Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Rocking Horse December HT: Cross Country

JT and I walked the cross country course together between my dressage and stadium, planning out each combination carefully. Some jumps though, she has the general solid advice "Canter, jump it, don't do anything weird." Fair enough, that's all a lot of them take. 

Weeeee!! A training course map! 

The first three were pretty normal - #1 was a yellow house that is a slightly larger version of the one on the novice course. Nice gallop from that to #2. The trailer parking was off to the left, so JT warned they can sometimes get drawn off to that, kinda lolly gagging along. 

#2 - get his attention back to this jump early if he's off in lala land

#3 - straight forward coop, I wasn't sure how spooky he was going to be to this though

The first combination came up at #4 - two coops with a bending line of 5 strides between them. Tricky part was they were placed RIGHT next to the tree line. And I knew Ben was going to spook at the tree line. JT told me to keep my eye on the jump no matter what. Even if we were shooting sideways, my eye was on A, riding to it. 

#4 A


#5 was a bench through the tree line, and then #6 was a half coffin. It was down a slight downhill, but not much of one compared to what we have done at Magnolia Sands. Same as the ditch on the novice course, I was told to get his ears up and repeatedly go "Do you see THAT? We are JUMPING that!" 

Then it was a right hand turn to the water combo. We have schooled a very similar line at the horse park with a larger roll top, one stride to the water, through the water, then out over a chevron. Because he had done that so well in the past, this one didn't really give me any concerns. 

Whole line through 

To part C

#8 was an oxer, then #9 was a brush that I didn't get too close to on the ground. 

Hello there from a distance... I will canter you, jump you, and not do anything (too) weird 

#10 was another combo, roll top to wedge. Again the part that I thought might be tricky for Ben was the spooking at the other jumps on the left. Modified had a WHOLE ditch and wall right by the roll top that was really quite scary looking.

Our part B off to the right

Then there was a much friendlier looking brush and then a nice stretch to a small log, right hand turn up a hill to a tiny log on top of a hill. Again, at Magnolia Sands we have jumped a BN sized train at the top of a hill, so this didn't seem too shocking. Almost like JT has a plan to make us well prepared when we move up!! 

Jump this log at a little angle to let him know we are doing something pretty soon after, not just galloping away again

To turn right and head up the hill to catch this one

#14 and 15 were canter, jump them, don't do anything weird. #16 was another combo - a house to a legit corner. We are still at the point though where the corners can be jumped straight on to their ground line. We walked a few different angles of the coop to the corner, they all walked out as 7 strides. 

White house there in the distance

Part B corner in some funky lighting there

Then #17 was a table shared with novice and #18 finished with a log on box shared with modified.

It was the first time they offered modified at Rocking Horse, and it looked to my ignorant eyes like they had done a really good job. It definitely seemed more challenging than training, but looked more doable than prelim, which is what my understanding of modified is. 

It was really, really nice to go out and know that we had done more challenging versions of all of these combinations before at Magnolia Sands. We'd done a roll top to wedge, but the one we'd schooled was down a hill to the wedge. We'd done a full coffin set on a large hill. We'd done bending lines and corners and basically all the things. The jumps did look BIG to me though, but I don't walk up to what I jump on foot much... which I might need to start doing. And novice looked small, so I knew I was signed up for the right level. I borrowed Ms. GY's bike to go around the course once more after we did stadium. And even the few inches of height the bike added made the bigger jumps look less intimidating. I still didn't get too close to the first brush though. 

Then Ben and I drove home and he got dinner and then got turned out. The next morning I woke up at 1:30, convinced myself to fall back asleep, then woke up at 5:30. That time I got up. It was probably good I did because Ben took forever to eat, continually staring out the back window of his stall. I spook him with my head lamp, but I also don't have another way to see pre-dawn, so he's gotta get a little bit used to it lol. 

