Jo Bond is a Monty Roberts Certified Instructor and International Endurance Rider.  She has been based in SW France since 2004 running a training yard and since becoming a Monty Instructor in 2010 she has been offering courses in his techniques.  She’ll be returning to the UK in early 2016 to open a Monty Roberts Learning Centre.  Jo also has a small Highland pony stud and will be expanding that once she has returned to the UK.  She adores their cool nature and their willingness.

Jo has been competing in endurance since 2005.  She is a keen amateur with no financial backing or sponsorship and started with one youngster who she brought up through the ranks up to CEI** 120km level in 2010.  He sadly started to have some serious health issues (he developed narcolepsy after his castration surgery under a general anaesthetic) and so she had to make the sad decision to retire him.  Given how long it takes to bring on a youngster in endurance this was a heart breaking moment.

Jo had taken on 2 other youngsters around that time and after bringing them on slowly they have both now reached International level.  This blog will be focusing a lot on their exploits and it’s certainly been a roller-coaster ride so far.  Jo also has 4 other horses based at her yard that she’ll be talking about in the blog but the 2 International horses are the real challenges!

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The Red Dragon Endurance Festival by Jo Bond

The Red Dragon is a mythical endurance competition that people talk about being incredibly tough but incredibly beautiful.  It takes place near Builth Wells in S Wales and takes you across amazing mountain landscapes.  When we moved back from France this competition went on my Wish List for this year and I’m so pleased that we got there.


It really has something for everyone with Pleasure Rides through to the 2 day Red Dragon covering 80kms each day in a race ride.  I decided to attempt The Dragon’s Days.  This is 126kms over 3 days with 3200m of climbing.


The venue is stunning, being at the Welsh Show Ground and so there are lovely stables for the horses, trot ups indoors and even an on-site residential centre to stay at (but you do have to book early).


Day 1 was stunning with mild weather, red kites dancing overhead and the most beautiful views.  I kept finding myself gasping at the views.  There were of course big climbs but the going was nice and we both really enjoyed ourselves. 


Day 2 was sent from hell.  Torrential rain all day just destroyed the tracks and it got dangerous out there.  It needed really steady riding.  Zamil and I were still enjoying it for the first 20kms as we were with one other horse and we were setting a sensible pace.  But we then got involved with 2 other horses going far too fast and it felt dangerous.  The tracks were very slippery and badly rutted and legs were going all over the place.  It was a miracle that the horse in front of me didn't go down as he was on his nose at one point.  So to be honest just getting home safely felt like a major achievement that day.  I had an interesting moment when the connector on one side of my reins snapped and I was cantering along behind these 2 horses. But Zamil was amazing as I told him to stand and he did, so I could lean forward, still on him and tie my reins onto the bit and off we went again.

Day 3 was much more enjoyable.  Just 36kms, which after 48kms the day before felt like nothing.  We set off in thick fog but as soon as we got up the first climb we were above it and in full sun.  The route hadn't been used the day before so the tracks were good.  I even got off and ran down all the hills, just in case he was starting to get sore muscles etc. and I enjoyed being next to him.  We felt even more like a team.


He passed every vetting with flying colours and it was truly a bonus to find out that we had finished 2nd overall and I got a lovely Red Dragon fleece as a prize.  He had absolutely no heat or swelling in any legs afterwards but I will be organising a physio visit for him just to check that he hasn’t got any sore muscles after such an amazing challenge.  And I always love that after a competition like that our bond is even stronger and he is looking for me all the time at the moment.  A great way to finish the season.


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Our First Go At Breeding

One of the key motivators in moving back to the UK was to start our Highland Pony Stud.  We had already imported 2 Highland mares and our Stallion Barnaby to France a few years ago ready to start the Stud there.  But it turned out to just be too complicated and costly to set up over there and I just feel that there wasn’t enough demand for Highland Ponies.  They are very rare in France and I had been asked a few times if Lucy was a fat Camargue pony, hence putting me off breeding.  To be honest it’s a shame as there just aren’t many safe but fun adult ponies or cobs available over there.


Anyway now that we are in the UK where things are much simpler and there is a lot more demand it was time to make a start.  I have recently made the sad decision to retire my Shagya Arab Roma from international level endurance.  She’d gone lame at the last 3 international events over the last year, always a different leg and for a different reason but clearly she’s just not quite tough enough for that level.  I’d decided to give her a break and perhaps re-start in the future at national level so we have decided to put her in foal too to Barnaby.  I’m hoping that crossing her to a native will create a tougher foal but still with her fantastic endurance and heart rates. Although of course you never know as I might get all of her energy with all of the native strength and create a monster!  The foal will be a very rare breed indeed.


