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.
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.
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).