We loaded up and got there around 8. Training cross country ran training first then they back tracked to intermediate, prelim, and modified after the ground was a bit drier and the sun was a bit higher. We were sitting in 6th, we'd been tied for 3rd after dressage, but our rail dropped us down a few places. I was trying not to pay any attention to that though because I just wanted to finish without refusals in stadium and without cross country jump penalties. 

I did finally figure out how to use my Garmin watch to count down for cross country - I can program a time and distance into it and then when I start it will tell me if I'm on track for that time or too fast or too slow. I was pretty certain it could do something like that, but since I only use it to log mileage and time for my runs, I had to play with it a bit to get there. But I was also solidly refusing to buy an optimum time watch. 

When we arrived Ben got a little walk around. He took in the cross country course in the distance and definitely knew what was up. We tacked up about 30 minutes before hand and headed over to warm up. I was going to walk him for 10 minutes, but he got jazzed up about horses galloping around warm up. His "jazzed up" is pretty adorable - he starts tossing his head and shaking it a little bit, mostly down, not up into my space, and sometimes he'll add a little squeal. He also starts jigging. None of it is that much or really anything other than endearing to me, but he also won't particularly walk and it isn't worth the fight. So we trotted and then cantered with some back and forth to the gallop, then tried walking again in the quieter area of warm up. 

Our jumps were not particularly inspiring, we were getting to a tight spot almost every time. But he was jumping honestly and jumping athletically from that spot, so we took it. We did end on the triple bar to a wedge to a skinny roll top and he jumped the wedge and roll top GREAT. 

As we headed over to the box I looked at JT and said "Mine are the black sign with white writing, right?" She hid any horror and just answered, YEP! Then she told me to have fun out there with my friend and no matter what to keep believing in it. Then off we went! As opposed to last time, Ben came out of the box and knew his job from start to finish. It was just so much FUN!! 

One, two and three jumped great. We did skid sideways a small amount as we headed to four, but JT's advice worked and he jumped A great and did no spooking in between to jump B great as well. 


He did seem a bit surprised by the ditch, but I was stretching up with spurs in so he went still. He made up for it at the water combo though. I am not quite sure what happened, but suddenly we were halfway through the fairly small water and I wasn't pointing him at C yet, so it was a kind of sharp, surprising turn to C and he was very honest and game to it. 


For part C

We jumped the brush just fine, proving I hadn't needed to avoid looking it in the eye when I was walking it. He did spook a bit at the jumps near 10, but was game to it. 

Somewhere around 11, I noticed that I was not actually half halting and then releasing hands to the jump as we were going, so I added that back in and he started jumping much better. 

And over the triple bar!

He did squeeze in an extra 8th stride between the house and the corner, but again I never doubted we were DOING IT! From there the two to the finish were straight forward and then we were done!!! We were 19 seconds under optimum time and clear!! I am not a crying of happiness kinda person, but I had tears in my eyes hugging him afterwards. JT gave me a huge hug and was just as happy as I was. It was just so much fun to be out there galloping around with a horse that I trust and love. 

Getting his post-XC hose - I found this green sun shirt on sale at Smart Pak when I was buying a fluffy thin line... I am very pleased with it... now I just need to get a green belt and I will be fully green...

I iced him then loaded up to go home to the GY's this time. 

His BFF who doesn't bite him is the first one in line there. Ben walked straight up to him and they sniffed noses. I of course missed that moment and got this one where his friend doesn't look thrilled, but it was really adorable. 

He did some fancy prancing around his field, and he is looking really great right now. We've made some feed changes recently that have really made him fill out and look fantastic. It's great to have him so close again, Monday morning I popped right over and did some massage and some stretches with him. 

Monday, December 5, 2022

Rocking Horse December HT: Dressage and Stadium

Alternate title: The one time in my life I made good fashion choices

I lucked out this weekend with the most civilized ride times of our whole barn group. Poor JT had one in prelim dressage at 8:30 AM and then one in novice rider stadium at 5 PM. Yuck. I did dressage at 11:30 and then jumped at 3. Plenty of time in between to unwind, walk stadium and cross country, and eat lunch. Sunday I went cross country at 9:30 and so got to beat the heat and be home and unpacked by 2 PM. 

