I have to admit, I was a bit worried about the XC. We really have nothing like this sort of course in the states. The optimum time was 7:07, so not a very long course. There were A LOT of spectators and A LOT of STUFF everywhere! (spectator tape, driving hazards — the obstacles for the for the carriage horses, hedges, concessions etc). All the combinations were very technical ( many skinnys, corners, jumps on severe angles etc.) and set at very forward distances. To do well you absolutely had to go for it right from the get go and ride really smart! This course wasn’t as big as Blenheim was, but it was far more challenging. Arthur is generally a horse that has a really hard time making time on the shorter courses, because it takes him a couple minutes to get settled into his job and to stop looking at everything else going on around him. So I was pretty sure it was going to be really tough for me to be competitive. Also everything came up soooo quickly, one combination after another. I got a good piece of advice from Andrew Nicholson, who has ridden this course designer’s courses many times, he said that it was better to just go out and go for all the forward distances because that’s always how the courses ride best, once your horse is in the rythem of the course it is best not to change it up to much. So that’s exactly what I did. I did add up at the first combo because I saw some horses running out trying to make the forward distance, but I think that it was because it was so early in the course of a really tough turn that the horses hadn’t been galloping enough yet. After that, we galloped! And man my horse was good! This whole trip he has shown me a new level of maturity that I was worried I might never get from him. He was sooooo good! Totally on task with his job, galloping well and really focused. As quickly as everything kept coming up, everything was going smoothly. The water was insanely hard. It was a very forward 5 or a steady 6 from a white gate to an ENORMOUS jump and drop into water bending 5 strides to a skinny in the water. I had to do a TV interview on this jump. How I was going to ride it, what I thought the issues would be etc. I said I was planning on the 6, because I was afraid my horse would jump in too big on the 5 and then you would risk getting wrapped around their ears and not making the skinny. Clayton Fredericks did this on his horse (the wrapped around the ears, but still managed to somehow get to the skinny). As I was cruising around the course, I remembered Andrew Nicholson’s advice and I did the 5 as well. My horse was spot on and jumped right through the complex beautifully. I was in shock! The hardest bit was over!!! I only had 3 more combinations, and we were on fire. The next combination was 2 airy logs (no ground rails) on two mounds. 4 forward strides between them. My horse jumped them akwardly — I’m not sure why, but I had seen other horses not jump them great and Clark (one of the other Americans competing) fell off here. So I galloped on to the next combination, which was tricky. You went up a hill and did a tight turn right through two tall hedges (blind approach) and then a short approach to a forward two stride severely angled hedge combination. As I made the tight turn through the tall hedges he slipped a bit (he hadn’t slipped once on the entire course) I got to the first had and he jumped it carefully and I pushed him forward and he didn’t fire as he had been… again he felt like he was suddenly being careful. We ended up a little long to the second hedge and had a glance off. Shoot!!!! I couldn’t understand why this had suddenly happened, I circled him back to jump it again and he added another really careful step before jumping, that’s when I realized he had pulled a front shoe…. uggh! We only had one more big combo to go (where Lucinda Fredericks had fallen) I had to ride him a bit slower and more carefully home. I was only 30 sec. slow! I know I would have made time and would have been sitting in second (1 point behind the leader)…. should’ve could’ve would’ve!!!!! I am so thrilled with my horse! He is so world class and he’s only 9!!!! It was so great to feel him so mature and on task! It was so great to have some of the best riders in the world say how much they loved him, how genuine and classy he is! Yay! It was such a cool experience to do this course, as this truly is the future of our sport.