As she has already been a mum we thought she’d be the best one to start with for breeding to Barnaby as the other 2 are maiden mares.


I have done several courses on breeding, studied lots of books and seen it being done but I was still quite nervous about actually doing the covering.  You hear so many horror stories.  Thankfully Roma has very clear seasons and was really showing the signs of being very in season just with the mares she lives with.  She was squatting and urinating a lot and generally wanting to touch the others all the time.  As such I didn’t feel we needed to tease her but could present her to the stallion directly.


She was incredibly patient with him as on the first occasion he just spent ages chatting, sniffing and licking her and when he did finally try to mount her he made a mess of it.  We let him try a couple of times without success but then he looked shattered so we called it a day.  We tried again the next day and he did much better.  The secret was to let him go up the side of her and then shuffle around to the correct position.  We covered again a couple of days later and he had the hang of things by then, although the first time he tried to mount he was hanging around her neck.  Thank goodness she was so patient with him and I’m pleased we didn’t start with the maiden mares.  We also are feeling much more comfortable with the whole thing.  It was initially quite intimidating being the one holding the mare as when he would leap up on her you had the impression of a lot of horse coming at you.


Of course it helps knowing both the mare and stallion so well.  They are both really nice natured and well-schooled horses.  They had a lovely tender moment with each other after each covering which we of course encouraged as that will also have helped release lots of oxytocin to maximise her chances of getting pregnant.


Now of course we have to wait for the Highlands to come into season and Roma’s scan is booked.  Fingers crossed but the adventure has begun.


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Our First Taste of UK Endurance by Jo Bond

I'm very pleased to say that our first competition in the UK has gone well.  We travelled down to the South of Wales the day before, after a very hectic morning picking up our new second hand Shogun and then getting it packed for the competition.  We've gone a model down on our last Shogun, so no more lovely heated seats after a cold days riding!  The trip was a long one, 4.5 hours there and 5.5 hours back due to a vehicle fire on the M5 keeping us at a standstill for an hour.  I think we are going to end up travelling longer here than in France, even though the journeys are shorter, just because of the volume of traffic.

Zamil had a lovely stable in a yard near the venue, with some friends to keep him company and so seemed amazingly relaxed.  Perhaps the journey from France with several nights in leerage has taught him to not be so worried about being away from home.

We arrived at the venue the next morning, with the organisers.  I think we were a bit over-excited and worried about everything being different so were a bit early.  Everyone was very helpful.  It did feel a little disorganised and we had to ask a lot of questions, like where is the vet area and where is the start but I think it was just because we were the first out. We loved that there was a parking person as parking is always chaos at the comps in France.  And of course you could get a cup of tea and there were toilets - what luxury.

There were only 2 of us in my class.  After the vetting at which Zamil was much more relaxed than at a French comp, without all the hundreds of horses about, we set off.  The other person in the class decided to set off with us.  It was a very tough course.  Over the 80kms we did 1800 metres of climbing and the going was either road, hard forest tracks or deep mud.  Most of the route had to be done at a trot as it was hard to find anywhere nice enough for a canter.  The French would have hated it.


The other horse followed us all day so poor Zamil had to do all the leading.  He never bothered about anything but was getting less and less motivated as the day went on.  The loops were also identical, just gradually getting shorter by missing out sections.  There was one hill that just went on forever that we had to do 3 times.


The set speed system is different in the UK, with your time not stopping in the holds until you are in the vet gate.  That is more like a race ride in France.  So obviously you want to get in quickly and then the horse only gets a 30 minute break from entering the vet.  In my opinion that just isn't long enough for the horse to recover fully.  In France you get 1 hour from crossing the finishing line between each loop.

He drank like a star all day long.  In fact he almost had me worried he was drinking so much.  Not just at crew points and holds but at puddles out on the course.  But he seemed fine in himself.  He was tired at the end and his trot up was a little flat but he still passed so he has another 80kms under his belt.  He can now be entered for the Cairngorms 100 in June (100 miles in 24 hours in the Scottish mountains).  I must be mad.  Hopefully we can get another couple of comps in before then as I'd like him to finish an 80km looking fresh before we tackle something as hard as that.

