After getting almost no sleep on Friday night (I don’t sleep at horse shows) I was not particularly bright eyed and bushy tailed on Saturday morning. We fed the boys, did one more course walk of XC and stadium with Trainer Karen, braided, and slowly got ready. Henry actually felt pretty good when I got on for dressage but started getting more tense as we warmed up. There was a lot of traffic and he kept eyeing the jumps like “YAAASSS”. No buddy, not yet. Boring stuff first.
The video starts a bit late so the first few movements are missing, but basically the first half was decent and then it came off the rails a bit in all the work to the right. He was good when we went in but kind of just tight, and after we walked he was convinced we were supposed to canter canter canter NOW. He was a good boy, he just got a little anxious and tense. For his second event I can’t complain. I was happy with how the first half of the test went, and we FINALLY got better than 5 on the free walk, so we just have to make the second half match the first and I need to do a better job of helping him through the tension. The judge was super forgiving and way too nice, I was expecting a 38-40ish score but we got a 31.6. I’ll take the charity! The two 8’s (first centerline and first medium walk) and all the 7’s in the beginning helped a lot. I thought the remark of “Lovely when not tense” summed it up pretty well. She was equally forgiving to everyone, so our score put us right at mid pack in 5th, which was fair. I need a top 5 placing with no xc penalties for an AEC qualifier, so now the pressure was on to add nothing to that score.
After dressage I was admittedly relieved, mostly because I really thought I’d blown it and was happy when scores were posted and I still had a chance. Stadium is our easiest phase since we come from jumper land, so I was just focused on remembering the course and not making any dumb mistakes. I don’t think anyone got video of it, but the course rode well and he was great, despite the sloppy and deep footing. It really sucked you down in the corners and stole your momentum. After stadium we didn’t move up any, since the only people who had trouble were already below us in the standings. Still in 5th, so we couldn’t afford a single penalty on XC. It was do or die time.
Although it kept threatening to rain all day, we got really lucky and just had a short rain shower. Reports from those who ran XC before me were that there were still some very slippery and wet spots so take it easy and ride defensively. Henry came out of the start box hunting for a jump and momentarily locked on the Prelim rolltop. Uh, nope… ours is the tiny little log over there Hens. He landed from that and we had a good little stretch to 2. Right before 2 there was a dip that had standing water and deep mud, so I had to whoa and get in the back seat a bit but he saw it and managed himself just fine.
No problems with the tiny coop, then around the very muddy bend past the pond (thought he might spook or slip there so I kept my butt in the tack but he went right through with no problem) and hopped over 3. Fence 4 was a little log on top of a big mound. My plan was to trot this and then trot down since the footing on the other side was very uneven, but as soon as we landed I saw a pretty muddy trench of death so I made the decision to walk down instead. Yup, hello everyone, we’ll just be over here walking down this hill on XC. I figured better safe than sorry.
After that we picked back up and he happily popped over the white brush fence at 5 and around the bend through the mud to a log at 6. By this point I had figured out that the best track through the mud was right up the middle… it was a little deeper but sandier and tackier than the shallow black mud at the edges. He was quite surprised by the jump judge at 6, who was sitting back in the bushes around a blind turn, so he leapt slightly right but never took his ears off the jump. I laughed and told him he was ok, and we cantered down the hill, back up, over the log at 7 and the trakehner at 8. This was the halfway point and when I looked at my watch I saw we were 8 seconds behind time. I had to pick it up a little. I let him canter forward a bit down the next stretch since he seemed to be having no problem handling the mud, then packaged him back up to prepare for all the jumps around the water.
I stayed in the back seat over the brush, through the water and around to the log, just in case, but he chugged right on through no problem. Next was the only jump I’d really been worried about – the Coal Train. Again into the back seat, just in case, but he was like “It’s just a train car with rocks in it mom, I dunno why you’re on my butt” and over he went.
I knew the rest would be no problem so I opened him up, got off his back, and let him canter forward up the hill to make up some time. We hopped over the bench on a slight angle to save some ground, back into the woods around a tight short approach to a box, then I let him open up again and gallop the stretch to the last. We came in 5 seconds under OT and he positively STRUTTED back to the barn. That boy thinks he’s hot stuff. No one tell him it was only BN.
Overall we finished 4th, on our dressage score. One AEC qualifying placing is in the bag! Mission accomplished, now we’ve got one more to go. I think this event was really good for Henry’s confidence on XC and it helped highlight what we need to work on more for dressage. At his first event last November he came out of the start box feeling a little bit “deer in the headlights” but this time he was all business from the word go. He was really locking in on the fences and looking for what was next, but still listening well and being very rideable. In the warmup he liked standing and watching all the horses out on the course, intently focused on what was going on. He seems engaged and interested and eager. All the jumping parts were easy. Next stop, Greenwood in 3 weeks.
Many eternal thanks to Brandy for all her help and support this weekend!