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15 February 2016

BTF..... At long last

A tale of persistence from Angi Long


Well it’s taken me a few years (my first endurance pleasure ride was in 1999) but I have finally achieved my first ever BTF in 2014!

I never thought that Danny Boy would be the horse to do it for me though. He was written off as unrideable many years ago as he had learned that bucking like a raging rodeo horse meant that he got out of doing any work. It has taken a lot of hard work, a lot of patience, a lot of sweat & tears and many a time I’ve just had to put on the brave pants and man up! After a while we came to an understanding - that I could ride him and he could enjoy it. So we started coming out to endurance rides in 2012 and did 3 rides, including his first BTQ. Then during 2013, just after getting his second BTQ, he was struck down with a mystery virus and I thought I was going to lose him. The vet had no idea what was wrong with him, despite extensive tests and so all treatment was ‘experimental’. However, he pulled through and by the end of the season we had managed enough miles to achieve his 150k rosette. I was dead chuffed, especially since he managed to win the barefoot pleasure trophy too. Two BTQs, 150k rosette and a trophy – all on an ‘unrideable’ horse that was now aged 17 and had not been ridden for nearly 8 years previously.

So, starting the season in 2014 I was happy just be riding Danny. I never had any great expectations for him, especially since during his illness last year it was discovered that he had spavins in his hocks and he was now 18yrs old. (Though secretly I hoped that we might manage a BTF I also knew that I wouldn’t be disappointed if we didn’t.)

Having done four rides successfully and Danny looking and going well, I decided to bite the bullet and give it a go. I entered Nine Stanes 50k. I found myself a ride partner who had done this and bigger distances before and I got myself a top class crew (what are best friends for?). This was it, succeed or fail, it didn’t matter. I just wanted to see if he, and I, could do it. It was a lovely day, rain but warm. We got to the start line and Danny gave me his usual little bucks and broncos that we get at the start of each ride – his way of letting me know that if he didn’t want to go out, he wouldn’t. A legacy of his past behaviour however, we have our little method to get past this and within a few minutes we were on our way. The routes were absolutely lovely with a mix of stony tracks, road work and some canter opportunities. It was hillier than I thought and I felt that Danny might struggle but it turns out he has a thing for Arabs.

Every time he saw an Arabian horse (or more precisely the group of 5 Arabian horses) in front of us, he just dropped a gear and revved it up a notch. (He possibly has a little Arab in his blood, so he may be felt kindred to them).

After 3 hours in the saddle we came back to the venue for the vet halt. This was going to be a challenge as Danny was used to coming back to the venue, getting warmed down, vetted, fed, then trailered up and away home. Job done! This time though, I’m going to vet him quicker than usual, feed him, then tack him back up and ask him to go out again. Hmmmm! How’s that going to work? Surprisingly well as it turned out. After passing his vetting (HR 52/56) and having his feed, a drink and a rest he was ready. He had his new best buddy, Tango to go back out with and the sun had come out by now so it was a nice day for it, why not go out again? Phew! That was easier than expected.

The second loop was pretty much a repeat of the first but with a good bit of stony section and a long slog of a hill missing so it was a bit easier. We had a time allowance for the stony section (it was very long and really only walkable) but we hadn’t eaten into the allowance in the first half, which meant that we had extra time to relax a little on this second loop. There was a point where I thought Danny was starting to get tired but then along came the Arabians from earlier to overtake us and he perked right up, changed gear and sped up after them, much to mine and Sharon’s amusement. Before we knew it we were at our last crew point and the end was in sight. I was getting a little tired now, I’ve never ridden this distance before but Danny seemed to have more energy than I could’ve imagined. We finally came into the finish 6 hours and 3 mins after we started. No time to waste, got to warm Danny down again and get him through his final vetting. My crew had everything waiting for us, so we set to and got Danny ready. Presented to the vet within the proscribed half hour and it was better than I could’ve imagined. His heart rate was 52/52, better than at half time. Using that time allowance in the second loop paid off. We did it! BTF, SC3, Silver.

Now I have to thank the vital people involved in this venture as Danny and I didn’t do it alone. I know that neither Danny nor I could’ve done this without our excellent crew Karl & Maya Leye (aged 7) meeting us at four points on course on both loops with plenty of water for sloshing, sugar beet water for drinking and feed for Danny & Tango also with food and water & isotonic drinks for myself and Sharon. And of course their help at the vet halt, ensuring that Danny & I were looked after and ready to go back out on time. We also couldn’t have done it without Sharon Chugg & Tango for company. I had tried a 30km solo with Danny at Drumtochty and he didn’t enjoy it so to have such an easy going horse as Tango to buddy him (and of course Arabs to chase) and for me to have Sharon as company made a huge difference as it kept morale up (6hours is a long time....). And the last lot of thanks have to go to the organisers and helpers who made sure that the day went smoothly. If they didn’t put on the ride, I couldn’t have done it. Thank you everybody for helping me do it after all this time.

What’s next for me and Danny? I don’t know. Danny’s 18 now and has his spavins to consider, we’ll just see what happens with him next year. As for me? I have another BTQ in my sights now, with Tricky my little Fell pony. He’ll be 18 next year and has a similar history to Danny, (though his reason for not being rideable is because he liked to rear up like a poodle until his rider would fall out the saddle) so we’ll see what happens there......