There is a grading system in the UK for set speed rides, so at this competition he got a grade 3.  It is based on your speed and heart rate.  Given how tough it was we only averaged 11.5km/hr so it's very difficult to get a high grade.


He’s now having a well-earned 2 week holiday before he’s back training on these fantastic North Wales hills.  What a difference a year makes.  This time last year we took part in an 80kms in France with 150 horses in the class and he was so over-excited we went down on the road and he ended up with stitches.  I think he’s going to be much better suited to UK endurance.


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The Big Move by Jo Bond

Well here we are in the UK.  It’s all been exhausting but everyone is safely settled into their new home.  At the start of February we found a place to rent in North Wales with 8 acres, an arena and a barn and so the decision was made to leave sunny South West France behind and relocate to Wales.


6 weeks of absolute madness followed while I tried to organise moving us, our things, 6 horses and 3 cats.  Meanwhile all the horses still needed working and we even managed to fit in one last endurance competition in France for Zamil before we moved.


After getting quotes from several transporters for the horses, we decided on one that allowed us to pick the date.  It just made organising everything a little bit easier, as some of the firms would only give you a rough estimate of when they would be down our way.  Given we have 6 horses I felt that we should have more influence over the date as even in the biggest lorry we are more than a half load just on our own!


We then organised the vet to come the day before the transporter was due.  She had to come and complete a health certificate for each horse, stating that they were fit to travel and were not showing any signs of infectious diseases.  This was actually a quick and simple check, I’m sure helped by the fact that she already knows all the horses well.


We then had to rush off first thing the next morning to the Veterinary Administrative centre for our area to convert these health certificates into the correct forms to give to the Transporter.  In France this centre is called the DDCSPP.  It did feel like this was admin for admin’s sake as we had a 2 hour round trip for 5 minutes in the office while they stamped and signed some forms (we had had to send them all the details in advance by email to make the process quick on the day).  But at least it was smooth and easy.  I was a little terrified about both the vet visit and the visit to the DDCSPP as I had no idea what I would do if any of the horses had been refused travel.


Luckily it had all been smooth as I got home at 10am to a message saying that the Transporter would be with us in an hour.  We had been told that they would be with us at 6pm!  After running around for an hour, bringing in horses and trying to make them vaguely presentable the lorry arrived.  (I’d already spent hours the day before trying to get them clean enough for the vet visit so I wasn’t doing all that again.)


They all walked into the lorry without hesitation which made me very happy.  Being a Monty Roberts Instructor sometimes puts a huge pressure on you as everyone expects your horses to be perfect, which they aren’t always.  They are still horses and have moods and personalities.  Two of them had never been in a lorry in their lives but they loaded well and turned sideways nicely.


Then I had to be a worried mum for 2 days while they made their journey stopping off at 2 leerage points on their way up.  Apparently they were no trouble and travelled well.


Finally at 3am a couple of days later they arrived at our new home in Wales.  In the meantime we had done an 18 hour drive to move us and the cats.  I obviously always live in remote places though as I’ve never had a Transporter deliver horses yet other than in the middle of the night.  We unloaded them and popped them into their new fields by torch light.  Roma came off looking a little tired but everyone else looked fine and they all had good drinks immediately.


Once the sun came up we were back out checking on everyone and I’m pleased to say that they all looked well.  The boys were just busy eating.  The mares are in 2 groups and they were fretting a bit about making sure they could stand somewhere where they could see the other group.  They had all clearly bonded very strongly.  Slowly over the last 2 weeks everyone has relaxed and their behaviour is returning to normal.  Roma seemed to drop some weight but that is already coming back on.


It’s important to re-establish a routine but it’s equally important to be patient and understanding with them, that this has been a massive change for them.  Physically the grass and weather are different but the big change is psychological.  Thankfully they all moved together so can mentally lean on one another and still feel that the herd is intact.  But I think it will be months before they have truly recovered.


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Coping with a horse that gets stressed when competing by Jo Bond

Anyone that has read my previous blogs about Zamil will know that last year was a disaster.  He gets very stressed when we go to competitions and it manifests itself in a number of ways:


  • He is defensive about being touched by strangers.  This makes the vetting at endurance competitions very difficult.  His heart rate is higher than it should be and he can kick out with a back leg when the vets go to take his gut sounds.
  • All the ground manners that we’ve put in place at home go out of the window.
  • Out on course he is fixated on any horses out in front and it is as though I don’t exist at all.  This is to the point that he stops looking where he is going.


