by Katie Bedwin
Where has this year gone! I cannot believe that the nights are drawing in, the clippers are coming out and so are the heavy weight rugs. This has been a season of big highs and big lows… but I suppose that is endurance for you.
The last ride of the season for me was the 160km National Championships at Red Dragon with Mandy Yarnold’s lovely Marley, who had been in training with me for six weeks. Red Dragon is renowned for tough going, awful weather…it’s Wales after all! Marley exceeded all expectations; she traveled beautifully, settled in her stable well and really was a dream to have around.
We started early on Saturday morning, and as always at Red Dragon we followed a car down the road, until we were released on to ‘the hill’. Marley kept her cool and settled really well beside her new friend Tinkerbell for the first 10 kilometres. But it was all too good to be true when we met a new horse and Marley remembered she was racing again! Let’s say, an ‘interesting’ further 25km to the first vet gate, with the main aim being staying on top, and keeping hold of the horse turned dragon I was now riding!!
Vet gate one came and went, and I suddenly realised how wet it had been. I had been so focussed on taming my dragon, that the fact I was sitting in a puddle of water on my saddle had passed me… opps! The dragon luckily decided to leave and give me Marley back, which my arms were very grateful of. This meant the second loop was lovely. Marley ate up the hills and the kilometres just went so easily despite the dreadful weather.
I was glad for a change of clothes at vet gate two, I was also very thankful that I had put so many changes of rugs for Marley, because everything and everyone were just sodden. Marley flew through vet gate two, quick pulses, good action – the vets were very happy with her. So off we went on the 20km route home.
Unfortunately, the weather and previous horses had taken its toll on the route home and in places it was hard to keep any decent speed up. But we kept going and Marley was in no way tired! She tackled the hills on the 70th kilometre just as easily as she had on the 10th kilometre – such a lovely feeling for me as you realise all the training and hard work has paid off.
Day one completed with a good vetting back at the Royal Welsh Showground and then into an over night hold. This meant lots of different feed for Marley to munch alongside plenty of water to rehydrate her. It is very important to leave the horses alone after an endurance competition so they have time rest and recover, but also ensure they are moving enough in order to prevent stiffness.
On the Sunday morning after some well needed sleep, we were up early and ready for day two. Marley looked good and had recovered well from the adventures of the previous day.
It all went downhill when we went to the vets for her compulsory trot up. They decided she wasn’t moving quite right, and that was the end of our Red Dragon adventure. The lameness was very slight, and there were no lumps, bumps or heat so we think that she must have slipped and pulled something in the difficult conditions.
Despite not achieving what we planned, there are so many positives to take from this ride for Marley, and I think it will put her in a great position for the 2018 season.