Endurance Story

2018 'Endurance Story' Winner - Emma Taylor

2018! Where to start! It has been a great year, I have been embracing the highs and learning from the lows. This year my goal was to get my FEI Qualification, and to get both of my ponies upgraded to advanced. So I started early.

Winter training was going well, riding before college, after college and at the weekends. Riding on the frozen ground and making use of the sunshine. Then in February we went training at Thetford, we completed 2x 20km loops one at 10km/h and one at 12.5km/h, dude a 12.1 Exmoor X was very excited all the way through but got very warm with his winter fur still on. I used this as his warm up ride for the season.

My season started with Holyoake nightingale, a 13.1 Welsh mountain pony, we did the 32km GER at Haywood Oaks. It was FREEZING! Nice steady warm up 10.5km/h and finishing on a HR of 56bpm due to the cold. Very Well Behaved pony, ready for Kings Forest 2 weeks later.

So Kings Forest, this was a huge learning curve and was supposed to be Dudes first 80km GER. However before I entered the Team Management wanted to meat possible future Squad Horses so I swapped them over and took Holyoake Nightingale instead. We vetted on the Friday ready to start the 80km GER on the Saturday. She was very excited in the vetting, but passed ready to go. Vetting the day before meant we could tack up in the corral which really helped as she was calm with her friends. The walking up towards the vet gate, she was exited again, running in tight circles, so it was safer for me to get on as soon as possible! It took 4 people to get me on as she started to bronc about. (NAUGHTY pony!!). We then waited for most of the class to leave the venue to we could start quietly on our own, however this was a huge mistake. Very fast first loop as she tried to catch other horses. 14km/h and 5 mins to vet with a HR of 6-bpm meaning we were ready for loop 2. We left for loop 2 about the same as we left for loop 1, this time with a little more control. This loop we took much slower 10.5km/h bringing our average down to 12.4km/h, recovery of 8 mins and a HR of 62bpm and we were then ready for loop 3. This loop proved to be a disaster, Precious was at the point of giving up so she decides to WALK. As she can’t walk very fast this 16km loop took us forever, or what felt like forever, 3hr 30mins later after realizing we were over time, we had gaiters out looking for us with vets ready to get us back to the venue.  Thinking there was something wrong they detacked her and we walked back. She was fully vetted when we got back HR of 40bpm! Sound! Physically there was nothing wrong! Just mentally she had given up. I feel that I had given up to riding 80kms on my own with all the tracks being very similar it was boring to ride. Wouldn’t stop us from trying again though. Saw by the team management surprised to see how well she had recovered, you couldn’t tell she had done 80km the day before.

So precious then had time off and got Dude ready for Poplar Park (his first 80km). He was so excited when we got there, bouncing around on the way to vet and then while he was being tacked up. CRAZY PONY! Passed vet ready to go, got out of the vet gate before the start and we had a fair few broncs, almost came off. Great start! But then we were off, not long before we found something scary and did a complete 360 before running the other way (there was NOTHING there). Carried on flew round loop 1 at 14km/h vetted in 8 mins HR of 56bpm and fully sounds as he tried to take off across the field! It was getting towards the heat of the day now as we left for loop 2, again left very fast he was chasing an ex-Race horse we had met on loop 1. Flew round the 20km loop at about 10km/h trying to slow down, back at venue very hot now, 10 mins to vet but HR of 64bpm, sound, however they wanted us to represent as they were worried about the heat. So before tacking back up presented to vet again HR of 60bpm so still quite high, sound and dehydration was better so it was our choice if we wanted to go out again. We decided we would, still flying round the last loop at 11km/h didn’t stop once and pulled the whole way! Then the final vetting waited 20 mins but it was so hot we thought we should go before it gets any hotter, HR of 70bpm but sound, just too hot! We learnt that next time he will need hogging and clipping however couldn’t be happier now knew he could do the distance.

Next came Keysoe, another hot ride but precious was more than ready and I was much more determined this time, left the venue escorting a junior on loops 1 and 2. Loop 1 precious was ready to go, 8.5km/h but we were then determined on loop 2 and 3 to make up the time. Vetted in 5 mins HR of 60bpm and sound ready for the next loop. Back out on the 32km loop this time riding at just under 12km/h bringing our average speed up, vetted through again HR of 62 and sound for loop 3. This time we had planned to take her friend round the 20km, standing at the start and they had decided her friend couldn’t go with her, so she decided she also didn’t want to go. Led her out the venue on foot, and mounted on the x-country course. To my surprise I then asked her to go forward and we took off again in canter, this was a hard loop trying to keep her going, on our own AGAIN and last ones on course, but flew round at 13km/h, very happy with her. Got back to the venue and her friend Joey has escaped so caught him on our way in and came in doing ride and lead! Vetted and she had PASSED!! Finally I had done it was advanced and it felt amazing. Didn’t feel quite so fun when I remembered I had to drive home afterwards! Back in her field looking like she had done nothing.