Last year he managed to fall twice when out competing because he was fighting so much to be with the other horses out in front.  Endurance here in France is a much more hectic affair than in the UK.  There are often 100 horses in a class and everyone goes very fast.  There is not a lot of opportunity to get out on your own and let your horse settle.


Now this is a horse that is very easy at home and when out hacking on his own or with one other horse.  But once he is out of his comfort zone then his natural survival instinct kicks in and all that work to establish a good relationship and good manners seems to count for nothing.  As such my focus has needed to be on keeping his stress levels under control.  I have put him on Cool, Calm and Collected as a calming supplement and it does seem to have made a difference, as he does seem to think things through more before going into a stressed state. But ultimately the goal is to convince him that he doesn’t need to get stressed in the first place.


After the second fall he had to have a long time off and it was only in October that we started back to work.  As well as getting him fit again I have really focused on trying to deal with his stress.  The problem is that we do most of our training on our own and so simply being in a group of horses was a very exciting thing for him.  It has been a lot of work but it has turned out to be worth it.  My plan of action was as follows:


  • Taking him to several different arenas and initially working him on his own there.  The first time I did this he was awful to tack up at the trailer, not standing still, lashing out when I tried to put his boots on.  He seemed convinced that we’d brought him to a competition.  But after a few trips he was completely chilled out about the whole thing.
  • Taking him to the same arenas and working him with an increasing number of other horses in the arena with him.  The focus was on keeping him very busy schooling so then he didn’t have time to get stressed and to make him realise that going to new places wasn’t actually all that exciting!
  • Taking him to lots of different friend’s homes and hacking out with them.
  • One friend very kindly let us come over and hack out with one horse, then 2, then 3 etc. until he realised that he was just training and it really wasn’t anything to get stressed about.
  • Going on a large group ride for a whole day which included a lunch time break in a stable.  The first time we did this he stressed and paced for the whole hour in the stable but by the second time he was already much better.


I would say that first you have to be sure that you have put in all the work at home.  The above plan of action would not make any difference if you don’t already have a good relationship.


But the great news is, that after 5 months of putting this plan into action, we competed yesterday at 60kms and he was fantastic.  He did well at the vets and had good heart rates, he was easy to handle and was great out on the course.  He still got excited when we got passed by a very fast group and wanted to go with them but he did listen to me and we were able to let them go off ahead.  Later when we were passed by another group going at a nice pace we tagged on to the back of the group and he went along nicely, no pulling and not getting too close to the others.  


The plan now is to take him to as many competitions as possible so then he continues to realise that it’s just a job and nothing to get so stressed about.


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Leisure Horse Grading Day

Here in France they have regular grading competitions for ‘Leisure’ horses.   I think it’s a really good system as if you were looking to buy a leisure horse, the ideal hacking horse or a horse who could do some low level competing, the grading of the horse helps you know how good a horse you are buying.  Therefore it’s a great system for breeders to put their horses through.  It’s particularly the behavioural test section which I think tells you a lot about the character of horse and its level of education.


The test is in 3 stages. 


There is a ridden section at walk, trot and canter were the judges are looking at the horse’s paces to make sure that they would be a comfortable and safe ride.  They prefer something forward going, supple and balanced.  The test is run in groups of 4 so they can also see how the horse behaves around other horses.


There is an in-hand presentation were they are looking for a solid model with a good back and clean limbs.


In my opinion the most interesting and useful phase is the ridden Obstacle course section.  This consists of 12 behavioural tests.  The tests have to include:


Loading and unloading
Giving feet
An emergency stop from gallop
Standing still at the mounting block
Either a visual or auditory surprise
A small jump

The judges can then use their imagination to come up with the other ‘scary’ obstacles that you could meet while out hacking.   Our test on Sunday included riding through a dangly curtain, over a red carpet, over some bamboo, riding between a tent and a washing line, over a wooden bridge and riding past umbrellas while someone shook a bottle of stones.  It was very similar to the sort of obstacles you’d get in a Horse Agility competition in the UK, but it’s done ridden rather than in hand.


We took our 8 year old Highland mare, Lucy, to one of a Grading on Sunday and had a lovely day out.  It was heartening to see so many well behaved horses.  Lucy did great, especially on the Obstacle course, scoring nearly full marks (apparently we have some work to do with red carpets!).


