Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: problematic squirrels

  • I’m riding Chiara again! Well the saddle didn’t arrive the week I hoped but it did come the following Monday and, although the wrong colour, seems to fit her very well.

    I had forgotten just how forward going she is — my first gentle ride was to be around a 5km loop, but after the first km we had to go through a stream and a slight easing of the body saw us cantering straight out of the stream and an attempt at full pelt up the track!

    I am approximately two weeks behind in my training schedule for Chiara with her impending two-star looming on the horizon. I am, however, totally focused and feel that even with Chiara only having a shortened fourth phase (sustained cantering), she should have the required condition and stamina to complete the 120km distance at comfortably above the minimum speed which, in all reality, is all she needs to do at this stage.

    Watergate team

    This wonderful weather that we are experiencing at present has resulted in giving Dilmun the incentive to shed his hair in vast quantities and, being grey, the fallout manages to visibly stick to every conceivable surface. The bad news is that he still has a mountain ready to leave his rather rotund body!

    Fantom and I went to an endurance-focused pole work clinic 10 days ago which was a first for us. Pole work clinics have become a bit trendy both in dressage and in endurance so we didn’t really know what to expect. We were pleasantly surprised. Our instructor, Andree Lucy, was a highly qualified BHS instructor (nothing but the best for us endurance riders!) and our sessions were illuminating.

    Fantom doing some polework

    Fantom behaved reasonably well in that he demonstrated his usual laissez faire in the first part of the session but waking up to enjoy actually cantering over the poles. The poor boy thought he was going to do jumping, a favourite pastime of his. I think we all learned something from this and the use of poles demonstrated quite clearly the need for rhythm and balance through the exercises, something that is essential in endurance as the combination progresses through the grades.

    Back at base we have had problems with our haylage. Several of the bales were heated and mouldy upon opening them which is not usual for the bales from this supplier. Ok, we do usually lose a few each year but this was far worse. Do we have rats piercing the outer wrapping? No. I subsequently discovered that it was squirrels! One or two neat little piles of nutshells gave the game away. Any ideas for a humane squirrel deterrent?

    Fantom enjoying the mud

    At last we managed to get Chiara and Fantom out to a horse party (a pleasure ride). This was very local to us on a magnificent Cornish estate and the weather matched the scenery this time with blue skies and a light breeze. A good friend of mine rode Fantom and commented that “it is good we’re going out early before it gets too hot!” This is the same month where people in Cornwall are talking about the sudden, heavy snowfall that afflicted us and caused the typical British disruption to the road network.

    After a detailed passport inspection for flu vaccinations, we made a rather fidgety and extremely keen start. It was a fairly quiet ride with the entries being halved by the need for flu vaccinations to compete at EGB rides. I was a little surprised to find that so many people had not vaccinated their horses against equine flu, perhaps they will now. We were out first in unfamiliar countryside but navigation was easy with the efficient marking of the route, which was just as well as map reading on an extremely enthusiastic Chiara is not something to be relished.

    Fantom and Jan

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    Chiara on balance behaved very well and was obviously enjoying herself, glad to get out and about again. This time it was Fantom’s turn to let the side down — he was treated to a lightweight rider but does he show his appreciation? No, of course not, he dumped her big time just before returning to the venue!

    Next weekend is the squad assessments for both Fantom and Chiara and not too far away either; only about a four-hour drive…


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