Where to begin? Euston Park couldn’t have gone any better really. Many people know that to get this point has been quite the uphill battle with Chip. Missing his 1* in October last year due his idiocy and grazing his fetlock three days before, then missing his 1* in April this year as he managed to get pneumonia so this week when everything was going okay I still wasn’t keen to pack or get anything truly organised in case I cursed it! That meant Friday was a rather mad dash to get everything organised and packed up to go. I wanted to arrive for 2pm to have time to settle in, set up the hold area, stables and generally not be doing last minute & late night organising at the venue.
Friday all went to plan and Chip was amazingly calm when we arrived. I was really quite nervous for pre-ride vetting which I know is silly but it’s quite different doing it on your own horse! Anyway, he was of course fine and started on a heart rate of 40 which is a good reflection of just how calm he was. I was so pleasantly surprised. I think taking him there last year to do a 40km was really useful (even though I fell off twice) because he’d seen everything at the venue before so just took it all in his stride.
Even though the CEI1* at Euston Park offers the staggered start I wanted Chip to experience his first mass start and with only 23 horses in the class anyway I knew it wouldn’t be too bad. The majority of races and certainly 2* and up there will be mass starts so I thought I might as well start as I mean to go on! Once again I was pleasantly surprised by his totally calm and relaxed attitude in the warm up, of which 18 horses opted for the mass start at 8am. We crossed the line in a steady trot in the middle of the pack and all was going swimmingly until a horse behind us bolted and came past at a flat out gallop!! I felt so sorry for the rider who managed to stay on and actually start the race a bit later on! Chip had a little moment as it went past which was totally understandable but once we’d carried on a for a minute or two he got back into the right head space and got to work.
The first loop went by fast and even better than expected. Sure we had some bucking and kicking out at other horses but overall the best behaviour and totally in tune with me taking leads as requested and holding himself in a really lovely uphill self-carriage. We got caught up with a group of 8 riders who were looking to qualify and were going at a similar speed so I slotted him in the middle of their group and he rode along really well if a little touchy with his back legs! The very best part of the first loop was him actually leading the group of 8 horses through the river! I was so panicked whether he was even going to go through and he just took the lead – like ‘everyone follow me’. Last year we stopped at one river crossing for 30mins! We came into the vet gate in the group and vetted in 2.05 which for his very first race ride was fab. We decided in advance that we were not going to check his HR on the first loop unless I was worried because he has reliably good recoveries. He was totally chilled and scored a straight A card so I was very happy!
The next loop we were off on our own. We presented faster than the other riders by a couple of minutes so I went out quite steadily and hoped they would catch us up to have some company but no-one did. Once again, Chip seriously impressed me. Usually on his own he’s very spooky and difficult. It’s not that he is nappy but he’s certainly less confident to stride out. Anyway, forget old Chip, new Chip was a very happy cantering pony who didn’t once want to not canter :D He wasn’t pulling but just happy to lollop along at his 19kmph speed. We were cantering along past Shadwell House when suddenly he felt really odd and I was really panicked so I pulled him up. He instantly did a MASSIVE wee! As soon as he had finished he just went straight from walk into canter again and we carried on. He’s so funny! He was drinking so well, every river crossing and crew point he would stop and drink loads so we wasted more time than I would usually but it was really hot and of course it’s so good that he looks after himself so well.
The next vet gate the heat had really gone up a gear and we took 3mins to present this time which I was frustrated with but then I have to remind myself this is the first time I have allowed him to go so fast and it is still only his first race. Once again a straight A card so really I couldn’t be too disappointed and he still looked really happy. He ate and drank loads in the vet gate again – such a good boy! My crew worked together seamlessly, and it was so nice to sit down in the shade and just let them get on with everything. The hold seemed to go much more quickly and we were soon tacking up for the last loop. We were still on our own ahead of the next group by more than 10 mins by now.
Chip cantered out of the venue again without looking back and was off once again. The final loop used much of the first loop and had the most flints in it. My farrier and I discussed what to do beforehand and decided not to pad as we didn’t want to increase the risk of pulling shoes. Luckily Chip has excellent feet and on the whole 80km felt only one stone. We got to the river crossing and Chip took a very long drink again. We were soon to the crew point and finally another horse caught us up, it was Kate Atkinson. Chip turned into a fresh 'first-loop' pony again, not that he was tiring before, but it was like he got a fresh surge of motivation. Back to pulling uphill pony we rode together through to the finish. My biggest aim for the day was really to complete and I didn’t see any point in a racing finish for a placing, which at that point in the day we didn’t even know what it was going to be. The staggered start is frustrating in that way because you have no idea where anyone is. Anyway, I let Kate go on ahead and dealt with a loony pony who was pulling so much. We came across the line with Chip still pulling and feeling totally amazing.
We took a bit more time at the end to ensure his HR was solidly below 64 and didn’t want to risk any fluctuations. Into the final vet and once again a straight A card. I was absolutely thrilled! My super-duper pony 1* completed at an average speed of 16.9kmph in 6th place and a final loop speed of 18.5kmph. The very best part was how bloody amazing he looked at the end, pulling us all around the venue and even playing us up about loading! We travelled home last night because we don’t live too far and I think it’s much better to have him back home and out in the field. He went out at a canter and obviously wanted to tell Nahdia all about it!
And the final very best thing is how great he looked this morning. Despite the ground being absolutely rock hard his legs were cool and not filled this morning. He looked totally bright and alert, his back and muscle tone was pretty perfect and he’s sound as a pound. Absolutely amazing boy!
A massive thank you to H Power for running the EP series. Thank you to my amazing crew who were paramount to our success yesterday, Kate Scothorne, Pheobe Fricker, Archie Waller, Cam Burton, Carol & Terry Fricker. Our home team farrier Aaron Myall, saddler Kirsty Sheath and physio Kate.
Thank you to my wonderful sponsors Noble Outfitters UK, Rowen Barbury horse feeds and Equiform Nutrition for keeping Chip and myself in great form too!
It may have taken a while to get there, but it was totally worth it.