Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: I owe it to my horses to be the best I can

  • There is now three to consider in the overall picture of fitness and preparation for the two CEI3* competitions I need to do to qualify both horses for the Europeans. Chiara and Fantom yes, but I have to be part of the equation too and for 160km endurance rides it is not enough to be simply riding fit, whatever that is.

    I have a new role model; an inspirational person: Sir Ranulph Feinnes (yes, I’ve been reading his autobiography) whose expeditions and sheer dogged determination is a matter of envy and awe. I don’t know whether there is any reason why I shouldn’t run, but it seems difficult. The words appropriate here are “it’s not I can’t, but why can’t I?”, and to this end I’ve decided to thoroughly test out the possibility of running as my method of increasing my fitness unless I’ve proved beyond doubt that I really CAN’T run!

    Me running

    Now, I need a goal for motivation as it’s so easy to become disenchanted with the whole idea and there are always a million and one things that I really need to do rather than putting on my running shoes. Now, what will the goal be?

    Last week the FEI sports forum devoted a whole day to endurance and heard a report from the endurance temporary committee, set up to look at ways forward in the discipline. There were some good ideas, some better received than others and one or two from a different angle. However, one does wonder whether the temporary committee have missed a trick in not taking the sport of endurance right back and completely redesigning it. However, the proposals go to the national federations in July with final amendments to the current rules being voted on in the FEI general assembly in November in Moscow. We can only hope that sense and clarity prevail.

    Chi starting work again

    At the weekend, my husband had a rather special birthday so as a surprise I whisked him off to Venice for a couple of days. When I left, the weather here was balmy; or at least totally dry if not warm, and my fields were filled with lovely-looking spring grass. As usual, the horses had to be strip grazed so I could monitor their intake and it was all going swimmingly. While I was away for those two days, the heavens had opened and the neat, tidy areas my horses were occupying turned into something resembling freshly ploughed fields!


    It’s all systems go with Fantom now. After reducing his work for the past couple of weeks, he is now stepping up again, gradually building up his canter work and re-introducing interval training. One of my main cantering areas is on the beach at low tide and, where possible, when there are not too many emmets (holidaymakers). Unfortunately this is often a wish too far and I have to compromise either with the state of the tide or the proliferation of half-dressed happy people complete with kites and dogs hell-bent on chasing any horse that comes into view. The other day was hot and sunny and I fell foul of the emmets. This was another partially aborted training session after having been pogoed up and down the beach for several kilometres with insufficient forward movement.

    To the beach

    My two competition horses are so different in character, attitude and even in look. A summary of Chiara might run something like this: affectionate, pretty and very, very, very determined, while words would probably fail me in summing up Fantom’s character as he is just plain weird! They are both unique individuals and have a huge place in my heart regardless of any competition success they may have. My horses give me so much, mostly without question, and I feel I owe it to them to be the best I can be. Lots of training for me then!

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    Chiara has just started her stretching exercises again and is having a session with Nicky, our physio, to check everything is as it should be before she comes fully back into work to begin the slow build up to a greater degree of fitness to contest her first ever three-star on 1 June. We have some work to do as there is no stretch of the imagination possible that could say that Chiara’s recovery times are good but, having analysed all her FEI vetgate stats, her recovery times are improving with sub-five minutes now possible. However, we still have some way to go and this will be a key objective in her forthcoming competition.


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