Category Archives: Sponsored Riders

Find Out How Will Furlong is Preparing for the New Eventing Season.

2017 is alive and kicking! 2016 proved to be an extremely successful year for me and my team;
with another 3 international wins at Houghton, Hartpury and Aldon, alongside many national wins as well. I’m very excited to have been re-selected onto the World Class Podium Potential Programme – which will hopefully put me on the right track to help achieve my dreams of representing and winning medals for Team GB on the senior stage. As always with horses, things weren’t plain sailing! We had the disappointment of the YR Europeans with Livingstone II picking up a foot abscess after dressage amongst other little annoyances. Horses are great levellers – which apparently is why it’s such a special sport.

All the horses have wintered really well and have been looking amazing despite the pretty miserable recent weather. I’m not really a huge fan of ‘holidays’ for horses, so they have been kept ticking over gently whilst doing their strengthening work walking through the water at the beach. It’s important they get their ‘down-time’ in order to refresh but equally with spending all that time, effort and money into getting them into shape, it seems rather a waste to completely let them all down. They all feel great for it and we had two winners at our first outing of 2017 at Felbridge Combined Training. Annmichelle Norris’ Adele 97 has developed a huge amount over the winter with help from my physio Steph Brighton and has come out on winning form, whilst Collien P 2 has kept up her impressive form from last year! There will be many more training outings before we start on the second weekend of March at Poplar Park. It’s my first year out of Young Riders and in the ‘big-wide world’ of seniors and I’m very excited for that challenge. Many people in the past have said how hard the transition is but I believe that it’s my responsibility to try and stand out from the crowd and be noticed. Obviously I’m not aiming for Senior Europeans this year but I’m hoping to be selected to represent Great Britain within a Nations Cup squad. This will be a good stepping stone along the way to hopefully be in the selection process come Tokyo 2020. It seems an awful long away now, but it’ll come around much faster than we all think!

Will.

Turbulence in the yard…

As I am sure you all know, life in a racing yard is a little like being on a plane ride in the middle of a massive storm: large areas of turbulence which are rather stressful on the nerves, followed by brief periods of calm where you disbelievingly think things might be OK after all! No sport can push you up higher, or swoop you down lower, than the adrenaline filled one of racing, and our week was certainly one of those!

First, I must start by sending my belated condolences to all at Oliver Sherwood’s yard. There is no greater example of what I have just described, but to have such elation at such a brave and brilliant performance from the wonderful warrior Many Clouds ripped away from you so quickly can only be truly devastating. Everyone who loves horses and racing would have shed more than just one tear, and he is a horse that will live on in the memories of so many. I know we all got plenty of hugs that night.

At the yard, we haven’t had anything as gut wrenching, but it’s still been turbulent. Mr Mole and The Doorman went off to Sedgefield last Sunday, where we had all our fingers, toes and eyes crossed that hunting might have worked the oracle on the ever frustrating Mr Mole. His warm – up routine involved listening to recordings of the hunting horn on the phone, which he thought was great, though Door’s eyes rather popped out of his head! Anyway, they jumped off and for just over 2 miles we had the amazing sensation that it might actually have done the trick. The Mole bounded off in front, jumping brilliantly well and really looking happy with himself again. We were over the moon to see some of his former glory shining through and Richie said he gave him a real thrill. However, this is the Mole, and nothing can ever be simple. In heavy ground, he got very tired going three furlongs further than he is used to, and decided to lie down after crumbling at the last, scaring the daylights out of Ben, Alice and Andy. Being Mole, he was, I am delighted to report, absolutely fine and came swinging back into the yard happy as larry. He went back out hunting with the Bedale today (right), and was certainly none the worse for wear! The hunting does, however, seem to be doing the trick and he will have another go on the track once the ground is a little better. Personally I think he just likes the fact that for some reason, the hunting community of North Yorkshire give him endless compliments to fill his already inflated ego!

Door (left) was up next, and proved himself once again as honest as the Mole is tricky! He ran an absolute belter for us once more, jumping brilliantly. A hold up horse, it was tricky for him to make up the ground in that mud, but boy did he try, straining every muscle up the hill to try and catch the leader. Another half furlong and he would have got him, but 2nd again it was for him and his partner in crime Richie McLernon! He has been desperately unlucky in January with two 2nds and a 3rd to his name, and he really deserves a win as he puts his absolute all into it. He is gaining in confidence all the time, and there is plenty more fun to be had with him.

