So this has not turned out to be the season we were hoping for at all. Now I know every horse person reading this who competes will know all about disappointing seasons. Sometimes I do wonder why we do it to ourselves, horses are such delicate animals and if something can go wrong then it surely will!
After her summer holiday to allow her time to recover from Castelsagrat we were in full training for Monpazier at the end of August. This was our first go at a 2 day competition, being a CEI** 2 x 70km race. I followed our normal training plan of mainly lots of long and slow training. Roma is delicate so it’s a balancing act between doing enough to ensure that she is ready but not so much that something goes wrong. I also did our usual 2 sessions of 1.5 hours of canter work 3 weeks and 10 days before the competition. There is a lovely area in the Landes forest where I go to do this, but a racetrack or a beach would be good too (I find the forest less boring).
I added in some sessions around a friend’s home as that is hilly and stony which resembled more the terrain of the competition and I also did work 2 days in a row (whereas normally I work every other day).
I was very happy to get to the competition as we were fighting a skin problem on all her white legs. She gets it every summer time and we think it is related to harvest mites. Over the years I’ve tried everything and the vets have diagnosed it as mud fever (which always seems a bit weird when we generally haven’t had rain for 2 months by July!) or as photosensitivity (but keeping her indoors all day never makes any difference). The solution seems to be to wash the legs in salt water (anything stronger seems to weaken the skin and make it spread) and then put on sudocreme and then keep her legs covered with Sox (lightweight, breathable stockings for horses). One month before the competition she was covered in scabs but incredibly she didn’t have any by competition day.
The competition was in incredibly difficult circumstances as it was around 40 degrees and the humidity was very high. As such I kept her very steady at around 14kph. Lots of people didn’t seem to give any thoughts to the conditions and a lot of horses not only got eliminated that first day but around 50 horses were on drips that evening. Sometimes I despair of the other competitors and their lack of respect for their horses. I really hope that I see a much better side to endurance once I’m back in the UK.
There was a bit of drama as someone fell off at the first crew point and their horse galloped off. The group I was with managed to catch the horse about 5kms later and they handed it over at the next crew point. I was a bit panicked as the only person who’d take the horse was Andy, my hubby and chief crew, so I had no idea if I’d have crew for the next crew point and given the heat it’s so important that the horses drink lots (of course he did the right thing taking the horse). But thankfully the horse’s crew had turned up soon after and then Andy got to practice his rally driving to get to me in time.
Roma was perfect all day and most importantly to me, her metabolics were spot on at every vet gate. She came out the next morning looking great, passed the vet with As for everything and she felt great out on course. And more incredibly I felt better than the first day (I was expecting to be stiff and sore!).
We had a panic on the first loop of the second day as she pulled a front shoe but we were so lucky as my crew asked if anyone at the next crew point could put a shoe on for us and it turned out there were 4 farriers there (crewing for other people)! She had a new shoe back on in seconds (we carry spare shoes already made to fit her). And what a good girl she was, standing like a rock while the group I was with all rode off and left her. Once we were on the go she had them caught in a flash, it was nice to let her go for a few minutes and just be reminded of the power I’m sat on.
But our luck ran out on the last loop as she managed to twist a hind shoe and we hadn’t seen it so when we presented at the final vet gate he was slightly lame on that leg and so that was that and we were eliminated. Gutted is not the word, especially as once we pulled the shoe off she was sound. The going was horrible as there were hidden roots and stones everywhere in the sandy soil and there was so much dust I often couldn’t see the floor at all. I guess she got the shoe caught on a root and it twisted.
She looks absolutely fantastic now and hasn’t lost an ounce of weight so it clearly took nothing out of her. Given that she felt better on Day 2, as did I, I hope we get to do lots of multi-day rides in the UK (there are very few in France).
But that is our season over now as having done 3 CEI** rides this year I think that’s plenty for her. But the season starts early here so we’ll aim for the start of next year back on flat, sandy going which is her forte and we’ll see what happens.
The whole season has been a write off for Zamil. If you remember he took a fall, slipping over on the road, in a competition at the beginning of April. After recovering from that we competed again at the start of June and this time he managed to fall in a ditch. I’d put him on a calmer and he was going much better, actually listening to me, so it was really disappointing. The 3 years prior to this season he’s never done anything to himself in a competition but apparently this is not our year!
There are normally not jumps in an endurance competition but for some reason there was a coffin ditch to jump in this one and rather than jump it he fell straight in. It was in a shady hollow coming out of bright sunlight and I don’t think he saw it. He managed to kick the back of his knee with his hind foot and so is having to have 4 months of complete rest to ensure all the swelling is down and that the tendons have all recovered, but the vet is happy with his progress and doesn’t think there will be any long term issues. Given I watched the brilliant documentary Dark Horse this week, all about the race horse Dream Alliance bred by a group of normal people in a Welsh mining village and saw his injury when he did a similar thing going over a fence I count myself lucky. He was out for nearly 2 years after slicing through a tendon and needed stem cell treatment.
Once he is back in work then we’ll go back to set speed rides for a while and see how it goes. I’m not convinced that mentally he can cope with race rides which is such a shame as he is so tough (even after the fall I really struggled to convince him that we were not carrying on!). He was sound within 2 days whereas the vet said he should be hopping lame. But perhaps in the UK the rides will be quieter and he will be able to cope. Here’s hoping.
Roma Being Crewed, Monpazier 2 x 70km: https://youtu.be/lW_1B5A13cE
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