NAETC or the North American Endurance Team Challenge is held in December in Bronson, Florida, USA.
I was delighted to be able to attend this year and to be able to ride in such a prestigious championship at this level. The event is a 3* and is much like our Europeans, with instead of each European country competing – each region of the United States competes.
I have never ridden in a championship before and was a little startled when I realised that I would also be part of the Opening Ceremony and would have the honour of standing in front of a huge Union Jack flag in front of the assembled audience of participants, guests and people there to watch while my national anthem was played and I was announced to the crowd. Gosh – wasn’t really prepared for that ! What a way to start a ride. There were a couple of other international riders taking part including Romania, Italy and Qatar.
For the ride itself I was to be partnering Kowboy. Kowboy, a big chestnut gelding, was originally one of the Canadian horses, owned by nearby resident however on joining our horses at Reynolds Racing for his final training and conditioning, Heather and Jeremy took a bit of a shine to him and prior to the ride he was purchased by them ! Another great asset for them. I was very lucky to have the ride on him.
It was to be a big start and big day all round due to the nature of the ride. I decided I needed to be well away from Kowboy’s new stable mates as Heather and Jeremy would be out to race, whilst I was looking to go much steadier. Heather was riding her lovely bay gelding Chanses, and Jeremy was riding the beautiful big chestnut with the lovely name of Gold Dust Rising, who I was privilege to be allowed to ride at Las Cruces.
I managed to partner up with a small group heading out nearer the back of the ride, and we had a great couple of loops. But sadly it was not to be our day, I was not sure that Kowboy was moving quite right – maybe a muscle issue – confirmed by our physio and body workers this was also coupled with our concern that we knew One of the horses had brought down the electric tape that it was mandatory to put up inside their fenced in paddocks and we didn’t know if there something going on that we couldn’t quite see but that I was feeling. So despite passing the vet we decided the right course of action for Kowboy was to withdraw from the race. Very unfortunate for us and also disappointing for Heather and Jeremy, but with our team the horse ALWAYS comes first.
It did mean I had the fun of crewing for the rest of the day for Heather and Jeremy. Sadly Heather was vetted out after a recheck on loop 4, the vet’s had been concerned after he had suffered a bad reaction from a Pentason shot earlier in the week. So this was just really very bad luck, and was put down to his gut sound results although they were a B at the time. I was a little confused but Either way, the outcome was the same, and we were all pretty shocked that he was out.
That just left Jeremy. Well – what can I say. Jeremy and Dust just came into the last hold having made up around 15 minutes on the leader, Nicki Meuten, who was now only around 5 minutes ahead. Valerie Kanavy and also Kelsey Russell were in the leading pack too. We watched them head out, and then started to take down the extensive vet hold area. Gosh – do you riders out there realise how much work the crew really do – there’s me thinking they just sat around eating and drinking waiting for us to come in ……
Then suddenly it was time to head out to the Finish Line and wait with huge anticipation in the dark for the riders to come in – Now that was the FUN part of crewing. The tension is incredible and suddenly as the first head lamp came into site we realised it was Jeremy ! At 8 hours and 20 minutes they had caught and passed the others without really trying. They both looked totally incredibly, and Dust was just breezing along. We went wild and then rushed to crew him through the final vetting. I was sure that Dust would also win BC as he looked so wonderful and full of himself both that night and the next morning when he showed for BC. However that time the honour went to Kelsey riding of all horse My Wild Irish Gold, belonging to Valerie Kanavy and none other than the horse that came to stay with us in the UK for the Championships in 2012 at Euston Park, partnered by the South African rider Eone Willemsen. Endurance – just a small family spread around the world.
What a trip and what a win.