After having to get up at about 4am and leaving the yard at 5.30am it felt like we’d already done half a days work by the time we got to the Berkshire Downs ride, but Shah travels well so it’s never a bother taking him anywhere. Much to my surprise he was awake when I turned up at the stables at 5am, and he happily ate his breakfast too. As I’m quite organised it was just a case of hitching the trailer, pack the saddle and load Shah before setting off.
We arrived in good time at the venue, being able to have a look around and find everything before unloading and getting prepared for the ride. Farrier check all ok, vetting all ok, start heart rate 40, which is very normal for him. So we tacked up and set out on the first loop with company.
As this was a major ride it was quite busy and during the first loop there seemed to be other riders around us nearly all the time. I had arranged to ride with two, more experienced, endurance riders but unfortunately one of them had a horse that was wound up by Shah so after about half way we trotted on in front and started catching up others instead. Shah really seems to like the race-catch up with others game and I was extremely pleased about his speed and pace. We kept up with all the experienced riders, trotting and cantering all the way apart from one downhill where we met a throng of school walkers and had to take it easy anyway.
Finished the first loop on a high. Shah felt great, was still full of life, very keen and had loved every minute of the ride. As his heart rate was 57 straight away I presented quickly and by the time we got to the vets, his heart rate had dropped to 44 so I was very pleased. He trotted up fine but unfortunately had got a cut on his front heel. The head vet took a look and decided it was only a fleshwound and we were okayed to keep going as long as we lashed on some first aid cream onto it.
As I was crewless (note to myself, try not to do anything more than 50k without a crew, it is difficult) it took me a little longer than 30min to get ready in the middle of the ride. I was then curious to see how Shah would react at going out again, this was the first time he had ever done that, and his eyes nearly popped out of his head when I tacked up and he realised he was going to do the whole thing again!!
As predicted, It was VERY difficult to get him out of the venue on his own. I was supposed to ride with some others so that we got a pull out but as they left before me I had to just try it on our own. He napped terribly and I ended up having to get my wip wop out and make lots of noises before he got going. The first 10km after that were painful, he was slow as a donkey. Luckily we then caught up with another rider, and some others caught up with us and we then succeeded in motivating Shah to get going and he got a second wind.
Once motivated we continued to fly around in usual trot/canter manner. I could feel he was getting tired towards the end though, and I was also a little concerned about his cut as parts of the route was muddy and you don’t know what they can pick up in puddles and mud. It was great fun, however, to ride with some lovely and hugely experienced endurance riders and horses.
Came back with a quite tired horse who unfortunately vetted out lame on the right front foot, where he had his cut. I suspect the cut had got more bruised and sore during the second loop and it was just hurting a bit towards the end. His heart rate was absolutely fine at 46, so I’m pretty sure he was fit enough for the job. He also drank quite well on the second loop and it felt like he had lots of energy in the tank. Our speed was 12.3k/h, which I was very pleased about.
All in all I was very pleased with him. We did the full 65km, had our ups and downs, worked our way through them, kept up a good speed throughout, he felt fit and forward thinking most of the time and he proved to me that we can now go out and ride our own race, without having to be reliant on company all the time, although it really helps. I was also very pleased about his heart rate readings, and getting the cooling down/keeping warm routine right (lesson learned from last ride).
It was just a bit of bad luck getting a cut I think. The cut is healing well and he wasn’t lame at all the morning after, not even when he came out of the trailer at home to be honest. He wasn’t even a little stiff the morning after!! Wish I could say that…
Need to find another 65k ride now so that he can start getting used to going out on more than one loop. Things can only get better from now!