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.......