Camelot Horse Trials – Cross Country

After Dressage I had Cross Country at 2:55. This is the first time I’ve done an event where the phases were actually in the correct order. They were short jump judge volunteers so my husband ended up volunteering and I was going to be on my own for getting ready. We decided to walk the course early in the morning before it got insanely hot.


It was a really nice course. I know it’s hard to be creative at the Intro level since the jumps have to be so small, but Camelot did an excellent job. If you want to check out my CourseWalk, here’s the link.


Simple Log








The lighting makes this look like a log, but it’s actually an itty bitty bank


Hanging Log




Hanging Log


It’s a wall! it’s a dragon! It’s a dragon wall!




Hanging Log


Roll Top


Faux Ditch – basically a trot pole




It’s Hammer Time

The warm up ring at Camelot is great. They actually have XC jumps in the warm up ring so you’re not just jumping poles before going out to solid jumps. There’s even a bank.

warm up

There’s also a small log off to the left of this picture. Here’s a shot from the night before.

warm up log

In order to conserve energy and hocks we only did a few warm up jumps and then went to stand in the shade. I seriously do not understand the people who were warming up hard for 30-60 minutes before running XC. And it wasn’t a 3-day so the horse had already done dressage. It’s 95 degrees out. Do you really need to jump for 30+ minutes before running XC? Around 2:50 I left the shade to go up to the start box area and as I was walking up, someone on course had a fall. They ended up stopping the person on course behind her and the person before me ended up staying at the start box area for a while. I would have stayed in the shade had I known it was going to take so long. I felt really bad for the person who fell. Apparently she was going slow and the rider behind her needed to pass. Her horse flipped out about that and bucked her off.

Anyway, she did eventually get up and walk off course and was okay. Her horse was caught and also led off. The poor kid who had passed her was upset and asking her trainer if it was her fault. It wasn’t. It was just a sucky situation.

With everyone okay, they released the rider on course and then the rider at the start and eventually I got to go. And here’s where I totally fucked up. I somehow got it in to my head that the optimum time (which was 5:42) was the minimum time. It was not. I don’t really know why I messed that up. I definitely know I’ll never do it again. I had written the jumps I needed to be at per each minute marker on my left arm – because I’m classy like that – and had my watch on my right so when you see me staring at my arms in the video, that’s why.

optimum times

We started off great. You’ll see Nilla land from #1 throwing her head around. She was very excited. #2 was easy as well. She looked really hard at #3, but I gave her a little tap and some clucks and we were up and over. The castle/viewing area near #4 was absolutely terrifying and we practically side-passed by it. The #4 jump wasn’t a problem at all though she was still a bit put off by the castle nearby. The little bank at #5 was easy and #6 flowed well too.

We had a bit of downhill to #7 which was a little tiny trakehner. Nilla’s never done a trakehner, but she doesn’t care at all about ditches and this ditch was so tiny as to be barely a ditch so I wasn’t worried. I thought the hill down was more concerning, but Nilla was really only concerned about the jump judge at #7 who was apparently terrifying although in no way different from any of the other judges and well set off from the actual jump.

PC Susie Heffernan

PC Susie Heffernan

There are two weird sections in the video going to #8 and to #9 where I had to fast forward to get my video to be short enough to upload since I don’t have the pro Vimeo account. Sorry about that. I was trotting these two sections because I thought I was ahead. Because I had brain-farted on the whole meaning of optimum time. #8 was easy. I thought she might care about #9 since it had the dragon tail and we’ve never jumped a stone wall before either, but she didn’t.

Going into the water she slammed on the breaks, but I pushed her hard and she didn’t actually stop, just walked in. Once in, we picked up trot and carried on through. One of the photographer’s caught a picture of me petting her and telling her she was a good mule for going through the water. I wish I’d know she was there, I would have tried to look up and smile.


PC Susie Heffernan

#11 was a nice easy log. My husband was jump-judging #12 and #13, but was able to see #11 so he caught a shot of us landing from there.


#12 was also easy. She was really just loving it. Check those happy ears. Speaking of ears, I overheard the announcer at one point telling people they might have noticed that this horse has big ears. My husband said he kept referring to her as the hee-haw. Which was fair enough; she has spent most of Friday screaming her head off.


Nilla says these jumps should be bigger

#13 was the faux ditch. It was in a line with actual ditches, but this one was really just a log with a small pile of sawdust on the other side. Now, after #13 was where I messed up my time. I knew I was supposed to get to #14 at 5 minutes. Half way between #13 and #14 I was at 4:30 so I thought I was going too fast. So I circled. Then I circled again. Because I am a giant idiot. I had to cut those circles from the video to get it short enough to upload so you don’t get to watch me fuck that up. Sorry Not sorry.

