Today, Team Hopalong joined ranks with a couple of pals to form Team "Here Comes Trouble" at Duns Castle team hunter trial. Not done a team XC before, but have always fancied it. Course looked really nice with a couple of questions and the ground was just perfect. We were lucky and got lovely sunshine too. :)
We were tacked up (and, most importantly, colour co-ordinated!) in plenty of time and went down to warm up. Spent a bit of time walking, trotting and cantering around together and they were all happy, but very keen. Did a couple jumps individually each and then attempted one in a line, all fine.
So ready to go and all sorted, Hopalong would be lead (as most experienced and so, fingers crossed, least likely to stop, no pressure eh?!) with my friend Laurie on Tara tucking in the middle and her pal Jay on Jed bringing up the rear who was in control of speed with our brilliant system of "hold" or "push on" to be shouted to differentiate from any "woah" or "steady" commands to the ponies! "Coming through" was also to be used in case of a problem and the person behind was wanting to overtake.
Set off and before we were even at the first fence I could hear "Tara, woah"! Uh oh... she was on a mission! Was slightly concerned we'd be jumping the 1st fence (cross rail) together!! Luckily Hopalong popped over just a horse length (literally!) ahead and stayed in front over the 2nd (sloping gate) until poorLaurie's arms gave out and she overtook to the 3rd with poor Jay at the back desperately shouting "hold"! We ground to a halt after 3 (brush) to let Jed catch up and then attempted a steady descent down the hill to ski jump at 4. Got a huge jump over this (Hopalong felt the take off spot looked a little cut up so opted to jump it also!) and then en route to 5 (chair type thing) hear more "whoas" and then a squeaked "coming through" again!
A quick circle by me (as very close to 5 at this point) and a grey blur later and we were all over, we let Laurie stay in front for the next few and managed over 6 (skinny roll top) and 7 (stile) fine. 8 & 9 were a road crossing double of gates in the fence line with some mucky bedding down as surface in the middle. We were worried they might all spook at this but all were on such a mission I don't think they noticed it!
10 was some barrels, with Laurie taking a scenic route towards 11 (rails) to try waste time and let us catch up (poor Jay still yelling "hold" intermittently as her wee pony's legs weren't quite at the pace of the other two.) Hopalong at least was letting me slow her up to hold back for Jed. Round the corner to 12 (barrel spread fence) where we attempted to regain the original order as Laurie was finding it just as hard to hold Tara back in front as she was behind, however this only lasted the one jump and she was back in front! 13 was a skinny roll top and then 14 rails with Tara a dot in the distance! Round to 15 which was the uneven ground with log after- you dropped down a dip, then up the other side and one stride to the log.
16 was a table on a downhill approach, got a good shot to this, then on to the water (which we'd all decided to play safe and jump to the left, then circle down to water instead of straight, you had a steep drop down to running water a stride after landing and we wanted a nice, confidence building clear first and foremost. Other route not hugely longer. Hopalong ponced down the bank and tip -toed through the water and then got a bit close to the fence on the other side, but over ok.
Check back to make sure Jay ok (poor Laurie miles ahead trying to steady her steam train up!) and over chair fence at 19, trot through gateway into home field. Last fence was steeplechase brush and I told Laurie to go on but she insisted she wanted to tuck Tara in behind us... Tara didn't agree!!! Two seconds later "COMING THROUGH!!!" and they were off over the last fence a couple of strides ahead of us, me desperately trying to hold Hopalong up to give us enough room in case of "issues"! No need though, all three flew it and over finish line... with Tara still making good headway straight off into the distance in direction of lorry park!
So lots of fun, but with all the stop/start we were too slow for a placing. All very happy with a nice clear round and as it was our first XC since Oct, I was happy with Hopalong jumping the skinny/spooky fences, especially with it being a bit stop/start and there being other distractions. In fact, I was so busy making sure everyone else was ok I can barely remember jumping a fence myself!
Hopalong happy back home in the field and Tara apparently looking very smug when she got home too! Bob was our Team 'Tog, so some photos below courtesy of him.
Team "Here Comes Trouble" ready for the off;
And off to the first... Hopalong and Tara looking keen and poor Jed trying to get his legs shifting!
Over the first with Tara on our tail... literally!
Stile fence (no.7);
Table fence (no.16);And over the last;
Really good fun and a great warm up for Montrave HT next weekend. :)