Just a short five weeks ago Nahdia came into my life. With me for sales livery, I knew from day one I had to not let myself get attached. The first day I knew she would make a good endurance pony, pacing the fence at a canter for six hours straight!
Since then, she’s come a very long way. Nahdia was quite skinny, lacking top line and all round super stressy. I knew it was going to take a long time to get her going the way I wanted her to and we are by no means there yet, but we are certainly making strides in the right direction.
Since her arrival the plan has always been the 80km at Thoresby but there were so many factors in the build-up which put my head in a bit of a spin as to whether to go ahead or not. Part of the plan to help sell Nahdia was to show that she could do the distance and gain FEI qualification i.e. two 80kms. The thought of doing a 64km first did cross my mind but then I decided that it wasn’t much use and I knew it wouldn’t really challenge her. We missed out on Keysoe but did do an excellent 30km training ride at home ten days before with an average speed of 15.9kmph which she coped with brilliantly so I decided we’d just go for it.
No rain since May and a weather forecast of 30C meant that I was still a little unsure if doing her first 80km was the right idea. Sarah, Nahdia’s owner, sent me a lovely message the day before to wish us luck and reassure me there was no pressure and to just do the right thing by Nahdia. It was really lovely to feel so trusted and it gave me the confidence to do what I felt best rather than worry about gaining the qualification. When I saw the ride map my heart sank a little bit, so repetitive! But then it was all in the forest and at least it would be shady. Also too, Nahdia is such a trier I knew I didn’t have to worry about her being nappy or getting annoyed about going round and round.
We travelled up the night before and Nahdia was so calm and settled in her stable at Wellow Equestrian Centre. When she first came to live with me she was absolutely chaotic and so so anxious so I was a little concerned about how she would react to being stabled overnight. Amazingly, she was as cool as cucumber – so unbelievable! Drank, ate, chilled – perfect pony! I gave her a Travelwell Paste by Equiform which is designed for stressy travellers and I think this does always really help.
Our vet time was 8am so we were up at the stables early to give her a breakfast, which she ate up well, and then we loaded up to go to the venue. I wanted to get started as early as possible to beat the heat so we were first to vet. We had to put her bridle on to vet her and avoid her dancing feet but the vets were understandable and she passed without any concerns. As soon as the saddle went on she got her concentration head on and relaxed as soon as I was on and walked over the start line really calmly. That’s one of the best things about Nahdia, as stress as she can be on the ground, she’s so lovely and easy to ride.
We rode the first loop with our planned riding companion Tracey Chilvers who was riding her horse Ash on his first 80km too. We both agreed the aim of the day was to complete and finish sound so we were not going to go too fast. That said, it’s a difficult balance with wanting to get a big portion of the ride done in the cool. Luckily, almost all of the ride was in the shade so it was lovely and cool and the majority of the tracks were really lovely going. My crew were amazing and saw us eight times on the first loop! It was brilliant!
Into the first vetgate and gearing myself up for trying to get Nahdia calm to vet I was once again absolutely shocked. My excellent crew team were on hand and very professional as always. Nahdia stood stock still in the cooling lane, HR60, into vetting sub-2mins!!!! HR57 in and straight As! Amazing girl – I was so pleasantly surprised by this. You can’t normally get Nahdia to stand still long enough to get a Grade let alone a presentation time as good as that. Gosh the girl has potential.
Into our (only 30min) hold, she was eating and drinking really well. She had a massage from Kate, ice boots on, chilling the shade. I was in awe of her how well she was doing. The hold absolutely flew by and we were actually 2 mins late leaving – not very good!! Anyway, for her very first time being asked to leave the venue to go out again, she didn’t even hesitate. Off she happily trotted.
The second loop was only 24km but was made up 4 little loops. About half-way around, Tracey felt Ash wasn’t quite right and we both thought it was a good idea for her to retire and save him for another day. Another true test, Nahdia didn’t bat an eyelid as I asked her to carry on whilst Tracey turned for home. We caught up with a group six horse all on the 80km qualifying and now the stressy Nahdia returned. She got very strong, pulling and not listening to me as well which was so frustrating as she’d been so relaxed on the entire first loop. We came into the next vet gate with them all and she took a little longer to get her HR down but we still presented in front of them. Another straight A and HR56 can’t be bad! Back to the hold, still looking fresh and keen, she once again ate and drank really well. This hold was 40mins long which was much appreciated as it was very hot by this point in the day! I really was so grateful that it was so shady on route.
We started the final loop on our own and I decided to just see how she went in terms of speed. We were well ahead of minimum speed and indeed the aimed for speed of 12kmph. Nahdia left the venue as happy as larry and was her usual enthusiastic self. Much easier to ride again and not pulling it meant for an easier ride for me too. We were soon to the first crew point and she was eating up the ground. We did the whole last loop without seeing another horse and she just kept happily trotting and cantering along. We finished up with her feeling really strong and well – I was so thrilled! We took a little longer at the finish just to make sure her HR was well down and she was all fine. She took a long drink again and Kate gave her a five minute massage. Into vetting after about 10mins and her HR was 56 which I was more than happy with as it was 30C and her first 80km at her fastest speed of 13.4kmph! The fastest endurance ride she’s done before this was 12.9kmph and that was in 2013!
I am totally amazed at how well Nahdia has improved since her last ride. Her behaviour was really good and she gave me a dream ride apart from the little bit on the second loop when we were in the group. Understandable when she’s raced! She totally stepped up to the plate and pretty much aced her first 80km.
The very first paragraph of this ride report about not getting too attached is getting increasingly difficult, especially when she’s done me as proud as she has. I have been working very hard at home with schooling out on rides and in the school and I feel it has made so much difference to not only her body but her head too.
Thanks so much to my wonderful crew who I absolutely couldn’t have done it without in that heat! Thank you to the organisers for putting on the ride, which though repetitive was still lovely and the venue was a nice relaxed atmosphere. Thanks to my wonderful sponsors Noble Outfitters UK, Rowen Barbary & Equiform Nutrition.
Two top weekends, with two top ponies – one happy girl!