We had moved up to third after Stadium so you better believe I was determined not to get any silly time penalties for XC. Thankfully, I wasn’t worried about any runouts as long as I stayed focused. The course was a little weird but not particularly difficult. There were, however, a lot of faux baby keyholes and light/dark questions. Since Gus is usually very willing and we had just had our best stadium round the day before, I was feeling confident.
As long as I didn’t come in over time that is… because the way I walked the course, I was definitely going to come in over OT if I rode at the posted speed of 325. No bueno.
So what is a girl and her OTTB to do? Well, up the speed of course! Lol. I had all my minute markers mapped out and knew that I had to get a time over 5 minutes but under 6. That shouldn’t be too difficult on an ex-racehorse. And it wasn’t, the course ran fast!
I met my first three minute markers perfectly. We came out of the start box a little heated so the first fence was less than pretty but worked. Then came the coal box which we’ve jumped a million times before but Gus was not focusing so it surprised him. Again, no issue but at least it got his head out from his chest and we moved on to the third fence (a “double” coop between trees) and jumped it beautifully. That’s when the first minute marker rang right on time as we swung around to fence four a simple log into the woods.
The path to fence five from four was weird. We had to swing wide out of the woods and then back in. I actually rode my line completely wrong and almost missed the fence. Thankfully Gus didn’t think twice about the full sized house (complete with squirrels) and we went cantering into the woods. Our second minute marker was supposed to ring after a quick jaunt through the woods and right before we jumped fence six out of the woods and we hit it perfectly (and the fence out… though Gus did spook at the jump judge).
It was then time for the little squid jump and the weirdest BN water crossing I have ever seen. You could have ridden the water in this case without ever going into it. The quickest line was to actually ride as close to the left flag as possible and immediately make a 90 degree turn around it. So silly. I rode hard into the water and did a roll back. I didn’t want to risk missing the flag and we need the water practice. It still rode weird but whatever, sometimes you have to go with it.
Still doing well on time, we jumped a semi related distance of a lattice vertical and a table. Between those was our third minute marker. So far, so good but that’s where my luck ran out. Not with Gus being a superstar though.
The next fence was a “squeeze” and you had the choice of two different skinnies between three trees. I ended up taking the one on the left just because it felt better but I had no really reason for saying that. Either way, despite the squeeze and the dark, Gus didn’t even hesitate. I was still trying to be cognoscente of my time and took a wide swing around to the up bank combo but then I got confused and thought I was behind time and let Gus go a little bit faster to the mushrooms which was fence 13. We were still flying after that fence and as we came down the hill. That’s when I looked at my watch and went “oh crap, we’re going to get speed faults.”
We slowed down to a reasonable pace to jump a really pretty table (seriously, why do I ride like crap when I know my husband is photographing that fence?!) but took the inside turn to a little tiny log on top of a hill and had the worst jump of the day. Ugh. Then I knew we were going to need some forward momentum to get to fence 16 and it was indeed the only fence that Gus slightly hesitated at. I can’t blame him, it was a weird one and was supposed to be jumped at a bit of an angle.
We only had one fence left before the finish and I was under 5 minutes. Cue the major slow down. I think we were barely cantering and, as a consequence, barely popped over the last fence. But you know what? We came in at just over 5 minutes. No speed faults and under optimum time. Lol.
I was so happy when we crossed the finish line. While it definitely wasn’t as pretty of a course as Sporting Days, I felt like Gus had been a lot braver. So in that sense, it was a better course. Gus and I keep getting better each time we go out and our confidence keeps improving as well.
In the end, we did get our third place and I couldn’t be happier. Not only did we qualify for the AECs (which we’re not going to) we also qualified for Area III Champ Shows (going to but not competing in the champ division). That is two major goals on my list and it happened in our first two shows.