Alright, Day 2! Dressage was done and dusted, time to get on to the good stuff – stadium and XC. Or really, XC. That’s the actual good stuff. For once we found ourselves in very unfamiliar territory at the top of the leaderboard after dressage. Who needs that kind of pressure in their life? Not me. I’ve always been more of the “come from behind” type. Or, more often, the “stay behind” type. Okay, so maybe being at the top is nice sometimes.
Our ride times were 8:27 for stadium, with XC at 8:37. I got up at my regular time (5:30), fed Henry, cleaned his stall, got all my tack ready, went over my courses and minute markers one more time, put his studs in, and got my ring bag ready to take down to warmup. I was kind of bummed that the course hadn’t changed since we were here last September, so we’ve already run this same XC course before. Because of that I only walked it once, to get a feel for the footing and decide on studs.
Stadium and XC being only 10 minutes apart posed a potential challenge for me, seeing as how I had to do a bridle change between phases and had no one with me to assist. Because if I tried to run Henry XC in a hackamore we’d just be galloping off into the wild blue yonder never to be heard from again. But I didn’t want to SJ in his XC bit, because part of the whole point of coming to this show was trying out all of the changes we’ve been making. So I trudged down to warmup with his XC bridle, his XC boots (because I’m pretty sure if we did stadium in those we would have every freaking rail), my XC whip, and a mounting block, then hung out for a bit to watch how the schedule was flowing. It became pretty clear right off the bat that stadium would be lagging behind.
When I got on to warm up I went and asked the steward if we’d still get our 10 minutes in between, and she told me that the gap had narrowed to where now they were sending people out on XC about two minutes after they came out of stadium. Goody. Luckily I spotted a familiar face in Paulina, who runs the local CT’s here in town that we do sometimes. She and a student were total lifesavers and graciously agreed to be my pit crew between phases (they also got all the media snippets that you see here!).
I kept my warmup pretty short and sweet, knowing that he wouldn’t get much of a breather before XC. We trotted a couple laps, cantered a couple laps, jumped the vertical once and jumped the oxer once. He felt pretty good, even giving me a frisky little head toss when we picked up the canter. As soon as they put all the stadium jumps down to Training size I got a feeling of dread. They looked really small. I ride like a monkey when they look really small. I would have much rather jumped them at Prelim height. The course also started on an oxer-to-vertical line, which makes me a little grumpy.
This venue’s stadium is always wheeled super tight, so I went in knowing I’d have to try to cut off as many unnecessary strides as I could. I took that a little too far when I jumped 5 totally on an angle. Whoops. I got away with that one, though. What I didn’t get away with was when I pulled to the base of 9 and Henry had to jump out from underneath it, taking the rail with us. 110% my fault, without a doubt. I knew I needed to keep my leg on and keep coming out of that turn, but I took a pull instead. So we finished with one rail, which is fine. Not unusual for us. What was really weird is that they said we also had 4 time faults. I have no idea how, I literally cut off as much space as I could and don’t feel like I could have gone much faster without running through the distances, but… oh well. I only have video of part of the course, so I don’t have any way of knowing what our time really was.
I didn’t know it at the time, but that dropped us down to 3rd. I had to trot out of stadium, across the warmup, to my waiting pit crew that was stationed near the start box for XC. I jumped off and slapped Henry’s boots on while Paulina and her student swapped Henry’s bridle. I really have to thank them again, because I swung back aboard when the starter said “30 seconds” and hustled my way over the box with just enough time to take a deep breath and try to focus. There is NO WAY I could have made it without their help.
What I didn’t have time to remember, though, was my helmet camera. After jump 2 I was like “Oh crap, I never hit the button”. But let me tell you what I can’t do at a gallop on a very full of himself Henry. I tried to turn it on but quickly gave up. Here’s the helmet camera from last September, if you want to see the course again, or the jump pics. Nothing was different except the speed was 450mpm instead of 470mpm.
What I DID have though, was a pretty cocky horse. He jumped the snot out of 1 and 2, then thought maybe he should drag me to 3. I had to set him on his ass a bit in the turn between 3 and 4 and have a quick discussion about who was actually in charge here, and he was much more polite after that. He is 0% intimidated by anything at this level anymore, which is great, I’m glad that he’s confident, but that doesn’t mean he gets to be rude and try to take over.
I went ahead and let him gallop a bit across the big field from 5, 6ab, and 7, knowing that the second half of the course rode a lot twistier and had a couple of combinations that would eat up some time. He was full of run, ears pricked and looking for the fences. It was almost an auto-pilot type of experience. Rolltops at the mound? Check. Skinny? Check. Water? Check. Down bank to skinny rolltop? Check. Angled combo? Check. Weldon’s wall? Check. There wasn’t much more to it than that. I did learn my lesson from how the water rode last time and landed, closed my leg, and rode out more positively so the distance worked way better. That was an improvement. The Weldon’s jumped better too. I did bury him at the Trakehner though just because I rode sloppy to it. My bad, although I don’t think he noticed.
Two fences from home I looked at my watch (which I had blissfully ignored to this point) and we were a bit ahead of time, so I slowed him down to more like 350mpm and let him just coast home. He still tried to argue with me a bit about that. Not tired at all. We crossed the finish at 4:37, with OT being 4:46, for a double clear. He was puffing a bit in the heat, but was still attempting to drag me around when I got off to go collect my bridle and mounting block. I untacked, hosed him, walked him a bit, let him graze and get some water, hosed him again, and then left him parked in front of his fan in his ice boots while I went to check scores.
Making time was the name of the game on that day. Everyone else accrued quite a few time faults, except for the person who had moved into first after stadium that unfortunately had a parting of ways with her horse at the water (they were both ok), and someone else who had a stop there as well. Our double clear moved us solidly back up into first.
This show was an experiment in a lot of ways. We totally changed our approach to the dressage, it was our horse trial debut of riding stadium in the hackamore, and I wanted to get a gauge of where his fitness is at, as far as running XC in the heat, before we head to Chatt. I think we definitely got some improvement in the dressage, we’re on the right track for stadium (will I ever stop pulling? we’ll never know…), and there’s no doubt his fitness is just fine for Chatt. We will definitely be having a halt-halt reminder session during his next gallop though, since that’s something that apparently slipped Mr. Cockypants’ mind at the beginning of XC, and I will keep chanting “SHOULDERS BACK” to myself on repeat.
It was good to get back out there again, and I think we’re both feeling ready for Chatt!