The past couple of weeks have been a series of ups and downs; will I be ready for the masters in a few day’s time? Some days I’ve felt that getting on a horse was an insurmountable hurdle after my spinal surgery, and other days have been great with training almost as normal. Thankfully the good days are becoming more frequent and I’m on target.

Unfortunately I was unable to arrange to have a lesson to ‘rebalance’ my position in the saddle. However my husband Robert, with the aid of his iphone, managed to take some usable pictures allowing me to make adjustments. It was a bit of a painstaking process but definitely worth it for both our sakes and it wasn’t quite as bad as I feared.

I was all set for a good, three-hour training session last week on Bodmin Moor some 45 minutes away by trailer. However, it was not to be as work had to come first and an unplanned delivery scuppered that idea. Later in the day though I managed to get Chiara out to the woods and had a good two-and-a-half hour session with short, sharp uphill canters and, unfortunately, a bit of roadwork to get there and back, but with some verges to also help build up my canter fitness. Although this is not really ‘quality training’, it was a good confidence-builder for me and a refresher for Chiara.

At last we seem to have moved on from the dreaded helicopter fly to the common house fly, but there are still thousands of them flocking around the horses. Poor Chiara, being a dark colour, is attracting so many more than the others and fly repellent has little effect. She has tried a fly mask but destroyed this within an hour so I’ve moved onto a new fly fringe, the sort where a headcollar isn’t needed, but this is also usually dispatched overnight. I think I will need to get a bright coloured one as the black one just looks like another pile of poo on the ground come morning when I go to look for it!

The monster straw bales!

Now that we have had rain (lots), we are making the most of training in the enormous field near the stables. This is covered in part in giant straw bales — Chiara initially thought that there were Cornish piskies or hideous trolls behind them all, just waiting to jump out and gobble us up, but with a little convincing she realised that there was nothing there of any significance and now confidently passes as close as needs be. Today was our last training session before we leave on Wednesday and we did some good work with some steady cantering and some short, sharp uphill bursts and Chiara felt absolutely bang on.

With all the hot weather we’ve had recently, keeping cool is so important. Just when you need ice, the ice maker in the malevolent-looking, super-slinky black fridge freezer packed in. The upside of the heat is that Chiara’s drinking has improved so much and she is quite relaxed about being hosed all over as well as just her legs.

Hosing off Chi

In preparation for the journey up to Euston which may or may not be hot, Robert has fitted a ventilator into the roof of my Equi-Trek to help keep Chiara cool. We have also purchased some lurid orange bins for our iced water in the vetgate. The colour is so bright that even I can’t miss them when coming in with so many other horses.

Fitting the trailer vent

My own fitness is improving but at a much slower rate than I had hoped. Although I have plenty of residual core strength, this has taken a hit and I can’t do the usual core exercises at the moment as they interfere with my healing back muscles — so frustrating.

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Mounting and dismounting still has to be undertaken with care and, with my not so gentle convalescence, there are no Frankie Dettori-like dismounts for me, just a slow slithering to the ground which the other day had the slightly unfortunate consequence of getting my bra hooked into the breastplate (aptly named!). I did feel a little foolish suspended from my horse on my tiptoes but luckily my knight in shining armour (husband) was just across the yard and came to my rescue!

We are off to the masters on Wednesday with race day for us being on Saturday. We are part of the British team for the CEIO2* nations cup so no pressure then…

Annie

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