Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: underestimating the elements

  • Since my last blog, we have been busy with our training and preparation for the major events in the first part of the season.

    Last weekend saw Fantom and Chiara taking a trip up the M5 to the squad assessment day. The forecast for this day was pretty dire with winds between 60 and 80mph due to hit Cornwall in the shape of Storm Freya by the time we were due to cross Bodmin Moor on our way back. I admit I dithered about going with visions of our Equitrek being caught in the gusts on the open moorland and turning over with my precious horses inside. However we took the decision to go and, if necessary, delay our return journey.

    What should have been a straightforward trip up the M5 to Bristol turned out to be a much longer one with the M5 closed and endless delays following the diversion, but we made it just before our allotted time.

    In my special jacket

    The training day marked the first time that I had to wear a straight jacket! Actually I think it was a Centaur Biomechanics jacket with lines on it and a whacking great cross on the back to assess straightness. Both horses were put through their paces in the school and I was videoed with said jacket on. None of these activities were a problem but then I had to have my own session with the physio, which included taking my boots off and lying on the table. Imagine my mortification to discover I had a large and highly visible hole in my sock!

    Fantom’s inspection

    I now have my own exercises to do to help strengthen my left leg, which I have started to follow religiously. It has highlighted the fact that I should have had physio following my operation last year, but this wasn’t offered on the NHS and, like many riders, I spend the money on the horses rather than myself. A couple of little accessories have been ordered to complement my exercise sessions; spiky balls anyone?

    I have also been reminded to do some cardio vascular work; swimming, cycling or running. My son came home at the weekend, supposedly for his birthday, but in reality to do some shopping in the fridge and freezer, and he offered to run with me. He is 24, tall and very fit: no chance!

    Chi having the once over

    My plan for this weekend was to take Chiara to do a 25km pleasure ride on Dartmoor to really work her hard on the hills, but this week’s outing was cancelled. Ok it was due to be on Dartmoor and at road level the winds were predicted to be over 50mph, the actual winds around the tors would be much, much more and it was a concern whether people would be literally blown out of the saddle!

    My plan B turned out to be to take Chiara to the beach following a good session with Fantom the day before where he did a little sustained cantering plus some brilliant inclines through the dunes. However, I had failed to take into account the full extent of the wind. I did prepare a little by wearing my riding goggles against the expected sand blast in the dunes, however I was so unprepared for the whirling dervishes on the beach itself. It is not often I abandon a planned workout in progress, but this time I felt that there was nothing to gain by carrying on.

    Today Chiara was fitted with her new, black saddle and the colour scheme is now harmonious again, brown just didn’t really work — thank you, Nina.

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    I have just heard that the three-star ride I had targeted for Fantom at Euston Park has been cancelled, making a revision in the training programme a necessity. If I have any chance of qualifying for this year’s Europeans I will have to do a three-star with him before the middle of June. Do I go to Ermelo in the Netherlands, a flat ride with good going? Obviously this involves considerable extra cost with a long travelling time and, quite possibly, with added documentation, even vaccinations, following Brexit. This isn’t really much of an option so I will endeavour to qualify Fantom at the next Euston Park competition just a day or two before the cut off date, although with horses this could change.


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