Sunday, 22 September 2013

Endurance Newbie

Below we have a super report from Nikki Pell about her first Endurance ride on her young horse - full sister to my boy as it so happens.  I think you'll admit they rather enjoyed themselves!

Bonham 2013 – 16km Pleasure Ride

It has been 5 years since I put on an official Endurance GB number bib, I last did a competitive ride when my first born was 6 months old, and believe it or not I used to do OK at this sport.

The reason why I’m telling you this is to explain my excitement of ridiculous proportions the morning of this pleasure ride. This might not make sense to those of you who compete regularly at higher levels; however that is one great thing about equestrian sport.  Even the greatest of the great have to start at the bottom and qualify young horses through the ranks.

I now have a young Arab mare Vlacq Hadiyah Kayal known as Cher to her friends and this was her first outing in “Endurance” and as already mentioned I was very excited!  I had persuaded my experienced friend Catriona Moon, who was definitely not as excited as me, to accompany us for our first 16km.  Chris (my husband) came with me to provide morale support and to hold Cher whilst I generally messed about!

Bonham is a lovely ride as it uses routes from the old Alfreds Tower and Tally Ho rides; Alfreds Tower being our own training ground so it's very local to us!

The 16km loop stays in the Stourhead Estate and has very little road work, you are always going up or down but there are a few chances for a couple of nice long canter stretches.  Other distances went across to the Deverills and experienced the lovely canter stretches along the valley and the views at the top of the Downs.

The venue is an old airfield, we parked up as instructed and I collected my number bib and emergency contact stickers.  I got back to the trailer to unload Cher.  As Chris opened the top door of the trailer Cher stopped eating her haynet and stared across the airfield.  I swear at that moment she was thinking “this is definitely not dressage”!

Pleasure rides are great with young horses, the vetting is not so thorough but if there is time and it isn’t busy the vets normally don't mind completing a more competitive ride style vetting. 

At Bonham the lovely vets were quite happy to spend the extra few minutes “vetting” Cher and Cher was generally well behaved for them although she did not want her mouth checked!  Cher also trotted up very nicely too.

We have practiced at home, pulses, trotting up and feeling legs and checking all over but it is different at a competition with strange people.  I really appreciated the extra time the vets spent as it is such a good education.

Now, I had to really quell my excitement as I could see that if I sat on Cher and she was as excited as me I would be on the floor!  Once tacked up, I got on and we were allowed to start.  I was very pleased to have Catriona and Smokey with me; we walked round the airfield to the road and decided to let the horses behind us past.  Cher was not pleased with that but has a sense of humour as I asked her vocally to “stand up” she did a little rear, hilarious I thought!

We carried on walking until the horses were out of sight and turned onto a track and started to trot behind Smokey. Now Cher settled and I think that will be how I will approach endurance rides in the future, get her going forwards straight away.

We had a lovely ride, sometimes in front, sometimes behind and although not really needed but all about education we had a drink of sugar beet water and a slosh from Chris.  Cher was forward going all the time but not strong and listened to my voice and aids really obediently.

My parents and my children were picnicking at Alfred’s Tower and Cher thought it was wonderful as they waved and cheered at us.  We weren’t particularly speedy but to be truthful that wasn’t part of the plan. Experiencing all an endurance ride has to offer and having a positive experience was the plan, which I think was achieved.  However, after winding our way around the woods at Alfred’s Tower it was not long before we were heading back across a field of sheep, up a steep track and back along the road to Bonham airfield.  I have to admit Cher was a little less “cocky” now but not tired.

Collecting our time cards from the timekeeper I had a big smile on my face.  I really enjoyed it and I think Cher did too.  Cher got washed off and allowed to graze by the trailer, completely calm and acting as if she had done this before.  Then it was back to vetting, which went smoothly with a lovely trot up.

Cher was allowed to graze once more and soaked up the atmosphere whilst everything got tidied up and put away. I went to collect my vet sheet and rosette, chatting to people along the way – it didn’t feel like 5 years since the last time I had ridden at an Endurance ride. 

