On Sunday 26th April at 4am, myself, Pav (my advanced endurance horse/ex-racing arab)
Me and my crew travelled down to the Royal Cornwall Showground, for the first Graded Endurance ride in the South West. Originally, we planned to compete 76km at this venue but we changed our mind last minute and downgraded to do 40km. We did this so we could treat the weekend as a trial event to start the season
After spending the past 6 months training for the new season (including 2 months of pure groundwork and no ridden work), Pav was eager to start the ride. He passed the pre ride vetting with flying colours, which consists of taking the horses heartrate, looking at dehydration levels, stomach sounds and searching for any overall concerns. He came out of it with an action A, dehydration 0 and pulse 43, which for Pav is very low before a ride (considering he raced for 6 years, he is a little on the fizzy side before rides to say the least).
Once you’ve passed your pre ride vet and have visited the onsite farrier, where they check the state of your shoes ( to see if they’re suitable to the distance on) then all that’s left to do is tack up and head to the start line.
Since we were doing a smaller class, we decided to take on the challenge of escorting a bew endurance rider around the course. It was their first ever official endurance ride, they had only done pleasure rides before, so we took it steady. Pav and I set off from the venue with a few excitable bucks which amused everyone and then he was focussed on the job in hand.
Every 10km or so, my crew would drive to checkpoints to meet me. The role of your crew is to be a type of ‘pitstop team’ to check everything is going smoothly. My crew will offer Pav sugabeet water and plain water to keep him hydrated aswell a few diferent feeds that he wouldn’t normally have day to day to make sure he is interested in eating. They will then hand me slosh bottles, which are just milk containers filled with water, for me to cool Pav off with.
Being that it was a tough ride, in terms of the terrain, we didn’t focus on speed but rather made sure we got the fundamental parts down so when we do bigger races we would eliminate any potential problems and have a faster, more organized approach during crew stops. We wanted to keep up a consistent speed and overall we averaged 11.5kph which we were delighted with considering the difficulty of the course.
Pav flew around the course with no issues at all, we ended up doing the last 8km alone as our riding partners unfortunately found it quite tiring towards the end but Pav, as always is very self-motivated and came buzzing back into the venue looking like he hadn’t even been ridden yet.
We crossed the finish line and then had 30 minutes to cool him down and get his heart rate as low as possible (it has to be under 64bpm to pass). We have to keep Pav moving as we cool him off as being an older horse (21 years old) he is can become stiff after a ride which can disturb the trot up. He came out of the final vetting with a smashing heart rate of 46 which was lower than any value he had last year-showing he is fit and also we have found a more efficient cooling method.
We are chuffed with how the ride went as throughout the three hours of nearly constant trotting, Pav never tired showing his new feeding routine has provided him far more energy. Throughout the day I was given many compliments on my Hardy ETC Craswell XC set, as it matched my endurance tack brilliantly and it was also great for keeping me cool throughout the day. It also was fast drying which is essential when water is flying everywhere when cooling the horse. After a successful first ride, we will next be doing 64km followed by an 80km endurance ride, which will then mean I have qualified to being an advanced rider.