Euston Park is well known in the endurance world, with a championship style venue and fast track. So I thought we could turn a few heads and take my pocket rocket, Burfield Goodie Two Shoes for her second CEI 2* JYR 120km. Now for those of you that don’t know, Shoes, as she’s known at home, is my homebred 13.2hh part bred Arab – so yes she did stick out like a sore thumb amongst the rest of the field!
The first challenge for little Shoes would be the pre-ride vetting, as I said the venue is set up like championship – flags everywhere, undercover vetting, white roped vetting lanes, viewing areas…enough to blow any horses brain! Amazingly, she took everything in her stride and she was an instant hit with the vets and ground jury! She received A’s and 1’s on her vet card, and we were given the all clear to start in the morning!
The next challenge was the introduction of temporary stabling, again no worries from Shoes. She was eating, and drinking well and I swear she was saying to me ‘stop stressing mum, I’ve got this!’.
The next morning the first task was to get the transponder to fit Shoes’ head – harder than you would think, as they are not made for ponies! Once fixed, we tacked up and were ready for off! There were only 16 starters in our class, but that was a lot more than Shoes was used to, in addition to this we were in a large open field, flags galore…and drones! I will admit, I was nervous, very nervous! But I put that to the back of my mind, as I knew Shoes would need me.
3-2-1, we were off! Shoes settled nicely in canter, and we did our best to keep out of the way of the larger horses. We were always going to be a lot slower than the other horses, and I didn’t want to go too fast at the start – much to a certain little pony’s disappointment! Shoes settled on her own, and we even negotiated the river crossings without me getting too damp!
We finished the first loop well, but the vet gate environment took its toll on Shoes and her recovery time was not as quick as I would have liked, but she passed with flying colours and we were soon off on the next loop of 30km. I was conscientious that Shoes wouldn’t cope with the 16.5kph we did on the first loop, so we dropped down to 15.3kph. Half way around this loop we met up with another rider in our class, and despite the size difference, Shoes was very happy with her new friend.
In to the second vet gate, and Shoes was still very alert, so her recovery time wasn’t as normal but I wasn’t worried, she was just ready to go. The vets were pleased with her, and we were ready to set off on the penultimate loop – another 30km. Unfortunately, our friend wasn’t able to continue on this loop, so we were out alone once again. Shoes did the first 15km of the third loop well, but then started to struggle. I got off and ran with her and she was much happier. We slowed down to 13kph, and I had decided to see how she went through the vetting and then make a decision about the last loop.
We were so far behind the rest of the field now, the speed did not bother me, all I wanted was a sound and happy pony. She again flew through the vetting, and then ate and drank well. There was a compulsory represent at this vet gate, which pleased me because it allowed me to see if the recovery had been enough for Shoes, and whether she was capable for the last 20km. She was given the all clear to head out on the last loop.
I felt sick, at this moment the end of this 120km seemed like a life time away but if Shoes was sound and capable, then I had to make that last 20km the easiest it could be for her. By now, all the other riders in the 120km were long gone and I was the last horse out of the vet gate accompanied by one 160km horse. We went out of the vet gate together, but that was it, he was long gone! So little Shoes and I were once again alone, it can feel very lonely, but we sang, well I say we… I sang, Shoes listened! The last loop was hard because the majority was two ways, so Shoes battled on until we met the first horse on its way home. She just didn’t understand, typical pony attitude, ‘excuse me mum but that horse is going towards home, we could do that too and it would be much easier’. But we bumbled on, albeit slowly and we met our crew – she drank well and we carried on around a small loop that would eventually take us back to our crew and then we would be on the way home…but try telling that to a stubborn, chestnut mare, who was insistent that we were still going away from home!
I will be honest; I have never cried so much whilst riding a horse! I ran with Shoes for someway and she was quite happy to canter alongside me – so I knew she was not done just yet, a little bit of taking the mickey I think! We made it back to our crew, and from there had 8km home. Let’s just say that 8km was done on Shoes’ terms, she was quite happy to trot, but at her speed. Well that said, her terms changed when we got within a 1km of the venue and she could see home! Well then she put herself into canter and pulled her way over the line!
We came back to a deserted vet gate, but the ground jury and vets were waiting for us. We cooled Shoes off and then just let her stand until we were happy. I was worried about her getting stiff, so we took her in to vet. I couldn’t watch. All our time and effort had gone into today, could she do it…we were so close and yet so far?
When the vet and ground jury said we had past I couldn’t believe it, it was all worth it! My little pony was qualified for the World Young Rider Championships 2017 – who’d have thought it!