Do I have the bug again?  I don’t think it ever went away.......

Monday, 16 September 2013

The College Ride, Keysoe, Bedfordshire, Sunday 15th September 2013

I spent yesterday crewing for Rachel Rolfe and her horse Bo, along with her son Chris.  Rachel had driven over from Cheshire on Saturday to ride in the 80KM CER.

Her horse, a purebred Arab mare named Bo from the Biddesden stud, was keen and eager on the bright Sunday morning - yes it did start bright and sunny although a little chilly.

Hold area

The trot up lanes

Heart rate check, pre trot up.  Coralling area off to the left of the picture

Trot up, ably assisted by Chris

With veterinary check passed it was time to tack and warm up.

Bo knows her job and was raring to go.

The start came round all too quickly -

And the're off!

First loop was 40km, the longest of the three; out past the cross country fences - they really do have excellent facilities at The College Equestrian centre, I've never seen so many maneges in one place!

Crew point two, sorry I missed Rachel on the photo's, was too busy, crewing!

Coming in

And going out again

The route was riding really well, long grassy stretches, varied terrain, not too much roadwork, a very enjoyable and easy route.  But by this time the wind had started to pick up, a chilly, blustery wind, that with cold water sloshes was soon chilling horses if they weren't off and out on course pretty quickly. Sharp showers of cold rain kept falling too.  Ugh!

Loop two was 23Km and easier, bowling along they came into vetgate two.  Unfortunately for Rachel she and Bo were spun here, lameness in the right fore, so that was us out.  It was such a shame as they were going so well, under tough weather conditions.

Well done to all those that passed and commiserations to those that didn't.  Huge congratulations must go to Annie Joppe and her horse Fantom for winning the biggest ride of the day the 120Km FEI **, well done to you both after your bad luck in Holland.  

It's a ride I shall definitely be putting on my 'to do' list - the 'to do' list that is getting ever longer!

If you'd like to send me your ride report on the College ride for inclusion in the blog, I'd be happy to include it, please email me at

Friday, 13 September 2013

Now this ride is definitely on my ride 'to do' list

British Horse Feeds Red Dragon Festival of Endurance
Friday 4th, Saturday 5th & Sunday 6th October 2013

This is one ride that I am determined to do one year. I love everything about these, in my book, 'proper' Endurance rides; the testing terrain, the unknown weather conditions at that time of year and in that part of the world, four seasons in one day often; I'm getting goose bumps just thinking about it.

The ride description is quite brief, and I suspect it is a little more testing than it sounds -

'The route covers terrain that is mainly grass and heather on a rolling plateaux, with a couple of serious hills.  The going is fast when the ground is dry with wonderful views for those with time to admire.

There is very little tarmac (with most of it on the 62km, 82km and 164km route) and very few gates.'

I hope my boy realises that one day we'll be there, best not tell him just yet I don't think.

This year they have even put up a short video on the route itself, here's the link, enjoy -

Thanks go to EGB and Liz Sutton for the above.

Wednesday, 11 September 2013

World Equestrian Games, Endurance test event, France, August 2013

With many thanks to Martin Moore for this excellent report on the test event for Endurance at the World Equestrian Games to be held in France next year.  Over to you Martin -

A Testing Event for Endurance at WEG 2014?
By Martin Moore; with helpful comments along the way from 8 travelling companions and others.

The test event for Endurance at WEG 2014 was held in the Department of Manche, Normandy on 15th and 16th August. The competition venue at the Sports Stadium of Sartilly is about half-way between the coastal town of Granville, to the north-west, and the citadel town of Avranches, between the mouths of the Sée and Sélune rivers to the south-east. This is an area combining outstanding natural and man-made beauty, exemplified by le Mont-St-Michel.

