Watergate Endurance is back!
It is now nearly three weeks since we (Robert, Kiwi, Fantom and I) drove up to Keysoe where we met up with our third crew member, Jo. This was the culmination of a rather large amount of strategic training with Fantom to get him totally ‘racing’ fit to contest the FEI 2* race. When I look back over the weeks of preparation involved to just get to this stage after such a devastating summer with ‘the cough’, I cannot believe how we’ve managed to turn it around although the Clarity which both Fantom and Dilmun have been on has restored their respiration efficiency and well and truly seen off the last remnants of the cough.
We arrived at the College Equestrian Centre early afternoon after a 7 hour drive. Fantom was installed in his corral, which works better for him than stabling, crew tents were erected, the vetgate crewing areas were set up and we duly checked in. After Fantom had stretched his legs, had something to eat and naturally rolled, we tacked him up and I took him for a stroll over the first part of the course where I could check the going and the marking. On return the pre-ride vetting which passed without incident and we were fit to start the next morning.
A civilised start time of 7.30 am and it had been light for ages! Kiwi fed Fantom at approximately 6.00 am and commenced walking him out in hand. We tacked up at about 6.45 and Kiwi and Jo continued walking him. I climbed on board about 20 minutes before the start so that I could work him in at all three paces to ensure that he was thoroughly warmed up, supple and, most importantly, listening to me!
After so much preparation the start was something of an anti-climax. Was everybody afraid of the start line? We went off in front, allowing a couple of others to catch up but shortly after the start there was a slight blip when we missed a marker and went the wrong way letting someone else take over the lead. However during that loop we gradually overhauled the leader and passed them at a crewing point. Three of us went on together to the first vetgate after this 40 kms loop.
Fantom presented first, but only just, so we left the vetgate in the lead but continued on with the other two until one lost a shoe and fell behind a bit until a shoof (temporary hoof boot) was fitted. Into the second vetgate after another 40 kms loop and again we presented first but with another rider close behind. The horse and rider who were just behind us at the vetgate failed the recheck for lameness which meant that we would be on our own for the next two loops.
The thought of riding alone for the next two loops was not appealing but, as luck would have it, the leaders of the 80kms race ride were leaving for their last loop at about the same time so I tagged along with them. This was a much shorter loop, only 20 kms and it flew by, albeit with me going a little faster than I would have liked at this stage of the race, but we made it safely back to the vetgate and vetted through quickly and efficiently also passing the vet check just before heading out on the last loop.
This time we really were alone and it was mentally tough for both of us having to repeat the same loop and maintain a steady rhythm throughout. Nevertheless we did just that and even managed a little burst to cross the finish line. Vetting at the end of a race was, as ever, a tense affair and the feeling of relief on passing was fantastic, quickly followed by euphoria.
The following weekend was the turn of HS Chiara and Wizard as her nanny. This was a rather different occasion, low key, local and surprisingly relaxed. Chiara loaded and travelled well with Wizard and, after some 45 minutes we arrived at the venue. Eyes on Stalks! Little Chiara could not believe all the horses, trailers and people all over the place when she arrived. Wizard just appreciated the lovely grass in the venue field while Chiara got over her initial excitement. Off we went to vet which just comprised a trot up as this was a pleasure ride. What a good little girl she was and even stood fairly still to be tacked up afterwards and allow me to climb aboard.
The route was mostly quiet lanes with a short stretch over the moors. I spent most of the time trying to keep Chiara in a slow steady trot and our speed down. On the moors there were some extreme hazards: sheep which popped up all over the place and strange dark shapes in odd places (boulders) which Chiara found rather daunting. Just where the photographer was standing was a particularly scary boulder and we found ourselves heading off at speed towards a Bodmin Moor bog just when we were having our picture taken!
Chiara again was good at the vetting and loaded perfectly back into the trailer afterwards. All in all, a pretty successful first outing. Wizard, I think, was rather frustrated by the lack of cantering and the fact that he had to go behind most of the way.
Coming up is an outing to Dartmoor to act as an escort for the Dartmoor Derby, a 2 day 160 kms race ride in Wales and a mammoth trip up to Boston for a 1* with Dilmun.