I was lucky enough to complete a few CCI * long formats in my younger days and always loved the whole journey that it embodied: the preparation, the planning, the bonding, the hours of conditioning and getting to know your horse on a much different level. I have always felt that the extra phases (roads & tracks, and steeplechase) could help an excitable horse relax and find his rhythm before heading out on D (cross country). In the steeplechase phase, the jumps are meant to be jumped out of a gallop with no balancing required. It is much safer to “miss” over a steeplechase jump (round jumps filled with brush) than over something much more complicated (as one might find out on phase D). Since I tend to balance too much in an effort not to miss, I think galloping the steeplechase phase will be quite therapeutic for me. In Wiley’s case, I am hoping the added steeplechase phase will help us open up our gallop and get our “attack” on – help us find our rhythm but more in the sense of letting go, than actually calming down. Neither one of us needs help calming down! I also think the three day tends to run a more championship level course which will be a good half step up for us – challenge us both but at the height we are currently most comfortable at. Plus we get to do a formal jog – what could be more fun than that? Not sure it will ever happen at the one star level so might as well do it now while the opportunity is available.
Even though our sport no longer supports the long format at the upper levels, more people should consider competing at a novice or training three day if possible. It definitely adds another perspective to the sport and allows you to take part in the sport in the format as it intended to be. For me, I am hoping to end my year with a challenge but one that will also send Wiley and me forward into 2016 with a boost in confidence as I consider a potential future move up to the next level.