I braided Ben at the barn Saturday morning before we hauled over. He wasn't bad to braid at the show last time, but since I was hauling just him, it was easier to do at the barn on the cross ties. He warmed up for dressage like a total professional. He is actually easier at shows than at home. He keeps spooking to a minimum and seems to know we're there to do the thing. Plus since he's not there all the time, things can't MOVE in between him seeing them, which is truly the most upsetting thing to him. 

We had practiced the test on Monday with JT - Training A. It is... interesting. For one, I am still somewhat surprised by small arenas and how freaking fast things come up. For two, canter lengthenings on a circle just seem mean. What's wrong with a long side and then returning to working canter at the corner letter when you also have the corner of the ring to help bring them back? JT told me to show a clear lengthening, you have to feel like you are going SO forward you are about to jump out of the ring. The purpose for training level does say "To confirm that the horse and rider... have an understanding of the development of thrust..." so there we go. Along with "Accuracy of movements and transitions now becomes more important." She also helped me figure out how to ride the "K-D half circle left 10 meters returning to track at E" (ice cream cones as I have called them). If you point at E, you end up not making it to E with the horse's shoulder and your body, very apparent from the judge's spot at C. So she said aim to just before E in order to make it look accurate. 

At the show, he went in and did the thing like a complete professional. We shoved sugar cubes in his mouth just before hand. Other than noticing him actively chewing them as I did my free walk, it worked well. The tongue stayed put the whole test. Good boy, thank you Ben. 

We scored a 29.4 with the collectives "Willing horse shows correct training. Well ridden test." Hooray! 

Stadium... well he was relaxed and he jumped the jumps and we only had one rail. We did in fact put three strides into a two stride again. But that wasn't even the rail he knocked... the past month has helped me realize that even when we (specifically I) screw things up, he can in fact still jump 3'3" fences from a not ideal spot. When we stopped out of our 1.0m class at Sweet Dixie in August I decided that if I got him to slightly the wrong spot, he could not possibly make it over the jump. False. Sure he jumps better from the correct spot. And unlike Zinger who would get himself to the right spot regardless of what I was doing, Ben does in fact end up at the spot that I ride him to. Blessing and a curse, Zing definitely gave me the middle finger sometimes trying to adjust striding in lines that he was sure he knew better than me in. But Ben will also end up at a super awkward spot if that is what I ride him to. Now though he will fix it for me by jumping up athletically from that spot. 

Side tracking for a moment... I normally drink a second cup of coffee around lunch time. What with walking courses and braiding Ms. GY's horse for her, I forgot to. And that was the way our round felt. Thursday in our jump lesson Ben had played with some extra pizazz after the fences. And on the Sunday before he had been so freaking tight and spooky at Majestic. So I was not expecting the relaxed, soft horse I had on Saturday. I'm not complaining, it was a very pleasant round. I at no point doubted he was going over the jumps and it was really nice to not be shooting sideways spooking at things in the ring. But I definitely could've used more leg and more forward. It was different than when he's been stiff, quick and still behind the leg, it was just a lack of leg. Ms. GY summed up our three strides in the two with "He wasn't sticky, it was just... off". He got a tight spot in and I did not land and GO, so we put three strides in and then he tidily jumped out. At least that's the way it felt, I haven't gotten the video yet. 

But anyways, we did it! We jumped our first recognized training level round! And only had one rail!!!!

My green coat and green bonnet combo for dressage and stadium is still getting the MOST comments I have ever gotten on a fashion choice (not a high bar to beat... I live in t-shirts and jeans or running shorts most of the time). I don't think I realized the green was going to be quite so unique, but I added a bonnet to my PSofSweden order when I got Yoshi a bridle, and the green was my favorite. So when I sweated to death last April in my regular black show coat and JT recommended the AA Motion Lite coats, I picked out a green one to go with the bonnet. And last show and this show, multiple people have told me how nice it looks. Also, those coats are pretty stellar. I have been SO much comfier in that than my old show coat. If FL ever throws a cold winter show at us, I'll probably break that back out, but until then, it is the AA motion lite FTW. If there is a slight breeze I can actually FEEL it through my coat. It is wonderful. 

