Having done a fair few 80kms over the last two years and gaining his FEI* level back in March, I decided it was time for Barik to have a go at his first 120km and try to get his FEI** level. It is quite a step for any horse so this would be a test to see whether Barik has the makings of a true endurance horse.
I decided on Barbury due to a number of factors: Barik has been there before so hopefully wouldn’t be too hyped which may cause his pulse to be higher than normal, and it was later on in the year meaning his fitness would be at peak.
After having some truly very wet weather in the last few weeks, which meant we were getting drenched in almost every training session, to see a forecast of sunny spells and hot weather was quite a shock.
There would be 4 different loops and 3 vetgates in between which would be back at the venue each time.
First loop: 40km
Second loop: 34km
Third loop: 32km
Fourth loop: 20km
The race was due to start at 7.30am (what a civilised hour!) with a ride briefing at 7am for ER and FEI rides. We were pre-warned by the head vet to take it easy on the speeds due to the heat and humidity which had been forecasted for that day.
There were a total of 25 riders entered for this class; 2 of which were from China. Over the weekend there were at least 4 countries being represented; Britain, China, Argentina and Spain. With this ride being one week before the World Endurance Championships, I’m guessing they were originally over for that event.
My little team were all with me and Barik for this one. My crew consisted of my grandparents Del and Dave Hall and Krissie Jones, all sporting our new Team kit with the Tennant Hall Endurance logo. Barik was all tacked up and dragging Krissie round when Gran and I returned from briefing. Mounted up and we were off to warm up before the start. Due to the layout of the venue I would be letting Barik go out in a mass start, we did maintain breaks throughout!
It was already pretty warm at 7.30am and I was in a the middle pack. We did miss one turning on the common but we didn’t go far before realising our mistake. Once turned round to go back we could clearly see the markers from that direction.
I met my crew at Hackpen Hill for water and a sloshing down before continuing on. We were averaging around 18kph, which was far too fast for a first 126km. I knew I needed to slow down and get out of this large pack of horses. It was just after this crew point that those, who were originally the lead, horses overtook us. They had also missed the left turn and must have gone further than us.
By the time we were on a homeward stretch to the vetgate I was in a smaller pack and was able to slow Barik down to a gentle jog in order for his heart rate to start dropping. Into a chaotic vetgate, with Barik being crewed before vetting. Passed the first vetgate with an average speed of 17.5kph, with me kicking myself and knowing that I would definitely make sure our speed was slower than that for the duration of the ride.
Out onto our second loop with less than a minute between me and other riders, who were both in front and behind us. These next two loops we completed at around 15kph and rode majority of the time with Linda Cowperthwaite. The third loop however, was when the humidity really started to affect Barik and also Linda’s horse. We were riding on a white chalk track, which was reflecting the heat back at us. By the top of Hackpen Hill our boys were not cooling down. I decided at this crewing point, regardless of all the other competitors, that Barik really needed a crewing. We put a lot of water on him before setting off at a walk and it was nice to see that Linda had done the exact same with her horse too so we were in good company.
My intention for this ride was to make sure Barik completed in order to get his FEI**, so placing was not an issue. I knew that in order for us to do that, that pitstops like that would need to happen due to the temperatures of the day.
Barik and I still completed the 3rd loop at 15kph. It was the 3rd vetgate that the FEI vets and judges decided that the pass pulse would need to be dropped from the usual 64bpm to 60bpm (we had been warned on leaving vetgate 2 about this). This was due to the heat and the vets concern that horse’s were going to need drips.
By this vetgate my parents had arrived to see us. Having thought they would only be spectating they had not worn correct clothing to help but did anyway. Water was piled on and scraped off Barik in rapid succession with the entire Team Tennant pitching in. Barik came through this vetgate with a pulse of 56bpm.
My Uncle and 3 cousins had also come to watch as they did not live very far away. This was really a family event, right down to my 5 year old cousin filling up water sloshers with water and my 3 year old cousin of making sure Barik ate his food (watching a horse munch is a very important job!).
Out onto the final loop and Linda was a minute or two ahead. One of my other competitors (who had been vetted out) had told me I was running around 4th-5th place. I really didn’t want to hear this as my sole aim was to get Barik through his 126km and I did not want to let my competitive side get to me.
Barik flew out of the vetgate at a gallop, without me evening put a leg to his side. I did slow up and we caught Linda up. Together we came round the loop until Barik put a foot wrong. I knew instantly and leapt off (much to Linda’s shock) to see that he had bent half of his shoe. We had 3kms to go!
Call to the farrier and my crew (of Grandad and mum), who had only just left me. It seemed to take forever for us to be on our way again but really probably was not much time at all. As soon as the farrier said done I was up, mounted and gone before he had time to put his tools away.
Having this little break meant Barik was keen to go. Extended trot for chosen gait and we were on our way back to the venue. Overtaking two other riders; one of which was in my class, and there was the venue. Family all there at the finish line to see us trot over.
All hands on deck for crewing (literally)! Then into vetting....... Pulse good, metabolic good and trot up. All clear, Barik had completed his first FEI 126km in very humid conditions coming in 5th place at an average speed of 13.52kph in 09:28:58. We were all elated with this news and a placing was just a bonus.
Barik is proving himself daily to be a true endurance horse and even more so under competition. After a good season he will be hanging his endurance shoes up for the winter with mainly schooling and perhaps a bit of jumping before the start of next season in 2013.