Yep, the fun part! Feel free to scroll past all the words to get to the helmet cam footage at the bottom, it won’t hurt my feelings.
When we walked the course on Friday I was really happy with it. Nothing looked big or hard, but there were a few more technical questions that I thought were a good test. I like technical… that makes it more fun when you have a horse that is usually pretty handy. The ground handled all the rain fabulously well, too. It was just springy enough to be perfect for galloping, with a couple of soft spots but nothing slick.
It took Henry about halfway through warmup to realize what we were doing, then it was Game On mode and he was all business. The professionalism that he showed in dressage was carrying over… he’s really learned the job now. I’ve also kind of learned what to expect from him. He’d never been to this venue before so I expected him to be a little bit looky in places, but it was also pretty open and rolling, so I thought he might try to pull me around a little in between the fences. Both of those guesses ended up being true.
Fence 1 was just a little basic hanging log with some flowers on it. No problem, standard first fence. Henry usually comes out of the box a little bit behind the leg though, so I tried to just sit up, keep my leg on, and wait for him to sort it out.
He popped over that no problem and locked onto 2 pretty quickly, which was just a simple little log.
After that it was down to the oxer in the shadows. Henry spooked at the jump judge a little bit a few strides away but kept going forward (he always keeps going forward even when he’s spooky, bless him) so it was fine.
After 3 he was really ready to roll and wanting to drag me a little, but hopped over 4 easily, pulled me slightly past the distance at 5, but was a bit more polite after that and cantered quietly over 6.
Then it was down to 7 and 8, a cute little Scrabble fence with four strides to an up bank. Several strides away I felt him look just a little bit suspiciously at the fence so I clucked a couple times, he went back in front of my leg, and hopped through here really well.
After that it was down the hill and around to 9, the brush fence (my personal favorite).
Except Henry jumped HUUUGE over the A frame (HENNY ROLEX!!!), landing really far away on the back side and with way too much momentum, which completely messed up our line to 12A-B, a couple of barrels set on a bending line right after the water. This was a little bit of a tricky question for Novice, made tremendously more tricky by the fact that we landed past the point where I needed to turn in order to jump them center to center (how it was meant to ride).
I had to sit him on his butt, turn him hard right, and we ended up taking a totally shitty, very angled line from the left side of the first fence to the right side of the second in a fairly ugly 2 1/2 strides. But bless Henny’s honest little heart again, he didn’t even hesitate. As soon as he saw the question he went right on through it and got both of us out of that icky line with no problem. Extra cookies for the pony, I was really proud of him for that. He could have just as easily flipped me the bird and opted out of that one.
By the time I stopped crapping myself and remembered to check my watch, we were almost to 13 and 14, a 5 stride bending line going downhill. A lot of people had problems here throughout the day but this actually rode great for Henry, he was focused and had no issue.
Then it was another combination, a rolltop with 4 strides to a downbank. I brought him down to a little canter for this, to avoid a SUPERMAN off the bank, and he actually jumped down it pretty reasonably for him.
After that I landed, looked at my watch, and saw that I was going to be pretty much spot on between Speed Fault time and Optimum Time. But remember… I was in a tie. And just in case we stayed tied through the end, I wanted to try to win the tie, so I needed to get as close to OT as I could. I squished Henry way down to a teeny tiny canter all the way to the last fence (which he thought was bullshit) and loped through the finish, crossing at 4:54. OT was 5:09, so I wasn’t sure if that was going to be good enough to win the tie but hell… I had to try.
Overall it was a good XC for Henry. Definitely a butt puckering moment out of the water, but I was super proud of how he came right back and salvaged the situation with no problem. There’s no doubt he loves his job and he’s proving to be a really great ammy horse. He actually got progressively more rideable as the course went on, although he did pull on me a bit more than usual. Probably because he’s pretty damn fit right now, as evidenced by the fact that he wasn’t even breathing hard by the time we were done, despite it being really hot and humid.
After a nice liniment bath and a graze, I checked the scores and saw that we moved up from tied for 6th to tied for 4th! But we still had to get through stadium, and with only a 4-penalty spread between 1st and 11th place, there was zero room for error…