Well, I was right; plans did change!
After Hardy’s ride in Dorset I was so pleased with Dilmun’s fitness that I was happy to continue his preparation for Windsor. However, on increasing the canter work both in terms of distance and speed, it became apparent that Dilmun was simply not ‘up for it’. He has never particularly enjoyed monotonous canter work as he has quite a low boredom threshold and this year he was almost resentful of being asked to canter either round and round the cross country course or up and down the beach. I feel that, even if we had some gallops in Cornwall, he would not enjoy them after the first session.
In the meantime, Fantom’s canter work had been increased to match Dilmun’s and was going really well. A comparison of heart rates after the same piece of canter work showed Fantom’s recovery rate to be much quicker and his attitude spoke volumes – spooking at jumps, bunny hops and so on. It was an easy decision to make a substitution and enter Fantom instead of Dilmun to compete at Windsor.
Poor little Chiara had a minor accident, slipping on some concrete and cutting her hock. Although nothing serious, this wound has taken a long time to heal being almost on the point of the hock but it is now nearly healed over and work has recommenced. Her next outing will be a 40 kms local ride where I intend to up the speed a little to prepare her for her first 1* in early July.
Dilmun has not been forgotten; indeed he would never let himself be forgotten! He did another 40 kms ride locally a week ago to consolidate the fitness he had and with the intention of pushing a little faster. Because it was a competition, he loved it storming around at a much faster speed and finishing with a pulse of 37 beats per minute and proving that his fitness had much improved. He too will go to a local ride in about three weeks’ time with a view to doing a longer distance to prepare him for 80 kms races later in the season.
Back to Fantom and, wow what a horse! We duly went off to Royal Windsor to compete in the CEI 1*. There was a good International entry and we were really looking forward to it. As we were required by the squad to complete an 80 kms race prior to selection, this was perfect. However, it meant riding carefully, not too fast and no risky racing finishes.
I had decided previously to ride at around 18 kph at a fairly even pace in order to put in a good solid performance. The ride went totally to plan completing at just over 18 kph with the fastest presentation times of the day and, to top it off, we came 3rd!
Now for the really good bit: the following day the first five competitors from each class travelled in convoy to the main Royal Windsor showground where we were escorted into the main arena and our prizes were presented to us by HM the Queen and the King of Bahrain! Fantom, who accompanied me in hand, had been a little fidgety waiting to go into the arena but as soon as he saw the Queen he stood stock still, ears pricked: I was so proud of him. It was a very emotional occasion but a moment that I will hold dear all my life.
I have had so much support to get to this from my crew: husband Robert, Jo and Andrew Chisholm and crew for the day, Jenny and Bob. Also Feedmark, my wonderful sponsor, who provided all the amazing supplements to keep Fantom performing to his very best ability and, of course, I owe it all to the amazing horse Fantom is.
Now, back to Cornwall and to the daily task of preparing for the next competition. Fantom is at rest for a few weeks and Dilmun and Chiara are coming back into full work. The ancient Wizard is now on holiday for the summer which he seems happy enough about.