After our massive huge disgusting shitshow on day 1, I was not feeling so happy about cross country day. Normally I’m pretty confident about XC. Henry hasn’t had a cross country penalty all year, but this course was super technical, and definitely the toughest we’ve faced. There was nothing that looked big (except the brush at 15), but there were questions on it that he has never been asked before, not even in a schooling situation. And to have to face it the day after having such a horrendous dressage and stadium round was not giving me warm fuzzies. At one point I considered just packing my toys and going home, but quitting for no actual reason other than sheer mortification just isn’t what we do.
Henry was still acting like a mare in heat, so the plan was that if we got on course and he seemed unlike himself, I would retire. Of course I noticed going into the startbox that my watch battery had died, and despite trying to have my trainer turn on the helmet cam this time, we STILL didn’t get it. I am one giant walking curse for electronics. Luckily I did end up buying pro video of XC so I’ll post that when it comes – hopefully today. As for the time, since we were starting XC in last place it didn’t really matter anyway, so I just gave my watch to my trainer and went without. Here’s the link to the full course walk if you want to see more detail… sorry, Bobby was in stupid California so he wasn’t there to make fun pictures. Yell at him. He abandoned me in my time of need.
Henry came out of the box a little sluggish and I had to really support him and close my leg to fence one, but he landed from that, looked around a little, perked up his ears, and clicked into Game On mode. Whatever strange awful horse I’d had all weekend disappeared and normal Henry was back and ready to roll.
Fence 2 was a log with a sloping landing that made it ride a bit like a drop. The approach was very confusing so Henry didn’t really lock on until a couple strides out and I stuffed him to a bit of a short distance (after being so super flat and runny in stadium, the close distance was the only option he was allowed), but he happily went.
Then we went winding through the woods to 3, a simple little mushroom.
Fence 4 was a tiny log on top of a huge mound – the first real test so far on the course. Once you got up to the top you literally could not see anything but open space and the super dark entrance to the woods, so it really was a leap of faith for the horses to jump off and hope they’d find ground under their feet on the other side. No hesitation here from Henry, he happily hopped down and away we galloped back into the woods.
We had a long twisty gallop through the woods to 5, a small tiger trap. Henry saw the ditch in front of the fence at the very last second and made quite the impressive leap over it, but again there was zero hesitation. If you have a ditchy horse this isn’t the course for you – there were 3. By this point Henry was totally in his normal groove and actually being really fantastic.
After 5 was a little corner, which we came back down to a showjump canter for, because directly after the corner…
it was a sharp right hand turn to the first combination on course – 7ab. Down bank, slight bending line downhill to a hanging log. I stayed in the backseat, let him figure it out, and he very smartly picked his way through.
8 was a simple little white table with mulch on top
Then on to the trakehner at 9. He’s seen trakehners before, but this one had a real monster of a ditch under it, the likes of which he definitely hasn’t seen, so I just kept my leg on and kept coming forward. He gave it quite a bit of extra space in the air, but he had no problem with it. Maybe we need ditches under all the stadium fences.
10 was just a little feeder headed straight at the finish line, so the only possible issue here was getting their attention afterwards…
because once you landed you had to hang a sharp right down to the water and our second combination on course. I’ve not seen anything like this at Novice before, there was a little log directly out of the water with two strides to a rolltop. Henry’s never done a combo out of water either, but this actually rode REALLY well – more like an upbank to a fence (which he also hasn’t done before, but whatevs). He read it perfectly and cantered through like a pro. He’s always great at the water.
After many pats and good boys we were off to 12, the Steeplechase fence. I like pretty much anything with brush and this one always seems to ride well for everyone. Henry was no exception.
Then it was a long gallop up the big hill into the very back of the property, over a simple hanging log at 13
Then to this tricky little fence at 14. The approach to this was kinda nuts, with a steep down hill, one stride of flat, then straight back up the hill to a very vertical log stack. I was expecting this to ride pretty shitty, but again Henry read it perfectly. I stayed in the backseat down the hill, closed my leg at the bottom, and he powered 3 strides up the hill and popped right over. Many more pats and good boys. He’s getting more and more clever with his feet.
Another long gallop back down the big hill and we were finally to the last combination on course – the one I was borderline shitting myself about. There was a huge ditch with a bending 5 strides to a massive skinny brush. Massive. Skinny. Brush.
I was worried that he’d take issue with the ditch but I was bound and determined not to add any more disaster to my weekend, so I lined him up with the brush (which put the ditch on a slight angle), sat, growled, and stuck my spurs in. We got a crappy distance to the ditch, which Henry completely launched himself over
therefore making the distance to the brush come up reaaaaaaaaaally tight. But bless his awesome little XC loving heart, he never even thought about not going. He flicked an ear back at me like “you better hang on, cuz here I go”, I hooked the fingers of my left hand into my neck strap, and he just carried me right through. The whole weekend was redeemed in that moment.
I actually slowed down a little at the end because I thought we might be too fast, but I failed to take into account the fact that the course actually wheeled a lot longer than it was listed at, so we ended up a bit over on time. Oops. I really couldn’t have cared less. Henry seemed super proud of himself and strutted back to the barn in his normal post-XC fashion. By the time we made the walk he’d already cooled down and his general demeanor was a lot more normal than it had been before. He begged for cookies and tolerated some face rubs and nose kisses.
We ended up at least not finishing dead last, and I really came to GW to run their tougher XC, so at least we succeeded at that. We just have to figure out what the hell happened in stadium and never ever do that again.