Saturday, April 24, 2010


Once again, I learned a lot from watching every horse got over my fence on cross country today!

And luck was with us, too, in terms of the weather. The day began spitting rain (sometimes quite vehemently), but never so bad that I was worried for the riders. I knew it was coming, though...and so did the organizers. They decided to run the competition through the lunch hour, hoping to beat the BIG storm moving in by the afternoon.

It worked.

Not only did the early morning riders have to deal with very little rain, but by later morning, the sun came out, and once again my tender skin was fried.

As I watched riders walk my fence, I noticed a few things:

KOC walked it, then went back to about 10 strides out and, from what I could tell, visualized her horse going over it.
All of the Aussies went to the right (my side), and they all went VERY close to the tree. Several of the US riders walked it almost like a bending line.
William Fox-Pitt walked it both ways, but ultimately decided to go to the right (must be the Aussie influence!)

When the riders rode it right, it rode smoothly, almost like a bounce. When they didn’t, a couple things happened….either it was crazy awkward, scary, or “an adjustment” (that’s what Jimmy Wofford calls it when riders wait or go long WITH their horses…they’re still in balance, and even when they aren’t perfect, by staying balanced, they don’t LOOK out of balance/scary).

The first few riders seemed to take it as a two or even three stride, because they used the turn to collect their horses (though some seemed to have a problem collecting them this early in the course). Still, by getting the hind end under the horse, the jump (which was only 3’11) became more of a bounce. They also gave their horses some time to “see” the fence after the turn while they were checking, and then used that “you’ve seen it, now jump it” attitude to go forward.

The first rider who was a bit frightening was Debbie Rosen and The Alchemyst. They came barreling in, and while Debbie tried to check her horse, he wasn’t listening, and they took a long jump into A, and a step and a half into B (and she lost her reins, it was so awkward). Luckily, she was able to get them back and I believe she continued with one jump penalty and some time faults. Still, she didn’t look like she was in control, which was scary after the first few jumps.

Becky Holder and Comet were lovely coming through; I can’t help but hope she does well. So did Kristi Nunnick. Both women/greys bounced it in rhythm and balance. Same for Port Authority and Stephanie Rhodes-Bosch (in fact, the announcer said they looked like they were “out for a hack”!). Holly Hudspeth and Last Monarch were in that camp, too. I was sad to hear the announcer saying that Kristi and R-Star had a fall in the Hollow. I hope both are ok and come back next year—I was thoroughly impressed with the pair!

I noticed that Kyle Carter’s position is a lot like Phillip Dutton’s….a little bit back seat, but very, very still and balanced. I wonder if the former has worked with the latter?

I was one of the divot-stompers, and I was reminded of what Jimmy said last year during a course walk: if you want to know how a course rides, talk to the experts…the horses themselves. Look at where they took off/landed. Listen to the stories their footprints tell.

The divots told some pretty interesting stories!

We were lucky in that while it rained a bit in the morning, by 10 the clouds were breaking away to partial then full sunshine. Almost all of the riders wore studs, however, and a lot of them slid while checking before and sometimes between the fences. Some took off long to the first element, and landed VERY close to the other side; others came amazingly close to the tree in the middle. Will Faudree and Pawlow took only one stride between fences, jumping the B element long, but because he was balanced, he and his horse galloped on in balance.

Leslie Law was one of the few riders who approached A fairly straight, then bended into B. Phillip Dutton on Waterfront was having a difficult time—he wasn’t, I think, giving Phillip the energy he wanted, and he whacked the horse over B, then gave him a wake up spurring afterwards. I think the horse must’ve been having a bad day, for the pair retired later on course.

Karen O’Connor and Mandiba slowed down so much before A she had to cluck to her horse to make the striding to B! But I was amazed with the precision with which she rode. She know what speed and energy she wanted, and she got it. She was also amazingly quiet and “with” her horse. She is a rider to emulate!

I was looking forward to watching The Good Witch and Jennifer Wooten-DaFoe take fence 5, but she and her horse had a fall at fence 3, the skinny mushroom, and I guess her horse stepped on her, too. The two were taken to the EM/Vet respectively, and I believe both are fine.

Mara Dean and High Patriot took only one big, balanced stride between A and B.

Poor Oliver Townend, though! On his last ride of the day on Ashdale Cruise Master, the horse didn’t seem to have the “umph” that Ollie wanted; he flapped to A, then practically lifted his horse over B himself! I heard that the pair had a rotational fall at the Hollow, and I guess the horse fell on Ollie. He had to be taken to the UK medical center. I THINK his horse is ok. I’ll be thinking good thoughts for him.

I’m going to surmise that the more experienced riders took their time, but PLANNED—they began to check before the turn; they used the turn before the fence to let the horse “see” the fence; then they used their legs and reins to find a good line into the combination. I need to work on that “planning”, as well as making sure I have a good, appropriate, rhythmic pace. AND I need to be sure not to jump ahead, but to stay in balance with my horse.

Saturday evening we had a lovely dinner with Larry, Rox, Rachel, JR, Trent, Aaron, and Kate. Poor Cynthia was worn out, though; she ended up lying down and sleeping through dinner!

We want to attend the jog tomorrow at 8:00, so she’ll need to make sure I’m up in time. Until tomorrow…..

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