With such a harsh winter and then intermittent snow fall for the first part of this year, has meant all my horse's fitness has not been as far along as it was this time last year. I also ended up missing Kings Forest 80km due to the snowfall which swept across the country that weekend. So a big decision, do I attempt the 90km or the 120km? I had entered both classes and left it the very last second before deciding which class to commit too......
Morning of the ride so off to vet, full thumbs up for Barik and then for me to weigh in. Fortunately the workouts and weights and high protein diet plus the 1 litre bottle of water I drank just before had obviously been working as I did not have to carry lead!! (A few more kilo’s to go till making it to 160km weight though).
Then to the start of......the 120km! Yes, I decided that if taken slowly Barik would be able to complete it. The GB Development Management was also all at this ride so it was great to have the support of everyone for such a distance. My old rival (and friend of course) from my young rider days, Sam Mowatt, was also competing in the class. Nothing like a good catch up on horseback as your going along reminiscing about the good ol' days!
The first few kilometres I rode in a group with everyone but with Barik continually pulling to be at the front (had his racehorse head on) I knew I had to pull back. Getting out the way of everyone and slowing Barik up to a gentle jog till everyone had gone off out of sight (much to the annoyance of Barik), we could then concentrate on our speed and our goal of completing. At this point in time he was not ready to be at that sort of speed and we had a long way to go.
We rode the first loop and second loop on our own, coming into each vetgate slowly in order for Barik’s pulse to drop faster. Charlie, the GB vet, helped us out by checking Barik’s pulse as soon as we were into the vetgate area. Once it was under 64 I took him straight into the vetting, by which time his pulse would of dropped into the 50’s. The longest time it took for the pulse to drop was about 3 minutes, which makes me wonder what his pulse rates will be like when he’s fully fit! During our hold time the GB squad physio, Lee Clark, did a check over on Barik and we got the thumbs up that all was a 100% ok!
By the 3rd loop we caught up with Lauren Mills who was in the Young Rider 120km and spent 3rd and 4th loop together. It was nice to have company, although I did have to continually remind Barik he was not racing with half halts every now and again, particularly when we met the 90kms competitors on their last loop back to the venue. It was great fun to be cantering along the sandy tracks in a group in the sunshine (definitely a highlight of the day).
The last vetgate and out onto the 4th loop with only 20km to go!! We shot out of the vetgate to catch up with Lauren and Czarko who were a few seconds in front of us. Our boys were both feeling strong and when we reached check point three I think we were all relieved to not be going up to check point four. (For those of you not to of ridden Haywood Oaks, to reach check point 4 you follow the track for a few kms and follow a loop around in the woods and then come back down to check point 3. It’s basically like a lollipop in shape!).
This last 20km loop Lauren and I let the boys canter practically all of it! For a horse which I did not think was entirely fit enough for such a distance he proved me wrong and went from strength to strength. Lauren and I crossed the line side by side to a cheer from our crews!!
We both passed with Lauren and Czarko winning the Young Rider FEI 120km** and Barik and I coming 3rd in the senior FEI 120km**. My little horse had completed his second 120km!! To say I am proud is an understatement, he is proving himself to be a real endurance horse with every ride he does. Barik never once gave me any doubt in my mind that he could not do the distance, I on the other hand reached 70kms and started to feel tired. However, a Torq gel and Torq grapefruit flavoured electrolytes in 3rd vetgate revived me and I felt a lot better the rest of the ride.
Must say a thank you to my amazing crew, Lauren and Czarko for keeping us company as well as a slosh from her crew on route and of course the GB Team Management for all their help and support!
So it is onwards and upwards hopefully for us from here, watch this space to what we do next!