The CEI 2* ride of 129kms comprised four cloverleaf loops from the venue – sequentially, La Lucerne (yellow) of 38.8kms, Jullouville (blue) of 33.6kms, Avranches (red) of 34.5kms, and Dragey (green) of 22.4kms – with holds of 40, 40 and 50minutes respectively at the venue vet-gate. Reconnaissance of the route, during the 2 days preceding the ride, demonstrated how different each of the loops would be to ride, and how clever the organisers had been in putting together a technically challenging course for horses, riders and crews. The yellow loop started and finished through relatively flat farmland, but had a section to the north of Sartilly around Forêt de la Lucerne and St-Pierre Langers with numerous climbs and descents of 50 to 80ms. The blue loop shared the same start as the yellow loop then veered north-west, reaching the coast south of Granville, and following the sand beach, used for trotting races, south for about 4kms, then turning east inland to re-join the finish of the yellow loop. This stretch of coast is a popular beach holiday and water sport location, and was crowded the day before the ride (a public holiday in France). However, we soon discovered that it was not unusual for the beach to be closed to the public for equestrian events. The red loop, probably the most scenic, started and finished through undulating farmland, with a middle section along the Baie du Mont-St-Michel coast from Avranches to Genêts, including the marshy grassland of the river estuaries and rocky outcrops around the southernmost point at and to the north of le Grouin du Sud. Finally, the green loop circumnavigated Dragey to the south-west of Sartilly including a 4km stretch of sand and dunes beach overlooking le Mont-St-Michel. With two beach sections, separated by a ride/hold time not expected to be less than 4½ hours, a significant challenge would be to complete both when the tide was out far enough for there to be firm, wet sand to ride on.

58 horse and rider combinations from 35 nations, from Argentina to the USA, made the start at 06:30hrs local time on the 16th, a much cooler morning than the previous day. Beccy Broughton-Booker, riding Derek Grantham’s Viniculture, and Tricia Hirst, riding Philip Hirst’s Madjin des Pins, were representing Great Britain. Even with this reduced number of competitors and crews, compared with the likely number at a WEG, the venue space and layout for the test event vet-gate and crewing had been “challenged” at the pre-ride vetting the previous day, and that situation did not improve during ride day itself. There was the usual contingent of management team Chefs, vets, physios and farriers, plus National Federation and FEI representatives, but few spectators other than our group of 9 “usual suspects” and two Endurance GB Board members.

By the first crew point at 15kms, close to Abbaye de la Lucerne, the field was already strung out by 30 minutes. This resulted in two hazardous situations; the first was contra-flowing crew traffic on the narrow lanes and track access to the crewing field; the second, and more serious, was when the front runners returned to that crew point, after completing the 7km forest lollipop, down a stoney track and crossed with back marker riders going out on that section. 5 horses were eliminated lame at the first vet-gate and one was retired.

 The beach section on the blue loop, from about the 55km distance point was spectacular for riders and spectators, gathered on the sea-front promenade from about 1 hour before low tide. Trish described it as uniquely exhilarating to see and experience 4kms of uninterrupted canter, and with groups of horses visible way ahead in the distance and behind. Beccy and Viniculture were clearly enjoying themselves as they cantered past us at Jullouville. Unfortunately for Trish and her team, Madjin was spun, lame, at the end of the blue loop having covered it at just under 18kph in a group about 30 minutes behind the lead horses.

45 combinations started the red loop, with UAE and Bahraini riders in the lead group averaging speeds around 20kph, and the back markers averaging speeds just over the minimum 14kph. This technically difficult loop proved to be challenging for many of the less experienced and fit horses. Even along the coast sections the route was narrow in places with twists and turns, a variety of going from soft grassy marshland to rocky and rutted tracks and climbs, and numerous proximate hazards, including ditches, posts and fencing, sufficient to test any rider’s concentration. 12 combinations were spun, or eliminated for riding slower than the minimum speed of 14kph, at the end of this loop, including the UAE front runner HH Sh. Rashid Dalmook Al Maktoum. After a cumulated distance of 107kms, the lead combinations commenced the last, green, loop at about 14:00hrs local time, nearly 2 hours ahead of the back markers.

