When you’re having a shit week at work and your trainer texts you and asks if you want to meet up at your regular XC schooling venue for a laidback play day, the only suitable answer is omg yes please.
Having no real plan or expectations, I hopped on and headed out to the field to warm up. We had done a lot of raised trot and canter poles the day before so I thought Henry might feel a little body sore, but if he did, it was overridden by his cross country excitement. As soon as I picked up the canter he did his patented gleeful dolphin leaps, head between his knees. We popped over a couple little logs, then the first fence for Training, then the first fence for Prelim, then a random Prelim skinny that’s set on an awkward approach. All quite boring, in a good way, and Henry felt great.
It was a pretty hot and humid day, so I didn’t see the point in jumping a whole lot of stuff. We weren’t there with some kind of big important mission in mind, we were just there to have fun and go for a spin. So we jumped through the Prelim water a couple times
and then just ambled along through the woods while the rest of our little group schooled a few other things.
By the time we ambled through the woods and made it back to the big field, my friend Kathy had somehow convinced me to take her Advanced horse, Lofty, for a spin. This horse is an actual unicorn – big beautiful gray warmblood with huge fancy gaits and a ton of jump. He finished 11th in the Gold Cup Advanced final at AEC this year (I really need to write about Kathy and Lofty at some point, their story is pretty incredible). So like… he’s as legit as an event horse can possibly be.
He gets so much air time (hence the name Lofty) that just trotting him around my abs hurt almost instantly. His stride feels twice as long as Henry’s, and he seems twice as big and about a thousand times more uphill. I was 99% sure I was going to break him, but they finally peer pressured me into jumping the Novice ark and then the Training triple down banks to bench combination. Since Lofty is a unicorn, he packed my ass around with no complaints while I mostly just tried not to kill us both. It was a lot of me screaming internally “DON’T BREAK THE ADVANCED HORSE” as Lofty loped politely over the jumps like he was literally asleep.
Kathy had gotten on Henry, who expressed his disdain at her proper riding by pinning his ears and letting that helicopter tail fly in tight circles. He’s… special… to ride if you’re not used to him or his type. Sensitive is his first, middle, and last name, and he’s a little bouncing ball of a horse. Once she pointed him at a jump his attitude immediately improved, and we ended by peer pressuring her (fair’s fair!) into jumping the Prelim chevron.
Our two horses really couldn’t be more polar opposite. I love my little delicate flower, but it was definitely cool to sit on a really really fancy, really really trained one (even if I spent the whole time being terrified that I was going to break him).
We had so much fun though. It was nice to just come out for a relaxed day, no pressure, small group of friends, and just blow off some steam. I really needed it, and Henry is always thrilled to get a cross country day.
Plus on the way home I stopped at America’s Greatest Gas Station and grabbed two of my most favorite things in the world.
You can’t beat a day like that.