Although I walked my course, I didn’t do a coursewalk, because I was generally trying to not get near the jumps. Luckily, Camelot provides an official coursewalk which I was able to use for times. This was a tough course and I was not really looking forward to it.
In order to understand how Camelot went, I need to share some details about how I was feeling. In the course of panicking over Woodside, I think I made myself truly sick. In the past, I’d get a bit nervous, feel a little sick, go and do the thing, and feel fine afterwards. After Woodside, I didn’t feel better. I don’t know if I gave myself an ulcer or not, but I did go through an entire bottle of Tums in the two weeks between Woodside and Camelot. Due to some stiffness on Levi’s part, I wasn’t able to jump him at all between the two events (in fact, I only rode him once before getting to Camelot) and thus we had no chance to build any jumping confidence. By the time I had to get ready for cross country at Camelot, I was not feeling well at all.
I tried to get on as close to my time as possible as extra warm up doesn’t make me feel more confident; it just makes me feel worse. I went to check in and was told they were running behind because of a fall (not helping my nerves). I walked around for a while trying to stay calm, then did some trot and canter to get Levi’s muscles moving and checked again to find out I was next and I was like, omg I’m not ready. The steward was very understanding and told me I could take some time and go out of order. I went and popped over like 3 or 4 jumps and then went back over. I think the steward was truly concerned because he kept telling me I could take more time if I needed to and I was like, I’m not going to feel any more ready.
The first jump was small, but I was concerned about having to come around a turn to it. Levi has attitude enough about leaving the startbox, having to go around a U-turn to the first jump was not inviting. I was right to be concerned because he pitched a fit. If you watch the video, you’ll see his head duck out of view around 7 seconds in as he started bucking. We were nowhere near the jump, but I didn’t want to try to jump while bucking so I yanked him up and forced him to circle and then trot the first jump. Unfortunately, the jump judge thought he was refusing the jump and gave us a refusal.
He took off after that and I knew this entire course was going to be a fight. He did not want to slow down or listen to me at all. This was the first time I’ve had to do a real XC course that Levi had never schooled. He did the intro there in August and we schooled some bigger jumps, but not the whole course and I think he’d done maybe 2 of the jumps on the course. I was concerned that he might be stupid about jumps he’s never seen before, but Excaliber rode really well.
I wasn’t worried about the third jump because it was really small – it’s actually exactly the same size as the intro jump that he’s done before.
The fourth jump was a massive freaking table that I was terrified of. Luckily it was at the top of a long uphill slope. I am terrified of going down hills fast since he trips, but uphills are okay. I actually let him go up that hill and he locked on and took the table. He got in really close, but didn’t chip in a stride so it wasn’t that bad.
We had built up a lot of speed going up that hill and on landing we had to go down a hill to the 5A element – another table. Levi landed in speed mode, refused to slow down despite me hauling on him and yelling woah. I wouldn’t mind the speed so much if I felt like he was actually locking on to the jump. Instead he tries to power forward while wiggling hard in both directions, back and forth. We ended up zigzagging down to the jump with me never sure what’s going to happen until we’re in the air. We had a refusal.
I turned him and just stopped for a moment and stood there for a moment. Well, I tried to. Levi jigged in place. I just sat there breathing hard, trying to decide if I wanted to throw up, pass out, or just quit and walk back to the trailer. Psychosomatic or not, I was truly not feeling well at all. But I walked a bit, turned around and we jumped the damned jump.
5A and B were a combination separated by water. Because Levi likes to refuse water, Kate and I discussed our options here. If they had been numbered separately, I would have done a schooling circle through the water. But I couldn’t cross my tracks in a combo. The water wasn’t numbered, but I wasn’t sure if I could have a refusal in the middle of a combination and not get penalized. Kate didn’t know for sure either. Luckily, there was enough of a path around the water to avoid it entirely. I didn’t really want to do that because it seemed like a cheat, but I also didn’t want to get 20 points for the moral of it. If you watch the video you can see his ears flick to the water as we approach. He definitely bent away from it, but we got around and over B.
I don’t remember being particularly concerned about 6 and it was fine. We got in stupidly close because why the hell not, but we got over it.
