There has been another change of plan recently — I decided to switch Fantom for Chiara to compete in the 65km class at the wonderful Hardy’s ride near Dorchester. The reasoning here was partly because Chiara was further on in her training and partly because I felt she needed some steady kilometres under her belt before Windsor.

Everything went smoothly until we arrived. Last year we forgot the milk, this year it was the teabags. Just one notch below a major disaster but we found we could revert to herbal tea — not quite the same but probably better for us. Actually we forgot the loo rolls, the washing up liquid and several essential domestic items for a comfortable sleepover. Funny though, Chiara had everything she needed.

There was thick fog in the morning but we thought it would clear soon as we had a very late start. Nobody told the fog that so we started off peering ahead looking for the markers (pictured top). I was really sorry not to fully see the most amazing views that I know are there from the Ridgeway. We cantered over it four times and it wasn’t until the last time that I even had a glimpse of the magnificent coastline. I was very grateful to the trail bike riders for the extra marking of this section with arrows on the ground although I still managed to go astray a little when my sunglasses misted up too (it was warm and sunny at the venue by then!).

Hardy’s in the mist

I was amazed at how easily and effortlessly Chiara covered the ground. Despite several stretches of slippery road and the last mile in walk and taking it really easy on the steep hills, we made such a good speed being the first to finish in the longer distance class and achieving second place.

I am still having problems getting Chiara’s pulse down quickly in the vetgates and for the final vetting. She is just so excited with all that’s going on around her; hopefully experience is the key.

The steep hills in Dorset were exactly what Chiara needed at this point in her training: a long, steady distance covered over varying terrain and hills to raise the pulse and improve cardiovascular fitness. Actually I can’t understand why more riders from other disciplines, such as eventing, don’t use endurance competitions as part of their fitness programme.

At last the fields have dried out and we have managed to roll and fertilise them. For years I have been trying to eliminate the persistent ragwort we inherited when we moved here and for years I have failed. OK, it has never been a forest, more like a vague scattering on every field. My regime has been to spray it one year and to pull it the next year but each year I face the ragwort, standing square and saying “well, what’re you going to do now”? This year I have a secret weapon, a new concoction of very cheap, very available ingredients (I heard about this on Facebook). I mixed the gunky mess and duly squirted this on some emerging enemies and, hey presto in a couple of days they had been nuked! When I say nuked I mean that the ground was simply a small brown area of death. Perfect as there were no remains for the horses to eat and with the ingredients I used there was no way that they would eat them if there were any.

Wizard and his friends

The other two boys are having a much quieter time, although I am endeavouring to gently build up Dilmun’s work so he can contest a couple of two-day, relatively low mileage competitions, but this is a work in progress. Wizard, on the other hand has, as the Dutch say, fallen with his nose in the butter and has a devoted rider, complete with an entourage of young admirers.

Continued below…


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Yesterday was the test event for WEG (the World Equestrian Games) at Tryon, North Carolina. Test events are supposed to be just that, which I think was fortunate in this case. At a reduced distance of 120km instead of the championship distance of 160km, the attrition rate of 67% was extremely high and the speed extremely low. Presumably the course ran over difficult terrain with many short hills and uneven going. Bearing in mind that championship minimum speed is usually 14kph this would have meant that only the first six would have passed and this test was only over 120kms. At least we know our horses will require hill training!

Next weekend Fantom will have a run in another Dorset competition followed by Royal Windsor for Chiara as we have been lucky enough to get through the ballot.
Annie