Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: throwing in the towel

Well scan day arrived but there was no scan. Chiara and I arrived at the vets expecting to have the requested scan, but instead did numerous lameness tests and couldn’t find any indications of lameness at all, so the vet was reluctant to scan her. On reflection I feel I should have insisted as I really just need to know…

After three weeks of complete field rest (including hosing the suspect leg three times a day for the first week), Chiara came back into work. So far we have just walked with a little trot up the hills and some gentle schooling and (fingers crossed) she seems to be absolutely fine. Tomorrow will be more of a test with the introduction of some canter work. I have a deadline if I want to reinstate plan C: we have to enter the final FEI ride of the season in the next 10 days to try to do the two-star required as part of championship qualification.

Starting off Bonham with Fant

In the meantime I started to concentrate on Dilmun and reducing his somewhat excessive middle area. Dilmun, however, had other ideas and was not at all keen on training, preferring to amble along, spooking at every upturned twig or unusual coloured rock. OK, I throw in the towel here, he clearly doesn’t want to do the ride I had planned for him on Bodmin Moor so why push it? Dilmun has been the most amazing horse, a horse of a lifetime, successfully completing four three-star 160km competitions and representing Team GBR twice, so if he has lost interest then that is just fine and we will continue to potter around enjoying life generally.

Halfway at Bonham

My fitness has come on pretty well, although I still have some weakness down my left leg, but there is definitely something rather strange that has come to my attention. Today, while riding out, I swatted a fly off the back of my neck and realised that there should be some hair there. Where is it? I know for the past few months I have had short hair and have even visited the hairdresser a few times, but the hair at the back simply doesn’t get longer! I wonder if my riding hat has some special hair-trimming device built into it and if this an issue for other endurance riders or am I simply just weird?

Bonham crew stop

Something at the forefront of many endurance riders’ minds at the moment is the fiasco of the endurance event at the World Equestrian Games (WEG). It seems to me like endurance seen as the poor relation when it is the second largest FEI discipline with nearly 40 different nations represented this year. I originally felt somewhat wistful seeing pictures of the GBR Endurance team leaving for Tryon, but now I can only feel sorry for them. The amount of time and expense involved in preparing endurance horses to that standard cannot be under-estimated and for the event to be cancelled was such a huge shame.

Endurance vetting at WEG

Moving onto Fantom, and after his tying up episode, he had a couple of weeks’ complete rest to allow things to get back to normal. I then started to ride him gently but after about a week he started coughing with a runny nose (nothing too drastic, just enough to halt work). I started to believe in fate, wondering if I had missed any solitary magpies or missed touching any wood when talking about plans and whether I needed to make a sacrifice to the endurance gods. I had decided then to concentrate on Chiara and took Fantom’s shoes off with a view to not competing him this season. After Euston with all the worry of Chiara’s invisible lameness, I was pretty depressed thinking that my season might be all over. One day I was watching Fantom in the field doing his ‘airs above the ground’ and end to end galloping across the field, when I realised that he wasn’t coughing any more and in fact looked good. A couple of lungeing sessions later and he had his shoes put back on.

Now one of the things on my endurance bucket list is the national championships. I have been second and third in this but have never won it so perhaps I should give it another go. The only thing is that I had to qualify first and, with Fantom’s failure at the one-star earlier, I needed to do an 80km ride. The good thing is that it didn’t need to be a race ride, a graded ride would suffice.

This was leaving it all a bit late. There were two 80km rides I could do left on the calendar to qualify. The first one was relatively conveniently situated on Dartmoor but I was organising a team challenge there between Cornwall and Devon (Cornwall won!) and the other a ride near Mere on the Somerset/Wiltshire border. I duly entered for the latter wondering whether Fantom and I were fit enough and definitely with a little trepidation; it just had to be done.

As Mere is quite a long way from Cornwall in horse travelling time, we decided to stay close by the night before so we could all have a good night’s rest. Now 80km is not a distance to be sniffed at, it takes hours (well, six-seven) to complete, so preparation is the key. Robert, my trusty crew, managed the day perfectly meeting me and the three other 80km riders with their crews, at regular intervals with lots of assorted snacks for horses and riders.

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It was a lovely ride through beautiful countryside with lots of ups and downs and a variety of going and beautifully marked so that I didn’t have to look at the map once on a route I was totally unfamiliar with. It was also a successful day with Fantom picking up and showing more enthusiasm the further we went and finishing on a pulse of 41bpm.

Now we are qualified for the nationals which are to be held at the Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells. Fantom is resting but will do a few hill sessions in the lead up to the competition in two weeks’ time — exciting…

Annie