Sorry for the delay in posts, but it's been a long couple of nights.
Cross country day dawned cloudy and overcast, with a constant threat of rain from 9 am until 7 pm. Of course, in the end it didn't rain until after 5, so we spent the day with lots of humidity.
I spent the morning walking the course one more time, and watching some of the Advanced ride. At first, I parked myself near the Indian Burial Mound that caused so many problems last year, wondering how many were going to take the new option. Well, only one of the first few even made it that far, as many combinations (including Buck and Reggie) were caught up at the waterfall bank in the middle of the second water. Luckily, they took it off the course after the first few falls, but it felt very reminiscent of the problems the Indian Burial Mound caused last year. I continued to walk my course, stopping to watch the Advanced pairs through their combinations and got to see some amazing jumpers. I also saw some problems, concluding with a chestnut who wanted nothing to do with the bounces at the first water, but was happy to jump an Intermediate fence backwards after depositing his rider on the ground. The rider quickly got up and was okay, at least.
Unfortunately, as most people heard, there was a lovely mare, Dekorum II, who had to be euthanized after taking a bad step on the Advanced course. My heart goes out to her owner and rider and all others connected to her. After that, I knew that no matter what happened on the course that day, I would consider it a success to have my horse happy in his stall at the end of the day.
Dante warmed up well, although I felt a bit squished in warm up with several pairs trying to jump at the same time, and no galloping room. One thing I dislike about Poplar is the relatively long distance between the warm up and start box. Dante, normally pretty collected before start, jigged the whole way over, and jigged the entire time as we circled the start box. Then he bucked and charged when the starter said go, which actually is his normal m.o. He loves cross country.
We came up to the first fence, a big log, and he jumped well. I knew it was going to be a great round, at that point, but I wasn't about to take anything for granted. We galloped up the hill to the second jump, where he spooked slightly at the windmill before focusing on the jump.
Then, there was a large hill going down , then a sharp run up to a panda jump, which was amazingly adorable, with tiny panda cubs on the backside of it. I let Dante roll a bit down the hill without checking his speed, knowing he was going to need the pace to get up the hill to the panda. Sure enough, he balanced himself up quite nicely and we hit the panda at a nice stride.
Next we turned (carefully!) to the moss covered trakehner, which Dante had no problem. That was the first jump we've ever jumped that had a blue flag on it, and I am slightly psyched that we have now jumped an Advanced trakehner! The fact that it's also a two star trakehner is fine, but not nearly as neat.
Then up the hill to a skinny that I jumped slightly on the angle, in order to create a straighter line to the first combination, which was probably the combination I was most worried about.
The first combination was a small ramp that you jumped slightly on a left to right angle, with two straight strides to a right handed corner that was filled with lots of brush. The trick to it was that a large cedar type tree that edged out into your line. I have a bit of phobia of trees ever since I was twelve and I was knocked off a pony by a tree branch, breaking my arm. So yeah, trees aren't my thing.
As we came up to it, I could feel Dante questioning me slightly, asking if I was sure. I told him yes, and he said, okay, I got it, but I still felt like he was confused by the brush corner. I think that the tree kind of blended in with the brush corner, which made it hard for him to define the jump, and then the tall brush over the corner made Dante confused as to what type of jump it was. I'm pretty sure the confusion was only evident to me, as he jumped without wavering.
Next we tackled the ditch and rails, which always frightens me more than Dante. It was a pretty big ditch, and although it wasn't as large as Greenwood's Weldon's Wall, it had no brush so it seemed more imposing to me. However, again, Dante jumped it like a champ.
Then we rode what I called the coffin for brevity. Actually, it was a ditch jumped at an angle, one stride to a wedge, then uphill for a REALLY long three or a holding four to another wedge. Dante jumped the ditch not quite at as much angle as I want, but close enough that we had no problem to the first wedge, and then I just gave a small half halt up the hill for the four to the wedge. It worked perfectly, and then we were on to the civil war camp.
I jumped the civil war camp fence, which was just a cabin covered by a white sheet to look like a tent. We then swung around to the sunken road, which wasn't as difficult as the sunken road at Holly Hill. Log, one stride down, one stride on the bottom, up, one stride to another long. Again, my horse made it look easy.
Next we galloped across the field to the biggest table on course. I always worry about these, especially that I won't find my spot. But I need to stop worrying, because Dante easily has enough scope, and for some reason I just get the perfect spot to these big tables. Dante flew over it, with no problem.
Then across the road (where I definitely cut my path in a bit tight on accident before crossing) to a simple skinny rolltop.
Up next to where the crowds gathered at the first water complex. The two star jumped a large fishing pole at the top of the hill, then balanced for six strides to a canoe drop into the water, three strides across the complex to a bank up, and two strides uphill to a wedge. I'm always nervous how Dante is going to handle water, ever since he was young and had water problems, but as usual he handled it with his usual courage. Such a good boy!
Then through the woods, to a small table that doubled as a sandbox, complete with plastic buckets.
Up to the top of the hill, we did the gnome village, which was two narrow huts set at a sharp angle with two strides between. I thought Dante was be awesome at this, but he actually was greenest at this combination, wiggling before the first jump and then wiggling between them. He jumped them because I asked him to, but seemed confused as to why they weren't jumped straight. He's usually very good at sharp angles, but I think he's used to only doing angles for stadium type fences. I believe the narrowness of the fences and also the width (not verticals) confused him, so I'm going to get Mike to move his narrow rolltops into an angled line so we can practice this at home.
Then the palisade in the woods (sorry, I forgot to take a picture but it was small and boring and was harder on my one-star course last year). A fast gallop through the woods up the big hill, and then over a tall but not wide table.
Finally we came to the second water, the last combination on course. First, a hanging log, then downhill six strides to a corner jumped into the water. Dante was good here too, although slightly looky at the water, but that water is very looky so I'm not surprised.
Then to the final fence, a tiny palisade, then up to the finish.
The ground was hard and it was warm, so I pretty much ignored my watch and let Dante pick his pace around the course. Apparently Dante's chosen pace is fast, because we ended up being the only pair to make time which I was pretty proud of. He was definitely tired at the finish, not being used to hills at all, but recovered in 10 minutes when his temperature was down to 98.5 F. If he had ever given me any indication of being tired, I would have made him slow down, but he never gave me any indication that he was so tired, jumping well to the last fence. I think I need to be aware of that, and may need to plan to go slow at certain times to give him a breather, because he will never indicate to me that he's tired. Silly thoroughbreds and their big hearts.
So I jumped from 24th to 9th, but the biggest prize was having my horse looking ridiculously proud of himself for the rest of the day. :-)
Then we iced and walked and iced and walked and braided. I came to walk him at 11 pm at night and he was sacked out flat, so I let him be. I did get to have dinner in Columbus with an old college friend from UK, which was awesome. A pretty good day, in the end.