Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: an arrangement never to be repeated

Chiara is back in work! She, and the other horses, has had her teeth done, vaccinations and shoes put on and I am just waiting to have her saddle checked and for the physio to come — ticked all the boxes, I hope.

When I say Chiara is back in work, I actually mean that she has commenced her three weeks of walking accompanied by her present field companion, the ancient Wizard. For me it is time efficient to ride and lead for the walk work and, in some cases, the trot work and I also think that it is nice for the horses to go out together sometimes. While on paper this is the ideal way of bringing two horses at once back into the early stages of work, in practice I am struggling. I had the ride from hell the other day when I thought I would ride Chiara and lead Wizard just to change it around a bit (pictured top). Chiara was as usual very forward going and highly competitive, but the ancient Wizard had developed the wings of Pegasus and flew along in a high state of excitement. This is an arrangement never to be repeated.

I then reverted to riding Wizard and leading Chiara every other day and riding them individually in-between and, although the walking involved a little prancing about, I did keep a semblance of control. However, in the last couple of days Chiara has been getting more and more forward and barely walks a step. I have had to resort to halting her every now and then which does seem to have a bit of an effect on her focused desire to go as fast as possible. For once I’m not really looking forward to trot work next week.

In the meantime, I have become a labourer. After riding and my office work, I seem to spend hours repairing fences, removing fallen trees and taking barrow load after barrow load of leaves out of the school and the driveway into the yard. I love trees, they are beautiful and so necessary to us in the world, but why, oh why did someone build the school and stables right next to the biggest oaks and ash in the area?

Concerned about my lack of fitness and possible resulting imbalance in the saddle, I had a lesson on SIM. Now, SIM is a riding simulator (not a mechanical horse), that reacts to your every move. Mounting was a little tricky and at first he felt so wobbly as every little movement you make creates movement in the simulator. Together, with the inimitable Esther Groen (a Dutch international endurance rider and SIM’s mother), I was tweaked into the correct balanced position from every conceivable angle. It was quite difficult at first, but progress was made during the 30-minute session and I now have to translate this into my riding position on my little rocket machine, Chiara.

Me on ‘SIM’

In a couple of weeks, I have planned for both horses to go to the annual Christmas ride around the local Lanhydrock Estate. It is only 16km and I plan to do this mostly in walk so it will give the horses a different area to ride around, give Wizard an outing that he really enjoys and us jockeys a chance to dress up!

Looking forward a little to next year, the new FEI rules passed at the general assembly will affect our qualifications for future championships. They were watered down a little from the original proposals, which from my point of view is a bit of a relief. Chiara has now completed her two two-star qualifications in order to progress to three-star, but the original proposed rule change would have meant that two consecutive two-stars would have been required to progress so we would have had to start again at two-star level.

The changes to the weight rule have divided opinion in the endurance world, with some saying that carrying weights slows horses down (the intention) and others saying that light riders should not have to carry dead weight to reach the minimum weights. I do have this one advantage of not being a ‘light’ rider in that any weight change rules do not affect me personally at all.

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I had the girls (my own Trinny and Suzannah!) round for a gin and dress afternoon. This was to decide the dress for the Endurance GB Awards evening. After much deliberation, a few gin and tonics and many chilly dress changes (my bedroom is like a fridge), two dresses were selected to reflect the glamour of the occasion. At the event itself, the awards dinner was a blast and our riders from the south west won so many trophies for several different things — a talented bunch! The AGM in the afternoon was interesting and it was good to know that both member numbers and ride entries were up on last year.

At the EGB awards

I now have a further dilemma which I will have hopefully worked out by the time you read this: which dress should I wear for the Horse & Hound Awards?

Annie

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