Having two grooms was amazing and allowed me to not fret while I walked the cross country course. They untacked TWH, brushed him down and one settled in to knit while the other walked the course with me. Awesome! The courses are always fairly long, almost 2000m but this one is more complicated with lots of impressive hills. Makes for a tired horse but an even more tired rider during the coursewalk. I pushed it at the end to get back in time and the walk still took a good 40 minutes of our allotted 1 hour 30 minute break. It sounds like we have plenty of time, we really didn't.
Once back at the trailer, the grooms set to work tacking the TWH up while I switched attire. Thanks to my groom I wasn't eliminated for forgetting my armband (YIKES!!) and was able to hop up with 15 minutes before my ride time. They meandered onto the course to set themselves up by the water jump to spectate and I set to warming up. I was the third rider in the BN division and that meant there was a 15 minute pause in ride times for jump judges to move and for some fences to be adjusted. As a result, the warmup fences were still set to Novice height which made me very happy. My philosophy is that we should be comfortable jumping harder or higher stuff in warmup so the actual course is somewhat easy. After a quick walk/trot set I set him over the crossrail before going around and jumping again, this time over the big oxer. He was. Amazing. He came at the right distance to the jump and when we went over it, I felt like we were seasoned pros instead of green beans. Yes!
When our time came up, off we went. Fence one was an inviting log and fence two was a log with a bunch of flowers. I kept a good strong leg on him and something happened over fence 3, another log. It was like I could feel something change, the TWH didn't seem hesitant. He didn't look at the fence. The encouragement I gave seemed unnecessary. He acted confident and calm! Fence four was a "barn" and he just soared over it without a second thought. We went through some trees to fence five and I didn't press him forward. It was a smaller coup that he could jump from almost a standstill so I waited to see what he would do, he jumped it confidently. I let him cruise over fence six before kicking him into a strong, fast gallop. Fence seven was the baby ditch, except they had redone the ditch so it was now an actual small ditch instead of a log on the ground with a trench behind it. Since ditches are our problem, I wasn't taking any chances! The TWH did take a look at the ditch but we were going so fast he didn't have a chance to think and just went over it. Yay!!
From that point on, our ride felt different. It felt like we were a true team, working it together. It felt like he was a serious competitor that was taking his job seriously. I stopped kicking him over fences and let him approach them. He felt SO confident and bold, it makes me so proud! I worked hard to eat up time since we were going pretty fast and came in at 5:50 out of an optimum time of 5:58, double clear! He felt So Awesome. It was the first time I actually trusted him over the fences. Now to settle in for a nice 2 hour wait for stadium.