Endurance Story - 2019

2019 'Endurance Story' Winner - Emma Taylor

2019!! So, this year has been AMAZING!! I have learnt so much, experiencing the highs and the lows, including making my FEI debut and bringing my young horse out for the first time (trying to convince him he will enjoy it if he tried it!!).

So, let’s start from the beginning. Haywood oaks, first ride of the season, Cool dude 20km! always going to be a challenge, the CRAZY pony had far too much energy in March!! A grade 3 in the novice foundation, with the vets asking whether this was his first ever ride based on his behaviour. This was a great season warm up with a nice dry course, (it was very wet last year). So, the season had started, and we were off to kings’ forest next!

Next came some gallops training for the little 12.1 mountain pony, it was the WINDIEST day ever but really good to get some long canter training done before kings’ forest.

KINGS FOREST! What a ride, this was our first ever FEI event, Dude was the smallest pony competing in the FEI, we registered and vetted for the 80k1* the day before, looking all clean a smart, before returning the very exited pony back to his stable where he screamed all night! Then started the 1* at 8:45 am, and we were off this first 32k seemed to fly by 14.1km/h and 9 mins to vet with a HR of 60/62 and we were good to go again! Loop 2 also seeming to fly by another 32k at 12.5km/h with 11 mins into vet and a HR of 64/56 and we were clear to go onto loop 3! Finally, 16k to go and flying back out the start he felt so ready by this point we hadn’t seen anyone for about 50k but soon found some riders to ride back with, cantering back into the finish he felt amazing!! Overall HR of 58/62 and all A’s I couldn’t believe it we COMPLETED OUR FIRST 1*!!! Giving us a 2nd place!! This was definitely one of the highlights of my year.

With dude having time off after the FEI and a level’s looming, as still studying biology, chemistry, physics and writing a veterinary based research paper at the time, it was time for the youngster to come out. We headed to silk wilbury, this was Bugs first outing, a 7-year-old 16.1hh pure bred Arab. Arriving Saturday, we did 13k as a PR, it was very windy, but he seemed really settled, day 1 he behaved amazingly, day 2 however not quite the same story. We broke out of the corrals… and ran around the venue! 13k again and he was a bit of an idiot, but everyone has days like this and its all good experience for a young horse.

So after this, I got 2 out of 9 A level exams out the way and continued training for kings forest, at this point in time the results had been up dated, me and dude we sitting 7th in the national league table and 207th in the FEI world ranking, putting us as the top British endurance horse on the Young Rider world league table!! What the little 12.1 pony was on top form even to be on the league table was an honour but to hold this spot for 6 weeks was AMAZING!! So, feeling on top of the world we entered the FEI2*2day at the summer kings forest ride!!

The 2* for me was amazing, yes, we retired most people would probably see that as one of the lows for the year, but being in endurance so long I have realised that it doesn’t always go your way, so here’s what happened…

We arrived Friday with the venue already buzzing before the vetting at 3pm, dude marched all the way to vetting, very exited but with a HR of 36?? 36bpm!! Ready to go on Saturday. So, a 5:45 alarm ready to go out for 7:45am. Bouncing around the venue while trying to warm up (almost ending up on the floor before we had even started!). Dude was ready, we were the only ones in our class, so we knew it was going to be tough, 72 k on Saturday and 72 k on Sunday. But we were off, flying out the start, to soon be met by many of the Dubai crews, so much water given and lots of photos taken of the crazy pony! The 1* riders finally caught me up about 1hr 30 into the course, so rode back with the leaders, sitting at there 22km/h pace for about 10k before slowing down about 1k from venue as dude can’t vet as quick as them! 32k at 15.44km/h and vetting in 8mins 44 to have a HR of 52/52 and A’s for everything ready for loop 2. 20k loop this time, we met no one but still 15km/h so the loop went very quickly 1hr 20 and we were back, 6 mins to vet with a hr 56/68bpm and all A’s, the heat of the day was starting to kick in now. So, we headed for the final loop of the day another 20k loop, got about 4km in and decided that dude wasn’t feeling as forward as he had round the other 2 loops so retired as we came back past venue. Vetted in with a HR of 56/56 and he was SOUND!! Which was all that mattered, it was disappointing at the time but at the end of the day, you and your horse are working together and its much better to come home with a sound and happy horse than it is to push them too far. Dude was a star! And I couldn’t be happier with him, no one would have ever thought a 12.1 mountain pony from Ireland would make it to FEI net alone half way round an FEI2* endurance ride!!!

That was one of the highlights not only of my year but of my endurance career so far!! So, after this dude had some serious time off as the ground always turns to rock where we are, and it starts to get too hot. So out came the Arab for his first 40k graded endurance ride! He’s starting to grow up.

We headed to Poplar Park endurance, a course that I did 80k at in 2018, such a lovely route and we had great weather! Which sometimes makes things easier. Doing the 40k was a big step up for bug from the 13k but he behaved impeccably he was a star all day! Vetting on a HR of 44bpm, we were off, we flew round (even getting our first canter! He was a slow learner). 10km/h not bad considering we established canter, jumped a log for the first time, met pigs, went through water and used slosh bottles for the first time! Final HR of 42bpm gaining us a Grade 1!! UNBELIEVABLE!!

