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15 September 2014

Castles Story
The day after Grampian Castles ride I spoke to Fiona McLeod who was riding with her wee lad, Hadyn, and Bridie Davis and daughter Hannah, to say a big "well done" for completing one of the most challenging Pleasure rides in the whole Club!
Fiona told me that Hadyn's pony isn't used to being vetted etc and if it hadn't been for the 'lovely patient lady who did the heart rates', they would have been struggling with her.
Marlene Arthur was our 'competent person' for the day - this is her story......
'Fiona and Hadyn and the pony who "doesn't do vets" ... that was a very rewarding experience for me, and the wee lad Hadyn was totally delighted with the end result. Here was his Mum repeating the statement "she doesn't do vets and she doesn't do creams; you'll not be able to get a heartrate" in the background as the pony reared up for the umpteenth time.
I tried to settle the pony by stroking and patting her; then running the palm of my hand down her throat area, onto her shoulder and finally onto her girth area. I made the strokes firmer and firmer each time then finally stroked her with my fingers along with the diaphragm of the stethoscope.
Hoodwinked !! Fiona asked which vet practice I was with and I explained I wasn't a vet!!
The pony was as good as gold on their return coz I repeated the process from earlier ... no rearing this time. The wee lad was delighted when I told him he'd a super wee pony and that someone had maybe been a wee bit heavy handed with her in the past. When I told him to make a real fuss of her and tell her she was a good girl he kept saying "I will, I will". I will never forget the wonderful beaming smile on that wee lad's face ... it really made my day (and hopefully his and his Mum's as well).
You did a really tremendous job Marlene, thank you! I was all choked up reading Marlene's recollection of her day helping at Castles in the rain - what a great achievement.


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Katie & Jakhiriís view of Grampian Castles 2008

In that heady moment, deep in winter, when the Ride Omnibus arrives, the wine is opened and I fantasise a crazy ride plan for the year ahead, Grampian Castles was to be our major goal- a 2 day 120km on what I knew would be a challenging course. Although I was disappointed that this distance didnít run due to lack of entries, the 50km ride which we did enter proved to be a worthwhile and enjoyable test of our endurance skills! It proved that a lesser distance is sometimes no less of a challenge.

The route was fantastic, so varied, and a good balance of tough terrain and faster work. I think these kinds of rides which we run here, like Strathdon and Castles, amongst others, are an invaluable fittener and mental training ground for race riding and longer distance rides on flatter, faster going. They give our horses such good all round preparation and we should value them and their organisers for what they provide us with.

Jack and I were glad to have the company of Molly Atkinson and Finn. The horses went well together and Molly managed to discourage me from disappearing through the narrow gate at B for a third time and repeating a loop unnecessarily! There were some heart stopping moments, when Finn slipped on wet grass and fell, throwing Molly and landing on her ankle, and Finn and Jackís alarming aversion to the board over the cattle grid which almost kneecapped us both!

Apart from the welcome human presence, the vet gate was fog-bound, soaking and gloomy, but from a horseís viewpoint lush with long wet grass, a great re-fuelling point. Having Ďborrowedí Jenny Milneís husband Malcolm as my crew, I was really happy to see him after picking our way across the misty hillside - thank goodness for Mollyís heartening presence! Malcolm and I set to work dousing Jack in slosher after slosher. The weather at Castles was Endurance Enemy Number 1. Deceptively overcast and wet, it was actually so sticky and muggy that cooling was a supreme challenge. My heart went out to Iona and Wallace whose crew was delayed and had to make do with the little water we could spare (moral of the story for me- take ALL the water you can, no matter the weather). Sorry Iona I wish so much I could have done more for you.

Jack was thoroughly washed, obligingly peed, and vetted well, and we were off again. No crewing points on the last loop, so Malcolm headed off to help Jenny finish (more on that to come). Molly and I decided that nearer the end each would set their own pace.  Molly wanted to come in more slowly and I thought I would see how Jack did on cantering in. We have started race riding this year and I wanted to see what his heart rate would be and how he would cope with coming in quickly. With hindsight I was taking a substantial risk! 

Firstly Jack was not initially keen to head off on his own, and I was mortified when he napped so badly that he backed right into a group of Pleasure riders. I did apologise profusely and hope that didnít put them off. They seemed very understanding and cheery, having enjoyed their ride! This surmounted, we trotted off down the road and cantered over the last few fields to the welcome sight of Jane standing smiling at the finish line.

Having returned to the trailer I immediately took Jackís heart rate, which was 58 so I was pleased to think he would, being sound, have passed an ER vetting. However, I really hoped we could get it down into the 40s for a chance at Gold. There followed the longest and toughest 20- odd minutes! I have NEVER had to crew him so long and so hard to cool him and bring the pulse down!  Iím lucky in that, all being well, Jackís heart rates are generally quite good, but we stuck in the high 50s for a worryingly long time, and I used every drop of water available. I put into practice all I learned last year in Wales also from very knowledgeable endurance friends. Finally he dropped to 48 and we headed to vet. Molly and Pat were still working on Finn, after a suitably challenging route the clammy weather was against us all.

Breathing slowly to relax us both, I presented him, 45 before the trot up, 46 afterwards - a hard won Gold! I wrapped my arms around his neck - so proud of my boy and what he does for me. Next I went to thank Malcolm and see how Jen and Molly had done. Poor Jen was crestfallen; Tomís heart rate wouldnít come down. We realised, me with a sinking feeling of guilt, that Malcolm put all the water in the crew car, Jen didnít have enough to cool Tom. She wasnít the only casualty of the weather, as several were vetted out on heart rate, but still itís disheartening. At least Tom was sound and she enjoyed the course, despite meeting a loose bull! Molly had also passed, but like me, she and Pat had crewed long and hard to cool Finn off.

Endurance provides endless challenges and thereís always something to learn from each time you take your horse to a ride. Itís not always the number of miles you undertake that is the most daunting. Thanks to the organisers for a great venue and route, to the helpers & landowners for making the day possible and well done to all those who competed and their horses.   We may not have ridden 120km, but Jack and I were very pleased to have completed successfully, and enjoyed the 50km route. Get your entries in for next time; you donít know what youíre missing!

Our thanks to Clive and Penny for all their tremendous hard work with the Grampian Castles routes and marking and venue and help from start to finish on the day! Thanks too to all the other willing, tireless volunteers who helped.