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Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: mud and myth-busting

We have been out and about at last. The first projected outing for Chiara and the ancient Wizard was cancelled due to Storm (I’ve lost track of which one), but our second attempt was more successful, partly I think because we’ve all become used to 45mph winds.

Prior to this, Fantom came back into work, had a partial shave and tidy up and had reached the stage for his first ‘gentle’ cantering session. Someone forgot to tell him what gentle meant; he was so keen to show off that he threw in a couple or more bucks. Luckily for me, the wonderful Di had come over for a training session as she was going to ride him at our first outing, and she had no problem at all!

Fantom with Di

Like many riders at the moment, I feel I live in a swamp. My horses live out as much as possible, with Fantom and Chiara living out 24/7 with a field shelter, which they only use to either eat or poo in, and are often found standing outside in the rain.

Before our intended outing it became apparent that a certain amount of washing was needed, especially as Fantom was supposed to be grey. I duly spent time scrubbing, shampooing, drying and then covering up the best I could, before having to turn them out for the night. Rolling, of course, was immediate and naturally in the worst part of the field — they are so talented in sabotaging my efforts to make them presentable.

Early the next morning in the dark, yes, you’ve guessed it, I was to be found at the yard scrubbing off the mud again! Upon tacking up at the venue and wandering down to the start, I discovered the parts that I hadn’t seen earlier in the dark, all crusty and brown. I suppose though within 10 minutes of starting, it didn’t really matter as a new, slimy coating of mud had applied itself to the lower half of the horses.

Fantom after his bath

It was a good outing and gave the horses a chance to encounter different terrain and move on a bit. Fantom, surprised me with the amount of fitness retained from years of endurance and he didn’t look as though he had exerted himself at all. I now feel more optimistic about getting him ready for his first major race in April. Chiara as usual was full of enthusiasm and a delight to ride, but looked a little tired afterwards — more work for me to do there.

The day after this training ride, my workout sessions with RiderCise commenced. I had to spend a little time getting the exercises right and videoing them for Clare, the trainer, but generally they went quite well, and I am now beginning to get the hang of the app! I have now started to up the horses’ work and introduced cantering and a little interval training. Taking the two things together, I really feel I am working much harder but with the additional exercise, not only am I getting fitter, but my motivation and focus is improving.

Me doing some exercise

Before the start of the endurance season, I thought I might do a little myth-busting about endurance and comment on some of the ‘quite unique’ things that we endurance riders do.

Matchy-matchy or a lurid fetish? Endurance tack is somewhat notorious for its rather vivid colours. This is something that I have embraced wholeheartedly and decked out my horses in bright orange where possible. Chiara sports a beautiful orange and blue bridle and breastplate and looks rather glamourous, don’t you think? (Pictured top).

Truth or myth? Endurance riders wear Bridget Jones-style knickers, you know the type of knickers resembling a parachute that could accommodate at least two people, plus a small bag of feed. Truth — but these wonderful garments need to be kept well-hidden at home and only brought out to see the light for a competition or hard training session.

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The virtue of map cases? The sporting of map cases used to be synonymous with endurance riders, although less so now that routes are so much better marked. These flapping, plastic things are suspended by a cord wrapped around the poor rider’s neck and shoulder, and the further you go the more they twist and turn, gradually throttling the victim!

All endurance riders are middle-aged women wearing tights, right? Wrong — this is a common miconception! There are young and old women, children and even men and they all wear tights, some looking better than others. Common to them all though is that they don’t care if they are a stereotype, because they and their equine partners are having so much fun!

Annie

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