15 February 2016
Learning the sport from all angles….A story from Gemma Conroy
Up until early 2012 I had no idea what Endurance Riding was. I was struggling through a very difficult
patch with my rescue horse Robbie and had been forced to give up our eventing career due to a
nervous breakdown (his not mine!).
Robbie had continually struggled with his "head demons" from previous abuse and was becoming
uncontrollable and dangerous and so a serious decision was made to give up competing and just hack
for a year. If there was no improvement then he would have to be PTS, it sounds harsh but it really did
seem to be the kindest option for him. I was devastated but vowed not to give up on him without giving
him every chance possible. My mum saw a poster in a local feed shop for a charity ride and persuaded
me to go along on my own. Well... It could have gone one of two ways... Bolting to a sticky end in the
wilderness somewhere or some serious fun times... As it turns out it was BOTH!! I met a solo SERC
rider who offered to buddy me and during the ride (in between bolting sessions and screams of terror)
she told me all about SERC.
And so my endurance career was started! A year of pleasure rides later (6 in total) Robbie and I found
our mojo! A new bridle and new brakes came in the form of expert advice from experienced riders
seeing similar issues in other super sensitive super strong horses, and actually letting the Trotter trot
full speed and unleash his inner race horse (with shouts of "he'll learn to slow down and pace himself"
and "don't worry he'll drink when he's thirsty" as well as "don't worry he'll learn to like electrolytes")
has meant I have a beautifully happy horse who appears to excel at his chosen sport... Still not sure how
'her onboard' feels about it all though! (I'll never need a face lift in later life with the G Force from riding him!)
This year we completed our BTF in 3 rides. The horse who was told he'd never come to much has
exceeded expectations and then some and he is my ‘horse of a lifetime!’
So as you can see I sort of just have to go along for the ride. My Mum still thinks its just 'happy
hacking'! Bloody eventers! HaHa!
So this year I decided to learn as much as I could about Robbie's chosen sport now that I appear to be
stuck with it (don’t be fooled, I'm ever so slightly addicted now!). I thought the best way of learning was
to help at rides, that way I was being exposed to lots of experienced people (it really is easier to talk
when you are not on a horse, trying to steer, read a map and look at your watch all at the same time).
This year I have been:
• Check point girl (marking off riders as they pass and checking no-one’s got lost, also a good
opportunity to practice my photography skills)
• Admin on three occasions (rider paperwork and results on the day, I even did that at the
Champs! Super exciting!)
• Lunches (I make a mean cheese sandwich and homemade muffins)
• Chief Steward (general go to person at a ride - really enjoyed as I met so many lovely people)
• And last but not least RIDE ORGANISER! Talk about chucking myself in the deep end! A
couple of friends and I thought there was a lack of rides in our area and rather than complain
we decided to do something about it and showcase our beautiful corner of Scotland, and so
the Philorth Ride was born!
Despite a few disasters including an incident with quicksand whilst reccying a route which
meant last minute route changes and more landowner permissions and new maps, we pulled it
off and to see 39 riders turn up and to receive the superb feedback was very humbling and
worth all the effort. Happy horses, happy riders and happy ride organisers meant a fabulous
end to my second endurance season! I wonder what next year holds?!