Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: back from a memorable trip

I’m now back home from a memorable trip to Namibia. From 40+ degree heat to rain, rain, rain; it has actually rained every day since my return and the fields the horses are currently in have areas of sucking, knee-deep mud. Because of this, I have been frantically searching for my swamp gear and extra-warm thermals but to no avail; I will just have to shiver away until my heat-dried body has acclimatised.

What have my horses been doing while I’ve been away? The answer lies mainly in the size of their not-so-shapely bodies — work clearly needs to be done here to restore them to their former sleek and streamlined outlines.

Two weeks to go and the planned return to work for Chiara will be upon me. I can’t wait as I have so many plans for her. The first thing I need to do though is to also reduce my plumper than usual body to an acceptable shape and weight for little Chiara to carry. Aside from occasional bush walks, I have done very little exercise over the past few weeks and unfortunately haven’t reduced my feed to allow for this — I could even be in danger of tying up when I come back into work! There is a plan though.

While away, one thing that amazed and immensely pleased me was the attitude to plastic in this remote part of the world. The Namibians are so ‘on board’ with the concept of removing the use of single use plastic in their country. At no point were we offered plastic bags — all the bags were paper. Durable water bottles were lent to us for use rather than selling us plastic bottles. We could learn so much from this — there is relevance here to endurance and the extensive use by some nations of large plastic water bottles for sloshing the horses along the route and in the vet gates. I too have been guilty of carrying small plastic water bottles with me rather than filling up drinking bottles — I will change.

While out in the wilds of Africa I thought I would take a look at the zebras’ fly population and, partly as expected, there were no flies on them. OK, this may have been because it hadn’t rained for so long and the flies were less prolific and the fact that there doesn’t seem to be horseflies there, but they certainly didn’t experience any problems with flies. I am now ordering zebra fly rugs for all my horses. Clearly they work better if there are several horses kept together to cause the flies maximum confusion; I will need to think about how I can work this.

No flies on us!

I discovered wild horses living in the Namib Desert (pictured top). Actually, I didn’t really ‘discover’ them, they have been there, it is believed, since the early 1900’s but nobody knows for sure how they got there. It is amazing to think how they have adapted to survive, and indeed breed, in such a harsh climate, but apparently they only need to drink every few days and seem to live on ‘fresh air’. They look well enough nibbling on the tiny tufts of dry vegetation and cope with the heat admirably, although without the zebra coat, they did appear to have a few flies around them.

While I was away, the draft proposed new FEI endurance rules were published. If these were to be passed at the General Assembly later this month, then they could have a definite impact on virtually every endurance rider with international aspirations. Whether this side effect of the intended rule changes is a good thing remains to be seen, but we’ll have to see if the intended consequences of improving horse welfare and tightening up of the rules to make a more level playing field works…

Fantom

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On a more local level I have somehow, contrary to my best intentions, been inveigled into organising a ride in the south west in March. Well, clueless doesn’t even come close, but luckily there are many helpful endurance people who are well-versed in the art of organising successful endurance competitions who will offer me plenty of advice. My first step was to work out the distances for the classes we would have which, I perhaps rather ambitiously, had decided to be a bit different to those of this year. No more piece of string on a map to measure the route, this all has to be done scientifically now — help!

Now I have the annual Endurance GB Awards dinner and AGM to look forward to. Yippee, a chance to go dress shopping as it’s a dress to impress occasion.

Annie

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