Another two weeks has passed and the European championships are only just over a week away!
Life and work still carry on but there is so much extra packing to be done. How could I need so much stuff for a competition?
Obviously everything needs to be cleaned: feed containers, bowls, buckets, rugs, numnahs and so on. The worrying thing though is that I seemed to have carried this cleaning frenzy to excess. Everything is being cleaned, absolutely everything, not just the equipment I need to take with me but ALL my horsey equipment and ALL the containers they are packed in and, even worse, the whole tack room is being scrubbed out from top to bottom!
All this obsessive cleaning started last weekend when our planned annual ‘Goonfest’ party (a large gathering for all our local celebrities) had to be moved from our orchard into the barn which, of course, had to be cleaned out in order to house the band, the bar, the dance area, the BBQ and all the essential tables and chairs. Remembering this makes me feel quite exhausted.
In the meantime, I have been studying the information available about the course and the venue at the Europeans.
The venue is actually in Brussels, situated in a park surrounded by roads and the city. There is quite a detailed map of the venue which is essential in endurance as, not only are the start and finish important, but the layout of the arrivals (from each loop), unsaddling, cooling and resting areas as well as, of course, the actual vetting area. These areas are where the crew ‘take over’. As soon as I arrive off the loops the crew move in firstly removing saddle and boots then into the cooling area where water is offered, cool or ice water applied and the pulse taken while on the move heading towards the vetting. The horse’s pulse has to be below 65bpm when it is electronically taken by the vets and the clock does not stop until the vetting area is reached. This is a skilled job and a high degree of judgement is needed.
Following a successful vetting (please!), the horse then goes into the resting area to have their every need catered for: food, drink, equipment cleaned and of course the rider then gets to have a little rest too.
The course is apparently through the beautiful Foret de Soignes and surrounding area. This promises forest tracks which I am told are undulating with many twists and turns and the going encompassing areas of deep sand and also hard tracks. In other words, expect everything! As I have been planning for this Championship all year (actually planning started the day Fantom qualified last year), I have done my best to condition and prepare him for most eventualities so fingers crossed it all goes according to plan.
Yesterday was the final ‘proper’ training session and I took Fantom up to the cross-country course for some faster intervals. Now, although I don’t wrap Fantom up in cotton wool, at this stage I am ultra careful on corners and downhill stretches going back into trot or even walk at times. Yesterday, however, it was apparent that Fantom simply didn’t need to do any training as he has never felt better and after a few fast intervals that made my hair stand on end, I called it a day and imitated Valegro’s wonderful passage all the way home accompanied by those ultra loud snorts Fantom is becoming known for.
Just special new shoes to come and some gentle schooling and lungeing and we’re off to Belgium!