Wednesday, April 24, 2019

#fangirling at Fair Hill

Cross country as a sport is generally fascinating to me. Riveting. I LOVE watching it. Especially the upper levels, but honestly any level will do!

this massive house table thingy is officially retro.... needs to be updated to 4 stars!
And basically any spectating format works for me haha. Whether it's live streaming events, trawling the archives for older broadcasts, or obvi watching the vids published by other fellow bloggers.

Nobody was sadder than I was when BurghleyTV pulled down all the full length broadcasts and replaced them with hour-long highlights. I can't even tell you how many times I watched them all, dating back to the 80s. Tho now when I just checked for them, it looks like even the highlight vids have all been either pulled down or moved again. Sadness...

requisite Boyd media haha, considering per usual he had a big string entered in this event. Contestor above was the first i saw to go clear through the coffin on the 4* course....
Anyway, tho, while watching footage online, live or otherwise, has its advantages, being there in person is a whole 'nother experience.

Ray Price was not so lucky tho, that coffin broke a lot of hearts
And we are so so so spoiled in this area to be surrounded by major events and venues. Plantation, Morven, Great Meadows, Jersey Fresh, Loch Moy, Shawan Downs, and, of course, the historic Fair Hill.

conditions were such that despite the 20 penalty points, they still managed to finish in the ribbons. in a 4*. crazy haha
It's interesting to me, personally, too -- bc spectating at these events provides the perfect melting pot for so many different interests and hobbies in my life. Obviously first on that list is just soaking up the horsey atmosphere -- watching these incredible athletes do incredible things haha.

And. Ahem, cough cough, awesome outdoorsy tailgating haha. Cough cough. Moving on...

for today's post tho, we're actually focusing more on the 3* and intermediate tracks!!
And in a way it's sorta an opportunity to further study this sport. Like, sure, I don't really ever see a time in my life when I ride around an Intermediate track. Being totally real here, it still feels like it'll take a miracle to get me out of the start box to run T haha. Hahaha (but seriously tho...)

But there's still sometimes something to be learned by how courses are built and designed for upper levels, or how those riders approach and tackle different questions. Maybe haha.

incredible tho, right??
More than that, tho, one of my favorite things about spectating in person is actually the opportunity it gives me to create my own content from the event.

Like, y'all have probably already figured out that I occasionally spend a fair amount of time in other various creative endeavors. Which is a nice byproduct of maintaining this blog, right?

this pair had just aced it through the BANANAS sunken road complex (pictured below), but then just missed at the trakehner. things happen fast, amirite?
The blog gives me a steady source of motivation to keep writing. To continue brainstorming new topics to discuss, and to think more deeply about the whats and the whys of my horse habit.

And naturally, hand in hand with all those words, comes all the visual content too. Whether that's just the constant stream of random photos from around the barn, silly illustrated / 'shopped pics of bronto Charlie, the video stills and gifs captured and edited from video, or even the videos themselves. All of that is part and parcel of feeding my creative impulses, ya know?

luckily both seemed fine. scary stuff tho!
So at these big spectator events, a big part of my experience is hustling around the full course, trying to see it all. Get video of everything. See as many horses through as many interesting combinations as possible. And then, naturally, condense all that raw footage into some sort of exciting compilation video that captures the essence of what it was like to be there in person.

but this sunken road... cheesus. it was tough to photograph too!
Bc personally that's the kind of content I LOVE, right?? And there's always more to see in watching something a second or third time anyway haha.

so obviously i had to try from multiple angles haha
I know cross country -- esp at the upper levels -- isn't everyone's cup of tea. And I also know that a lot of blog readers aren't necessarily interested in watching videos. But. Ya know. Haha, maybe you're missing out lol!

just to try to get all the elements recorded in such a way as made sense...
In any case, Eventing Nation already shared the compilation video I made from the Blue numbered CCI4*-S (formerly the CIC3*) and Advanced tracks, so I'm not repeating that again here. Tho if you're curious, you can find it on my side bar or on my channel page here.

It was kinda a crazy day for those divisions anyway, tho. Actually, kind of a fucking shit show. Driving in to the venue, I was running a bit late and expected to miss the start by about 45min. Except.... It was pretty clear the farther north I drove that the area had just experienced what could only be described as flash floods. Water was EVERYWHERE -- pooling in the country roads and roaring down the shoulders and drainage ditches.

really tho, these horses are all so incredible
Clearly it had just POURED haha, and when I finally pulled into the venue, I discovered that they actually still hadn't event sent the first horse on course. Bc entire sections of the course had flooded and the course designer and builders and TD and all those folks were madly rushing about trying to determine what could still be safely jumped, etc.

