Show Recap: AEC Cross Country

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I know so many of you have been waiting for this. The AEC XC recap!

Let me start by just saying how in awe of that course I was. It was simply incredible to walk around the grounds, getting up close and personal with the giant log fence, the head of the lake, and the other LRKY features that I see on live stream every year. But despite the excitement, I was also slightly nervous- this was a championship of course, and I think the only fence that wasn’t maxed out was the very last fence (which I didn’t even get a picture of- a small cabin).

My biggest concern, however, was the pathfinding from fence 4 through 7.

After fences 3-4 (a bending line of solid, wide blue roll tops), I had a wide drift left to a max table. Then riders could choose left (long route) or right (short route) to a tall coop that required a hard 90* approach, lest you could somehow ride through a hundred year old oak on the direct line. Fence 7 I expected a strong peak at as well, since 2 strides out from the coop, you turned right through some trees and 7 was right on top of you- a large table with cut outs. This definitely did catch us out a bit, but I rode really positively to it and he jumped it fine.

7

Then it was a fun gallop up and over fence 8, a maxed out 3’6″ brush fence, up the bank and a bend left to 10, focus on getting the line to 11 which was another spooky cut out fence, through the water and up to the faux ditch. Fitch?

I won’t lie, whatever you want to call it- it was weird.

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I fully expected a half coffin on course. In fact, in stalking Novice courses there just months before the AECs I saw half coffins on course- with actual ditches. But at the AEC’s, BN through Training all had these- basically wooden trays filled with gravel, maybe 7″ deep. Surprising, if not strange. In any case, I ended up not giving it much thought because I was having so much fun galloping away from the water. Like, that was a blast and I have no regrets, y’all.

Anyways- from there it was across the road, over a bench and up to the head of the lake- where there was a slatted log thing leading downhill to the water. Jack peeked hard at the water, which is not normal for him but likely a result of the light changing so abruptly from light to dark, coupled with the descent to the water.

At this point in the course, I looked at my watch again. I knew I was ahead of the clock at the ditch, but after going through the water I was WAY ahead of it- like 3 fences to go and 90 seconds to optimum time. So I came back to a showjumping canter as much as possible (the open oxer needed a forward ride, as did the giant fiesta table), but I’d already done the damage by having too much fun out there. We conquered the last max jump out there and then petered in to the finish.

Though I should have slowed up a bit, that course will forever stand out as an absolute blast. Jack was solid in almost every regard, and was running ears pricked around the whole thing. I loved riding knowing I was on a team that was so supportive (woot woot #teamadultbeverages) and was lucky enough that they even got most of the course on video!

Therefore, I leave you with this. Enjoy the commentary and maybe turn the volume down 🙂

Jack the Jumping Bean: XC lesson

Sunday was our cross country school, and we had a lesson on what our is our home turf these days. It was myself and one of my #TeamAdultBeverages team members in the lesson- just two yellow ponies doing what they love.

I won’t lie, I came out fairly groggy that morning, despite having gouged 1.5 Matis (seriously- are these available outside of NC? Because if not y’all are missing out!). It took me a little bit to wake up and get my act together, and I felt bad that I was giving my horse such a lackadaisical ride despite jumping over solid fences.

I woke up when my trainer called me out on my loose leg. I have a slightly different feeling in the irons after using the TSR stirrup leathers- but more on that in a different post.

We warmed up over a small series of fences, stringing obstacles together 4-5 at a time. We did finally get to do the training roll top, and a couple other fences we hadn’t done before, but the trainer likes to keep the fences at the level before a big show (which I agree is the best game plan- no need to knock confidence by making things difficult!).

I was glad that we were able to incorporate the half coffin into our XC school, even more so because it showed me the same weakness that had cropped up the day before- running through the right shoulder.

I didn’t have the shoulder, so didn’t have the straightness, and in one attempt completely blew by the ditch because he wasn’t appreciating my ‘somewhat-there’ right rein aid. Telling? Yes, a bit. We also had a super wonky line the day before when he bulged through my right rein and got really crooked into a fence- so this is obviously something I need to work on.

Otherwise, I am mostly disappointed in how active my hands were and how rushed my upper body was. I don’t know why these couple habits have decided to reintroduce themselves- I can only guess that with my rising anxiety of the AECs that my stress is bringing to surface my bad habits. Thus, I have a casual XC schooling planned where we will just do XC elements- ditches, water, banks- to try and calm both Jack and (mostly) my nerves. I’m especially hoping to make ditches less sticky and way more boring. Nothing like putting a ditch on a circle to accomplish that!

Overall though I feel fairly confident in the XC portion of Novice level questions. Time will tell what Kentucky has to offer!

Show Recap: Longleaf HT Novice XC

Obviously, I told a major porky pie when I said I would get to the cross country part of my recap on Wednesday. Instead, Thursday morning I was emitting many four letter words in attempts to get the actual live feed of LRKY on USEF.org…. Instead, I could only access Sparrow Nio’s dressage test on repeat. It was rather distracting, and left no brain cells left for writing about cross country.

Now that my apology is out of the way, onto XC.

In all honesty, the course was not a difficult one in terms of size or complexity, unless your horse was spooky. What made that the difference were the multiple approaches to fences that required skimming other fences, landscaping, or even maneuvering between other level’s combinations in order to get in a decent jump. But the jumps themselves were fair and if anything, on the smaller side.

What I didn’t realize is that apparently folks were having trouble in between fences from 2-3, which required you to ride from the infield to outside the steeplechase course. This path was lined with white fencing (the kind you see on the perimeter of a steeplechase racetrack), and apparently the wind blowing plants behind it was crushing major problems. Two people got ejected before making it to fence 3.

Jack, for his part, somehow didn’t see what the fuss was about- at least not there. Fences 1-4 rode just fine. 5AB was a nice bending line combination over two log stacks, and while our in was beautiful, we got to the B element on a half stride, and as the photos show, the out was hella ugly. The funky lines for us really started at fence 10, which required getting really close to a training fence on our left in order to line up to a roll top with a downhill descent. Jack did not care for getting up close and personal to the other fence, was distracted by the flowers for it, and was a bit surprised when we got to our allotted obstacle.

 

11 was another tricky place, having to literally weave through an angled training combination to reach it, and 12 was a max skinny that required getting right on top of another fence to get the line correct. I won’t say those were particularly pretty fences either, but we got it done.

 

We got rolling up the hill and had a lovely jump over the max yellow house, up the tiny bank and out over the B element, and then I overshot our line to the boat before the water, but we jumped it and went into the water as planned.

The jump coming out was small, but had a terrifying bush positioned in the center of it that required the rider to choose a side a la a skinny. Jack saw the bush, spooked, then flailed over the center of it anyways. You’ll hear in the video my laughing- he tries, bless his heart, but lord smooth sailing is NOT our MO.

With one more fence on course, we ran through the finish flags more than 30 seconds under time. It was my first time in almost two decades using studs, and I was really pleased with how Jack felt- he wasn’t nearly as out of breath as I had expected, he felt confident and happy despite being spastic just moments before.

Of course the tough part about being first going into showjumping is that it’s yours to lose. I promise not to be so derelict in writing that up soon!