#7 was the jump we’d done before during schooling. It jumped terribly then and I had no expectations that it would go an better now. Thankfully, Levi isn’t ditchy so even though it was a trakehner, I wasn’t worried about him spooking at it. Even Kate was concerned about him being dumb at the fence and I got extra lectures on sitting back, not jumping up his neck, and being prepared to stay on. My concern wasn’t so much the jump but the slight downhill approach to it. Levi was not interested in slowing down and we had a few discussions about pace on that hill, but he jumped it better than I thought.
On landing, we had a long, slightly uphill straightaway before we had to turn to #8. I thought letting Levi just gallop for a bit might knock some of his energy out, but I was wrong. He just thought that was fun and didn’t think we should slow down to turn to #8. He was like, this is what I do now: I gallop, no time for slowing down and turning. Levi has never jumped a bench, let alone one this startling looking. He was in mach 10 mode and as we tore down the track, he was trying to weave from side to side like, let’s just gallop around it this way. No? How about this side? No. You can see in the video that he only locks onto the jump a stride out.
Sadly there are no pictures of #9-11. The next jump was a tiny log that I was not actually worried about and he jumped it nicely. #10 was the water entrance. I talked to Kate about circling to school before presenting, but the entrance was like 50 feet wide, so I finally decided to just enter at the left hand side on an angle and if he refused we could side step down the edge and as long as we didn’t actually go backwards, we wouldn’t get a refusal. He slowed to a trot, but did go in, then we cantered out and over the canoe jump. I was happy about that jump because it was another one he’d never done before and never even seen anything similar.
The 12th jump was on top of a steep mound next to the moon. It was also where everyone had decided to hang out. As we came up the hill, Levi was like, oh look at all the people; these must be my adoring fans. And I was like, look at the jump!
We landed off that one and I whoahed him hard. I made him trot down the steep mound and then I decided to make him trot the ditch. Levi has done the ditch here before and doesn’t usually care about ditches, but because he’s not terribly ditchy, we don’t school them much and I don’t think I’d done a ditch with him in months. He jumped it fine though.
We landed, regained some momentum and jumped the coop after. He knocked it with some part of his body, but we were over it and on to the next.
Before I went out on XC, Nicole offered to get some video and asked where she should stand. I was too stressed to really think of an answer so she suggested going out between the start and finish boxes and that way she could get the first few jumps and the last few. I told her we’d probably never make it to the end, but she could at least get the first few. I think she thought I was joking, but I was honestly surprised to make it to the end. Nicole managed to get #12-#16, but I’ll save you from watching me trot down a sight incline to a ditch for an entire minute and just cut to #15 – a nice easy feeder.
The last jump was also terrifying – to me, only ever to me – and I made Levi trot for a few steps just to make sure he was listening to me. Then we went for it. He added a chip stride because that’s how he does things now, but we got over it and across the finish line.
Here’s the helmet cam:
I wanted to get off there and then, but was worried I could’t walk so I rode him back to the trailer where I slithered off and sat on our grooming/mounting box while my husband and Nicole were nice enough to help untack Levi while I concentrated on not passing out. I felt, stressed, dizzy and couldn’t stop panting.
That… was not fun. It never looks like it in the pictures or the videos because he’s so damned slow even when he thinks he’s going fast, but he feels out of control. I spent the entire course hauling on him to slow down for a second, to just listen to me. I did not feel like I had any control over him and at the end of the day, that’s not enjoyable. Nilla also liked to pull my arms out, but she would lock on to a jump and I knew she was going to do it. With Levi, he pulls and pulls because I am pulling on him, but he’s wiggling madly with every step. I have a video from Woodside where he’s literally swapping leads with every stride as we weave towards a jump. It never seems like he’s pulling me to a jump. Instead it feels like we’re just careening forward with a goal of skirting around the jump.
Eventually, I was able to get up and take care of my horse. I hosed him off and then we iced both the horses. I had just bought them before this event and was interested to see how the horses reacted. Eugene absolutely loved the ice boots. He was drifting off the sleep twitching his lips while they were on.
We emptied the ice into buckets to re-use on Levi and he thought that was a delicious snack.
Levi was less enamored of having the ice boots on than Eugene. He wasn’t bad, just suspicious and a bit unnerved. I had to stand with him to keep him from moving around and spooking himself. Then I got stung by a bee so it was all around a great day. We poulticed and wrapped the ponies up and gave them each a bucket of ice to play with. Levi licked his for a while and then dumped it over when he got bored. Eugene just stood there with a blissful expression eating the ice and drooling cold water. He kept at it for a long time too, napping and then coming back for more. Totally worth the cost of a bag of ice.