What can I say ? What an awesome weekend !!
I chose Madine because the timings worked so well to get a 3* 160kms for Bold Greyson, and I wanted to take Bonita (LM42) somewhere and just go and have a fun at the end of the season.
I realised that the Development Squad were also going and so rang the Chef to see if we could pay to join in with the services of their great vet Zofia Lisowski and the farrier Harvey Lymer, son of senior squad farrier Kelvin Lymer. There would be a big team of Brits going, so it sounded like a great weekend camping out in the on site gites.
We arrived at the venue, and realised how beautiful the area is. Surrounded by lakes and set in pretty French countryside. Our gite was great, and I love to stay so close to the horses. We had a couple of days to acclimatise and ride around the area, and for once the unusual weather this year meant that we were all out and about in shorts and t-shirts in October !
Ride day for the 160kms was due to be very hot and it didn’t disappoint us. Again, I knew I needed to take care with some of the slow rolling climbs up into the forestry, they can be a bit deceptive. Greyson was full of going, and we started off with quite a team of Brits, but unfortunately had a few vet outs where the heat took it’s toll. At one point I was hoping for a 1, 2, 3 as Carri Ann Dark was in the lead on Drift, Harry Ingram was a short way ahead in 2nd, and I was taking a more leisurely pace but still in 3rd position. The French are at the top of the game in endurance, so we were all delighted with our progress. Very sadly Harry vetted out just before the end, but Carri Ann came in first and we came in third place. What a great day. Our chef Mary Stubbs was understandably thrilled, especially as out in the FEI 2* Dace Sainsbury had come in second !
The next day was Bonita’s turn, aiming for a steady 90 kms 1*. Bonita however had other ideas. She is always pretty hot at the start, and not too keen on being crowded. There were a lot of horses and they were all crowding hot on each other heels, at one point I had a horses head resting on either thigh and Bonita became distressed so in the end I let her go. She took total advantage of the opportunity and hared off flat out. At one point I thought there was no way she would do more than one loop as her speed was so great, but she was full of running and tackled the first climbs absolutely head on to rocked into the vet gate with a ridiculously low heart rate, and minus one shoe. Of course she rocked the vet gate, Harvey did a quick shoe change and she shot off for loop 2. I can never see the point of going much faster than your closest competitor, so I managed to rein her in and bring her back towards the riders in 2nd and 3rd position, putting her in a nice place for the last loop.
By the last loop it was raining hard, and yesterdays tracks had turned slippery especially on the long grass. We had lost another shoe (in exactly the same place) during loop 2, and I had finally managed to contain her speed and we set out to be safe during the last loop. The other two caught up with us easily and we cantered steadily around the last loop. On the last down hill section before the village heading home, the riders made their move but I chose not to follow – they were going fast down a slippery grass slope and I don’t take those kind of risks. Once we hit safe going I let Bonita run for home, and she flew in 2nd. I am so thrilled with her. But better than that – she went on to win Best Condition ! my very first ever Best Condition, I am unutterably proud of this incredible tough feisty naughty little chestnut mare.
What a weekend.