Yesterday, the lorry undertook the marathon trip to Kempton, where we were hopeful that we would be rewarded for the mileage. These hopes were quickly dashed in the first, when the quirky Wibble (Man Of La Mancha) pretended he had never seen a racecourse and never got into the race. The only good news is that when a run is as bad as that, there is normally something amiss, so we will be doing a thorough check of him now to try and find what it is. It was a real shame, as he has shown huge improvements at home – but we hit turbulence this time around!

All eyes were now on Bertie (Skellig Michael) (right) to try and redeem our decision to go a mere 245 miles down the motorway. Bertie is fortunate to be owned by a group of wonderful, entertaining and importantly patient owners in the shape of James Pak, Lynn Douglas, Gary Walker and Nickie Wellingham, and he given them some really fun days out, along with some rather less fun ones when he has been overly distracted by his surroundings! However, the cheek pieces and the might of Adam Kirby were employed last night, and from the moment Bertie jumped out the stalls he found his mind being rather made up for him! He got a nice tow in the race by the leader, and when Adam switched him in the last half furlong he started to engage his motor, creeping painfully upsides before finally clinching a thrilling victory by 3/4 of a length! He was yelled and screamed home by all involved, and was extremely chuffed with himself in the parade ring afterwards. Indeed, I am regretting being in the stable opposite as he still hasn’t stopped telling me how wonderful he is! It was a particularly momentous occasion, as it provided James with a first ever winner in his own colours, which is a really special memory, and something the whole yard was delighted to be able to provide him with. It is also a relief to get off the mark for 2017, end the week in a calm patch, and hopefully it is only onwards and upwards from here!

Until next time,

Dance.

Happy New Year, from Annie Joppe.

I am just surfacing after a Christmas lock down of no work, no phones, emails, Facebook etc.!  However, becoming a communications hermit is not always a good idea as when technology catches up with you again, there is a backlog and, oh no! Not another party invite!!

Now is the time to look back on last year, capitalise on successes and learn from mistakes.  Well dilmun-at-keysoe-2016-002what a year it has been!  Each horse has had a 100% completion rate; they are truly amazing athletes and it is humbling to think how much they give of themselves to achieve my ambitions.  Even Wizard completed his one and only ride successfully and made a dressage appearance.  Dilmun put so much effort into his season winning the 50kms ride in Dorset, being best Brit in the 1* class at Euston Park and successfully completing the 1* at Keysoe – not bad for an older boy!  Chiara has had an awesome first season successfully and easily completing all her FEI novice qualifying rides and upgrading from Novice through to Advanced.  The distances she has completed have been no problem for her at all and at each competition she has fant-finishing-kings-003finished looking for more.  Lastly Fantom: well he has certainly excelled himself.  Okay, only two competitions: 64kms in Dorset achieving his usual grade 1 and coming 2nd at a good speed in the CEI 3* at King’s Forest in Norfolk back in July which qualifies us for the European Championships in Brussels this year!

All this should put us in good stead for this season.  There is work to be done and aspects to improve on but also a lot to emulate, especially in Fantom’s preparation for, hopefully, the Championship ride of his life (obviously, we need to get selected first and we need our share of luck).  I hope EGB will take a leaf out of the great Yogi Breisner’s book and make the selection for the Euro squad 2017 early, rather than later as he said “I wanted selected riders to be able to plan their season with the championship in mind and peak then, rather than having to peak to get selected”.

There are several things to work on with Chiara this winter.   She has now come back into work.  Walking work with Chiara is chi-at-colquite-2016-002a joy and every time I ride her I smile and it is always very, very interesting!  Normally, Chi walks faster than the speed of light on a loose rein with her head up and alert.  However, we have achieved a few strides now of actually lowering her head and taking slower strides. When I say lowering her head, I mean to the height a normal horse would have it in walk out on a hack but it’s a distinct improvement.  Chiara has now completed about three weeks of walking and, after approximately 8 weeks off doing very little, this amount of walking is probably sufficient and we have now introduced a little trot work and schooling. It is fairly slow progress in the school with the focus being on calmness and rhythm and lots and lots of walk, trot, walk transitions.  Work has also begun on a little leg yielding on a circle which is useful to gain her somewhat wayward attention.

