Saturday was The Day, also known as Cross Country Day. I hooked up with Amanda and Michelle to venture up to Bartville for the morning where I bought… exactly nothing. Yeah, I don’t know who I am either. I think because I’m pretty well happy with all my tack (except bits, omg, don’t get me started….) so while it was fun to touch all the things, my wallet thought it was equally fun to walk out empty handed. We ventured into Oxford in search of rain jackets only to find the Durbarry outlet closed up despite my best tries to just… will myself through the glass front door. They might still have the imprint of my face.
Amanda’s friends took us through a back way on our way back to the stall area so we got to pass all the race barns and their really cool setups. Take horse girls anywhere, watch us plaster our faces to windows. We dropped off a few things at the stalls, said hi to La Russe and Mocha and headed out to the XC course by way of the vendors. I ended up with a single greeting card (SERIOUSLY WHO AM I) because it has a PARTY PONY on it, giggled over tiny baby pony-themed items and then we were off to the cross country course.
Our timing was spot on to see the last two 3* horses leave the startbox and we headed for the first water where there were some bleachers. Amanda attracted some more Presto/WTW fans and handed out swag (did I cut like 70 WTW decals on the Cricut the week before? Yes, yes I did. Glad they went to good use) and I stuffed myself with chocolate from Michelle’s bag o’ snacks. I also somehow talked the camera guy into letting Michelle use his little, uh, cord hut? to change her shirt because it was pretty warm at this point. He wasn’t quite sure what to make of us, but was nice enough more or less.
We watched the first few come through the first water, which rode much more backwards than I thought it was going to (my videos have some definite gasps) and then headed through the rest of the course – watched some at the owls, the coffin, the down bank, the rollercoaster, the vee and eventually up to the crab water. We found a good spot and pretty much parked it there for the second half of the starters. At this point, Amanda was getting antsy for MAAAAASON to start, but we had a lot of fun watching some really great rides. I know the online hullabaloo was over the crab, but honestly it rode lovely and the entire complex saw maybe a few stumbles total in the time we were there.
Near the last few horses the sky started to get ominously dark, but we weren’t about to go anywhere until Mason came through. Once he headed out onto course, I pulled up the livestream on my phone so we could watch him until he got to us. I’ll tell you what – the adoration for that horse is infectious. Sure, I thought he was cute before Amanda pulled me in deep, but I didn’t have the full fan club membership. Spend a weekend with Amanda and suddenly you’re as nervous watching him go around as she is. He’s really such a COOL COOL horse that you can’t help but kind of fall in love with him. One of Amanda’s friends took the hilarious time lapse of us watching him on the livestream and the neuroses are out in full bloom.
We watched him come through the water and then Lauren behind him and just like that, the sky opened up torrentially. We were about as far out on the course as you could be, so despite having rain jackets on and taking a sortof tree-covered path back, by the time we got to the barns, I was SOAKING wet. Like, rivulets of water running down my legs inside my jeans. Luckily Claire was ready to go too, so we headed back to our hotel where I took the longest, hottest shower before we headed to dinner. We were headed back, stuffed full and happy when I spotted an Insomnia Cookies… did we need a dozen warm cookies to take back to the hotel? UH YES.
Sunday we knew was supposed to be a little colder, but none of us really anticipated like… how much colder we were talking. Thank God I’d brought my good Patagonia jacket because I definitely needed it. I walked out to watch the jogs (and Mason stalk) and was surprised at how few horse kites were flying.
Claire and I acquired waffles and coffee and sat to watch the 3* stadium in one of the Tier 1 tents and tried to stay warm. At the conclusion of that, we wanted to wander back through some vendors, where I tried on a helmet and some boots and still… purchased nothing. I knew I wanted to head to Fair Hill Saddlery’s main store which is just a few miles down the road and Claire needed to go walk La Russe, so I took her truck and popped over to look at bits. They had a whole wall, but alas nothing that was promising for His Highness. They did, however, have an entire area of Breyer horses. Little known fact, my mother is a HUGE Breyer collector. Like, has an entire room for them. She really loves the old vintage and super limited edition runs, but anytime one of us runs across an estate sale/antique store/Breyer section, she has us very well trained to FaceTime her. We ended up looking via FT at every single Breyer in that store before she made her selections. Since she was buying, I decided as the seller’s commission I needed unicorn stickers and a finger unicorn puppet. Am I 5? Maybe.
Once back at the show grounds, I happened to run into Sally Spickard with EN and, potentially more importantly (sorry Sally!), Chinch! I’d been dying for a Chinch photo all week and FINALLY had my chance. We chatted for a moment until she put two and two together that I’m the one who is obsessed with jog outfit commentary and I may or may not have talked myself into a guest jog commentator role at Kentucky. DREAM JOB ACHIEVED.
Claire and I ended up in one of the VIP Chalets at the end of the ring (don’t ask, I don’t know how I did what I did all weekend, ok?) complete with full catered lunch and open bar. Uh, don’t mind if I do. I gorged on crab cakes and mimosas while we watched all the 5* stadium right in front of us. It was seriously incredible and really fun to see Boyd win (really an American win a 5*). There were some seriously cool and fun horses to watch and I loved seeing how everyone rode to the combinations, how they used their voice on course, who rode with a driving rein, the tack selections, etc.
At the conclusion, we hung in the box for a little longer, at which point I made friends with the bartender and acquired (another) bottle of prosecco. My talents may not lie in riding, but I do have some guys. We walked out of the box and… immediately ran into Boyd, Oliver and Tim walking back from some kind of press conference. In a split second of prosecco-fueled bravery I squealed asking if we could take a photo. The USEA official with them protested and tried to say no, but the guys were game and ignored her and pulled us in. (USEA lady did, however, remove my drink from the pic, whoops). We look like crazed people, but seriously ZERO REGRETS and that photo was pretty much the pinnacle of our weekend.
We hustled back to the barns where we packed up Claire and La Russe to get them on the road. I was originally supposed to fly back Monday afternoon, but ended up changing my flight to a late nonstop out of Baltimore which made it so she could drop me off at the airport on her way to Middleburg for the night. It broke her drive up and I ended up stuffing myself with nachos at an airport bar and got home late Sunday night.
I’m still pretty much squealing over the whole week since it was seriously a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience, the way we had access and the things we got to do. I’d love to go again, but definitely needed some sleep to recover after that one. My suitcase uh, may or may not be still sitting half-unpacked in my room. Next adventure, I’m voting somewhere warm this winter… is that Ocala calling my name?