I have no photo to go with the last paragraph... I'm eagerly awaiting pro pics from this show, so hopefully there will be a good stadium one to snag. 

Saturday, December 3, 2022

November Wrap Up

Ben had: 

  • 22 rides
  • 1 saddle that fits!! Woohoo! We got our jump saddle back from being verrrrryyy specially paneled in the middle of the month. He has been ridden exclusively in that and has been very happy. Now we're going to ship the dressage saddle off to get jump panels put on it that are duplicates of the ones on the jump saddle. 

The cutest, sweetest face 

Looking ahead: 
  • Rocking Horse Dec Horse Trials this weekend at training! 
  • Moving back to the GY's on Sunday 
  • I want to play more on the ground in December - he did a lot of hand grazing at JT's while I watched other lessons, but we didn't do any lunging or hunting the pole. I can certainly move things around at JT's, but have to put them back whereas at the GY's they'll often play with exercises I set up, so I can leave things down, which appeals to my lazy side. I definitely do clean up after myself, but I like to use things twice before doing so LOL. 
Ben and friend before one of our best planned rides... pre-hurricane hack with two silly TBs... everyone kept themselves together fortunately 

Tuesday, November 29, 2022

Checking the lug nuts

When the wheels fell off the bus when Ben's feet hurt and he started stopping at fences, Ms. GY said "You don't look nervous though," I said that I was actually incredibly nervous. I think this was somewhat of a surprise to JT. I don't really show my emotions much. I will feel like I am incredibly stressed and panicky, but I don't seem to appear that way to other people. So I guess I need to use my words more often. JT said that going forward, we would make sure the wheels were so securely put back on that even if he stopped, my reaction would not be to panic and start riding defensively as though he was not going to leave the ground at the next fence either. 

Our jump lessons have been geared in that direction. When we jumped before the November Rocking Horse, we left the jumps at novice height. It looked and felt easy. Then we had our lovely course at the show where he loped around like a hunter (with a bit of sass). Our jumping lesson on Tuesday we went back up in height. Ben was FEELING himself like crazy and was playing in the corners. I was able to go with that mostly okay and tell him to get it together with leg on, but then he hit a couple of rails and started taking off a bit. 

We finally got it all together for our second to last time through the course. Watching the video though, I need to square my shoulders and put my butt in the saddle like woah. I ordered some K tape to use to try to remind myself. I've been pretty dedicated to doing my "T's, Y's, and W's" and my husband's assessment is that the strength is there in the upper back, but I need to strengthen the lower back and remind myself to use those muscles I've developed. 

We had a check in of how well we had it together on Sunday at a schooling jumper show. The course was a bit interesting with a quadruple across the diagonal - a 4 stride to a 1 stride to a 3 stride. ohhhh boy. Ben warmed up spooky, shocking, I know. But he was jumping well. JT popped the warmup oxer up to 3'6"-3'9" and I did that without too much screaming, so we went in. He then pretended like he had never been in the ring before and spooked at EVERYTHING. I wasn't able to move his back enough to soften him up and get him to take a breath, probably because I didn't try very much. But y'know what? He still went in there and jumped all the jumps. 

When we turned to the quadruple, he definitely took in the whole line and then screamed a bit. But I sat up and rode him forward and he did the dang thing. I told JT it felt scrappy when we came out. She said it didn't look that bad, and she was right, the video doesn't look quite as screamy/scrappy as it felt. He knocked two rails in the first round, JT noted "He jumps by braille when his back is tight." 

The second round was a bit smoother, we still had two rails, but one was a complete derp at the second jump and the other was him spooking at someone racking on the other side of the skinny. We still majorly chipped to the one stride and he consequently had to launch for the out, but we put the right number of strides in all the related distances and again I didn't question for a second whether or not he was going to jump. 