The horses are graded between ‘unqualified’ (generally the horse has failed one of the key Obstacle tests or has shown dangerous behaviour such as rearing), ‘qualified’, ‘selection’ and ‘elite’.  Lucy scored Elite on the Obstacle section and Selection on the Ridden and In Hand presentations, scoring Selection overall.  I think we were a little hampered by the fact that none of the judges had any idea what a Highland was and asked if she was a fat Camargue horse!!  The horse’s papers get stamped with the grading and the central National Stud database is updated so anyone can see what grade the horse has. 


By Jo Bond 

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One Of Those Seasons! by Jo Bond

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


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Roma – Castelsagrat CEI** 120kms by Jo Bond

So as ever in the run-up to a competition I was in a state of terror that either the horse or I would do something to ourselves.  I hate the last week of training and if I could I would definitely wrap the horse up in cotton wool.  But obviously it’s much better to not change anything in the horse’s routine and as my horses all live out 24/7 you just have to hope that they don’t do anything silly out in the field!  The drama for this competition was that someone in the village decided to throw hay into the horses, including Roma, one week before the competition.  Now Roma is completely allergic to hay so it put me into a panic and when I took her out training the day after she was coughing now and again.  Amazingly during the last training session she didn’t cough and actually on the day of the competition she never coughed once. 

Thankfully we were lucky with the weather.  We live only 5kms away from the competition venue and so I know the tracks well.  We are on clay so if it rains then the tracks are horrible and if it rains a lot then you are up to your knees in mud.   I did feel very sorry for the guys doing the 160km race the day before us as they set off in the pitch black in a massive thunderstorm that went on for over an hour.  I had initially wanted to enter for the 160kms but then realised that I couldn’t as I haven’t got an FEI passport for Roma yet ( they are expensive and take a couple of months to come and are only required for 160km races).  I have to say that when I was woken up on the Friday morning by the thunderstorm I was very grateful for that rule!

But for us on the Saturday we had a lovely sunny day.  I thought the tracks were good.  She was looking amazing, especially as we gave her a bath and her coat is gleaming black at the moment.

Castelsagrat isn’t a competition I’d have picked for Roma as she’s a delicate sort and much prefers a flat course on good going (she’d have been better as a racehorse!).  It should have been Zamil doing the competition but after his fall at the last competition he wasn’t ready and it was just too tempting to give it a go when we live next door to the competition.  Generally we travel for between 2 and 7 hours to do a competition.  I can’t say that I was that surprised but sadly we went out lame after 90kms with a hind leg lameness.   Over half the competitors went out lame and everyone was commenting on how tough the terrain was.  They had changed some of the loops and put the Blue loop in twice and for the first 20kms of that loop you never stop going up and down so it's punishing for their legs.  I'm sure if we had gone round at a slower speed then she would have been fine but given she's already qualified at 120kms the idea was to try and be competitive.  So she averaged 17kph over the 3 loops and felt like she was still full of running, so imagine the fitness we have now put on her.  We trotted her up when we got home that evening (it's so easy when you're only 5kms from the competition - better than the 7 hours from Fontainebleau!) and she was sound so hopefully it was just a muscle cramp.  She's going to have a long holiday now over the summer.

As ever we had some admin drama - I am starting to get a bit of a 'why us' feeling about this now (after having no stable when we got to Fontainebleau) - as I set up her stable on Thursday only to arrive on Friday with her to find that it had been used by another horse and so it was full of hay.  So we had to find another box, set it up again with shavings (good job we had a second bag) and haylage.

At the time I didn't think about it but we took our buckets from the stable and popped them in our new stable.  Only later when we were selected for random drug testing did I realise what a risk I'd taken.  If the horse that was in her stable was doped it could easily have left traces in her water and feed buckets.  We’ve learnt our lesson and will now take a padlock and lock up our stable when she isn’t in there.

I was very impressed about how professional the drug testing process was and it was all explained really well to us and I'm pleased that they are doing so much of it.  And Roma was a star, being perfectly behaved for her blood sample and thankfully having a wee quite quickly as otherwise you can be made to wait for up to an hour.


I’m sure she’ll be back stronger and fitter for her next competition.  I had a lovely day despite the disappointment, I was cantering along such lovely tracks in the sunshine on a horse that for a long time we didn’t even think we’d be able to ride.  I was smiling and smiling.


Written by Jo Bond


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