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15 September 2014

75 Miles at Cirencester (76 actually) by Leon Stelmach

Cirencester Park, is part of the 14,000 acre Gloucestershire estate owned buy Lord Bathurst. It is home to the Cirencester Park Polo Club but on the 18th of June it hosted a 75mile and 100mile FEI ride run under the auspices of Endurance GB.

Kate Robertson and husband Hugh set of with Lady Bathsheba (Sheba) on the previous Monday for the long drive south and were joined by the rest of the crew, Pat Williams (on Ducati) and Leon and Mary Stelmach on Wednesday at off-site stabling.

On Thursday morning, horse, trailer, crew et al transferred to the venue where Sheba had to be stabled in the secure FEI stable block. Vetting and weighing-in of the rider took place that afternoon and the crewing plans were finalised. A first priority was to set out a space in the Vet Hold area with water, slosh bottles, seat for rider and other basic equipment. All of this was replicated in the crew car (one per rider).

Cirencester Park is criss-crossed with rides and with some additional distance gained outside the Park the course had been set out in a series of cloverleaf routes. These were coloured, Green (17.5 miles), Red x 2 (24.1 miles) and Yellow (10.5 miles) making up the 75 miles Kate and Sheba were to ride.

A mass start at 06.00 meant an early rise for everyone but everything went well with all 24 riders getting off without incident. The first 17 miles were ridden at over 10 mph and time to vet was very short. The vet halt was very busy at this stage even with six vets working as quickly as they could. After a twenty-minute hold the first of the Red routes was ridden. As before Hugh, Pat and Mary were in the crew car and Leon remained at the venue to replenish water and other supplies including adding ice to the cooling water, far although the day was not overly hot, when the sun shone the temperature was quite high.

This second loop was ridden at over 9.5mph and once again the horse vetted very quickly. With Hugh and Pat looking after rider and tack respectively and Mary and Leon taking the horse to vet. The Red route was repeated with the only change to crewing being that Pat, who had injured her foot in a fall earlier that week, stayed behind to rest it with Leon taking a turn in the crew car. Once again Kate brought Sheba home at over 9 mph and we were able to vet in six minutes. This hold was also for thirty minutes during which Sheba ate very well as she had done throughout and was passed 100% at the re-check, ten minutes before leaving.

The final Yellow loop was ridden rather more slowly but still gave an overall speed of just over 9 mph for the 76 miles to earn her 6th place, not too far behind the winners time. Despite the level going and good tracks, speed and humidity took their toll, with less than half the riders finishing. Careful and controlled riding by Kate and a horse which was race fit and good crewing throughout surely contributed to this very satisfying result. An added bonus is that Sheba now qualifies for the SERC Platinum Award.

Riderís note: Fabulous crewing by all four got Kate and Sheba home.      Kate Robertson

Full results and more details are available on the EGB website