camelot: cross country rebate

The last time I ran rated cross country at Camelot did not end well.  I had better luck last year with an unrated course, but that course was a bit on the soft side and not terribly long.  This year, I was excited to see many of the old fences on the BN course, lots of nice long gallop tracks, and noticed that I felt like everything looked tiny!  It was awesome.

I didn’t ride until noon on Saturday, so I had plenty of time to jump judge for prelim and training. ¬†The divisions went pretty smoothly, minus a rider fall at the coffin in training that created a little hold on course. ¬†The EMTs were not totally sure how to get out to her, and once they were there how to get back, which was both hilarious and exasperating. ¬†But the EMTs were very kind, and the rider was fine, so all was well. ¬†Unfortunately, there was another hold on course due to a rider fall in warm up that did not end so well — the rider was rushed off with sirens and needed surgery. ¬†Sobering.

Despite knowing about both of these holds, I somehow tacked up way, way, way too early.  Like a full hour before I needed to be trotting around in the warm up too early.  The upside of this is that Murray was extremely well behaved to tack up.  I did it loose in his stall, and he just stood quietly and nibbled on hay while I slowly put on my vest, sipped on some water, and made sure that my pinny was on nice and tight.  Eventually I could stand it no longer, and headed over to the warm up ten minutes before I would have been in there for my original ride time.

Murray and I stood in the shade grazing for a while, and after I couldn’t stand it any longer I climbed aboard. ¬†Murray was not really impressed with this idea, and wanted to run (forward or backward, either would be fine) home to stabling. ¬†I walked him in small circles and figure eights until his back relaxed, and finally, finally, we headed in to warm up. ¬†This did not help the feeling of nervousness, of course, but c’est la vie. ¬†The one thing I wish the show venue/warm up steward had done was announced an approximate delay time for the division so that we could have avoided constantly checking in. ¬†But c’est la vie — I get that they wanted to try to hurry things along as much as they could.

Murray warmed up perfectly, moving up toward the fences without hesitation.  Camelot has a fabulous, huge cross country warm up, and there were lots of fences for us to jump.  I did everything once, repeated my approach to a table so I could have Murray jump it a bit more out of stride, and then headed out on course.  I got to watch my teammate Suzanne ride the first few fences with her 5 year old (or maybe only 4?).  Then it was our turn out of the start box!

I didn’t feel any hesitation from Murray at all as we came up to the first fence, he was all go, go, go! ¬†Between fences 1 and 2 we got up a pretty good canter, and Murray only went off the track for a little while as he gave the prelim/training start box a wide berth. ¬†Fence two was a bright blue bicycle rack off of a tight turn that I rode firmly too, since we’d had a stop there last year. ¬†Fence three was Excalibur, and Murray had some second thoughts about the line of fences and jump judges to the left of the sword. ¬†He ran pretty far to the right, but I pointed him back at the fence, trotted him to it, and over we went.

Fence three to four was where Murray really started to gallop, and since fence four was a little table I let him at it. ¬†There was a huge stretch between four and five as well, and Murray really got moving there. ¬†We were going pretty fast — around 500 mpm — and as we came up the small rise to fence 5 I over-checked Murray a little. ¬†He didn’t care, leaped over the post and rail fence, and continued on to six. ¬†Six A-B were close to five, and my main spot of worry for the course: they were on a downhill, not quite a straight approach from 5, and had a bending line between the two fences. ¬†But I pointed Murray at them and he just went! ¬†It was the exact same thing with fence 7 — he was galloping over to it so fast, I remember thinking that the wind was really, really loud in my ears — and about six strides out I asked him to come back to me a bit and look at the fence. ¬†He looked at it, decided it wasn’t a problem despite being pretty slanted and bright pink, and galloped on.

rainbow neck strap ftw

Fence eight was where I got us in trouble. ¬†We were barreling down to the trakhener, and I knew we were going to have trouble with it at that speed. ¬†Murray wasn’t listening to the brakes though, so I tried to keep my leg on while I aggressively half halted. ¬†This got his attention back, but it was too much hand a little too late, and he came to a jerky stop about a stride from the fence. ¬†I had heard the TD describe earlier that she did¬†not want any horses jumping fences from a stand still, so I knew I wasn’t going to squeak by without the stop anyway, so I walked Murray up to the fence, circled at the canter, and he leaped over no problem.

I should have known this could be a problem spot for us, but I guess I was too worried about the 6AB combo to think about the downhill approach to the trak. ¬†I also didn’t think we’d be going 450+ mpm, I thought we’d be cruising along at a much more rateable 350 mpm. ¬†Had I thought about it in advance, I would have asked my trainer (duh), or thought to circle well back from the fence to get Murray’s attention back on me. ¬†Alas, I didn’t think about it, and I certainly wasn’t able to think about it out on course. ¬†But at least it was a new mistake, and not one that I will make again!

camelot is quite pretty!

I briefly pondered how I should handle the rest of the course now that I had a stop. ¬†Should I slow down? ¬†Should I school the water? ¬†I decided to push on — we’d had such a good run so far, there was no reason to slow Murray down and disrupt the flow of the course. ¬†There was also not very much course left — we were 3/4 of the way home anyway.

Despite the ¬†many training and prelim fences surrounding our water entrance, Murray cantered in no problem. ¬†Our second to last two fences were a half coffin, and I slowed Murray up a fair bit so he would see the ditch and not step in it. ¬†I needn’t have worried, since he went right over it, and happily redirected over the sharkstooth second element.

jumping ahead was quite prevalent on course – ah well

I’m so, so happy with how cross country turned out. ¬†I had wanted to run clear and within the time, but I’m okay that it didn’t happen. ¬†The mistake was mine, not Murray’s, and it was an honest one. ¬†Everything about the course minus that one moment felt fantastic — we were going fast, but were totally in control (well, we had steering, if bad brakes), and the speed wasn’t an evasion. ¬†Instead of using speed to mask his insecurities, Murray was excited to be out there, and whatever I pointed him at he was game to jump. ¬†THAT is a huge accomplishment. ¬†Even if it’s not all that different from Twin, this time I was right there with him, instead of holding on for dear life!

teammates!