Pine Hill Feb HT – Cross Country

Not gonna lie, I think was maybe more nervous for the second Prelim than I was for the first. The first time I was just trying not to die – pure and simple, no further expectations. And then I didn’t die, thus it was awesome by default. But now we were back for another crack at it, with the goal of smoothing some things out and trying to make some improvements. There’s a lot more pressure in that. What if the first time was just luck? What if I came out and bungled it royally? Now I had to prove to myself that it wasn’t a fluke.

I was nervous a couple days before, but woke up on show day feeling pretty zen about it. And then dressage and stadium went well, and I was feeling a little more confident by the time cross country rolled around. I actually remembered to take pictures of the course this time, AND I had my helmet camera charged and ready to go! Miracles never cease.

Before we got there I was very concerned about the footing. We’ve had So Much Rain, and there were definitely spots on the course where there was still standing water and mud. Luckily most of the Prelim course runs through the higher ground, so while there were a couple of deep areas, none of it really effected the jumps themselves. The other levels had some course modifications because of the footing, but mine didn’t, so that part all worked out. The venue did a really good job of preserving the footing leading up to the show, and laying down sand in places where some extra grip was needed.

Since the footing looked pretty good, I decided to let Henry open up a little more than last time, carry a little more speed between the jumps, and see how he felt. Of course, I didn’t take into account that since the course was the same as what we did in December, Henry now knew exactly where he was going. He took off out of the box like his ass was on fire, just about leaving me suspended in midair like a cartoon character, and jumped the first fence like a rabbit. Not the start I had in mind.

THE WAGON WAS FUN THOUGH

I landed from 1 and really pushed him up in front of my leg again right away, so I could rebalance and settle into a better rhythm. It worked, and within a few strides we were rolling. Henry was feeling very cocky, knowing exactly where he was going, and pretty much just told me to strap in and hang on. I steered, and I rebalanced on the approaches, but I’m pretty sure Henry would have done the course with or without me. He wasn’t rude about it, so I was okay with that, and I was glad that he was feeling confident. He flew over the rolltop at 2, the wagon at 3 (will that ever stop looking big? Probably not.), the combo at 4AB, and the log ramp with the drop at 5. I took a tug on the way to 6 that I shouldn’t have, stuffing him into a tight spot there, but he’s honest, so he went.

Irish bank – also fun. Glad I didn’t sneak in late at night and bulldoze it a couple years ago when I really wanted to.

We popped up and down the Irish bank, around to the chevron, and then to the trakehner. Things seemed to be going by so fast at this point, jump after jump after jump. I was trying hard not to micromanage him or shut him down between fences, so I pretty much just let him go along at the speed he felt most comfortable at. He was eager and full of run, so when we had long stretches, I just let him roll.

All the jumps at the water were good, and I let him open up a bit as we went back up the hill, hopping over the little bench out of stride. Then we steadied up quite a bit for the turn to the corner, galloped around the lake, and through a muddy spot that made me have to whoa a little more than I wanted with just a few strides before the boat table. The distance there was a little long, but he jumped the snot out of it for good measure.

Then down the hill combo, rolltop to bank to chevron, back into the front field for the last two fences. He tried to be a little too athletic and jump over a muddy spot, almost tripping over his own feet in the process (god, that would have been an embarrassing way to end the day), but recovered well and hopped over the train car, then we finished up over the big stone wall. And just like that – second Prelim, in the books!

We were quite a bit faster this time than last time, and once again Henry was barely even breathing hard at the finish. They had a timer malfunction, so didn’t log my official time, but from my helmet cam footage I think I was about 20 seconds over, which would have been 8 time faults. Due to the timer malfunction they put me as double clear. I’ll take it, but in my head we’ll go with 8. Which I’m still super happy with, because last time we had 19, and this course is so twisty I think it would be nearly impossible for me to average 520mpm without being scary/dangerous.

I made a couple of mistakes and had a couple of bleh fences, but overall I was happy with how confident Henry felt and with the fact that I let him jump out of a more open gallop. It was nice to make the mistakes and have him not even blink about them. It helps me a lot mentally to know that I don’t have to be perfect, he can handle it if I’m a little bit wrong. There was definite improvement though from the December show to this one, and it was a big confidence booster for both of us. The first time wasn’t just a fluke!

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Don’t get excited, I was the only entry in Prelim this time too. He still earned it though.

I still have to sit down and make some kind of plan for the next 6 months, but hopefully there will be more green numbers in the near future!

27 thoughts on “Pine Hill Feb HT – Cross Country

  1. I’m still laughing at the very end when you cuss him out to stop 🙂 Great job making what makes me want to puke look easy. I love watching his happy and intent ears as you go around the course. He really does love his job

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  2. Yaaaas! Loved watching the video, his ears are pricked and so happy the entire time. And I also loled at the end, gotta love when they finish and are still raring to go!

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  3. “It helps me a lot mentally to know that I don’t have to be perfect, he can handle it if I’m a little bit wrong.” Best revelation. Love seeing his little ears go PING at every fence and hearing you cuss him out hahaha

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    1. It’s definitely nice to feel like that, because I had some concerns about his scope at this level. I know we’re nearing the limits of what is realistic for him, but I’m happy to feel like we have some breathing room.

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  4. Eeeee! Congrats! I read your post and then watched the video, so I knew what happened but still felt myself holding my breath. So glad you got a helmet cam video of it, the cussing at the end (and the beginning) was amazing hahaha. And I love seeing his ears just glued forward with excitement. And that is a super twisty curvy course, dang!

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  5. The chevron was what scared the princess pants off Coco at Willow Draw last weekend! I didn’t know what that jump was called until today. 🙂
    I’m excited for you and Henry and your second Prelim! Do you think going into one with more competitors in the division will make you more nervous?

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    1. Some horses don’t like the shadows in the cutouts of those. Henry used to give them the stink eye when he was green but now he’s just used to them.

      At this level I don’t even care about other competitors, I’m still just trying to survive lol.

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  6. He just loves this job so much, it’s so fun to watch you guys! The first one definitely wasn’t a fluke, you guys have worked your asses off for this, and it’s paying off big time! Congratulations!

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  7. Whoot congratulations! Such a good round 🙂
    Speaking of horses who know the course – my lease and his owner went off to jump her first cross country with him (luckily they both have done higher levels separately). They were supposed to do the 70cm course, but he’d previously jumped the 1/1.10m course at that venue with his previous much bigger and stronger rider…..yeah he took her round the bigger course! She was eliminated basically at the first fence but he wouldn’t stop and continued on his merry way to do the entire 1.10m course. Oops.
    That was their first and last attempt at cross country haha!

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  8. Holy shitcakes girl! Henny was really moving out! I definitely got the “taking charge now” message right through that video. I will also never understand how riders know where the course is going when there are so many other “roads that might be taken”. Those wide open spaces also leave me looking all around wondering where the heck the next jump is supposed to be.

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