Ah, the epic conclusion.
After coming down from the high that was XC at the Kentucky Horse Park, it was time to focus on the end game. Showjumping in the stunning Rolex Stadium was honestly one of the major reasons I signed up for the AECs in the first place. And it didn’t disappoint.
Despite the fact that the ring was chock full of fences, only 11 of them were ours to jump. And they were beautifully decorated, as you can see above. But beautiful or not, fence two in particular was causing issues. Even as I was waiting my turn to enter the ring I was hearing stories of people having stops and even getting eliminated by horses not wanting to get near it, which could be understood by the bright blue water, horse-eating wheel at the left standard, and max-height and width of the thing. My own plan was to give Jack a tap with the bat to let him know stopping was not an option, and back up that assertion by keeping him between my hands and legs. The rest of the course, though big and spooky, I felt mostly OK about- Jack was either going to be with it or he wasn’t.
To say I’m proud of how this horse handled the atmosphere would be an understatement. Though (because of my bat) we got a really hollow jump at fence 2, he still went over it, and I was pleased as punch about that. The rail at 6B was frustrating, and still haunts me a bit, but take a second to appreciate how shallow the cups are and how unforgivingly placed (which is fair for a championship, but still):
He probably could have been a bit more careful about his back feet and we would have gone clean, but I’m doing my best to avoid the coulda-woulda-shoulda game. For a spooky horse who couldn’t handle ground poles two years ago, this was absolutely a milestone for us.
That rail dropped us to 7th, which I found out in true nail-biting fashion as they tried to determine if the rider in 6th got time (which would have bumped me up into the cash prizes). So we ended our AECs journey with the biggest most purplest ribbon there ever was. And you know what? Purple and yellow are complimentary colors, so I’m cool with it.
More on the lap of honor, details on how it was run, and more to come!