Well, another attempt at dressage with the ancient Wizard and this time far from successful.  filming-with-spotlight-002Wizard was (and is) on a mission to cover the ground with enormous strides as fast as possible and walk is a gait he has conveniently forgotten!  To say I was a passenger, was an understatement although this time we went approximately in the right direction at the right time!

At the beginning of December I had decided to work on my own fitness whilst I only had two horses in work and there was that little, teeny weeny bit of time left in the day for this mission.  To this end I embarked on a five week fitness programme comprising some really fiendish exercises designed specifically for horse riders AS WELL AS running each day.

Now to decide; should you ride first, do the exercises, ride again and then run last?  No, that can’t be right, by the end of the day my legs were on fire trying to run up the hills, indeed trying to run at all!  OK, so what if I run first?  Well, by the time I had ridden both horses and put in a few hours at my desk, the idea of doing exercises was not appealing at all!  What to do?  I eventually decided to mix it up a bit, trying to intersperse these periods of intense exercise with sitting behind my desk so that my poor legs could recover a bit.  Why did I allow myself to get into this sad state and now have to suffer the punishment?

warming-up-003I am not really physically designed to be a runner and not now in my first flush of youth (second flush of youth though!) but I reckon that this is the best way for me to get my cardio vascular exercise which is absolutely essential to prepare myself for the ambitious 2017 season I’ve planned. I also feel that this form of exercise gives me an insight into how the horses feel at a competition. I am not a great road runner and prefer to run off road over rough and varied terrain. However, I have learned from running how important it is to avoid injury by warming up the legs properly before tackling any of the rough ‘tracks from hell’ around here and this has translated into the horses’ preparation.

In a week’s time, I am off for the annual skiing holiday; two weeks this time so early preparation of the horses will be delayed a little but detailed plans for this season are still somewhat vague and nothing momentous is planned for the early season so this little extra horses’ holiday shouldn’t be a problem.

Happy New Year and thanks to my wonderful sponsors Feedmark who have helped me so much in 2016. With a team like that, it’s no wonder my horses performed so well in optimum condition!

2016 Endurance Season Round Up – Katie Bedwin.

I cannot believe it’s already the middle of October, 1151 successful kilometres ridden this season, but where has the time gone! I’ve been very fortunate to ride some very special horses this year; Elayla, Burfield Goodie Two Shoes, Penhwnllys Samala De Mons and Nahzira bint Chantanz. They all had very different goals this year, but they have all been achieved, and then some.

 

Burfield Goodie Two Shoes, has defied all odds and is qualified for the 2017 World endurance championships for young riders in Italy, after completing her two CEI 2** 120km rides, with a 1st at Kings Forest and 8th at Euston Park. She has also had good placing’s/grading’s in all of her other competitions this season, including her first ever Red Dragon experience, where she was 8th in the Little Dragon 80km class.
october-2

Layla’s season plan has been the most difficult this year, at times it felt like every ride I entered was cancelled/changed! But she had a brilliant run at Royal Windsor CEI 2** 120km, where she placed 22nd, the 3rd GB combination home and I was the first young rider home. Layla also went on to win the 80km National race at Kings Forest in the summer, she led from the start and it was one of those races, where everything seems to go to plan – and this doesn’t happen often!  Layla has also been instrumental in taking my young horses out this season, she is a brilliant confidence giver and has gained the top grading, even though she thought it was boring being a nanny!

 

Nahzira bint Chatanz has been with us since she was 6 months old, but it is still daunting when you enter their first ever endurance ride. I had no need to worry because Izzy has taken her three novice rides in her stride, and the atmosphere did not bother her in the slightest. She has now upgraded to open level for 2017, and has her first 40km qualifier under her belt, to start her pathway to FEI.

 

I am very fortunate to have the ride of Penhwnllys Samala De Mons, a mare who I backed at three years old and has subsequently returned to me to complete her first few longer rides. Marley has a lot of potential, and her owner was keen for her to fulfil this, so we started her on the FEI ladder after completing her last 80km qualifier. She was 2nd in the CEI 1* at Kings Forest, and this was a great start to her FEI career. Unfortunately, the CEI 2* we had aimed for was cancelled, so we will have to wait till 2017 to obtain her next qualification.

october-1

I could not ask any more from my horses, but I equally could not achieve what I have without my support team and sponsors. Every one of my horses benefits from a diet aided by Feedmark supplements, and it is instrumental in their performance.

