Well Christmas and the New Year festivities seem a part of the distant past, although I must mention that I received a horsey person’s dream present: a pink wheelbarrow! I have now, however, escaped the mud and rain for a wonderful skiing break in the Alps.
We had a quiet couple of weeks over Christmas, where Chiara continued her schooling and gentle fitness programme. She is now on auto-chill when she enters the school and her walk and trot work is improving quickly. When I return from holiday, we will gradually introduce canter work to establish a better rhythm and might even get the new poles out at last.
Meanwhile, Fantom is languishing in the field, all furry and fat with a liberal coating of Cornish liquid earth clinging to his anatomy and his hair, well his hair: spike would be a good new name for him!
The skiing is, I always think, a wonderful way to start off the training of some of those out of condition muscles prior to getting fit for endurance. An awful lot of endurance riders, therefore, have a skiing break around this time before the season commences (it is amazing fun too). I must say though, that I have some aches and pains that I might not necessarily get from riding but, hey, it’s got to help in the preparation for the RiderCise fitness regime. When I get back of course the diet will commence and, yes, a dry February (even though it’s a Leap Year, it’s still the shortest month).
The beginning of this year has seen endurance in the UAE depressingly taking a turn for the worse; a predictable and sad scenario with races being put on outside the regulations of the FEI. These CEN (national) rides need to be less attractive for the UAE to put on. A start might be to remove the competitive element against other nations — surely competing just against themselves would become less interesting?
Back to real endurance, and our magnificent sport in this country, and plans are now coming together for the forthcoming competitive season. There is so much to look forward to and the early part of the season will be very busy, building up fitness and attending pleasure rides and longer graded rides as part of Chiara’s excitement-reducing campaign. These early rides will be fairly slow and, for Chiara, as boring as possible to enable her to relax and, hopefully, long-term help her chill in vet gates.
Chiara and Fantom couldn’t be more different. Fantom has a laissez faire attitude interspersed with “I can fly” interludes, whereas Chiara is straightforward in her desire to keep moving; anywhere, anytime as fast as possible. As far as fitness goes, Fantom has had many years in high level competition and maintains a good level of fitness over the winter, whereas Chiara trains herself in the field and is rarely still (she must sleep sometime?). In competition, Fantom prefers to ride in a group and tends to switch off a bit on his own, but Chiara is a loner and is more rational and easier to manage on her own. With regards to presentation times, the difference is so marked. Fantom has the record of being able to present to the vet when coming off a loop in 22 seconds, whereas Chiara is so excited that four minutes would be good for her.
Annie talks weather, awards and plans for 2020
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With all these differences in mind, not only are their training plans different, but the event planning and indeed race strategy are very tailored. I have, of course, been planning — well it is January afterall. I have made the decision not to go for selection for the World Championships in Italy this year as the journey would not suit Chiara. I am instead planning on doing two three-star competitions in the summer. Fantom will now have an easier season as he will be 19 years old and will just contest a few one-star competitions this year for fun.
I can honestly say that I am keen to return to Cornwall to push on with the endurance plans, although one of the first jobs is not my favourite — clipping!
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