This prompted us to try again later in the year. Firstly though came camp! This was an amazing week full of training and useful tips. It was at Euston Park again which is an amazing venue. Precious was going on her own this time, loaded well and traveled amazing since she hasn’t travelled on her own before. Got there and she was so calm, straight into her stable to eat her hay while we went to park the lorry and get the camp sorted. Then we want to look around the World Horse Welfare center, this was very interesting and had some great success stories. We then went out to exercise the horses, just a gentle walk as I had entered the 80km that weekend, and trying not to do too much. Then out for dinner, which was really nice before playing rounder’s (this went better than last year). Day 2 came the biomechanics session, this was really useful, they assessed using motion technology how balanced we were with our tack and on out horses in walk, trot and canter, in straight line and circles. We watched the videos back and discussed the results after, there were a few bucks in mine! But other than that all good, then we had a session on saddle fitting and we made sure that our saddles were fitting correctly before the training session the next day. Day 3, we were split into groups and given a set speed to ride at ours was 10km/h, this was really difficult without any monitoring equipment only a watch, we followed the 20km route which we had worked out from the colour of the arrows. The hardest part was keeping to the slower speed we were all used to riding much faster so we were constantly slowing down and speeding up. Got back to find we rode at 9.5km/h so our group won the challenge! Overall we had a good week.

Then I realised that precious wasn’t quite right, she had a swelling in one leg which decreased after walking, was told to walk her as much as possible and then bandage her overnight. So ride day came and her legs had gone almost back to normal but were constantly improving. However we were vetted out at pre-ride vetting, slightly off on her left fore. It was a shame but we called out physio and got her checked out. A few weeks later she was sound again.

In the mean-time we had the UK Endurance Festival at Euston Park, this is my favourite event of the year, and there is always so many people from so many different countries. I went up on the Thursday night to crew on the Friday, it was amazing just to watch all of the other crews and the 200 horses out on the course. Then came the party on Friday night, this was great fun, with music, food and a natural horsemanship demo. Saturday morning came round very early, and we volunteered to help at the event. We were road stewards for the day, we were located in 3 different areas throughout the day, and meeting new people and watching many horses ride round the Nations Cup Classes. Then in the afternoon my pony arrived, he was so exited and spun round his stable for a while. Only doing the 32km ride on the Sunday to escort out youngster. Flew out of the stable on Sunday and dragged me up to vet, dragged me through the trot up and back out again. Passed first vetting, at this point wasn’t sure how I was going to keep to novice speeds! The speed was a challenge but we just did a lot of circles and waited longer at crew stops as our youngster was quite so enthusiastic, Dude however had enough enthusiasm for both horses. Came back to the venue at 8.5km/h, with dude still buzzing we went to vet, HR of 52bpm and dragged through another trot up. But all good, both passed!

I had now realised that dude was ready to attempt another 80k, Boyton Hall, a ride that we had previously been very successful at. Flew through pre-ride vetting and bounced our way out on course! Loop 1 went very quickly came in about 11.5km/h not pushing it as the ground was hard. Passed vet gate 1, 5 mins recovery with a HR of 60bpm. Loop 2 22kms felt very short coming in about 10km/h into vet in 8 mins with a HR of 62bpm, at this point he was falling asleep in his vet gate. However flew back out on course again for the final loop of 20km, this went even quicker at 12km/h we came flying back into the finish, Dude led most of the way round this last loop bringing a tired horse home behind us. Final vetting in 15mins, getting warm again now, HR of 60bpm and SOUND!! I couldn’t believe it my little 12.1 had proved he could do it again! Now advanced I was so happy with him. 1 of my goals for that year competed.

Then we had three shires way, I took our youngster Peggy round her second 32km ride this time at 11km/h as 8.5km/h seemed to take forever at Euston Park. She rode on her own for most of the ride and was really well behaved, HR of 62 at the finish and sound so very happy with her.

Next came Lions Tail, this was a disaster, vetted out at Pre-Ride vetting after being sound 2 days before, left fore again! So I then made the decision to end her season there and build her back up for 2019.

This left 1 ride to go, Royalties, another favourite of mine. 32km on the Friday with Peggy, flew round at 12km/h, had to get off a few times but HR of 56 at the finish and a sound pony now upgraded to open for next season. Then came Dude again, ready for the 80km Flew through the initial vetting, JUST! HR of 64bpm as he was very excited. Bounced out of the start again, then I was almost put in a huge ditch before being scared of the photographer. He pulled the whole way round loop 1 and I can in to finish having to zigzag to slow him down. 8mins to vet and pouring with rain now, HR of 56/56 bpm and very sound! Then I went for a full change of clothes and a few more rugs before tacking up for loop 2, another 32km he was flying again matching the speed of loop one of about 12.5km/h. Still dragging me into the finish but this time I made him walk. 8mins to vet again hr of 60/56 bpm so very happy with that and flew up the trot up once again. Very wet now, decided not to change this time as only had 16km/h to go. So we set off again, met up with 3 other riders on this loop, however ¾ of the way round an FEI rider passed us and Dude decided he preferred there faster pace. Finally got dude to slow back down and came in at a racing finish with the other 3 riders. We were flying and then hit a point blank stop at the white line on the floor before jumping it and carrying on. Took our time to vet 15mins, hr of 61 as he had started to get cold, but sound and a straight A card for the second time this year. (Both of which were round an 80k!). Couldn’t be happier, however he decides the next day he doesn’t want to load so takes off across the venue back towards the start! He was now an FEI pony! Who would have thought it?!

So a great season all round, an advanced pony and an FEI pony for next year!! Training now continues and bug my Arab is in training for next year now hitting 16hh I hope he has stopped growing and we can get him qualified for FEI for 2020. Can’t wait till next year now, March seems so long away!

Emma.

Covering; Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire, Northamptonshire, Buckinghamshire & Cambridgeshire

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