We are doing one final jump lesson on Thursday and then heading to Rocking Horse this weekend! 

Friday, November 25, 2022

Blog Hop - 10 Questions

A fun blog hop, from T over at Raincoast Rider

1. What's your favorite thing about your current horse? 

Ben is very honestly THE NICEST PERSON. JT and I say it all the time. He is just the sweetest, most lovely horse ever. I don't think anything in the world could make this horse kick or bite a human intentionally. When he was on stall rest he ::ahem:: bounced on my arm a bit. But it was just sheer bouncing exuberance. Nothing nasty. When you do things that are painful (ie chiro adjustments, hock injections) he just makes sad puppy dog faces at you, he doesn't threaten. He is such a pleasure to be around because he is just so kind and nice. 

2. What do you find to be the most challenging about your current horse? 
His spookiness. He is genuinely quite frightened by a large number of things. We are getting much better at functioning in spite of it, but he will never be a brave horse. I am getting better at accepting this too and not trying to put a rational human brain onto his actions. He is who he is, everything he does is honest. 

3. If you could only hire one person to help you, would it be with coaching, riding/training, or barn work? 
Absolutely coaching. I don't have a barn so the barn work I do is to help the GY's out or because I enjoy it. And while Ben has definitely benefited from JT's training rides and shows, if I could only have one, it would definitely be her coaching me. Granted she does both coaching and riding.... soooooo if I get one person, it is her. 

4. What's something you want to learn or wish you were better at? 
Hrm... I would LOVE to learn how to start a baby from the ground up. If I ever own a baby, this is something I am definitely paying someone to do, but it would be very cool to learn to do it with the trainer. 

5. Shout out to your support crew. Who are they? 
My husband, absolutely, he hand walked at least twice a week when he was on stall rest while I was in vet school. JT and her whole barn - she does an AMAZING job cultivating a supportive, caring environment where everyone is cheering for everyone else. And the GY's. I have only know JT and the GY's since... June of 2021 and April of 2021 respectively, but it feels like I have known them so much longer. 

6. Favorite book, website, podcast, or other equine resource? 
Book wise, Equine Fitness by Jec Aristotle Ballou is one that I keep finding myself returning to every few months.

7. If money was no object, what would you do all day? 
Each day would vary. I would certainly have a second horse. I'd keep the young, up and coming 3-5 year old with JT. She'd do 2 days a week and then I'd do 2 lessons a week on/with said horse. I'd work relief, 1-2 days a week, 7AM to 3 PM, to keep myself busy and keep my mind engaged. Ben would stay with the GY's and our schedule would be basically as it has been. Since I was only working 1-2 days a week though I'd be fully able to embrace riding him 5-6 days a week. The two horses, cat, husband, and I (and maybe the chickens and pigs?? Or I'd just pay someone to take care of them here in FL) would all go to the mountains of NC for July and August though, we'd have a nice 10 acre pasture up there somewhere with access to some trails to enjoy during their summer vacays. I might fly my BFF in from Oklahoma so I would have someone to ride with as well. 

8. Because this is the real world and horses are expensive, have you ever had a side hustle or considered having one? 
Kind of? During undergrad I was a TA for multiple courses, worked at the farmer's market every Saturday, and worked at the student Writing Resource Center. During vet school, I worked as a tech at the school and worked at Zinger's barn. Now I have my full time job, but also pick up relief shifts as they work for my schedule at a few different places. That money gives me less guilt about things like having to buy completely different saddles for the swap from Ben to Yoshi. But it isn't some unique and creative side hustle... it's just more of what I already do lol. 

9. What's the best horsey decision you've ever made? 
Oh man. Recent one would definitely be  hunting down JT! She's an amazing trainer who helped me so much with Yoshi AND connected me to Ben. 

In all my horsey career? Definitely deciding to keep Zing when I went to undergrad. I tossed around the idea of selling him because he was worth a decent chunk and financially it would have made more sense, but... yeah. Love of my horsey life. 