Next dude came out again this time for a ride that we had never done. We headed down to Cirencester park for the inter-regional championship to do the 2day 80k. Arriving Friday it was very wet, dude not impressed with not being stabled, but Saturday bought some better weather, HR 48bpm and all A’s we were off! Finished day 1 at 12.5km/h vetting in 5 mins with a HR of 64bpm (few! Only just). Vetted Sunday, I want to apologise to the vet I almost ran over in the trot up, dude was feeling very fresh. So, we were off again another 40k to go, 12.2km/h finishing in the heat of the day where it was very humid, so vetted out on a HR of 76bpm but still sound which is the main thing! So, another learning curve, but that’s ok, I think its important to share both highs and lows, not every day is your day, but he was ready to go for the UK endurance masters!!

A week before the masters came the Euston park Pleasure ride, 16k, through the water bug again a big idiot round here, didn’t really settle all day but that was ok. So, decided to take him to young rider camp, get some training in with lots of other horses at Euston Park before the Masters.

Young Rider Camp 2019, was a blast, leaving for Euston about 8am Tuesday morning to be there for 10am, bug travelled really well on his own and settled in his stable ready for the week. Met everyone else on camp and went for lunch! An Equine nutrition talk, and body condition scoring followed by some mounted games. This was a big step for bug riding round a big field with 18 other horses! Very exiting! He took to the games very well, other than having to drop the slosh bottle (sorry Ella it almost hit you!). Dinner and bowling for the evening also being battered at air hockey, which is harder than it looks, we headed back to camp. Next morning, came dressage (stressage!) day, a nice group lesson in the morning with 8 horses, was really good experience for bug! Followed by goal setting and ridercise, which were great. Then came the dressage test, someone called it out, LUCKILY never would have remembered it otherwise! 37% not bad defiantly some points to work on in the future like not jumping over the letters and trying to the leave the arena. Dominos pizza, music and sunshine, what more could you want! So, day 3, the day that I had been most looking forward to, the training ride! A set distance (about 15k) at a set speed, we decided to head into the fastest group set at 11.5km/h! 15k with 3 mares it took him a while to settle, so we CANTERED round the 15k, coming in at 14.5km/h so we didn’t win the challenge, but we had great fun doing it! By this point the wind had started to pick up so we all left camp early. What a great week and learnt so much!!

Then came to H.H Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rahid Al Maktoum UK Endurance Festival and home to the UK Endurance Masters and European championships 2019. So, a pretty huge event, I was taking bug on the Monday to do his 2nd 40k novice qualifier, Watched Europeans Saturday, they were amazing it was worth the 5am start, team 5th with 4/5 riders round for team GB!! So, then we headed up Sunday evening to get bug settled in to his stable. He was so chilled even with everything going on, there was about 450 horses on site! We were up 7am Sunday ready for the 40k, vetted under the scary canopy with a HR of 40bpm and we were ready!! And were off… through the flags, the track was fantastic 3 river crossing, 2 crew points and a near fall at a log in a hedge and we were back, so quick cool down ready to vet 10.4km/h, 20 mins to vet HR 42bpm! What a star vetted with another Grade 1!!

So, our last novice, 40k at Boyton Hall Endurance, arrived on the day, vetted with a HR of 40bpm and A’s in the rest of the vetting. Another ride that I have always enjoyed and always so far had success at, with my first solo 40k there in 2016 with cool dude, and our first 80k there in 2018. So, we were off… first track met a tractor, A STATIONARY TRACTOR, which was apparently going to eat poor bug acting like it was the scariest thing in the world! The rest of the ride was pretty uneventful, eat and drank well on course settled into a nice canter and we were back in 3hrs 41 mins at 11.1km/h vetting with a HR of 44bpm and another grade 1!! Also now upgraded to open for the rest of the season, he is a star and really growing into a great endurance horse of the future. So, after this we took a gamble and entered the 80k GER at Revesby Park Endurance.

Revesby park, previously known as royalties, this was my 5th year at this ride always an amazing ride! 80k there last year on dude and this year 80k on Bug. What a weekend if a little damp, not as damp as last year but still damp. We arrived Friday afternoon after coming home from Uni on the Thursday and rushing to pack Friday AM. We found our stables and headed for an early night. 6:30 am came around very quickly, vetted very well with a HR of 40bpm and we were ready to go! This was a big day for bug, this will be double the distance he normally does, VETGATES (which he has never done before), and going out of the venue more than once in a day. So we headed off for loop 1, the course was slippery after all the rain but rode really well a nice steady 11.5km/h and we were back in no time, into vet in 6mins (amazing for his first vet gate) HR of 56bpm and all A’s but that was the easy bit, getting back out for the first time is always a challenge. But didn’t need to worry bug flew back out of the venue, and all the way round loop 2 where the heavens opened, and the rain came down sideways!! 11km/h again and we were back in vet gate 2, another 6mins and into vet HR of 58bpm and all A’s again!! Now for loop 3, he was star leading out on the last loop. 11.5km/h round our last 16k we were soon back in venue cantering over the finish line. 7hrs 8 mins, vetting in 6 mins with a HR of 53! And All A’s, WE HAD DONE IT!!! Couldn’t believe it, what an amazing way to end your season!

So, what a great season all round, yes there were highs and lows, but I have ended the season with 2 sound happy horses achieving more than I ever thought I would!! This season has really made me realise that you shouldn’t give up even on the bad days cause the hard work and determination really pays off and the good days help you forget about the bad days. I have learnt so much this year and now with my 9th endurance season coming to a close, lots of winter training ahead and let’s see what next year brings!!

Emma.