As the day of the first squad assessment drew closer, the weather forecast was doom and gloom with storm force winds due to hit Cornwall at about the time we were to drive home across the moors. We carried on regardless, washing Fantom to restore his original colour of light grey and I polished and polished Chiara until she was a gleaming dark mahogany colour. I know that colour shines up quite easily, but she was greatly helped by using Feedmark’s bespoke all-in-one supplement, Formulate! which contains the ‘Healthy Shine’ option.
After a windy drive up with the M5 coming to a standstill for about 45 minutes, we arrived at the equestrian centre to have our assessment. I think it’s fair to say that it went very well, both horses behaving reasonably well in both the in hand and ridden work and with very little to worry about. I had to wear a Centaur Biomechanics jacket whilst being assessed to check on rider straightness (I hadn’t realised that I had a huge white cross on my back until afterwards!) which also went pretty well so we are now good to go!
Chiara was to do another pleasure ride, this time it would have been 24km and over Dartmoor with some really good hills for fitness work. However, this was not to be as the high winds we were experiencing made riding over Dartmoor dangerous even with the best superglue in the World, the wind’s pull is stronger!
We had almost two weeks of virtually continuous gales making training on the beach and dunes virtually impossible with the inevitable sand blast effect abrading the skin and getting in the eyes and up the nose. Some canter work was done in a large stubble field in the wind where excitable horses made it a bit of a white knuckle ride but exhilarating at the same time. However this training Mecca has now been ploughed up and my training areas reduced again.
At last the competitive season has started again with a 40km local graded ride for Chiara. What a beautiful day it was with wall to wall bright sunshine and a little breeze. The pre-ride vetting was amazing with Chiara being totally relaxed in the big shed where every hoof beat echoes around the building and I confess I didn’t know her resting heart rate could go that low. She did spoil the effect however, with her customary dancing and prancing around while we were trying to tack her up after the vetting.
On our way at last and Chiara flew around, cantering more than usual on the reasonable going and even maintaining a respectable rhythm in places. It is such a joy to ride a horse that is so keen to get out and compete, looking around the corner for the next challenge. With another good heart rate at the end, it was a successful day for us in preparation for the big one coming up at the weekend.
We have suffered a bit of a blow to Fantom’s plans as his targeted 3* attempt at qualifying for the Europeans has been cancelled meaning that the next feasible attempt will be six weeks’ later. This has resulted in his training stepping down a notch so that he reaches his peak fitness at the right time and reduces the possibility of over-training.
My focus now is on preparing Chiara for her 2* at King’s Forest in Suffolk at the weekend. She has had a visit from the physio, is having her saddle checked again tomorrow and will have new shoes with pads fitted on Wednesday. I am looking forward to this competition with the good, sandy going in the forest and the excellent facilities for horse and rider at the venue.