As most of the packing had been done the previous day it didn’t take us long to load the last bits of essentials into the truck and then we were off to Fauresmith in the Free State. It took us over 5 hours to get there and was just dropping dark by the time we arrived at the Fauresmith ride venue. We set up camp, which would be our home for the next week.
Day 31 - 33
The first few days spent in Fauresmith seemed to pass by so slowly, probably due to me counting down the days till Tuesday (Day 1 of the 201km race). These three days we would take the horses out on short rides, which would give us chance to see part of the route.
The Saturday night I had my first experience of Sokkie. Sokkie is a two step dance done in pairs with spins put in. Needless to say everyone made it look so easy and it took me at least two drinks before I even attempted it. Bob was a good teacher though and I only managed to step on his feet twice.
Monday all the horses were vetted ready for Day 1 of Fauresmith the next day and riders were weighed with their saddles. All the Perseverance horses were given the thumbs up to start on the Tuesday. After vetting all riders will parade within their endurance groups and I was made an ‘honourary’ member of Eastern Cape so got to borrow an Eastern Cape jacket and join in. The briefing was that evening and luckily I had Bob sitting next to me to translate it from Afrikaans to English.
Day 34 (Day 1-74km)
With over 400 competitors it is impossible to be able to do a mass start, so riders will start in groups based upon their horse’s qualifying times. Laura and Jedi were to start in the lead group at 7am, Ashley and Mauser at 7.04am and Liberty and I at 7.18am. The clock is started anew for every rider regardless of what time they started so it does not put anyone at a disadvantage. My group started with the lead horse disappearing off over the hill top. Liberty and I rode along with another rider at a canter leaving the rest of the group behind. En route there will be vets stationed to watch the horses trot by to check that they are all sound. By the time we came upon the vet we were cantering along at a quite speedy pace and caught up with the group who had left minutes before us. I decided that we should definitely slow down as we were going well over 20kph and that wasn’t part of the plan. Letting the other horse go which we had been competing against however was easier said then done as Liberty wanted to keep up. Before we knew it we had reached the road and were trotting down the dirt road to the first vetting gate. I was rather glad to have been riding with gloves on due to Liberty pulling the entire 23km to try and catch anyone else who may be within view up ahead. Once into the vet gate the timer stops and you have 20 minutes to get the pulse under 64bpm (which is much like the graded rides back home in GB). In total the vet gate is 45 minutes long including vetting and hold time.
All Perseverance horses passed this first leg and were out onto their 2nd. Off we proceeded with Liberty still pulling! The second leg was another 23km and then the second vet gate. All passed again and onto the 3rd and final leg to the venue.
Back at the venue and all Perseverance horses passed their final vetting. Day 1 complete and 78km done out of 201km!
Day 35 (Day 2 – 78km)
The route for day 2 was to be the same as day 1 except in reverse. Up at 5am once again to get the horses ready for day 2 of the Fauresmith race. Despite not riding together Ashley and I had ridden similar speeds so our start time was to be the same. I was planning to maintain my speed whereas Ashley would increase his, so it would be a challenge to split Mauser and Liberty up.
Laura and Jedi left with the first group and Ashley and I left later at 7.42am. Once on course I managed to hold Liberty back whilst Mauser and Ashley disappeared out of sight. Whilst maintaining our speed quite happily at about 19kph, an Eastern Cape rider caught me up so ended up chatting as we went. Loping along in a canter, Liberty was showing no sign of tiredness on her second day. Before I knew it we’d rounded a corner and there was Mauser and Ashley. Oops I had not noticed Liberty steadly increasing her speed as we went. Once the other side of the hill I had a very annoyed little mare as I tried to make her walk and let Ashley canter out of sight. We jogged along with a rider from Namibia down the road and cantered into the first vet gate of the day, only minutes behind Mauser and Ashley.
All Perseverance horses passed the vetting after the first leg, so we were all out onto the second leg. The second leg is the hardest due to going up and down the hills as well as the stones. Liberty and I jogged up most of the banks and cantered where possible. Most of the riders who had cantered past us up these hills we later caught up and over took. At the last downhill we slowed up due to there being an ostrich at the bottom. Liberty really did not know what to make of this and wanted to turn around. No one was in sight so we had to brave it alone. Gradually getting closer and closer this ostrich was not moving at all so I resorted to shouting and waving my arms at it (rather glad there was no one with a camera at this point) and proceeded to herd it down the hill. Once it was out of the way the going was grassy and flat so we cantered along happily at about 23kph to make up the time, (I am looking forward to seeing the dvd of this ride and seeing Liberty cantering along at this point just showing she does have a turn of speed). 2nd leg down and into the last vetgate before home. Vet gate done and I was given the thumbs up to carry on. Ashley and Laura had also passed their vetting and were heading out onto their final leg too.
Out onto the final leg and it was a long trek up the road and then we could canter along back towards the venue. The last hill came and we could see the venue. At this point Liberty decided that was enough and she jogged slowly down hill into the venue.
Final vetting of day 2 and all was fine. Onto day 3 with the Perseverance horses still going strong!
Day 36 (Day 3 – 50km)
Last day and up at 5am once again ready for the last of the Fauresmith ride. It was a particularly cold morning and so we were all packing the layers on for our final 2 legs of the ride.
Laura and Jedi left first, then Ashley and Mauser and finally myself and Liberty. The previous night I had been chatting with Ashley’s mum, Julie-Anne, about the last leg of Fauresmith and listening to her experiences. With the tips I had gathered, off we went trotting along the edge of the road. It was a long length of road to trot/canter up but with plenty of verge to get onto. Julie-Ann had mentioned previously that it is best to trot up this road and work out the lactic acid which would have built up and let others over take at a canter and not try to race/keep up with them, because they will not have worked out the lactic acid from their system so will be able to catch them later. With this advice Liberty and I trotted the entire length up the road at about 17kph, with people passing us in canter. By the time we reached the end of this road we could head off down a grassy track and canter along. Into the final vetgate with the thumbs up from the vet and we could head out onto our final leg.
We left this vet gate at a canter and Liberty seemed to know she was on her way back. We passed a lot of people who had overtaken us on the first leg, so Julie-Ann’s tip about working out the lactic acid had definitely paid off. Liberty, that I nicknamed Pocket Rocket, lived up to her nickname and we were canter along fast at around 25kph with ease. We caught up with a large group and I realised they were the majority of the riders who I had started with that morning. Over taking a few of these riders and we were on our way home. We came to the last hill going downwards, where we could see the venue, and we jogged in with a group.
The last and final test…….VETTING!!!!! Jedi and Mauser had passed so it was just Liberty. I felt extremely sick and had many thoughts going through my head such as finding I’ve done the entire distance and failing. Into vet……………………….PASS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! My little pocket rocket who did not know how to gallop the at the start of the month had done a 201km race and found some speed. I was over joyed and practically strangled every individual I hugged. I later found out we had come in 10th within the Light weight category, yet another reason to jump around a lot and hug Pocket Rocket!!!!
A stoney course but all three barefoot Perseverance horses had done a 3 day 201km race.
Laura and Jedi came in 5th in Standard weight with a time of 08:36:11
Ashley and Mauser came in 17th
Liberty and I came in 10th in the Light weight with a time of 10:33:34 averaging at 19.04kph.