This time difference proved critical, enabling those averaging above 16kph to reach the beach section to the west of Dragey before the incoming tide completely covered the firm wet sand, at about 15:00hrs local time. The slower combinations, with horses already tired, were faced with an energy-draining traverse of the beach section through deeper, dry sand. Beccy and Viniculture were one such combination, and, sadly, were eliminated for not meeting the minimum speed. At the finish, the first 5 places went to HH Sh. Hamdan bin Mohd Al Maktoum (UAE) and Nikos, 20.712kph, Raed Mahmood (Bahrain) and Sandine Phoenix, 20.522kph, Ahmed Al Hamdani (Oman) and Raffale De La Fageole, 18.364kph, Jaume Punti (Spain) and Ramses De La Rotja, 18.362kph, and Brigitte Pinto (Portugal) and Nita Lotoise, 18.048kph. HH Sh. Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa (Bahrain), who rode at the Royal Windsor CEI 2* in May, should have been riding the second placed horse but had to withdraw due to an injury before the race. A total of 27 combinations completed the ride successfully; 27 were spun during the competition – 19 lame, 6 metabolic, and 2 lame and metabolic – plus 1 retirement and 3 eliminations for failure to attain the minimum speed. Whilst this is a relatively high attrition rate for a CEI 2* ride, many of the combinations entered were not necessarily first choices of their riders or National Federations for such a challenging course; they were there on fact-finding missions, to assess the course, venue and crewing in preparation for next year’s WEG; also, the European nations, at least, will have had their competitive focus on the Open European Endurance Championship to be held at Most, Czech Republic on 14th September, 2013.

Overall, this was a valuable and successful test event for the 2014 WEG endurance competition. Vetting and stewarding at the vet-gate and crew points were noticeably even-handed and rigorous, as was adherence to the “no crewing with bottles of water” ruling. This latter ruling prompted some interesting and imaginative interpretations on what constitutes a “bucket” for sloshing horses on course, and every type of water delivery container from standard buckets to jugs and watering-cans was evident in the venue recovery area and at the crew points. These variants were all accepted with good grace and humour, and the primary objective to avoid littering the countryside with discarded water bottles and screw-caps was achieved.

The Sports Organising Committee for WEG Normandy 2014 has already signalled that the configuration of the venue at the test event is not comparable to that envisaged for 28th August 2014. That is welcome news, but it is difficult to see how some downsides of the venue location, routes and crew points may be addressed. Even with less than 60 competing combinations, and access to the general public prohibited, routes in and out of the venue, through Sartilly and on crew routes were severely stressed on occasions. A part of this may have been coincidence of the test event with one of France’s busiest “bridge” holidays, but there is very little the OC can do to ease the situation when around 150 combinations are expected to compete in 2014.

The OC welcomed the positive feedback from competitors at the test event who appreciated the variety of challenges of the course. These challenges will be greater for the WEG 2014 competition, with an additional 31kms of course to add for the 160km CEI 4* ride, and with the ride being 12days later, on 28th August. Daylight time (sunrise 07:18hrs to sunset 20:57hrs) for the 2014 ride will be 13¼hrs, with a ride time at 20kph of about 11½hrs, and there will be a 12hr shift in the tides compared to this year’s ride; daytime high tide will be at 09:30hrs and low tide will be at 16:25hrs. Those differences suggest the course and the order of riding the loops will not be the same as for the test event. The WEG 2014 endurance competition promises to be very enjoyable indeed, and probably more open as a team competition than any endurance World championship of the last 12 years.

For those interested in attending the endurance at Sartilly and other discipline competitions of WEG 2014, from 24th August to 7th September, it is not too early to start planning. Most of the events will be in Caen, on the south side of the city close to the River Orne, at the Stade Michel d’Ornado and the Games Village, comprising the Zenith Arena, Parc des Expositions and Hippodrome. The eventing cross-country and dressage phases will be held in the beautiful estate grounds of Le Haras du Pin chateau and the Le Pin National Stud. Argentan, due south of Caen, is the closest town to Le Haras du Pin. Demonstration events for Polo and Horse-Ball will be at Deauville, to the east of Caen,  and St Lo, to the west.
Accommodation is likely to be at a premium and booked up well in advance, because of the limited total number of hotel beds in the area and WEG 2014 coincides with the end of the 70th anniversary celebrations for D-Day; I am aware of hotels being fully booked already. Fortunately, there are many Chambres d’Hôtes and campsites in this mid and western part of Normandy; you will still need to make reservations well in advance. For the endurance test event this year at Sartilly, local accommodation between Granville, Avranches and Villedieu-les-Poêles was fully booked. Although endurance is not as popular a “spectator sport” as many other equestrian disciplines, it does have a hard-core of supporters and, collectively, the competitors and support teams represent a large number of people to accommodate in a rural area.