 

So, whilst I watch the horses grazing in the field, on their winter breaks, my thoughts turn the 2017 season. Now I will never make ‘plans’, horses know about ‘plans’! But there is no harm in looking at the competition calendar…

Annie Joppe – Another Good Result!

Another good competition result!  This time it was Chiara’s turn.  Whilst concentrating on Dilmun last month, Chiara’s training was perhaps less than I would have liked.

Although fitness work was complete, there was insufficient time to pay detailed attention to all the other things Chiara needed to perfect.  During fitness training I found that it was quite simply impossible to slow Chiara down when cantering using her hanging snaffle.  This was whilst working on our own so I dread to think how it would be when cantering in a group.  Rather reluctantly I reverted to her Dutch gag with the reins on the middle ring.  I truly hate using a severe bit but accept that sometimes it is necessary and when it is respected minimal pressure is needed for the desired result.

OK, so now I have the essential brakes BUT drinking en route is also essential and Chiara was still having some difficulty drinking with a bit in situ.  Of course it would, in theory, be possible on a relatively slow ride to periodically jump off, unclip the bit and let her drink but it is far from ideal and when we move onto race riding next year it would be impossible.  The issue is not getting her to drink but either giving her the confidence to try with a bit or to provide something so delicious that she will persist in trying to drink until she has cracked it.  With that in mind, I have changed the sugar beet I use to the molassed type in her sugar beet tea and this has definitely increased desire if not necessarily perceived ability.

It is also necessary to eat regularly throughout a longer distance ride.  Horses are ‘grazers’ and are designed to munch away for many hours a day.  We humans disrupt this in endurance by asking them to cover large distances over a long period of time therefore we must ensure that they eat as often as possible.  Now Chiara is better at eating with a bit in her mouth than drinking but, unlike most horses I know, she doesn’t automatically try to graze, pick at hedges etc once we have stopped.  Again encouragement is needed in the form of particularly tasty morsels to temp her appetite.  Yes, this works to a degree but horse cannot live on apples alone and more work needs to be done here!

Another thing that really needed practice was loading and travelling.  Unfortunately there was no time to practice this before our next competition so it was on a wing and a prayer that Chiara was loaded to travel to Barbury Castle in Wiltshire for her first 80 km competition.  Luckily she took just 5 minutes to load and travelled the 5 hours to Barbary pretty well even taking some water (and apples!) on board when we refuelled.

Barbury Castle was to be Chiara’s first sleepover; actually the first time in an electrified corral.  She aced it!  She was relaxed and happy alternately grazing and looking around her at all the other horses in their corrals.   After she had chilled out a bit I took her for a good walk to look round the vetting area, the hold area and the really scary cross country jumps near the start and the finish.

The following morning after a leisurely start, I took Chiara off to the pre-ride vetting.  I was hopeful she would be chilled (after our last experience at the Boconnoc ride) but alas it was not to be.  We had arranged to ride together with a friend and her horse who was at the same competitive stage as Chiara so we went to the vetting together;  big mistake.  Chiara saw ‘Norman’ doing his trot up whilst having her heart rate taken and flipped.  As it was a pre-ride vetting the vet kindly allowed us to wait until Chiara’s heart rate went back to normal, then the trot up which felt like flying beside a winged Pegasus!

Within half an hour we were tacked up, mounted, warmed up and ready to start; an exciting start negotiating the dreaded cross country obstacles (and we didn’t even have to jump them!) and attempting to stay cool and calm across the open grassland at the beginning of the course with other horses disappearing ahead into the distance.

Chiara and Norman soon settled down into a good rhythm and speed and the first loop passed fairly uneventfully with Chiara even managing a little sugar beet tea.

chi-at-barary-sept-16On we went to Chiara’s first vet gate.  I had decided in advance that this was all about a good experience for Chiara and not about how quickly we could present to the vet.  It was a very warm day but we had anticipated this and had plenty of ice with us to cool Chiara down (necessary to get her pulse down to below 65 bpm).  She drank a good quantity of water on entering the vet gate after her bit was removed, but was pretty fidgety whilst being cooled so we waited almost 10 minutes to present to the vet.  After the experience of the pre-ride vetting, the horses vetted together resulting in Chiara’s heart rate being acceptable.  Unfortunately Norman managed to strike into himself during his trot up and was temporarily lame so was not allowed to go out onto the next loop.

