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The CEI2* endurance event at this year’s Royal Windsor Horse Show will take place on Friday 12 May, with competitors setting out around 120km of beautiful countryside taking in parts of Windsor Great Park and Ascot.

“The endurance race in Windsor is something like you’ll never see anywhere else,” says Team GBR endurance rider Anna Williams. “We get to ride The Queen‘s back garden. How many people get to do that?”

‘The ultimate test between horse and rider’

“Endurance riding is the ultimate test between horse and rider. You have varying distances, anything from about 20km right up to 160km that are covered in one day. Your horse can have up to nine vet checks. That’s one before you start the ride, one after each loop, and then there’s compulsory re-examinations as well to make sure your horse is still OK and then a final one at the finish,” says Anna. “In order for you to pass your horse is given a full vetting.”

“Sam is a really special horse for us. We bred him ourselves and he’s been with us since he was born. In fact we competed both his mum and his grandma. We’ve been to World Championships with his grandma and sometimes when I’m riding along I can shut my eyes and I kind of feel like I’m riding her all over again. It’s quite incredible how the similarities have jumped a generation. You get to know them so, so well. You really create a special bond with them.

“We spend a lot of time on the track and we have to know our horses inside out. When you’re covering such long distances, you can hit a mental wall and it’s really important that you’re strong enough first of all to know that your horse is only hitting a mental wall — and that it’s not a physical wall — and secondly you need to be able to stimulate them and bring them through that wall and out on the other side.”

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‘You owe so much to that horse’

“When you come across the line first, you owe so much of that to your horse,” says Anna. “The pride I have in my horses when I come across the line and we get a successful finish and a first place, it’s just amazing. To be honest, any place is just fine — first place is just the cherry on the cake.”

A CEI1* 80k and a National 40k endurance ride will also be taking place on the Friday 12 May alongside the CEI2* ride.

Don’t miss our full report from Royal Windsor Horse Show in the 18 May issue of Horse & Hound magazine