Exciting times for Annie Joppe and Fantom!

Fantom is quite the most difficult horse to train.  At home, he seems to have the mentality of a riding school hack where all the motivation is kept for the return journey.  However, this is coupled with almost miraculous transformations into the flying horse.  How to read these extremely exciting moments?  A case in point today was a lunging session over raised poles where, to start off with, he was pretty indifferent then in the blink of an eye he transformed into a snorting, leaping monster.  They do say a good horse has to have attitude, don’t they?

It was Dilmun’s turn for a competition with the Inter-regional championships at Cirencester Park.  Despite Dilmun’s protests, bathing was a must and every conceivable part was washed and the very white parts, whitened.  We duly arrived at Cirencester, erected a good-sized corral for Dilmun with a fair covering of grass and went to check in.  I was gone all of 5 minutes and when I came back there was just the remains of one poo in the corral, the rest being stuck to at least half the side of Dilmun’s fly rug.  Obviously, this seeped through and turned my immaculate white/grey horse into a skewbald: just love this horse!

I would like to say the day of Dilmun’s race dawned fair but it was raining, not hard but in that annoyingly soaking way for most of the race, making the going slippery in places with mud in the woods.  Dilmun is such a professional, knowing his job inside out.  We started at the front because we could and trotted and cantered around the 80 kms presenting in less than two minutes at each vet gate.  We were in the veteran section and duly came 4th after I misread the markers and went off on a jolly of my own, letting two competitors from rival groups come in ahead of me (you’d think I wouldn’t make those mistakes after all these years!).  Despite this, however, our group, the south west, came second and hopefully my mistake didn’t rob us of first place.

Dilmun enjoyed his day I think but that is the last race ride he will do as he no longer has the appetite for the training necessary to compete at that distance.  After a long holiday, he will have a quieter time with shorter rides and ruling the roost at home.

Three days after getting back from Cirencester we were on the road again.  This time off to Euston Park on the Norfolk/Suffolk borders with Fantom for the final selection of the squad for the European Championships in Brussels.  After a super quick trip (7 hours) we arrived at leisure, walked Fantom about a bit and just chilled.

The following day when everyone had arrived we were required to go out together on the 20 kms loop which would be used as part of the weekend’s competitions.  This went smoothly and Fantom behaved well, enjoying the near perfect going.  Following this we had to do one-mile loops at set speeds with short resting periods in between.  Just after this we were told that we had been SELECTED FOR THE EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIPS!

Since then I have been sorting and cleaning everything I will need to take with me (and there is a lot!)  I also decided to sort and clean everything in the tack room so busy, busy.  At the assessment, lactic tests were again made and Fantom’s fitness had come on in leaps and bounds (literally) and he was just about ready to rock!  This meant that since then we have had a couple of good training sessions but work has now reduced to more gentle exercise (also safer for both of us!).

In the meantime, I have been studying the information available about the course and the venue.  The venue is actually in Brussels, situated in a park surrounded by roads and the city and the course is apparently through the beautiful Foret de Soignes and surrounding area. This promises forest tracks which I am told are undulating with many twists and turns and the going encompassing areas of deep sand and also hard tracks.  In other words, expect everything!  As I have been planning for this Championship all year (actually planning started the day Fantom qualified last year), I have done my best to condition and prepare him for most eventualities so fingers crossed it all goes according to plan.

We’re now almost ready to go with Fantom being newly shod and me still debating whether to clip him as he has such a fine coat and feels the cold: shivering could be disastrous in the vet gate.  We leave on Sunday with the Championships now in a week’s time – yikes!