After eating rather sparingly we tacked up again and set out on the final 40 km on our own.  Chiara was such a little star leaving all the other horses and cantering off past all those scary jumps again.  We overtook several riders, opened and closed gates and maintained a steady pace, eventually catching up with 2 other riders in our class and proceeded steadily to the finish line.

The final vetting was similar to the halfway one with Chiara being fidgety and not really settling and the trot up was again rather on the fast side for my 80 km legs.  However, she passed the vetting and we had completed her first 80 km competition at a good speed and still with a very keen horse!

Chiara then had a good two weeks’ rest which was followed by some gentle schooling.  We now have some access to some large fields close to us now that the crops are off and we can do some canter work. The next competition planned is Chiara’s second 80 km, this time in Wales so hill preparation will be a must.dil-scrumping-sept-16

Meanwhile Wizard has had his shoes restored to him and to say he was delighted would be an understatement; he was ecstatic!  Although Wizard is now 21 he loves to work (not too hard) and, although he won’t be fit enough to do another competitive ride this season, he will do some light hacking and a little dressage.

Dilmun is now on holiday with Fantom and will have his shoes off in the next week or so and has access to much more grass where both he and Fantom can develop rather fat tummies. Both boys are lucky to be in the orchard and have access not only to great grass, but also to as many apples as they can steal over the electric fence.

Our Euston Park Adventure – Katie Bedwin.

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!

Shoes August 2016 EDIT

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!

Annie Joppe – All About Dilmun.

Well this time it’s all about Dilmun. Well, almost!

Fantom is supposed to be on holiday to recover from all the little stresses his legs must have received after his 160kms race.  Nobody told him he was on holiday!  Big mistake I have a lunatic on my hands.  He has at present his own paddock area next to Dilmun, both of which are extended on a daily basis to allow the boys to receive a measured amount of fresh grass each day.  Dilmun’s paddock is slightly closer to the stables to it seemed obvious to move his fence first – NO, WRONG DECISION!  As soon as Fantom saw this all hell broke loose and to avoid the kicking, snorting and galloping I had to flee.  He is sooooo precocious.

Focus turned to Dilmun with his imminent second 1* coming up; this time at the College Equestrian Centre at Keysoe.  Dilmun had been here once before for the final selection for the World Equestrian Games whilst Fantom had been here twice before, both times winning the 2* – a lucky venue for me.

I have to say that Dil didn’t relish his training so much for this 1* and it all seemed rather hard work.  Not so much fitness-building was required this time as he still had a good fitness base from the race at Euston Park at the end of May.  Instead I concentrated more on schooling and interval training which seemed to go down a lot better than prolonged canter sessions.

Filming with Spotlight AUGUST 2016 1A couple of weeks before we were due to go to Keysoe we were contacted by BBC Spotlight South West to arrange some filming.  This duly took place on Perranporth Beach with me accompanied, of course, by Dilmun.  We had good weather, arranged the time to coincide with low tide and it was all systems go.  As usual I rode Dilmun down to the beach taking about an hour this time as we walked all the way to preserve his ‘hairstyle’.  We met a very impressive Janine Jansen who lugged all her equipment onto the beach on her own, interviewed us, filmed us cantering on the beach and then took her equipment almost vertically up the dunes to film us doing our interval training.  I must admit I think we both (Dilmun and I) felt more tired after this than after a full workout!

After Dilmun had his special shoes with pads fitted and a luxurious massage from Kate McCarthy, we were on our way to Keysoe.  I had chosen not to stable there but, as it was forecast to be very hot, to corral instead.  This time it was just one crew; my wonderful husband Robert, so everything had to be organised like a military operation:  corral set up, check in, set up vet gate, attend briefing, recce of crew points around the course.  Pre-ride vetting was in the morning from 6:00 am but the start wasn’t until 8:45 am so there was a lot of time to fill to good use.  Lots of walking followed, grazing in hand, breakfast for humans, last minute things put in the vetgate and the crew car and careful tacking up and warming up in all three paces.

Well there was a good-sized International field and the weather was fantastic (at least if you wanted to lie on a beach).  We rode out with the leaders and maintained a good pace around the first loop of 40kms.  However, coming into the vetting area it was apparent that Dilmun was so hot even with iced water poured over him.  As soon as you present to the vets the clock stops and no more crewing is allowed.  The vet area was over 30 degrees and we had a pulse of 66 bpm which meant we had to represent costing us at least another 6 minutes.