10. Worst decision? 
I still regret saying "yeah we can do one more" at the end of the clinic that led to Leila somersaulting. But it did show us her nasty cervical OA that was probably part of why she wasn't particularly willing to bend. She was just such a sweet, kind mare though and didn't deserve that trauma though.  

11. What's the best thing that happened to you or that you accomplished in 2022? 
Meeting and then buying Ben! 

Monday, November 21, 2022

Levels of Dedication

Side note, this entire post is a work through of a very first world problem. At the end of the day, I am SO SO happy to be out doing the thing with a sound and happy horse. The goals other than that are just icing on the cake. 

When I said to JT back in August that my goals for this competition year were to move up to training level, qualify for AECs, and then attend AECs, I was a bit... naive. I was not particularly unaware of the difficulty of qualifying - area 3 is large and competitive, especially in the winter season. As a long time stalker of event entries to watch the live scores for local events, I knew it was going to be tough. 

Rocking Horse Winter 1 - open training, open used for the dramatic effect of "You can be out of the ribbons with a 31??" 

That same event, the winning score in the training rider division was a 28.1 with second place being a 32.3. Ocala Winter I training rider division winners were around 32, with the top three being very closely clustered together. Rocking Horse Winter II first through third were all under 30.5. So basically we need a stellar dressage test and no more than 1 rail (if that, depending on the group) and then the obvious clear cross country trip (or clear jumping with minimal time) to think about being in first or second to get our qualifying score for AECs. But honestly, if we're going to go to AECs, not just to go, but to plan on being competitive, those are fair qualifications. 

First though, getting out there and completing a training level event. That's where my naivete shows. Welcome to the blog of an amateur eventer LOL. I alluded to it in this post regarding how difficult training level cross country is, but that's just the beginning. Ben is a thoroughbred, so the challenges of fitness are less than in a lot of WB types, but they are still present. The competence aspect is more pressing though. I suspect that by the time we are competent at each phase, the thoroughbred is going to be fit enough. We do roughly one day a week with 20 min trot followed by 3 x 3 min canter sets with 2 minutes in between each canter set. Some forward and back in the canter, not just galumphing along. And another flat day has 20 minutes of long/low trot (if we're sane enough to long and low) added to the end of it. 

He is so delighted by his stall guard

That competence though... moving up to a new level... requires 6 rides most weeks. It has become clear to me this fall that I have been sitting at a 4-5 rides a week level for... well... forever. Adding in that extra 1-2 rides a week does put a bit of pressure on my schedule. I have an amazing amount of time off with my job, but the days I do work I have 8-12 hour shifts. Riding before an 8 hour shift is totally doable. Riding before a 12 hour shift? Mehhhhhh gets a little wearing by the third day because that means sleep is minimized in order to work and fit in riding. The obvious solution here is keeping Ben at JT's and having her do a training ride each week. A training ride would be good for him and mean just 5 days of riding instead of 6. But when he is at her barn, it is a 3-4 hour production to go ride rather than a 2-3 hour production at the GY's because of the extra driving time to JT's. The other benefit of him being at JT's though is that I don't have to haul to a lesson each week, which makes one of the rides while boarding with the GY's a 5-6 hour day instead of 2-3. Tough world I'm living in deciding between two places where I love the people and my horse gets incredible care. 

So there's the logistics of riding 6 days a week. No perfect solution unfortunately unless I suddenly become independently wealthy. I have considered going to only relief work and making my own schedule, but... benefits and all... not quite a jump that I am ready to make at this time. This fall has been a split of time at JT's and the GY's, we'll see how the rest of the winter pans out. 

