Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: down but not out

After arriving safely back home from Euston Park with the fabulous Fantom, a feeling of deflation set in. It’s not that I assumed we would get our three-star qualification (the endurance gods wouldn’t allow that), more that I felt we had a really good chance and had not made any plans beyond Euston Park.

I now have to re-evaluate and re-make plans for the rest of the season. At first this seems hard as the ultimate plan hasn’t come to fruition, but there are other goals and for me each horse must have a goal, however small it might be. I think endurance riders deal with disappointment in many different ways, mine is to plan ahead and focus on the next goal for each horse, working backwards in detail to arrive in the best possible shape for the desired competition. Sounds a bit like over-thinking doesn’t it? But the strange thing about endurance is that even the setbacks leave you wanting more. It’s a shame about the magpies that appear to have now moved in permanently!

Enough of superstition (I am going to make friends with my magpies); Chiara came back into light work after three weeks of complete rest. I am pleased to say she looks and feels as amazing as always. We have been doing some schooling, which I think she is beginning to find boring as she is behaving very well and her transitions are becoming smoother (downwards as well as upwards!). Training has also commenced with a good canter session around the sand track and some much slower work around the local tracks. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am really suffering with hayfever at the moment and hacking around fields with freshly cut hay is pretty uncomfortable for me. Actually the blue fields (linseed), while picturesque, are the worst!

The blue fields

Chiara has obviously retained her fitness and I am reluctant to do anything much above a walk on the hard ground. Cornwall is usually a rather damp place but at the moment rain is a forgotten feature of the weather.

This weekend, however, I took Chiara to a ride in Dorset, one I hadn’t been to before. Interestingly the ride was named the Piddle Ride, not because it was full of little old ladies with bladder problems, but because it was based in the beautiful Piddle Valley (pictured top). The plan was for Chiara to practise drinking and eating and chilling while travelling and overnighting as well as to do a vetgate practice. I know I was taking a bit of a chance with hard ground but the Dorset rides are usually pretty well covered with vegetation to give a bit of spring.

Travelling was a little better this time and a fair amount of haylage was consumed but Chi completely refused to drink, perhaps because this was only a four-hour journey so half the time of our usual expeditions across the country. I am pleased to say that from the moment we arrived through most of the night (yes I was a bit of an insomniac, checking at regular intervals) Chiara was eating and drinking well.

It was a hot day but luckily the sun wasn’t constantly out so there was some respite and the miles sped past as we flew through the glorious countryside completely on our own (we started first). There were a couple of little challenges on the way in the shape of some over-inquisitive calves hemming us in and evoking a mild panic attack on Chiara’s part, and an especially scary river crossing requiring some determination on my part to get through, spurred on by the knowledge that I would have to wade through leading her if I failed!

Fant at Euston

We came to our vetgate challenge; just my husband and I to get her undressed and pulse to below 65bpm in as quick a time as possible. Well it was hot so it was hard work and we really missed our full crew, but it was a fairly respectable time of just over five minutes which, bearing in mind the geography of the venue wasn’t too bad and more importantly Chiara was fairly relaxed! After completing the second loop we finished and passed the final vetting. To our delight we won a trophy for the fastest presentation time, so all in all it was a pretty successful day.

I should mention that as a 66km ride there are only two loops with a vetgate in-between. At this ride it was refreshing to have the first loop longer than the second one and to cover different parts of the countryside on each loop. This, I know, is logistically more challenging for the ride organiser, but this organising team run a slick operation where everything is possible.

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Back home I am pleased to say that the new loo has been built and is fully functional, no more coffee denial or close encounters with the nettles for me! Of course this is in time for Goonfest and the party goers (hope they don’t mind the odd spider!).

Looking ahead to 2022, it was great to see the number of bids to hold the endurance part of WEG. I suppose it in part shows how popular endurance is as a sport around the world. I still hope that one of the two bids to hold all the disciplines comes off to provide one of the ‘ultimate’ equestrian spectacles.

Annie

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