Then we went and did #14. Nilla took it like a champ and then I trotted onto #15 taking my freaking time because I thought I was good. I was not good. We popped over #15 and crossed the finish at 6:01. Which got me 7.6 penalty points. A few people had faults/were eliminated so we moved up to 6th from 7th, but we would have been tied for 5th out of 12 if I hadn’t messed up my time. 

I’m pretty pissed at myself about the time faults. If we had needed to trot and come in over time because we were staying safe or conserving energy in the heat, I’d totally be okay with it. But we came in overtime because of my own stupidity. I know Nilla doesn’t care – at all – but I feel like I let her down. She was awesome. She flew over all of those jumps and she wasn’t even tired afterwards. We’ve never cantered that much and I was worried she’d struggle, but she didn’t. I don’t consider myself an ambassador for mules. There are many better riders out there doing that. However, we do face a fair amount of stigma. Especially in eventing where we aren’t even legal. In messing up that time, I made it seem like Nilla wasn’t good enough to do it. Just a mule who can’t keep up with the OTTBs.

But she’s not. She’s an awesome cross country mule. She absolutely loves it and has tons of stamina and – as you can see from her massive over jumping – the potential to go much higher.

Anyway, enough beating myself up. Here’s the video:

Nilla Mule does Intro Cross Country at Camelot HT.

Sorry in advance for the loud breathing and the crookedness. One day I’ll remember to mark my helmet camera at the correct spot so that I don’t put it on every time and go, “now where is it level?”

34 thoughts on “Camelot Horse Trials – Cross Country

  1. Teresa

    When you beat yourself up remember that there was a dressage competitor in the olympics who went ‘off course’ and had the bell rung. She looked like she wanted to die.

    Nilla looks awesome and I love the photo of you patting her.

  2. Leah

    Everybody makes mistakes! You still did an awesome job as an ambassador for mules. I love that last jumping shot — you guys are making it look so effortless!!

  3. Megan

    couple of things:
    -thats like the best starter course ive ever seen. they really got creative and had some diverse stuff. there’s a starter in area 2 that just has a black pipe for every single jump. so boring.

    -omg she looks AWESOME over that coop!!! shes soooo cool i wish i could ride her ive always wanted to ride a mule.

    -and youre being WAY too hard on yourself. no one is looking at the score sheet going mules arent good enough – people make mistakes! especially at that level. and all the way up to the olympics when william fox pitt crossed his own tracks for basically no reason. i did the same thing at runkles first outing where i forgot my test had a halt. eeeeverybody does it. chin up!

    1. Olivia Post author

      Thanks for all the comments. I know I need to get over it and I know I will, but I’m still wallowing in my pity. Especially as the person I was tied for 7th with went on to win.
      It was an awesome intro course. I’m so glad it was more than just log, log, log.

  4. Stephanie

    Whoa, look at Nilla go in that last photo!!

    Don’t beat yourself up too much about your mistake. Happens to everyone, and you had a great course otherwise!

  5. Appydoesdressage

    Ugh I hate it the most when your own stupidity is at fault. Nilla did so well though, what a good mule. Her going over 12 is SUCH a nice picture! Congrats on doing so well!

  6. emma

    yay congrats!!! she looks fantastic in the pics and i love the helmet cam footage!!!! it looks like you both had SO MUCH FUN OMG!! and don’t worry about the time – Nilla doesn’t know or care what ‘optimum time’ means, she was just out there doing the things and loving it!

  7. Stacie Seidman

    It’s so frustrating when we humans make mistakes like that. But try not to let it get you down, that’s a really easy error to fix unlike some kind of bad habit! You’ll get it right next time. Nilla looks like she’s having the BEST time! I hope you get that last photo blown up super huge. You both look great!

  8. Sara

    Don’t be so hard on yourself. You looked great out there, had a happy and forward mule under you and ended on a great note. You won’t make the same mistake again, so take it as a learning point and enjoy th wonderful way you two went around the course.

  9. Heather

    Well, at least it looks like you guys both had a lot of fun! Those happy ears made me smile. She may have been a little wiggly here and there, but it sounds like she’s well on her way to being a xc machine!

  10. Courtney

    That photo of her jumping… wow! You guys look great! Loved the helmet cam, that was fun to watch.
    Echoing don’t be so hard on yourself. Regardless of any mistakes, at least you’re out there doing it.

  11. jenj

    Like everyone else has said, don’t beat yourself up for making a mistake. It was a learning experience and you won’t do it again. Pro tip: write the optimum time AND the minimum time on your arm. I had the exact same bit of confusion once, but because I had the info on me (literally), i figured it out and managed to come in on time.

    You both look like you’re having a blast, and that’s the most important thing! Congrads on a great run!

  12. L. Williams

    Argh I hate when I’m the one who messes up the course, I totally know what you mean, you feel like you let your partner down. But its so great you guys came out of XC so well!

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