Ride Report: Kings Forest

Well it’s been over a week now since Kings Forest and I have only just managed to get around to writing my usual post ride blog. Chip completed his final qualification of 80km so is now ready to tackle a CEI1*.

I feel to justify the KF story, I need to go back to May when I totally chickened out of his 80km at Euston Park. I am a little bit obsessive about training plans, nutrition, horse happiness, gut feelings etc. and rather vainly Chip’s competition record too. I firmly believe in not taking a horse under prepared and if there’s been a blip in the training then it’s going to have consequences on the performance.

Hindsight is a wonderful tool and planning to do his 80km in May, the week of my dissertation deadline was never really a sensible decision and I found myself feeling guilty when I was riding that I should be studying and then feeling guilty that I wasn’t concentrating on him 100%. The ‘long’ training that was supposed to happen a fortnight before just didn’t because we had decided to go the beach to do it. Lesson learnt from that one is to go with what you know, the beach was ridiculously too deep – we did a 6km walk on it and got off! Not the 40km at 14kmph that I had planned! Returning to Sheffield feeling disheartened we did three days of between 16-20km rides around home – far from ideal (in my head anyway). So that was doubt number one, was he aptly prepared. But the biggest doubt of all was how hard the ground was going to be. If you can cast your mind back that far, we hadn’t had any rain for weeks and weeks! Having never ridden Euston before, as I’ve always crewed, I just didn’t know how the tracks were going to ride. Conflicting reports were given to me about how it was going to be. On the principle that you shouldn’t go into a competition with doubts, I had firmly decided not to ride the 80km but thought that a 40km would be worthwhile. As it happens I’m sure he probably could have done the 80km as the going was perfect but it’s just not worth the risk and he gained a lot from Euston Park experiencing staying away, a big venue atmosphere and generally just another ride experience under his belt.

So that was Euston Park, as such my training for Kings Forest was followed out much more religiously than before as I was eager to follow through this time and get his qualification. As such, on the 17th June with 90% humidity and 32C heat, Chip and I were in Kings Forest completing our 40km training ride! It was a scorcher! But as per Chip he cruised round on a super low average heart rate, had excellent recoveries and was his usual pro self! Fast work happened 10 days before KF at the Northern Racing College on the all-weather gallops with Beatrice Stocks BE coach and that too proved to me that Chip was more than prepared and totally ready for KF.

I made the decision to travel Chip early on the Friday morning as I wanted him to have time to relax as the journey from Sheffield to KF is about 4hrs and it was another particularly humid day. My sister, Pheobe was riding her loan horse Khelisha rounder their first 32km GER Nov as a combination so I had agreed to crew for her as well alongside Granny. I was very proud of Pheobe as Khelisha can be a particularly difficult mare and she didn’t give Pheobe the easiest of rides but she completed nonetheless and that was a huge achievement for them both! Friday evening I went for a ride with Lou Rich (who went on to win the CEI3* 160km!!!!) to give both our horses a leg stretch and Chip did his best to make a good impression by soooo nearly dumping me after a molehill apparently exploded! I don’t think he will ever stop keeping me on my toes!

Saturday morning seemed slow as I’d slept in the trailer and it was freezing so I was up at 4.45 trying to get warm! Vetting wasn’t until 9 so I had lots of time at least! I’d previously arranged to ride with Shelley Bates and Sadhira as it’s always nice to have a friend! Sadhira and Chip also grew up together so it was very cute to see the reunion! Pre ride vetting held its usual level of entertainment with bucking down the trot up but I was given a grin and told to ‘enjoy my ride’ so off we went to get tacked up and started. The ride plan was loop 1: 13kmph, loop 2: 14kmph, loop 3: 15kmph assuming they still felt good. The problem was this perhaps wasn’t conveyed clearly enough to either of the horses who were pulling a lot. So the first 32km went by rather fast and we were into the vet gate much sooner than I wanted to be. Saddle off, HR monitor on: 63. So I was ready immediately. However, as we’d arranged, we were going to wait for one another and ride together all day so we did have to wait a fair while for Sadhira to calm down enough for her pulse to drop and go into vetting. Both horses through VG1 fine anyway.

Loop 2 we completed just a smidgen under target speed because the route was very stony for about 8km out of the forest. Throughout the day across all classes the blue loop proved to be a slower loop. It was not worth risking pushing them over the ground so we did slow up. If I’d known about the stones I would have padded up but all’s well that ends well so it didn’t really matter. Into the vet gate and Sadhira was better this time so we were able to present sooner. Then disaster (in my mind) both horses asked to retrot! Both passed, Chip with an A for action so I’m still not really too sure why they wanted me to retrot. I asked the vet what leg she was looking at and she said RF and advised ice and to take it slow. Me being me went into total melt down and didn’t want to go out on the last loop. There was nothing obvious going on and to me he was sound but I really wasn’t sure about taking the risk. Discussion with the crew team and we decided we’d trot them up ourselves in the hold area before tacking up and if they looked slightly iffy they’d not go back out. Both horses trotted, both sound so we made a plan to take the last loop as slow as we could.

I left the vet gate still feeling worried but after a couple of km my confidence picked up again as he felt 100% to me and was still so keen to go! It was a shame really that they’d put the doubt in my mind as he just wanted to canter everywhere and it would have been nice to have put in a solid last loop speed ahead of his 1*. Better safe than sorry though so last loop was completed at a dismal speed of 10.1kmph putting our average of the ride to 12.8kmph. Not that it’s particularly important! Chip finished strong and happy and that’s really what counts, A for action at the end, 1s and As for everything else apart from mucus membranes or something like that so he was quite happy at the finish. So that was that, his second 80km completed, not without drama but done anyway!

Sunday was crewing day, for Shanti Roos and Medina in the CEI1*. That too didn’t go exactly to plan as Medina went lame in vet gate 2 after completing 64km. Shanti also struggled to keep to her planned ride speeds and went faster than we had all planned for her and she thinks this contributed to her lameness. Anyway, it’s always fun to crew for other people and see how they do things – after all everyday is a learning day!

Next up on the agenda was the small matter of moving to France! So Sunday we drove back from KF to home (Milton Keynes not Sheffield). I had Monday at home to unpack/repack - sort of organise some stuff! Tuesday we headed off to Dover to ETA to sort out the export papers and fit to travel certification from the vet. My sister came along for the journey with me so the two of us slept in the car as we had to be up at 2.30am to get the 4.30am ferry so there was very little point in getting a hotel. We got the ferry and started driving 7am (French time). After a very long day we made it to Laz, Brittany at 7pm after making two one hour long stops on route. Chip was unloaded and walked around, given his Rowen Babury mashes, his Equiform Travelwell Pastes and he arrived looking absolutely amazing given that he’d been on the road all day! I cannot fault how mature he was all day and how he coped with everything.

So for the next few months I am going to be based here, working with endurance horses day in day out. I’ve been here just a little less than a week but already Chip and I have settled in and I am totally loving it!

Also should add, amongst all this, I did complete my degree and finished up with a 2:1 in Politics and International Relations and did superbly in my dissertation about bioterrorism – so I’m pretty pleased with myself!

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