Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: an eye-opening experience

  • Chiara has begun her endurance season at last with a 32km graded ride held at the Royal Cornwall Showground (pictured above). I was surprised to be the first one to go out on course as usually there are some riders doing much greater distances than this. I wonder if this is simply due to the weather hampering riders’ efforts to get horses sufficiently fit for an early season ride, or whether riders now tend to want, or are only able, to do the shorter distance rides. I do believe that there needs to be more incentive for keen competitors to do longer distances and push themselves a little more.

    Starting first brought its benefits and, indeed, its surprises. The going for me was pretty good even on the softer tracks and through the forests, and I could maintain a reasonably even speed all around. An additional benefit was that Chiara was much more settled with no horses ahead of her to distract her and, although her aim is always to go round in a flat out gallop, she was much more amenable to downscaling this to a steady trot and canter.

    The surprise came just after entering the first forest when we encountered a large puddle just past a sharpish turn only to find that it was occupied by ducks. This enabled Chi to test her brakes which, I can assure you, worked perfectly!

    Following our outing, Chi had a few days off and then back into the school now that it’s dried out a bit. We’re back to walking with walk/trot transitions and a little leg yielding. The right canter definitely needs work but this is best left to work on the trail rather than in the school.

    Last weekend I organised a session on an equine simulator followed by flatwork for our local endurance group. This was quite an eye-opener and I learned a lot by just watching. It was impressive to see how riders improved after the simulator session when working on their horses in the school with many perceived problems resolved. Next time I will try to schedule myself in to the session.

    The simulator

    Chiara is looking a bit scruffy with a rather long beard — not very becoming in a female of her delicate proportions. Yes, I know most people use the trimmers or clippers or failing that, a pair of scissors but not with Chi… She is quite happy to have her jaw stroked and rubbed and even brushed, but take a pair of scissors or trimmers near that area and she is at her most precocious. Some people would, I’m sure, be more forceful in their quest for a neat, streamlined jaw but I thought I would be rather more inventive. Shaving with shaving foam and a razor seemed a possible alternative so I stole my husband’s equipment and sneaked them out to Chiara. After all my skulduggery, it was a massive let down. Although at first she didn’t object too much to the lather and the scraping, it simply didn’t work; horses’ hair must be too coarse and I had to clean everything and sneak it back into the bathroom.

    Checking out the daffodils

    The topic of the weather is still in all endurance minds. While there are glimpses of a warm sun and calm, even dry days, it continues to rain. The birds, however, think it’s spring and are cheeping merrily but they’re wrong and you have to ignore their tweets as you plough through the now gloopy mud and retrieve lost wellies.

    Continued below…

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    The rain has wreaked havoc with the endurance calendar. My next competition for Fantom was cancelled so I subsequently entered one two weeks later to have that cancelled too. Happily the first one took the date of the second one so I re-entered and just keep my fingers crossed that it will go ahead this time.

    Fantom and Chiara have now been training on the beach and dunes several times and I am now looking around for different training ground. I think I have found somewhere — a magnificent daffodil field with a sand track all the way round. The daffodils have now been harvested so with a bit of luck I can use this for canter work and, being sand, this too will be an all-weather track.

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