Spring not only means endurance, but it also means repairing land, washing dirt-encrusted horses, cleaning terminally stained rugs and thinking about clearing out the tack room. OK, enough of that, back to endurance.

After Chiara’s competition, she was given a week off to fully recover from her exertions. I tend to give all my horses plenty of recovery time following a competition, perhaps more than is necessary, but it is far better that way round; I want my horses to last. Last week she had some light work, mostly schooling and walking over poles on the ground to encourage her to stretch down which is something that doesn’t come naturally to her.

Now it was Dilmun’s turn. The plan was to run him over 45km to see how he felt with a view to entering the one-star competition at Royal Windsor. Dilmun is now 18-years-old and has been there and done it and for last season and this season, his desires have dictated his competition schedule to some extent. Last year he only ran three times, winning a performance formula competition at the same ride we went to last weekend, being the best Brit in the one-star at Euston Park and finishing with a steady one-star completion at Keysoe.

So with this plan in mind, we set off for the heart of Dorset in beautiful Hardy country (pictured throughout). This was to be our first stay away this season where the horse corrals and we sleep next to him in our trailer (it does have living). Naturally, this was on top of a hill open to all the elements and the enormous field had clearly been recently occupied by cows.

The amazing view on the ride at Abbotsbury

We parked up, put out the corral and went to make a cup of tea. We then discovered two things: we had parked with the entrance to the living by the most enormous, most squishy cowpat ever and we had forgotten the milk!

Beautiful, beautiful Dorset and a day of golden sunshine with a light breeze dawned: T-shirt weather in early April. The route was pretty amazing, the views to die for and miles and miles of grass to canter over on a ridge above Chesil beach — breathtaking! Dilmun was feeling soooooo good, pulling all the way round and even putting in the odd buck after about 30km! Interestingly, we did the same route last year when his final pulse was an amazing 38bpm at the end, but this year his final pulse was 44bpm. However he felt better this year; perhaps he thinks he is fitter than he actually is.

Dil and I on the Hardy’s ride

These early season competitions are a great time to meet up with old friends and rivals and meet new people. Endurance is such a friendly sport and, although there were 150 or so riders, there were always plenty of familiar faces.

I had plans for the next couple of months, largely revolving around Fantom’s preparation and fitness programme. However, flexibility is key to success in this game and plans will probably change again. I am now not sure whether I am taking Dilmun or Fantom to Royal Windsor and whether I am taking Chiara or Fantom to Euston Park — watch this space…

Continued below…

Fantom has had his first very short canter today as part of his conditioning and we will continue to develop this over the next couple of weeks and incorporate one or two longer training sessions. His feed will now begin to change very gradually to cope with the added demands made on his body and he will now take in electrolytes on a daily basis (both Chiara and Dilmun have been doing this for some weeks now).

My own fitness has suddenly, almost magically, improved; exercises feel easier and I am getting good at this jogging malarkey…

Annie