I have now had my back operation and am back in the saddle albeit a little shakily. I did wait a week before attempting to clamber on but once on board things improved on a daily basis. I then decided to enter the Endurance Masters at Euston Park some four weeks after my operation which I know was a bit rash. Training with Chiara went well although I was unable to do any sustained cantering and my core muscles were weak following the operation. My aim, therefore, was to try to just complete a 2* so she would then have the required two for Championship qualification just leaving the 3* to do early next year.
As the event approached I began to collect together all the equipment I would need, buying new bright orange dustbins for the iced water, making sure all the dry feeds were pre-made with their added Formulate supplements and taking everything I could think of for Chiara including spares of all her tack except for a spare saddle! I packed up all the human and crewing equipment and food and we were ready to go. One last thing, a quick check on my weight even though the 2* was unweighted I didn’t want Chiara to carry any more than absolutely necessary. I was horrified to find that I had put on about 10 kgs until I turned round and found Robert (husband) had put his toe on the back of the scales!
We arrived nice and early at Euston Park so that Chiara could settle in and absorb the atmosphere having gentle hacks around the training loop and a quick visit to the hold area to familiarize her with the British area. Chiara was duly spruced up and ably trotted up by crew, John, for the pre-ride vetting. I should mention at this point that this was the Nations Cup and we had been chosen to represent team GBR. This is a competition similar to a championship except at the 120kms distance and in this instance comprised 13 teams of up to 5 horses and riders with the top three times to count.
The start could have, should have been exciting to say the least with 130 horses en masse. However, with careful planning I managed to leave the hold area just after the pack crossed the start line meaning I could quietly trot out with my initial riding companion, some time crew, Jo. The first loop was testing for me with Chiara begging to go faster the whole way round and me trying to stay at a quiet sensible speed, ideally in trot to save my back but in reality just adding to the discomfort.
The vetting was as usual quite difficult with Chiara refusing to keep still and in a high state of excitement with one of my new orange bins becoming a casualty of her flying feet! For the second loop I made the decision to go ahead of Jo and ride on my own if possible and life became so much easier, alternating between trot and slow canter and the time flew by followed by another high octane vetting.
The third loop was more testing with sharp flints and more uneven ground but was pretty uneventful for us with Chiara speeding up slightly and passing several horses. Preparing for the vet this time took even longer as, after 100kms, she was a little tired as well as excited but eventually she went into the vet. Unfortunately she was vetted out lame in front although it wasn’t visible to us or the team vet but undoubtedly they had seen something and it is better to be safe than sorry.
The following morning Chiara was sound but had some slight tenderness on that right fore so I was advised to have her checked out. However, all in all it was an excellent experience for us both riding in the largest endurance event I have ever experienced with facilities and care for the horses second to none and we will both learn from this. Another plus was that Team GBR completed in 4th place which is one of the best results for a long time.
I will now have to wait until next week to have Chiara’s leg scanned to see whether we will be able to have another attempt at a 2* later this year or whether we will have to start very early next year to gain the Championship qualifications still needed.
Well, just as I thought I was getting Fantom back to work following his tying up incident at Euston Park, he started coughing with a runny nose. Ok, this isn’t anything drastic but does mean quarantine and a rest. By the time he will be over this and back to full competition fitness the season will have ended so I have made the decision to remove his shoes and give him a good holiday; 2019 is another year….