Well this time it’s all about Dilmun. Well, almost!
Fantom is supposed to be on holiday to recover from all the little stresses his legs must have received after his 160kms race. Nobody told him he was on holiday! Big mistake I have a lunatic on my hands. He has at present his own paddock area next to Dilmun, both of which are extended on a daily basis to allow the boys to receive a measured amount of fresh grass each day. Dilmun’s paddock is slightly closer to the stables to it seemed obvious to move his fence first – NO, WRONG DECISION! As soon as Fantom saw this all hell broke loose and to avoid the kicking, snorting and galloping I had to flee. He is sooooo precocious.
Focus turned to Dilmun with his imminent second 1* coming up; this time at the College Equestrian Centre at Keysoe. Dilmun had been here once before for the final selection for the World Equestrian Games whilst Fantom had been here twice before, both times winning the 2* – a lucky venue for me.
I have to say that Dil didn’t relish his training so much for this 1* and it all seemed rather hard work. Not so much fitness-building was required this time as he still had a good fitness base from the race at Euston Park at the end of May. Instead I concentrated more on schooling and interval training which seemed to go down a lot better than prolonged canter sessions.
A couple of weeks before we were due to go to Keysoe we were contacted by BBC Spotlight South West to arrange some filming. This duly took place on Perranporth Beach with me accompanied, of course, by Dilmun. We had good weather, arranged the time to coincide with low tide and it was all systems go. As usual I rode Dilmun down to the beach taking about an hour this time as we walked all the way to preserve his ‘hairstyle’. We met a very impressive Janine Jansen who lugged all her equipment onto the beach on her own, interviewed us, filmed us cantering on the beach and then took her equipment almost vertically up the dunes to film us doing our interval training. I must admit I think we both (Dilmun and I) felt more tired after this than after a full workout!
After Dilmun had his special shoes with pads fitted and a luxurious massage from Kate McCarthy, we were on our way to Keysoe. I had chosen not to stable there but, as it was forecast to be very hot, to corral instead. This time it was just one crew; my wonderful husband Robert, so everything had to be organised like a military operation: corral set up, check in, set up vet gate, attend briefing, recce of crew points around the course. Pre-ride vetting was in the morning from 6:00 am but the start wasn’t until 8:45 am so there was a lot of time to fill to good use. Lots of walking followed, grazing in hand, breakfast for humans, last minute things put in the vetgate and the crew car and careful tacking up and warming up in all three paces.
Well there was a good-sized International field and the weather was fantastic (at least if you wanted to lie on a beach). We rode out with the leaders and maintained a good pace around the first loop of 40kms. However, coming into the vetting area it was apparent that Dilmun was so hot even with iced water poured over him. As soon as you present to the vets the clock stops and no more crewing is allowed. The vet area was over 30 degrees and we had a pulse of 66 bpm which meant we had to represent costing us at least another 6 minutes.
On the second loop we had to start well behind the leaders which was a little demoralising, but Dilmun soon picked up again when we had company and we passed a fairly uneventful loop. Again, though, our presentation was slow, partly I think due to the heat and partly because we needed another pair of hands. This meant that we had to start the last loop all on our own in the hottest part of the day.
By now Dil was really feeling the heat and we were passed by a couple of riders, eventually coming home in 12th place. Lessons have been learned – Dilmun is not a hot weather horse, you need more than one crew on a race ride however well-behaved the horse is and, in retrospect, with the forecast being so hot, it might have been better to have withdrawn and saved our efforts for another day. However, no harm done and a solid completion gained.
Dilmun’s piece on the beach aired on television, facebook and twitter, and had almost 20,000 views and nearly 100 shares on facebook alone; such is the power of television. Good for raising endurance’s profile. This is a sport just begging to be an Olympic discipline with over 30 different countries participating and events taking place all over the World. It is inclusive and open to all and embraces the Olympic ethos. Unfortunately horse sports are not popular in the Olympics and there currently is no question of a 4th equestrian sport being added; indeed it is debatable how long equestrian sport as a whole will remain part of the Olympics. Equestrians, we need to promote our wonderful sports far more effectively!