Ok, really XC was like an hour after dressage on Saturday but I think we can all agree that the best phase deserves its own post, right? Right.
So, to put it mildly, I had some major concerns about the schedule. The only reason I brought my fairly heat intolerant horse to Georgia to horse show in July was because originally XC was supposed to run on Sunday morning. When the schedule got changed and I saw my posted XC time of 3pm, I was extremely unhappy. The cherry on top of all that was a dressage time of 1:40, meaning I had very little time between phases to cool him down, change my shirt, get all his gear on, put studs in, and make the long walk to XC warmup. This is part of why we kept his dressage warmup very light.
I pulled his braids mostly out on the walk back up to the barn and then hit the ground running. He got hosed off and tied in front of his fan while I changed and grabbed my stud kit. Since we had a long morning without much to do, I’d prepped his stud holes before dressage, so all I had to do was pull the plugs out and screw the studs in. I got him booted, tacked, got all my gear on, and hopped back on. Due to all the other ride times in my trainer’s group I figured I would probably be warming myself up, which is no big deal. This is the one phase we can do without hand-holding. I was definitely hoping some of our people would still be stationed at the finish line though, to help me cool him off afterwards. That was my big concern.
We got to warmup, cantered a lap, galloped a lap, did some brake checks, and then hopped over each XC warmup fence (there were 3) once. He had immediately shifted to XC mode and knew it was game on, so after that I just walked and waited to be called to the box.
I have to admit that I kind of blog-failed here and did not get pics of the fences while course walking. Mostly because the first time I walked was at 4pm in the godawful heat and humidity and I really wanted to die rather than take pictures. And the second time I walked I was with Trainer, so I didn’t have time to be dicking around with photos. Sure as hell wasn’t going to walk it a 3rd time just for pics. Sorry fam. I do have helmet camera video though, which I was able to upload thanks to one of the girls having brought her laptop!
The start ended up being a little… hurried. I walked over and they said hi, which I returned, then all the guys resumed their conversation. I was just walking around the back of the start box, waiting for my 30 second warning. When I was at the farthest point of my circle, meandering around on a loose rein, the guy suddenly goes “10-9-8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, go!”. I was like SHIT! I scrambled to get my horse pointed the right direction and through the box, one-handed of course, cuz gotta turn on the helmet camera. What I did not remember to turn on (until after jump 5) was my watch. Yeah, so this is now the 3rd Training we’ve run where either I forgot to start the watch or forgot the watch altogether. I am so good at this, guys.
The course started out with a lot of tables. At one point this would have bothered me, but I have plenty of faith in Henry’s ability now, so it was fine. 1 was a basic rounded top thing (technical term), 2 was a table, 3 was a table, then 4 was our first combination: a bench, up and over a mound, then back down to an upright skinny on a slight bend. Pretty sure Henry could have done all that without me. Then we went to another table at 5, a coop at 6, and looped around to an offset line at 7ab. It was tiny and it seemed like the distance worked out for precisely no one (you could see it from warmup) unless you’re really into 2.5 strides. I whoa’d and angled it more to the left side to fit 3 in, because the jumps themselves were pretty small. After that we were off to the Trakehner (which he was ever so slightly sticky off the ground at, which apparently makes me grunt with effort? That sound on the helmet cam video is… amusing.), and another table, before we crossed the road and headed out into the field with the water complex.
Fence 10 was just a small house coming up the hill, then we swung back around left for the water at 11. The A element was a rolltop jumping down into the water, which I knew I would need to ride pretty aggressively since they really couldn’t see the water down there until the last stride or two. From that we just went through the water and out over a skinny little boat thing. Here’s where we had our only truly ugly fence on course. While I actually rode according to plan into the water, I kinda forgot to take a half-halt and rebalance IN the water. He was too long and flat coming out and essentially had to swim over the skinny boat. Which he did happily, because Henny, but still. I could’ve like… helped him out a little there. I know better than that. Thank goodness he’s pretty clever!
After the water we were off up the big hill (seriously, walking up that hill on foot was stupid, but Henry just dug in and sped up it) to a little hanging log, then back down to a cabin where the ground kind of fell away on the landing side.
Then we were finally to the one thing on course that I thought was a nice challenge – a rolltop, right bending line uphill to a good size upbank, then steep downhill left bending line to a corner. These are the kinds of questions that get me excited. Henny tackled it with his typical “lemme at ’em” gusto, completely undeterred, and skipped right through. Halfway down the hill I could see that the distance to the corner was gonna be a bit close so I slipped my reins some, stayed back, and let him find his way. He’s so quick and tidy with his feet that it was a non-issue. (Will try to upload the short clip through this combo, I think the WiFi can handle a small video from my phone… we’ll see…)
That was FUN.
From there we were almost home, and as I turned left to the bending line combo at 17ab, I could see the horse in front of us. I had a quick mental panic, thinking I’d missed some fences or something, but no, I knew I’d gotten them all. (Turned out she’d had 3 stops. Phew.) We jumped through the last combination, then another table, then over the hanging log at the last. I had no idea what my time was, but I felt like we’d galloped along at 460-470mpm, which is pretty much Henry’s cruising speed these days, and the course speed was 450mpm. I was more than prepared to slow it way down if he felt like he was struggling in the heat, but he really was just on cruise the whole way. We ended up right on the money with time – coming in 17 seconds under Optimum.
My only disappointment is that there was no one there at the finish to help me pull tack and get him cooled down, so I had to walk a very hot horse a very long way back to the barn before I could start bringing his temp and resp rate down. Hopefully next week we’ll have more hands on deck for that.
The course was a little on the simpler side I thought, but a nice way to ease into a new venue. Everything rode pretty well aside from my own snafu out of the water. Hopefully we can build on that next week! As usual, I really couldn’t be happier with the horse I had on cross country. Add another double clear to his record!