Our ideal schedule for theoretical competence and fitness: 
  • Trot/canter sets
  • Dressage day
  • 1 hr+ walk hack
  • Jump lesson 
  • Light dressage + 20 minutes trot 
  • Possible cross country schooling? Or second light jump day? Or another dressage day
  • Off 
Most recent walk hack, always a little dicey taking out my phone to take a picture on a cold windy day, but we survived

Now that I have put a goal out there, I am committed to the going for it for 2023. But beyond that? I'm not sure that I am a person who wants to be regularly competing at training level (and certainly not above). I do suspect that once we are established at training level, it will get a little easier. A little bit less stress around going in and jumping a meter course. A bit less need to get the jump lesson weekly, once every 1.5 weeks might suffice. We might be able to slip by with XC schooling once a month instead of once every 2-3 weeks. But we might not... and I think I could be content bopping around novice for forever. 

Friday, November 11, 2022

October Wrap Up

Better late than never, I suppose. 

Ben had: 
  • 19 rides
    • 5 with JT including a training level event where they finished second and a stand alone training XC run at Majestic where he was soft and lovely and easy 
    • 1 off property trail ride
    • 1 cross country school
    • 2 jump lessons, one of which was where things fell apart
  • 5 walk/trot lunging sessions where we practiced relaxation in all and hunting ground poles in a few 
  • Unfortunately a very sore back and sore feet 
October was also when I braided my horse for the first time since high school. He also got his first clip, and I managed to do a much more respectable pattern than on Yoshi last year

Overall a bit bumpy of a month, but it ended on a positive note! 

Wednesday, November 9, 2022

Rocking Horse Fall HT: Cross Country

The boys got to spend the night at home Saturday night and then get loaded up at a brighter 7:30 AM again to head over. Ben travelled SO quiet with the other horse. No giant thumping around in spite of being confined to a single stall rather than his cushy box stall. Then we hung out for a WHILE. And I walked cross country again, just making sure I knew exactly where I was going. 

#1 house

Right hand turn through some trees for #2 bench

#3 - ramp

Another right hand turn past the T/P/I combos to #4 - "feeder"

Forward gallop to #5 - table thing

#6 triple bar

#7 was right next to the training #7  which was up on the hill to the left with a steeper landing. Novice got a stride then down a hill. 

#8 bench - JT - "JUMP the decoration, that is where you are jumping, no where else" (ie don't let him wiggle)

#9 our friend the tiny corner from last April. Love that they put it by some spooky trees. We were instructed to jump it on the flat front face or even angled a tiny bit towards the "wider" back of the corner

A nice gallop to #10 - a brush fence

Another nice long gallop to a ramp for #11

12AB - rolltop few strides to water

13- Roll top a few strides out of the water

Another little gallop to a ditch at 14 - JT's instructions "Check in 3 times - DO YOU SEE IT?!?!" 

Long gallop through some woods to #15 

Forward to 16AB - they were so far apart I did not count strides

B - a right hand turn through a clump of trees to the little ramp

AND 17! 

Hanging out, looking so handsome

He warmed up well, we were ready a bit early because they were running 10 minutes early. So when they were looking for a volunteer, we headed right over. He left the box.... uhm... and then acted like he'd never seen a cross country jump before as I pointed him at 1. I think he was looking at the bigger ones to the left going "we've been jumping those though". From there, everything was beautiful. He just flowed around in such a lovely fashion. Around #7 I thought how tired I was and then went "WTF, I've changed my workouts, we've changed the bit, why am I tired" and then I think took a deep breath for the first time and smiled. Breathing helped AMAZINGLY well with the tiredness, imagine that. Then I realized it was FUN! We were going and jumping and just having a good time. 

The only bobble/time I felt him kind of take off a bit was when I asked him several times if he saw the ditch and he landed from that a bit offended - "Of course I saw it! I got this!" 

Last fence! Weeee!!

I did not buy the pro picture package (only $109 for all the images if you buy it before the show!) because of his several hundred dollar vet bill right before the show. But JT caught the nice XC one above and our whole stadium round on video. 

We ended up third out of 19! We were tied for third, but fortunately my "gallop" is apparently not that fast, so we were closest to optimum time so broke the tie breaker. Looks like I'll need to pick up the pace for training!! Which is hopefully back on the agenda for the December Rocking Horse.