I’m not sure if I was just super relieved to be done with dressage or really confident about XC, but I was pretty pumped going into cross country day. I thought the course looked small and simple (which it should since we’ve been running Novice and this was BN) but I still felt like there were a few things that would require a bit of riding.
For those who haven’t already seen the course walk, you can find it on EVENTING FREAKING NATION. Hell yeah, unicorn famous.
Our ride time for XC was 3:53pm, right in the heat of the day. Because of that, and because BN is pretty small, we stuck to a really light warmup. We trotted a big lap, cantered a couple laps, jumped 3 jumps, and then just walked and waited our turn.
Henry is the king of falling asleep in the startbox so I actually had to wake him up a little to fence one. After that he was Game On and clocked right over the steps at 2, the logs at 3, and the hay feeder at 4 in the OK Corral. Then we had a bit of a long stretch to 5, a small simple log with a downhill landing. The fence itself was easy, but if you didn’t get the horse’s head up it looked like they were jumping off of a cliff because of how quickly the ground fell away on the other side. A few people in our division had problems here but Henry read it well and consequently it rode just fine.
Fence 6 was a small upbank with a few strides until the first water complex. This water wasn’t flagged but there was no way to get to fence 7, a yellow house, without passing through it. I was actually happy about that because they dyed the water blue for this event and Henry has never seen blue water, so I wasn’t sure what he’d think. Of course he just thought “WHEEE WAAATERRRR” and plunged right through and over the house on an angle. Because Henny = XC machine.
After the house we stayed on the angled line for a table at 8
After 8 we took a sharp right and headed toward the only thing I had any doubt about. It was a ditch, but built with a little log on the front side so that they really couldn’t read the ditch until they were right up on it. Plus it was filled with light gray sand that seemed to make a lot of horses give it an extra peek at the last second. It had proven a spooky fence throughout all the BN divisions, so my plan was to just get straight and then override the hell out of it. I growled and clucked and tapped him on the shoulder with my whip and Henry just cantered right over like he was confused about what the hell I was so riled up about. I ended up just looking kind of stupid. Not the first time, won’t be the last.
Then it was over the gray rolltop at 10, down the hill to the oxer at 11, down the bank into the crater at 12, and back up over the hay feeder at 13. Most of these were spent with me trying to balance Henry back up after my override at the ditch, which he mostly interpreted as “let’s go for a gallop”. After 13 I looked at my watch for the first time and saw that we were 43 seconds ahead of Optimum so we took advantage of the open space and made a big slow circle. It’s not that fun to crank them back down to 350mpm when they’ve been so happily running 400mpm at Novice.
After our big slow circle we continued on to the other gray rolltop at 14
And stayed in our slow canter as we crossed the field to 15AB, the second water. This also caused a lot of problems in our division but I’m not really sure why. The house going into the water was small and Henry didn’t think twice about it.
He cantered through the water and I gave him big pats and told him what a good boy he was.
From here it was an easy lope home over the table at 16
And the brushy table box thing at 17.
We crossed the finish at 4:48 (optimum time was 5:11), I jumped off and loosened his girth, poured my bottle of cold water on him, and by the time we’d walked back the barns he was pretty much cooled off. It was a very easy trip around cross country for him, which was exactly what I wanted.
As I mentioned, the XC course claimed a fair number of victims. 38% of the entire division had at least one refusal, with 3 falls and 3 eliminations. Most of the problems seemed to be at fence 5 with the cliff-like landing, the ditch at 9, and the second water. Four of the people placed ahead of me after dressage had problems, bumping me up from tied for 13th to 10th place – officially a potential ribbon spot.
As for the team competition – you might have thought from our dressage scores (25, 26, 30, 32) that we brought a bunch of dressage horses, but au contraire mon frere. We brought four very solid XC performers. Everyone on our team had an easy double clear XC, and our lead in the team competition grew from 5 points to 17 points after cross country. These unicorns came to play, and we now had 4 rails in hand going into show jumping. The only question left was: could we hold on to it?