Travel to Normandy from the UK is most conveniently accomplished by car and cross-channel ferry or tunnel to the Normandy ports of Cherbourg, Caen (Ouistreham), Le Havre, and Dieppe, or to Calais. Travelling around Caen by car is not easy with its one way systems, limited direction signs and very limited parking, but it has good city centre tram and bus services. Once in Normandy, there are auto-route connections between Caen, St Lo, Deauville and Avranches, and Caen and Argentan.

Apart from the WEG competitions, the area has attractions for all tastes, ranging from the military history of the 1944 Normandy landings to the Bayeux tapestry to a walk across the bay to le Mont-St-Michel from Genêts passing Rocher de Tombelaine. For the fit and energetic, Normandy has an extensive network of long-distance footpaths and cycleways, including in and through its towns and cities.

For further information on all that Normandy and WEG 2014 have to offer consult:

With many thanks indeed to Martin for this excellent report and photo's, maybe I should be brushing up my O Level French for next year.  Anyone else planning to go?

Monday, 9 September 2013

Another Cirencester report

Having seen the earlier post from Louise Rich on her Cirencester ride, Ally Knight emailed me to ask if she could submit a report on her Cirencester ride; 'Of course', I said in reply.  Am loving hearing how you are all getting on with your rides this year, here is her report -

'When I read that the Cirencester ride was back on the calender and included in its schedule was a 65km class for novices that had not yet upgraded to open, I decided that must be my plan for the year ahead.

I had planned for Gypsy to upgrade at the beginning of the season as she was easily coping with the faster speed the season before, but instead decided to wait until Cirencester.  The qualification to enter was to have successfully completed 3 rides between 30 - 50km in the current year. Due to work commitments I could only go to 3 rides before Cirencester, so there was a lot of hoping and praying things went well at each one. I decided there was no point doing any more mileage than I had to, so I entered the 30km at each ride. Gypsy went really well at each one and kept up good speeds with good finishing heart rates. I had to submit my entry to Cirencester before my third ride so it became nail biting stuff at the third ride as she went to vet; thumbs up, we'd done it, Cirencester here we come.

Ride day.  6am we left home and arrived at a very chilly Cirencester venue at 7.30. Would we be using all that ice we had bought with us?  I went off to collect my number, check for route changes and vetgate hold time, while Hubby claimed a space at the vet gate for our buckets/water/spare tack etc. We vetted at 8.30, with a heart rate of 43, her lowest of the year!  Finding myself parked next to Gaynor Rose, whom I had ridden the last couple of kilometres with at Barbury, we decided to to set off together and see how it went.

So Garmin set, watch set, for 5 1/2 hours of riding time, optimum time 12kph, we set off on the black route of 35km.  The route was easy going and we cantered a lot of it, which was great as it kept our speed up around 13kph, however we were very grateful to see our crew at each crewing point for lots of sloshing.  At the last crewing point we fed Gypsy to keep her energy levels up, something we always do, roughly half way round.  Into the park we went, still mostly cantering, knowing there was plenty of watering points on route.  The marking was excellent and 2 hours 32 mins later we arrived at the vetgate. It was getting hot by this time so we decided to use the iced water and 11 mins later we handed our card to the vet steward, vetted at 60 and still full of beans to trot up. Back to our hold area for a 30 minute break where we fed Gypsy again and she drank well, the time flew past and in no time we were tacking up again to head off to the time keeper and off out onto the green 30km route.
Gypsy being the least tired we let her lead the way.
The green route started roughly the same, then took us further out into the country, again we were very glad to see our crew as the heat was starting to get to us.  We kept up a good speed until the last watering point where we lingered for too long and lost a bit of time which meant the last 5km had to be ridden at a canter all the way home. Gypsy was happy to steam ahead taking Gaynor`s horse with us. 
Crossing the finish line just over the 12kph optimum time we went back to the trailer get ready for the final vetting.