On the second loop we had to start well behind the leaders which was a little demoralising, but Dilmun soon picked up again when we had company and we passed a fairly uneventful loop.  Dilmun at Keysoe AUGUST 2016 2Again, though, our presentation was slow, partly I think due to the heat and partly because we needed another pair of hands.  This meant that we had to start the last loop all on our own in the hottest part of the day.

By now Dil was really feeling the heat and we were passed by a couple of riders, eventually coming home in 12th place.  Lessons have been learned – Dilmun is not a hot weather horse, you need more than one crew on a race ride however well-behaved the horse is and, in retrospect, with the forecast being so hot, it might have been better to have withdrawn and saved our efforts for another day.  However, no harm done and a solid completion gained.

Dilmun’s piece on the beach aired on television, facebook and twitter, and had almost 20,000 views and nearly 100 shares on facebook alone; such is the power of television.  Good for raising endurance’s profile.  This is a sport just begging to be an Olympic discipline with over 30 different countries participating and events taking place all over the World. It is inclusive and open to all and embraces the Olympic ethos.  Unfortunately horse sports are not popular in the Olympics and there currently is no question of a 4th equestrian sport being added; indeed it is debatable how long equestrian sport as a whole will remain part of the Olympics. Equestrians, we need to promote our wonderful sports far more effectively!

Ben Haslam Racing.

Our jump horses have been doing us proud this summer, and we are delighted with the 60%Ben1
strike rate they are operating at. Ever So Much (right) has now won twice this summer, putting up a brilliant performance in the mud at Towcester to cruise to victory in a hurdle race. He was then a little below par at Cartmel next time out, so has had a little break to freshen up after a long campaign. We are thrilled with him though, as he has now won 7 races for us in those famous green and gold colours of J.P. McManus, which is a huge source of pleasure for
everyone here.

We were delighted to be sent a lovely new jumper in Ben 2June,who goes by the name of Saint Charles (left). Also owned by J.P. McManus, he is a big, scopey athlete of a horse and we were very excited to be given the chance to train such a gorgeous horse. He came with a reputation for pulling hard, but seems to like the routine of a smaller yard, and got us off to a flying start at Southwell when he ran away with the 2 mile chase there. We are excited to see what the future holds for him, and are looking forward to getting him back out soon.Ben 3

The flat team are proving a little more frustrating, and are running consistently well without quite making it to the winner’s spot. Our two-year-olds who have run have now all managed to finish 2nd, that most irritating of places – although better than last! Our latest debutant is a cracking little filly we got from the Goresbridge Sales called Quiet Moment (right), and she ran a cracker at Nottingham to finish 2nd on her first start. We still have plenty of ammunition to unleash in this department, and hope that some of our bigger, later maturing horses will be putting up some good performances later in the year.

Annie Joppe – Now it’s Chiara’s turn!

Things have moved on swiftly since my last blog and this one is, I’m afraid, rather late.
The first goal set was to complete a second 40 kms novice qualifier with Chiara.  She didn’t get a lot of work since completing her first 40 kms in May; one full week off followed by rather intermittent training and schooling as everything was based around Fantom’s training for his 160 kms 3* ride.  We didn’t even get a chance to do any loading and travelling practice at all.

I had made arrangements to ride with my crew Katherine on her new FEI horse; only a small ride for her!  This was reassuring as Chiara can still be somewhat erratic and still needs a little confidence boost.  Chiara had been on her Steady Up Advance supplement for a few weeks now and it would be interesting to see if she is more settled and less tense.

Loading actually went smoothly with only a small hesitation and travelling, once we had started moving, also passed without incident and Chiara only had a sweat mark on her quarters where she has a stiff muscle area.  Note to self; arrange a massage for her to work on this area before her next competition.Chi at Boconnoc 2016

On arrival she did seem a little calmer than usual and behaved beautifully in the vetting,
standing quietly to have her pulse taken which was only a little elevated.  Tacking up as usual was the most stressful part, attempting to ‘decorate’ a moving target is no mean feat!  Off we went with our companion and Chiara leading most of the way through the beautiful Boconnoc estate (an area where horses are usually forbidden).  The course was lovely through ancient woodland and tracks finishing with a long canter through ‘Paradise’ – a truly stunning park, complete with herds of deer.

