Despite there only being two weekends of the endurance season to compete in October, those two weekends were unforgettable!
I travelled with the Development Squad to Madine, France, to compete in the CEIYJ2* 120km on the 3rd October riding the lovely Eskar, owned by Kirsty Wiscombe. This was my first time competing in France, my first time on a ferry and my first time driving abroad! The horses went ahead to arrive in time to settle before the race. Myself and my crew, Emma Daniels, left Sheffield (where I attend university) on the Wednesday evening. Stopped over at home to ride my horses on Wednesday night before leaving for Dover at 4am on Thursday morning. We arrived at the venue for the ride on Thursday at about 3pm and of course the first thing I did was go for a ride out on Eskar! The views were amazing! The weather was amazing! It was just such an amazing experience from start to finish!!! And as I’m sat here writing this I have a smile on my face!
My aim for the race was just to complete at about 13kmph. This was my first race abroad and Eskar and I had failed our previous attempts to complete this distance. We rode the first loop in the lead with one other rider, the second on our own, the third loop with another rider in my class and the last loop with a rider in the senior class. Eskar is just an absolute legend of a horse. He didn’t mind if he was on his own or with someone else – whatever speed I asked of him he did. The course was much tougher than I had predicted. There were lots of concussive tracks, loose stone in the softer tracks and there were some really tough climbs. I was really pleased to finish with a speed of 13.7kmph as I felt I had been riding much more slowly to keep him sound. And more importantly we passed the vetting at the end in 2nd place!!!
The next day Emma and I had to leave Madine and make the long journey all the way back to Sheffield, as I had a 9am lecture on Monday morning. Eskar was bright and chirpy in the morning and I’m sure was rather pleased with himself too!
Fast forward just four days and I’m packing the car again this time to head to Royalties to take my own horse Chip to the last ride of the season. Sadly for me, Chip was absolutely full of it! His fitness levels have really come on leaps and bounds and I should have entered him for a longer class or gone slightly faster – not that I think either would have tired him particularly! We finished his season with one very arrogant 6 year old and everyone tells me they get worse when they’re 7! But 2016 will bring with it 64km and 80km and I think then his respect for the sport might increase just a tad!
Saturday was to be my last race of the season, the CEI1* 80km on Ozzy. I had been to ride Ozzy just once before so this was to be just my second time riding him. This was Ozzy’s first international race and I was told by his owner that the aim was once again just a completion, to use as a qualification. Ozzy is a very strong horse so I started on my own away from the pack a couple of minutes behind everyone else which meant I was able to keep him steady throughout the day. He gave me a dream ride and kept up a lovely lollop canter all day long. Every time I got on for the next loop was like getting on a fresh horse as he just wants to go! We finished in 4th place which was great for him for his first 1* and great for me because I had finished the season on a high!