him up a bit to get him moving and thinking forward in the stretch before 2. He was looking around a little out there and I had to stick my right spur into him a little before 2 to remind him to straighten up and pay attention.

Fence 3 was a brush fence that was up a hill and around a tight blind turn. It just so happened that someone was doing something in the bushes nearby with a chainsaw as we approached, which Henry gave me the “MOM WHAT IS THAT?” worried ear about, but he never hesitated. After 3 you had to cross a culvert with what used to be a pretty dry creekbed running under it… now it was more like a rushing river. He wiggled to the left when he saw it so again I stuck my spur in, clucked at him, and he soldiered on. Fences 4 and 5 were super easy, then we crossed through the trees and into the big field that contained most of our jumps. Since 6 was taken out we went straight to 7, a little cabin

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which is where the fabulous Auf de Autobahn was jump judging. I only know this because I heard a bellowing “GO AMANDAAAA!!!” as I passed, which had me smiling all over again. Seriously… the lungs on these people are impressive. Is this something we all get together and practice in the off season?

After 7 was a little green ramp set a few strides before the water, then through the water and out over a little log. I stayed in the backseat but he charged right through like a champ. Water issues? We has none.

After the water it was a turn back around to the dreaded down bank at 11. It was even more dreaded now, because the rain had left an ugly wet mud puddle on the landing. I knew he wouldn’t like that, so between 10 and 11 I pulled my stick out of my boot, hoping that just holding it would be enough encouragement.

Close, but no cigar. He thought about going but at the last second he saw that death trap (his words) at the landing and veered left. I gave him a couple smacks on the butt, which offended the hell out of him (OMG I’VE BEEN BAD) and he popped right down the second time.

We continued on to 12, a little coop set in the fenceline, then to the bench at 13 with a very very forward Henry. Have I mentioned he doesn’t like the stick? He was pretty determined to not be on the receiving end of that thing again.

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Fence 14 was a tiny log set on the top of a mound – it was steep up, the little log at the top, then steep down. Henry leaped up onto the mound, over the log, and took a flying leap off the mound. Thanks bud. At this point I thought he was being a little ridiculous so I exercised a momentary pulley rein to remind him that just because The Stick Incident had occurred, he wasn’t going to die. He velcroed his brain back into his head and politely cantered 15.

After 15 was a big loop back around to 16, the last fence. I knew that because of the bank we might need to make up some time somewhere, so after 15 we turned tidily around and took the absolute straightest route possible to 16. We made it through the finish pretty spot on, just two seconds under optimum time.

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Henry basically strutted off XC like he was the best thing ever to stand on 4 hooves. I was a little disappointed with the bank of course, but thrilled with him none the less. That was just a greenie bobble and really the only one he made all weekend. Can’t be upset with that.

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Remember how I said that the twisty stadium course in the pouring rain had been total carnage? I wasn’t kidding… there was something like a 30 point gap between 2nd and third, so even with my 20 I was safely in second. Nothing like crazy weather to turn an event into a test of survival. Of course, not going clear on XC meant that even with 2nd place we didn’t earn a qualifying placing for AEC’s. Boo.

To be honest though, I’m only 5% disappointed. My horse was fabulous and far exceeded any expectations I had for his first event. He showed me that the potential is there for good dressage scores, and that with a little more work the XC will be easy peasy. I think if the black hole of mud hadn’t been there he would have popped down the bank on the first ask, so I’m not going to worry about it.

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The coolest part? Second place won a Courbette bridle! Eventing has way better swag than h/j.

Of course, I don’t really need another black bridle (unless someone wants to get me a fancy PS of Sweden dressage bridle. That seems like a NEED.) so I gave it to a super awesome barnmate who always goes above and beyond to help out. She also just got a new horse and needed a dressage bridle that fit him, so it seemed perfect. A much better fate than selling it to some random person on facebook.

The cutest part of the day was how Henry stood there with his head hanging out of his stall for hours afterward, staring off toward the XC with his ears pricked. He hadn’t stuck his head out the entire time we’d been there. I think we’ve got an official convert on our hands!

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40 thoughts on “Henry’s first event: Day 2 XC

  1. Fantastic! What a champ Henry is, especially in those conditions! That is a TON of water! Congratulations on a wonderful run, and welcome back to eventing! I remember, after my own 6 year hiatus, the first time hearing 3,2,1 Have a nice ride- gives you butterflies!

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  2. I love when events turn out like that…total carnage in one phase – makes it more fun! Get schooling those banks till you are blue in the face and it shouldn’t be a problem again! Congrats!

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  3. Woot woot!! Congrats! Looks like the both of you had a ton of fun! See…dressage ain’t so bad! 😛

    And yes, the PS dressage bridle is an absolute need…your unicorn Henry must haz it.

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  4. congrats again – looks like you guys had a blast out there! and while it would have been totally badass to qualify for the AECs on your first try… methinks you’ll have some more opportunities coming up!!

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