After a little cooling (she didn’t need much) off we went to the post ride vetting.  Cool, calm and collected; Chiara had a low enough pulse for the top grade.  An excellent result and an enjoyable and fairly relaxed competition, the only blot being me managing to get my foot under one of Chi’s.  Sound horse, lame rider!

Now the focus was firmly fixed on Fantom, although Dilmun had started some gentle exercise as a precursor to topping up his fitness for another 1* in August.  My aim with Fantom was to build up the targeted training to total approximately 80 kms a week for the two weeks prior to the tapering week.  This consisted of a mixture of sustained canter work either on the beach, around the cross country course and around a large sandy fallow field close to the dunes.  We mixed this up with interval training, schooling and work on the Pessoa interspersed with strategic rest days after the more intense work.  By the time the tapering week had come around I was fairly confident that the training Fantom had been doing was spot on and he felt good.

My own training, however, was definitely not all it should be.  When competing at Euston Park with Dilmun I had managed to forget my all-over fleece saddle cover and I therefore had to do the whole 80 kms without.  Not only did I have scrapes and blisters on the inside of my knees, but also wounds where a seam on my thighs had been rubbing.  The following week doing 68 kms with Fantom complete with saddle cover, I had taped up the grazes but found to my horror that all around the edge of the tape my skin had blistered! I spent the next couple of weeks pretty sore and unable to do my leg exercises or much running.  Another lesson learned!

Fantom had his new shoes with front pads put on a few days before the competition and benefited from a message from Kate McCarthy who had also obtained a small gadget that fitted to her iPhone enabling her to take thermal pictures of Fantom highlighting any hot spots – absolutely fascinating.

After a long drive of 8 hours, via Bristol airport to collect Kiwi our Dutch crew, we arrived at Fant finishing Kings (002) 2016King’s Forest.  What a beautiful venue and so well laid out.  It’s amazing what a bit of sponsorship can do to transform what is one of the UK’s top endurance competitions.  The following day I had a little ride out in the forest to familiarise myself with the start of the various loops.  In the afternoon was the pre-ride vetting.  Graham was to trot up Fantom for me so we had a little practice.  I have never seen Fantom behave so badly!  He alternately stood on his back legs and kicked out behind and sideways, eventually managing to catch Graham’s arm with one of his back feet.  I trotted him up in the vetting not wanting any of my crew injured.  This was the only time I have ever felt fearful doing a trot up but, of course, Fantom behaved himself perfectly…

5.30am and start time!  It had been light for hours and Kiwi and Katherine had also been up for hours feeding and walking Fantom.  The tack went on, more walking in hand, then up I went to do the warming up at a slightly faster pace.  Oh no, Fantom was back to the bad behaviour, leaping and making butterfly motions with his front legs (he must be double-jointed he’s so flexible).  Off we went with Fantom taking a bit of a hold but then settling into his stride just Crossing the Line King's 2016behind the leading pack.

Loops came and went in a blur with quick and fortunately uneventful vetting in between.  We maintained a good pace averaging about 16.5kph for the first four loops riding with the leading group.  Disaster struck when the sun burst through making the already humid woodland pretty unbearable.  I had to take a 10-minute break at a crew point and receive some intensive sloshing myself which completely revived me.  Unfortunately, that meant that I was a bit off the pace and posted quite a slow loop.

I had such great comments from the Dutch vet at the penultimate vetting that I decided to go for it and see who I could catch on the last loop.  As it turned out I only managed to overtake one rider but clocked my fastest loop at just under 18 kph and cantered over the line into 3rd place and a Championship qualification.

Well apart from the small blip, the ride went to plan and Fantom will now have several weeks Fantom King's 2016off, possibly coming back into work in October to do some schooling and low level dressage as a base conditioner for his bid for the Euros in Belgium next year.  I had prior to this ride decided to withdraw myself from the squad for this year as the Worlds were re-allocated to Slovakia in September rather than the hoped-for France in October.  This would not have allowed sufficient recovery time for Fantom and would have involved a long, long journey across Europe.

On my return I discovered that somehow Dilmun’s mane had been shortened (this is his crowning glory).  Wizard’s tail had also been drastically and mysteriously shortened over the last few weeks and now I know the culprit – little Miss Chiara!  Total disgrace!  Horsey hair extensions anyone?

Fantom and I are now on the Championship squad for the World Championships!