Using iced water again we sloshed and scraped until her heart rate was in the early 50`s then decided to vet in case the heat pushed it up again.  She vetted at 54bpm and with an enthusiastic trot up we got a thumbs up from the vet.

I was absolutely delighted, gave big hugs all round and Gypsy was well fit to continue which is what its all about.  My finishing time was 11.89kph which meant I came 2nd!  I was totally amazed at this especially as it was my first 65km.

So what's next?  Watch this space next year.'

Ally Knight

Wow, well done Ally and Gypsy, sounds like you had a fabulous end to the season, and just to prove it, here they are collecting their rosettes.  A very well done indeed from all of us at -

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Cirencester 2013

The Cirencester Park Endurance Gold Cup ride in Gloucestershire was held over the weekend of Friday, Saturday and Sunday, 30th & 31st August and 1st September 2013.  This major ride organised by the Heart of England group, having been off the calendar last year, saw a whole raft of national classes ranging from a 10Km Pleasure ride right up to the 130Km class, no FEI classes were arranged this year.  The ride is centred around Cirencester park itself, with bridleways and private tracks providing the majority of the route. By all accounts the route rode extremely well with excellent marking to give an easy ride and included water points out on course, a welcome sight during the hot summer we've been having no doubt.

Louise Rich, a Young Rider team member riding her own Oakleaze Farm Czamak in the 80Km CER Young Rider class gave me this excellent report - Thank you Louise.

'This year at Cirencester I had entered the 80km Young Rider race ride on Oakleaze Farm Czamak on the Saturday.

We left first thing on the Saturday morning to travel up to Cirencester as it doesn't take very long from home. We arrived in plenty of time for Czamak to have a leg stretch & for us to set up the vet gate. 8am soon came around, so before we knew it we had to vet & get warmed up for the 8.30am start. There were 7 of us in this class. 8.30am came and we were all cantering down the beautiful grass avenue before we knew it. Czamak thought this was rather exciting with six other horses around him and being in a wide open space.

The first loop flew, we did in about 20k, but then half way round we hit some very slippery roads so had to walk which slowed us down. By this point the group had split & I was riding with Dace Sainsbury & Katie Bedwin. Once the slippery roads had finished we were back to cantering. All three horses went really well together and we were heading to vetgate 1 where we all passed and went into the hold.

Katie & I rode the second loop together which had a few changes from the old route but we were fine and flying to the second vetgate, both horses passed so we went out onto the last loop to finish the day off. Both horses really picked up and flew this last loop where we has a lovely canter around the polo fields.

We came into the finish together taking 4th & 5th place.'

Sounds and looks like she had a great ride, just look at that smile - here is Louise on Czamak, courtesy of AGC Photography

Have just read some of the 'thank you' comments on the EGB Forum and it sounds like everyone had a super time, all having an excellent weekend whether they were stewarding, riding or crewing.  Well done to all involved, yet another successful ride on the EGB calendar.

Thursday, 5 September 2013

Just found a new endurance book

Now if you're anything like me, when a new endurance book comes out I've just got to get hold of a copy.  So when I stumbled across this one, specifically for novice / beginner / new to endurance riders, I didn't want to think I knew it all so took a look.

Author Aarene Storms had a break from horses and when she went back to them was hooked by the Endurance bug, and we all know what that feels like, this is her book on everything the beginner needs to know.

Although this is an American book, written under AERC rules - the American equivalent of EGB, it is very well written, in plain, sensible english with some sound advice for those just starting out into the world of Endurance. Lots of photographs are included of the author and others including some Tevis cup finishers to highlight certain points.  All in all some really good, sound and sensible advice for all of us.

The book is available on Amazon as a Kindle download, published November 2012.