A good weekend on paper - part 2
|Henry making friends|
Henry was quiet to tack up and walk to the warm up, but once we were in the warm up he was a total handful. The SJ and XC warmups are next to each other, and half the xc is in the same field, so he could see everything. He was very worried about it all, but if I kept him onto the outside rein and bending and flexing he could handle it. Walk was out, halt was very much out, so I kept him moving while I waited to warm up over the fences.
I had tried to minimise my time warming up, knowing he would be a lot to manage, but they were running slightly late so I just had to keep a lid on it. While he was hard work, when it came to warming up over the jumps he was so much easier to manage, and I could jump him easily where at past events I have had to wrestle him over a single fence before go in. Sunday though he was more than happy to jump the jumps, again I think he was just happy to have something he knew about.
He relaxed a little before we went in and as we entered to start our ride, I felt him sigh in relief since he knew exactly what his job was, and he softened visibly. I knew before I went in there were lots of rails coming down and time was very tight.
We picked up a good canter and came into jump 1 and he flew over. He was jumping brilliantly, getting great spots and flowing really well. He was listening and right there with me the whole round. We never once had a miscommunication, though he did get slightly fast through the double and just rattled a rail on the way out. I told him that was lucky and we finished clear and about 2 seconds too slow. We certainly hadn’t ridden slowly though and we had taken inside lines, it was just very tight for time!
It was one of our best rounds to date, especially eventing. We usually have a small blip in our first round, but this was just about perfect! It more than made up for dressage.
We had loads of time to kill before xc, so Andrew and I packed up, took a walk and generally relaxed before I started getting ready. I hadn’t been nervous but as it got close to go time I certainly was!
I wanted to keep my warm up as short as possible, it was hot and he was still very much stressed about the environment. Again while I had to manage him a lot he was still more rideable than he had ever been in a xc warm up, and I could jump fences and work on placing him at each jump before we went out, which was important as there were some good questions on the course that meant that Henry needed to go where I put him.
We were ready to go and I spent the time trotting him around, desperate to walk and have a drink to conserve our energy but it just wasn’t possible. He could relax in the trot but at the walk he would buck or run sideways… fun!
When it was our time I wrestled him to he start box and discovered he would go anywhere in canter and I found myself trying to work out the timing for cantering through the box. I managed to bring him back to trot, then pause in the start box as the timer counted us down and then we were off. Henry was out of that box and straight into a lovely forward rhythm.
He jumped one and 2 from slightly long spots but he just rolled onto them so I wasn’t worried. He spooked coming into 3 which I had expected and was ready for so he jumped it well before cruising onto jump 4 which was nice and easy too.
5AB was the first test, and a jump I had thought would cause issues. It certainly did with stops at it all day, and at the similar jump in the 95 classes. Ours was a small blue and white roll top then 3 strides to an upright, narrow, bright blue box thing. My plan was to come in quiet to the roll to then keep Henry between my hand and my leg for the B element. My plan worked perfectly, and he remained straight and unphased to jump both beautifully.
6 was a palisade that wasn’t an issue though he did have a peak down at the ditch as we flew over it, then 7AB was a sunken road combination. Again this wasn’t an issue and he flew through, though I accidentally lined the wrong jump up but corrected the line before it was a problem.
8 was a chevron in the middle of no where and the 9AB was the second jump I though could cause some issues. It was very much a question, and a line similar to what you would see on a 95 course, a tiger trap then a curved 4 stride line to a skinny roll top. It was do able, but riders would have to be on their game.
Henry spooked a bit a the change in footing before the jump and drifted right coming into the A. We had a bit of a wobble into B, where he didn’t realise what was required, but I closed my leg and shut down the outside drift and he trusted me to jump it nicely. I should have been a bit quicker to react before A, but no harm done we kept travelling to the first water.
10 was a box before the water, and Henry jumped it fine but the backed off into the water. Again I was anticipating this so I sat up and put my leg and on and he paddled in happily before picking up the canter and popping out over a hanging log on the other side.
12 was a Trakehner and then we had a bit of a gallop stretch to a roll top at 13. We were well up on time at this point, but he was bowling along well, so I eased him up a bit but mostly let him travel how he wanted.
14ABC was two steps up to a ski jump, and I just let him roll up, allowing the steps to take away some momentum so he could quietly pop off the ski jump, allowing me to slip my reins and still have enough control and time to make a tight right turn to head to the next jump, a little crayon.
16AB was the second water, a bench then a jump out of the water. He again jumped the bench fine and hesitated at the edge of the water before trotting through and popping up the bank out. We were still up on time so I slowed him back for the last 3 jumps, the wine barrels, a train and a church and we cruised over the finish line clear and with a few speeding faults!
It was hot and he was puffing, so I was very careful to cool him down and walk him lots to bring his heart rate back down, but he finished very well and recovered quickly. I popped his ice boots on and let him graze in hand for a while and I popped him back in his shady yard when he was nice and cool again.
Our clear jumping had us finishing in 9th, and whole our time faults saw us just out of the placings, I was still very pleased with the results. It was a tough weekend, I had to ride really hard but equally Henry was amazing. I was incredibly proud that he stepped up in the jumping and felt confident and trusted me when he wasn’t sure of the question. He made me work hard, but I stepped up as his rider and got the job done. I stayed present in each phase, riding the horse I had on the day and used all the tools I had to get us through. He wasn’t easy but it made the success even better. He was one of the few horses to jump clear in both phases and to finish top 10 in a huge, competitive class is a big achievement.
Hopefully next time he will be more settled but equally I know how much I can push him and I know how to manage him even better now so it will be easier for me if he’s not. It was another big learning weekend and I came home totally exhausted but also very proud of my horse. He is such a champ, especially when he knows his job!