The day had finally arrived when Barik would do his first endurance race and the same time his first FEI. This would be my second FEI in Britain!
I had chosen to take Barik over to Kings Forest in Suffolk. I had never ridden this ride so the course would be new to both of us. Barik, crew (Delwyn Hall and Krissie Jones) and I set off on Saturday, prior to the ride, as it was a good 4 hour journey. Saturday was a day full of problems; firstly I lost my car keys so had to be picked up my faithful Grandad from home, then the M50 was closed so we had to divert, also took a wrong route trying to get on the M6 and thats just listing the big things which went wrong. Hopefully Saturday would be the problem day so that Sunday (race day) would be plain sailing in comparison.
Barik vetted on the Saturday prior to race day with the lowest pulse he ever has had of 30bpm!!!!!!! He's not even that low at home. The thumbs up from the vet and I could not wait for the start of the race the following morning.
I took Barik out for a short ride into the forest. This gave me chance to see exactly what ground conditions would be like and also to see the marking as the loops went in different directions.
Barik stayed on site in the posh new stables of the venue and we were about 5 minutes down the road staying in West Stow Hall. The clocks changed that night going forward by an hour and I was panicking that I would wake up late,so did not get much sleep despite being in a very very comfy bed.
My phone automatically updated itself though and I was woken up at 5.30am (obviously I had managed to sleep a little). Bouncing down stairs (yes I was bouncing with anticipation of the ride) into the breakfast room. I am not much of an eater at that time of the morning but to please Gran I managed a few mouthfuls of fruit saddle.
We left the Hall after breakfast. It was a foggy, cold morning. I took Barik for a walk and a stretch out before going off to the ride briefing for everyone. No course alterations, small venue rules (there was a vehicle one way system) and then to get ourselves tacked up.
AS Barik has done Arab racing I did not want him going out on the mass start. The venue was set up so that there was a tree line in between the venue and where the start/finish was. We warmed up but when everyone went off to start we stayed behind so that Barik would not get excited. We started a few minutes behind the rest of the riders.
I was under strict instruction that we would not be racing (remove race hat and put thinking hat on) and to not take him fast. The aim was to get Barik around the ride quietly and achieve his FEI*. So with that in mind Barik and I trotted off on our first loop of 32km following the red arrows.
The route twisted through the forest taking many left and right turns so your eyes had to be constantly watching for the painted arrows on the floor. Barik trotted round with ease, and my crew met us at several places as we took sloshes from them at a fast extended trot (there were a few gobsmacked faces ;) ). The first loop I did faster than intended averaging at around 17kph. As before at the Cannock Chase ride, I dismounted a short way back from the venue and walked in quietly. Barik does tend to get venue excitement but he went straight into vet in 1 minute 20 seconds. Pulse of 52, thumbs up from the vet and a second pulse of 52 and into hold time.
Barik is not much of an eater when at a venue so I force fed up i.e. picking out all nuts from food putting them under his nose so he can munch whilst watching everyone else, and I could eat my cereal bar. Hold times always tick by so quickly and before I knew it we were taking up and heading out onto blue loop of32km. We left the vetgate at a canter and then eased up when out of sight (I was told by my previous young rider chef d'equip to always show the rest of the competitors that "you've still got gas in the tank") and then eased up to a trot.
I was a little worried about the blue loop. On the map you do a small blue loop first then cross over the in route to do a small square section before joining back up to a main bigger blue loop and then cross it again to come back into the venue. Ok written down that sounds confusing and its confusing to look at on the map too. Out on course the marking could not be faulted and no mistakes could be made. There was a fallen tree on this route and I could not be bothered to go round it so we jumped over it instead. My crew met me at the last crew point and then it was 6kms back into the vetgate. I left my crew and went a short way before realising that Barik had lost a shoe. I started walking back to the crew point hoping I'd catch my crew and they would not answer there phones as they were out of signal. At this point I did not know I was so close to the venue. Fianlly managed to reach them and they told me to take it easy and meet them back at the venue as they had already left. I knew Barik's feet were genuinely pretty hard (my farrier forever compliments his feet) so we cruised into the vet gate sticking to the grass verges. Same procedure as before jumping off before vet gate, undoing girth and walking into vetgate. I now had two optiones: 1) to vet with out shoe and hope he didn't look unlevel or 2) farrier first and then vet. I chose to see the farrier first as I didn't want to risk it. Barik had one of his spare shoes tapped back on and we went into vetting pulsing at 48. His trot up was fine and he had not lost any foot even though he'd lost a shoe. I, however, had lost precious minutes having this shoe problem.
Final loop of 16km following the yellow arrows. Barik was still feeling excellent and we did this loop at a canter. We loped along covering the ground and met my crew. My crew pulled up just as I got there and my gran yelled at me to "slow down" but I then got the "oh well go on then" and we left back into a canter. Barik felt so good and not tired at all. He powered round that yellow loop with such ease, actually he did the entire ride with ease. I crossed the finish line 1 minute in front of Alison House. I jumped off and we had the short walk back through the trees to the vetgate. My crew were on their way to meet me as they thought they'd be able to see a racing finish but they had not been quick enough.
Barik vetted with ease and he had done his first race ride and gained his FEI* He still looked great and not tired at all. I had no idea where I was in the list but didn't care very much as I had not been racing round.
Prize giving was later on and the rankings were read out in reverse. Starting with 10th position, and as the names were read I kept thinking I'm sure I went by her, did that rider vet before me in a vetgate?
"In 4th place Abigail Tennant and Barik!" Not only had Barik completed the ride but he had also got himself a good placing.
Barik's first race and FEI landing 4th out of 14 starters at a speed of 18.6kph in 4 hours 18 minutes. Even with a lost shoe he'd still powered round. I am proud of my little horse and the way he performed, pulsed well all day, jumped a log without hesitation and overall just gave me such a great ride.!
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