Broxton Bridge in South Carolina is the home to a really super endurance ride that spans over a couple of days with a plethora of difference classes ran around the plantation home and cotton fields owned by Jerry Varn.
I had entered the FEI 3* 100 miles with my wonderful mare Cleo. Riding at the end of January we were expecting a brisk start but mostly bright sunshine and great going. Oh dear how wrong could we be – we are so so lucky this ride was not cancelled and the most horrible snow and ice storm blew – what freak weather the world is having. The intrepid ride organisers told everyone not come before Thursday afternoon as the roads were just too icy and that the weather would be breaking and warm up enough for the ride to go ahead. I never thought I would see thick ice on palm trees and be wearing my British winter clothing !
I was very excited about this ride, not least because I just love to ride Cleo. She has a feel good factor of about a thousand percent, I can’t explain how she makes me feel so I knew the ride would be great fun. But also because I would be riding again with my wonderful friends Heather and Jeremy Reynolds, and the horses were all fit and going great. Cleo had felt brilliant out training in December, so we knew we could go out and aim for a target speed of 18.5kmph. The US team selectors would be there and watching for combinations making that speed.
Jeremy would be riding in the 1* class on his horse Mo, Most Likely and also the 2* on Kowboy who I had ridden at NAETC. Heather would be riding in the 3* on Chanses. I was also doing the 2* the next day on my lovely new gelding B’tash who I had taken to New Jersey in December to get his 1*.
Our great friend Lisanne Cape Dorian trailered Cleo up to the ride for me with her boy Flash. So there was a nice group of us parked together. Lynn Kennely was helping organise the ride and also arranging food and looking after us so well as she always does, as well as crewing for us – We love you Lynn ! thank you for everything. As always Skip would be close on hand running the crewing operation. This time we had also flown Michelle out from the UK to crew too as there was a number of horses going to be out there in different classes.
The race started just great and Heather and I headed out behind the 2 leaders. We soon overtook and cantered on alone, however it wasn’t long before the husband and wife team of the Olsen’s joined us again and the four of us rode the majority of the ride together. The horses were having a wonderful time and were just flying in the cold crisp air. We rode through the trees as the dappled sunlight shone on the ice and icicles – how pretty and how lucky did we all feel to be out there doing what we love. Now that’s what endurance is all about.
We were getting great reports in from Mo and Jeremy, and it came to final sprint off for the line for first and second, and as the pace picked up Jeremy had elected to save Mo and came in a brilliant second. What a great ride, and what a great horse for the future.
Our ride was just whizzing by and it seemed no time at all before we getting out headlamps on for the last loop as we knew it would get dark while we were out there. The tracks were also getting pretty chewed up by this time and we had to be pretty careful about where the thick mud was and where the sand was – the bends all begin to look the same by headlamp. Heather was wearing her mega lamp which so bright – but suddenly decided it would only work intermittently leaving her suddenly riding totally in the dark, then bright day light again and so on. Not that Heather looked remotely concerned by this ! what a pro ! by this loop it was only Jeremy Olsen on Shade, Heather on Chanses and myself and Cleo. We all shot out together and had such a blast. About 3 miles from home Cleo slowed a shade so we stayed back as Heather rode on. I was so hoping Heather would make it over the line first and as I came in an ecstatic third and I was cheering as I heard Heather had indeed flown ahead and taken first place. What a day. Cleo had a ride time of 18.4 kmph. My amazing mare.
Day 2 was to be much tougher – it had been raining during the night and continued to be totally torrential rain all day long. The tracks just got mushier, slushier and deeper until we were slogging our way through thick deep mud. This was B’tash first 2* so I had started towards the back for a steady go round, but we had gradually made up up through by the pack by vetting so quickly. B’tash has great recovery times and my crew is the best ! Jeremy was out front and doing great. I just kept plodding through at a steady trot, and was so proud of B’tash trotting over the line with his ear pricked. He can be a little jumpy out in front and he had done the whole of the last loop on his own in the dark. What a star. However, I knew the mud had taken it’s toll and he was stiff behind and we failed the vet. So this was not be his 2* qualification – but HE doesn’t know that and I know that he is a really super little horse with the sweetest disposition. The day before the ride he had curled up on the floor with my husband Andy for a little mutual snooze in the sun. He is a character and I look forward to lots more adventures with him – just preferably with better weather !
Another great fun couple of days and we are looking forward to Bronson Florida at the end of February, and ramping up our training in the UK as we look forward to spring.