March BeachAll change as far as Plans go! No, not the dreaded endurance gods this time (the curse of every endurance rider), Fantom and I are now on the Championship squad for the World Championships in September or October this year. Right, this sounds fantastic but in reality we still have to qualify by successfully completing a 3* together at more than the qualifying speed.
The background to this sea change in the Watergate Endurance planning strategy is somewhat complicated. The Worlds were due to take place in December in Dubai which was something I was not entirely comfortable with in light of the recent welfare issues graphically presented in the media. However, the FEI stepped in and removed the World Championships from Dubai and they are now likely to be in Europe! This puts a whole new perspective on the issue.
We had our first squad meet up day for 2016 last weekend and this is the point where my plans seemed to come together. Although the date and venue of the ‘new’ World Championships won’t be announced until June, there is every chance that it will be held in Europe making it affordable and accessible for more combinations. (I really think it’s about time the BEF dished out some of its funding to Endurance!)

March Phantom HairBack to the present, Fantom has now completed two weeks of walking with just one more week to go before upping the pace/workload a little. He looked like a round, furry tennis ball prior to this but I set about with determination straightening his tail, clipping his jaw and ears and removing as much of his winter coat as possible. Then I did something truly shocking – I hogged him; Fantom, a pure Arab! In my defence his mane had been badly rubbed by the rugs and it will be so much easier for him to thermo-regulate when in training and competition. One downside I hadn’t thought about is that it is much harder to climb aboard with no mane.
Dilmun, in the meantime, is progressing extremely well. The walking and gentle trotting phases have now past and he has started his canter and hill work as well as some (much-resented) schooling to improve his flexibility and maintain his topline. We have now had three sessions on the beach and dunes and each time Dil has got faster and faster culminating in a rather uncontrolled gallop back up over the dunes after having done his steady canter work on the beach! That he is feeling well is in no doubt, however he is still rather overweight and definitely not as fit as he thinks he is.

March Chi wadebridge2All of the horses are now back on Replenish as the workload increases. Feeding Replenish on a daily basis takes all the worry about the horses getting sufficient electrolytes to produce optimum performance during training and competition.
Little Chiara has now done her first competition. This was local to us, less than an hour away and I took Wizard with her for moral support (ably ridden by my friend, Katherine). Vetting was somewhat challenging as the venue was at the Royal Cornwall Show Ground and the vetting was in a large, draughty, echoing livestock shed. Pre ride the pulse was sky high but we were allowed to start as it was clearly just excitement. The ride itself went very smoothly but also highlighted areas for us to work on. Maintaining a constant speed was quite difficult as the speed we were going at was quite slow and the ground conditions were varied. Gates of course were something we had to negotiate and something we need practice with but we do not have any suitable gates at home! Drinking also appeared to be a problem for her as, although she drinks well at home after exercise, she won’t drink with her bridle on (not very practical for drinking on route!) All in all it was successful and the pulse lowered sufficiently at the end for us to pass so that’s one under our belt.

March cHI SELF LOAD (2)Just prior to this, Chi has some natural horsemanship sessions to try to persuade her to stand quietly in the trailer. Although she is happy to load and unload from the trailer, once on board she became increasingly agitated, cantering on the spot. After her third session she was self-loading and standing quietly in the trailer and even went for a short drive without company.
I had planned to take her to another competition this coming weekend to get the first FEI novice qualifier as early as possible in the season. This would have meant doing a 40 kms competition which is only a little step up in distance from the 34 kms she did for her first one. The only one at all feasible at this time was one in Dorset approximately 4 hours’ drive which would have meant a sleepover in a corral. This ride is also hilly with lots of gates and, on balance, I feel with the long solo trailer drive, the first ever sleepover and lots of gates it is too big an ask at this time. Instead we will wait another month for one much closer to home for her solo debut.

Plans for Dilmun have now changed as a knock on effect from the change to the WEC. The plans are for Dilmun to make his 2016 debut this weekend in Chiara’s place as a pre-race fitness ride and to test that everything is spot on. His first race will then be at the first of the newly-reinstated FEI rides at Euston Park where he will contest a 1*. This is a course he has always enjoyed in the past, having completed two 3*and 1 2* rides there. With Fantom now aiming at the Worlds and doing his qualifying 3* in July, Dilmun will probably not now go to Brussells for the Europeans dry run.

Well, busy times ahead for Watergate Endurance!