JR was first on cross-country. I thought the course had a lot of improvements, but I felt that the first part was pretty small and I found it hard to get in a rhythm. He was also behind my leg and it took till the coffin for me to realize I needed to go more forward. Once we got in gear he was much better and started galloping to the jumps. I had schooled Wyatt with a bit burr and that had worked out, but at Plantation I put burrs on both sides and once on course it quickly became obvious to me that this wasn’t going to work. All Wyatt could think about was his mouth, he was running in the wrong direction and I could barely make him go. We went around but had a stop at the coffin narrow, so I was pretty disappointed with that. But Syd was awesome—it’s so easy for him. He was still lacking some condition but was beautiful to ride and I felt like I had the horse I had a couple years back.
JR and Wyatt were both really spooky and sticky in the show jumping and I tried using my arms to make them go instead of my legs—a habit I have to get over! JR almost stopped at the pig jump but at the last second went over it. He had just that one down, but it was not one of those rounds you want to remember. There’s a pretty big crowd at Plantation and they’re quite close to the ring, which makes it even spookier than normal for the horses. Syd was his brilliant self in the show jumping and was clear.
So having had some problems with Wyatt at Plantation, I decided to ride him in the two-star at Fair Hill and to give him another run at Morven Park before that, where he was awesome and finished second; I was really pleased. As well as Wyatt went, I had such a hard time with JR’s dressage at Morven. I think he almost was peaking too early, with a lot of pent-up energy he was hot as a little firecracker! After all the rain on Sunday morning I opted to withdraw Syd and JR before cross-country because I had Fair Hill coming up, so they just did the dressage and show jumping. To be honest, I also think Karen’s fall the day before affected me more than I realized. I saw her over the weekend and knew how lucky she really was, but still, her fall impacted me.
To be honest, I was really happy I got all three horses to Fair Hill—it’s been a long time coming, maybe three and-a-half or four years, since I’ve had my best horses competing together. With that being said, my whole Fair Hill with JR was a learning experience. I rode him really hard the first couple days in order to get a test out of him. I think before that I might have just glossed over truly pushing him through all the way in the hope that I’d have a good test.
Wyatt was good in the dressage, but not good enough as far as making it look easy. I’ll get that this winter! Unfortunately, he stopped at 7b, the skinny at the water, and I retired. I felt there was no point in running around a 2-star with a stop. Better to go on to bigger things. My test on Syd at Fair Hill was good but not good enough. He was amazing on cross-country, maybe a little slow in the beginning, but I think I was worried about the trouble I’d had on my other horses. I was also a bit conservative with Syd because of his of a little lack of conditioning, but he came home full of run and will be better for it next year.
In hindsight, the expression that experience is something you get after you needed it applied to my Fair Hill with JR. The way JR was on the course was amazing, but took him almost eight minutes in to get it. Maybe I should have galloped him Friday night. He was so fresh in the warm-up I never really got him in front of my leg. If I’d just gone forward I would have solved most of my problems! Lucky for me, he has qualified for Kentucky and I know he’s up for it. Phillip said to me in the prize giving that I’m good in the show jumping but I need to practice cross-country more often. I’m going to try and be the cross-country queen this winter!