They ended up pulling the two big farthest waters completely off course for the 4* and Advanced (tho by the time the 3* and Intermediate ran, the ponds had drained enough to stay on course), so the course distance and times etc had to be updated.

Even so, tho, it was still kinda a disaster. Half of the Advanced either retired on course or withdrew entirely. And the 4* was so littered with issues that despite picking up a 20 at the coffin (like so many did, it was a real heartbreaker -- check out the video to see what I mean), Boyd Martin and Ray Price still finished in the ribbons.

and even when you see *one* jump that looks seemingly reasonable, you zoom out and realize, oh snaps that's part of an absolutely nutso combination....
Conditions were vastly improved by the time the Red numbered 3* and Intermediate divisions ran. In fact, the sun came out along with a nice drying breeze, and everything dried up substantially!

This worked out for my purposes haha bc it meant more riders to watch, plus the far waters were back on course so there were more combinations to see too.

The course was kinda crazy tho -- esp the sunken road complex. Like. Each individual element of that looks well beyond my current pay grade. Let alone trying to string all four of them together.... Tho I didn't see any issues with it. While meanwhile apparently quite a few refusals and eliminations were picked up at a bending down hill line from a big brush to a corner -- something I only got one uneventful clip of on video...

Watching it on the video is kinda exhilarating tho haha. I  can't even imagine what it must feel like to some of those riders! It's not likely to ever be something I personally do on horseback haha, but man it's fun to watch!

And obviously I'm hoping to grab ever more media from our trip down to Kentucky this week. Tho... with my friend's limited mobility, we may not get around the full course quickly enough to get as much as I would normally like to. Oh well, I guess the #tailgating will have to suffice this time around haha ;)

What about you - do you like spectating at big events? Have you had much opportunity to do so, whether it's at big races or dressage shows or rodeos or some other type of major to-do?


  1. Every year I say I am going, and every year I somehow miss this Fair Hill!!! :(

    1. I totally almost missed it too.... and last year actually I didn’t realize that the advanced and intermediate were run down in the same area they do the long format, whereas the prelim and down tracks are over where they do all the other normal HTs and starters etc. So I got there in time to see some of the big stuff but was in the wrong spot haha and ended up just seeing the 1*/prelim (now 2* I guess) instead lol....

      It’s crazy tho - there were virtually no other normal spectators compared to the fall event. It was all just parents and owners and friends and grooms etc.

  2. Spectating often equals tailgating in my Western performance events require a lot of sitting. hhahaha

    I would like to watch a big cc event - admittedly, cc is pretty interesting for a spectator - even one that doesn't participate - there is excitement, athleticism, drama, scary falls (don't like that part!) etc.

    For spectating big events, AQHA Congress in Ohio is the only big one I've been to. And to be honest, one can only watch so much western pleasure or hunt seat or trail classes. haha. We tend to time things to watch the finals of the big classes and not the endless early rounds - in between tailgaiting and shopping, obvs.

    1. note: not sure why I type cc instead of xc! lol Clearly not my world... ;-)

    2. haha "cc" is totally a commonly used and accepted shorthand for cross country ;)

      and yea i feel like some of the western performance events might be similar in some ways to dressage spectating. a fair amount of sitting, LOTS of shopping, and, ahem, wow but do those ladies party haha.

      true story -- i've tailgated at more than a few major cross country events at this point and we really do try to go all out (even, uh, for our own little dinky starters haha). but damn i have NEVER seen people party as hard at a horse show as the ladies at Dressage at Devon. omg haha, wow tho. was seriously fun tho!

  3. I loved Burghley TV. I watched every XC day, some repeatedly, and was so sad when they took them down. Fair Hill looks amazing!

    1. omgosh meeeee tooooo!!! i watched all those videos so many times! even once they made them just the highlights instead, which naturally mostly featured british riders, i still loved watching. i didn't look closely when writing the above so idk if they just got moved somewhere new (my old link is dead, womp) or if they're gone entirely... if i find them again i'll let you know ;)

  4. I wish we had big events close by !

    The two venues we have nearby are flat, boring fields. So they aren't so interesting to me. And when I do go and school xc, the one is where I go, so its even less exciting for me.

    1. aw haha, yea... i can see how that might get boring. still tho, at least it's something! some huge percentage of the spectating i get to do is at the lower levels, either at my own shows or when i'm volunteering. it's still fun -- but yea, not quite the same *thrill*

  5. I have a hard enough time watching falls happen in video - I'd probably have an even harder time watching them happen IRL. THough I think that wouldn't really stop me from spectating. I love going to horse shows though, always a worthwhile way to pass the time.


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