It’s spring! Rain has stopped, mud is less deep and the sun has even come out. Our first endurance ride was on Sunday.

The day was all about Chiara. Over the past few weeks, actually since January, Chiara has been preparing for the beginning of the season. As last year was her first in endurance and only her second summer season having a human on her back, there is still a lot to learn. Preparation involves schooling, conditioning and fitness work and, very importantly, seeing as much of the world as possible.

Chiara at the weekend

Chiara had a sheltered life for her first six years, never leaving the stud where she was bred and, although she became used to large farm machinery, lorries and so on manoeuvring around the yard, she had never met a sheep or a cow nor had she encountered dustbins, boulders and the beach; all things an endurance horse encounters in his line of work.

Another part of the preparation for the season was a new truck — well new to us. We had our beloved Shogun for 12 years and it only let us down once when it was a tad awkward on our way to a three-star competition at Ermelo, Holland. Of course it was raining hard, of course we were on a motorway and of course it took ages to get someone out to us, but we made it to a service station and, even better, the garage owner’s father had a smallholding (very, very small) close by, so Fantom spent the night with a few very interesting goats! The new truck should provide more pulling power and less worry about overloading the engine of the poor old Shogun. Tow bar attached and we are ready to go.

My new wheels

What a fabulous day we had on Sunday — wall to wall sunshine, a keen and eager horse (a bit too keen perhaps), good company and a solid result.

This was a local competition in Cornwall at the Royal Cornwall Showground. There were so many entries and loads of trailers and the odd lorry parked up even when we arrived at 8.30 am. As it is such a big venue, there was also a riding club running a competition simultaneously. Interestingly the riding club had mostly lorries parked up while we endurance people stick to our trailers. This I guess is easily explained as in endurance a crew, which most of us have, needs to drive around parts of the course to meet the riders and you cannot crew your rider and horse in a lorry.

Chiara at the weekend

A graded ride is literally what it says; you are awarded a grade depending on your horse’s final pulse and speed. This is in effect a competition against yourself. It is also a very useful training session and a step in progression to attempting a race ride. I used this ride primarily as a training session for Chiara and as a check as to how much she has learned since her last competition.

Continued below…

Chiara had obviously been reading the manual during the winter and the improvement was enormous. She is such a go, go little horse always wanting to go faster and faster. This time she was a little more relaxed especially in her very balanced canter when there were no horses ahead of her. In the vetting (which we had at the beginning and the end) she almost stood still for the full one minute while having her heart rate taken and managed to trot up for the vets without getting too excited or worried about the echoing livestock shed where the vetting was held. She got the top grade at a good speed so RESULT!

My personal fitness efforts continue — a 14 mile walk for charity through the streets of London was a good base for my fitness preparation. Stretching and Pilates work is coming on, albeit slowly BUT I am still jogging…

Annie