Saturday, April 27, 2013

From Rags to Riches....and back

Fence Six, the curved brushes, were the first real question on the Rolex XC course.  Before it, after a long gallop, is the stone walls, and after it comes the first water on the course.  It involves coming in fast to a narrow brush, landing down hill, two/three strides UP hill to another narrow brush.  If you don't have the correct pace and/or line, it could be dangerous.

There was an S-curve option, but surprisingly, none of the horses took it.  I thought for sure some of the first timers would, but I was wrong.

That doesn't mean that everyone took it well, however.

The first rider on course, William Fox-Pitt, would, I thought, set the bar for subsequent riders.  I was surprised, then, when he shortened his horse to the point where he almost didn't make it over the first brush, then had to gun Seacookie to make the second brush.  His second go on Chilli Morning, the leader after dressage, was nearly perfect, but he retired the horse after a refusal at the next jump.

Buck Davidson rode both of his horses fast, not spending much time setting up (that I could see), and almost left a stride out!  Same fro Phillip Dutton and the Irish rider, Austin O'Connor. Mary Kind, too, but she was more consistent.

Calico Joe and Andrew Nicholson left most of their grease on the first jump.  His ride on Quimbo was much different--very nice, very measured, and very consistent.

Poor Kendal Lehari from Canada nearly came off when her VERY scopey horse took off a stride early on the first jump.  She hung on and let him figure the second one out!

Several riders were "passengers" on the brush out.

Becky Holder had a strong ride, deer jumping the first then taking off long to the second, and her horse left a shoe at our fence.  I wonder if that's why her horse ended up having trouble later in the course??

Boyd Martin used a LOT of body language (flapping his arms) on this fence.  Peter Atkins came in at an off stride, and Henny (who's as scopey as they come) jumped BIG over both fences.

Gin and Juice and R-Star and Pawlow and Tivoli and several others had picture perfect rides.  Here's what I learned from watching this fence:

  • Knowing how much your horse is "taking you" is vital.  Those who didn't slowed down too much or allowed an almost unsafe pace.
  • I saw several tugs that weren't half halts--they slowed the impulsion--rather than compacting the horse and raising his front end.  A half-halt should bring the horse UP.
  • The riders who were quiet and balanced and WITH their horses ended up doing well EVEN when their horses had issues. 
  • The most fluid, successful riders half-halted well before the fence, then "pushed" to it in regular rhythm.

After XC, the standings changed quite a bit--William Fox-Pitt is no longer in the lead.  Now it's Andrew Nicholson's competition to lose!

We were lucky with the weather.  It was overcast the whole day, but it only spit rain a few times, and then not much.  The footing was nigh to perfect, and it never got too hot or cold.

Post XC I went to see my old OSU friends, Roxanne and Bill, and their horses.  They have two, both rescued OTTBs:  Star, a gorgeous dark bay (almost black) gelding, and Sedona, a lovely young liver chestnut mare.  I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know them--and it made me miss my ponies.

We met Stacy at Rodney's, a fantastic restaurant in Georgetown, KY, and we shared two bottles of wine and a fabulous dinner.  We traded life stories, work stories, and horse stories.  Does it get any better?

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