Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: a horrible experience

  • Well last week I said that there were three of us in it, so this is how we have progressed towards our goals of championship qualification…

    I can’t say enough how grateful I am to Di, who has been our training partner for the past three weeks. The horses are so much more motivated when they train together. We have been hitting the training quite hard in the past three weeks with four good training sessions a week, alternating between work on the beach, the sand track, adventures on the cross-country course and interval training.

    Towards the end of this stint of intensive training the horses felt a bit flat and switched off so, as Chiara was competition-ready, we did a long hack where we hadn’t been for a long time which, although it added little to their fitness training, revived their interest in work. Last week we moved the training onto grass, especially for Fantom as a large part of the course at Euston is on grass.

    The sand track

    Our last training session on the beach was interesting to say the least. We had just completed a strong canter session of about 10km and it was time to take the path back up through the dunes on our way home. This path is about one metre wide at the bottom with dunes rising steeply on each side — a little daunting at first, but you get used to keeping your toes in! This time, however, we had just entered the narrow gulley when we met the local riding school with about a dozen cobs complete with holidaymakers. There was no chance of passing these, no chance of turning around and no chance of them backing up, so there was no alternative but to reverse down the narrow gulley around the corner and back onto the beach. It was a horrible experience — the poor horses were so reluctant to reverse as they couldn’t see where to put their feet, but after what seemed like ages, we made it. I think I need a cow bell or a ship’s siren on me next time to be heard above the wind!

    The top of the dunes from hell path

    Last weekend was the 53rd running of the famous Golden Horseshoe Ride and once again the husband and I were on car park duty with the additional job this year of checking passports before the horses were unloaded. Despite some wonderful prizes from sponsors, there were a low number of entries in both the two main classes, although the lower distances were well-supported. The completion rate at the longer distances was not high but the weather was endurance-perfect being cool with a nice breeze and no rain and, more importantly, no mud. It does seem more and more difficult to attract riders to compete in the tough, long national rides, although plenty seem keen to do the one-stars around the country. However, all sorts of horses and riders have a go at the lower distances, even a couple of horses destined for the UAE. I think this was a bit of a shock for them — hills they expected but rough going, gates and marking with orange flags they did not. There were quite a lot of ponies — Exmoors, Connemaras and Welshies — competing, some with quite young children, which was encouraging to see.

    Essential drinking practice

    I have now seen the schedules for the two upcoming three-stars I have planned and the format of the competitions is somewhat different with Chiara’s competition — King’s Forest is a six-loop format and the one two weeks later at Euston Park is a five-loop race. This one, I feel will be harder on the horses as the first two loops are 40km long with the third loop 38km. Obviously there will be correspondingly less vetting which is not necessarily a good thing, and there will be less rest for the horses and riders.

    My personal training has taken a slightly different route to the one I originally planned. I am still doing my pilates exercises about four times a week but, instead of running around the lanes, I have dusted off our rather old treadmill, which is conveniently situated in our bedroom. Now I can run up and down the hills for as long and as fast as I like and just collapse onto the bed when I’ve finished (it is a bit boring though!).

    Chiara’s racing trainers

    As far as healthy eating as becomes a honed athlete goes, I have had an epic fail. While helping at the Golden Horseshoe Ride last weekend, I succumbed to the cake stall in its final moments when there were just a very few cakes left. Well, I just had to have them. I couldn’t bear to look at them sitting all forlorn on the table, the only ones not to be sold. OK, I’ve got them, but now I (with a little help from the husband) have to eat them! Poor Chiara — at this rate she’ll be carrying more weight than she needs to.

    Continued below…

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    Chiara has been checked, massaged and had her racing trainers fitted as well as practising her drinking-with-the-bit-in technique, and by the time you read this, we will have hopefully completed the ride. Magpies saluted and chanted at, wood touched and fingers and toes all crossed, 160km three-star, here we come!


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