With just days to go until the Horse & Hound team tackle the Golden Horseshoe, team members Polly Bryan and Rachael Hook update us on their training

Polly: minor acrobatics and protesting thighs

With the 25km Golden Horseshoe ride looming, and having not sat on a horse since going hunting on New Year’s Day, I got in some match practice by heading to Somerset to ride my potential mount for the event.

Sunny, a buzzy 16.3hh ex-pointer, isn’t the usual type of horse you would imagine taking part in an endurance event, but I’m sure he will prove an excellent partner. He has been very kindly lent to me by Jess Baker.

Fellow H&H team member Emily Secrett and I were lucky enough to have beautiful weather as we set off onto Exmoor.

For the first half of the ride, my attention was more focused on the car rally that was taking place in the area — all four of us were acutely aware of the ominous sound of rally cars in the distance.

Thankfully, after being chased up a hill by one such rally car, and Sunny displaying some minor acrobatics, we were into the peace and quiet of the moor.

As we climbed, assessing Sunny and Sox’s suitability for gate opening (Sox – very, Sunny – not so much), the views of the sea and surrounding countryside began to open up — it was really stunning.

My four months out of the saddle quickly became apparent as we upped the pace, and my thighs began to protest. As all riders know, it doesn’t matter how generally fit you are, riding fit is something else entirely!

Sunny gradually began to chill out as we headed for home, and I started to look forward to the ride itself. He’s a really lovely horse, although I feel our biggest challenge may be staying under the maximum speed allowed.

To add to the fun of our day, Emily and I also had the chance to try out another horse for the event. This took our riding time up to three hours — it was safe to say I was in a fair amount of pain the next day. Big thanks to Burrowhayes Farm for this very kind opportunity.

Unfortunately, I won’t have the opportunity to ride Sunny again before the Golden Horseshoe,  but I will do my best to get back in the saddle once more. I’ll also be hitting the gym — it’s not the same, but it can’t hurt!

Rachael: ‘a rare treat’

deerinwoods

Despite a very early start from London I was really looking forward to my first ride in Exmoor.

My ride for the day was Rozanne, a lively little Welsh section D, who was very kindly loaned to me by Burrowhayes Farm. The campsite and riding stables is set in the heart of Exmoor National Park and offers incredible hacking opportunities. I am used to riding in east Kent, so this plentiful off-road riding is a rare treat.

Heading through the woods with Emily and FudgeWe began our ride heading up through woodland, passing wild ponies and deer among the trees. Eight-year-old Rozanne, who I may be taking on the ride itself, was incredibly sure-footed and made her way up the rocky paths with ease.

After climbing our way to the top of headland and enjoying a few canters, we were able to take in the view. Despite the overcast conditions the outlook was spectacular and I’m so excited to see more of this beautiful countryside.

Although this is the first time I have ridden in this part of the country, I have been trying to get as much time in the saddle as possible during the past few months on my own horse. I am also in training for Edinburgh Marathon so this should hopefully help me on the day.

I have the daunting prospect of a 20-mile run the same weekend as the ride. but I’m trying not to think about that too much…