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4th May 2011
Full report from Andrea Baker – Chef d’equipe of the World Class Start and Potential squad.
Squad : Fiona Griffiths – Dear Kate, Annie Ings – Alpha, Sue Higgins – Aberllywds Another Rose, Lindsey Comben – Radhwan, Andrea Champ – Druimghiga Luxor, Claire Bruce – Ah Dhiba, Sue Rich – Czako , Louise Rich – Cziko, Lesley-Ann Parker – Velvet Echo
Along with Rachel Atkinson – Vanash
The trip began at the Dover Lairage stables on Tuesday 26th April. All horses arrived and squad members introduced to each other. This was the first time that a multi-squad trip had been arranged to a European Ride. A challenge, since we had riders out on Saturday and Sunday in the FEI classes - but nothing the squad management where not prepared for!
We headed off on the early morning ferry from Dover to Calais, and our three squad lorries made the drive to Southern Belgium arriving in the beautiful Ardennes Forest region at 5pm.
The venue at Mont le Soie is wonderful and has everything you need on site. The ride hosts once again provided us with super permanent stables, shavings beds and as much lovely hay as the horses could eat. During the day, horses where able to be corralled for most of the day.
Thursday and Friday where spend with the horses in the mornings, vet inspections, trot-ups and ridden exercise out on the course. The afternoons spent driving the course and following the extensive crew ‘road book’ instructions provided by the organisers to locate the assistance points.
On Friday, our 160k class entry - Rachel Atkinson with Vanash, vetted fit to start the ride. All riders attended the ride brief at 5pm since this would be the same for the Saturday and Sunday Classes.
On Saturday morning, Rachel rode out at 6am. The start was delayed for 15mins due to a horse unseating its rider, then galloping off into the forest alone! Not how you want to start a ride! The horse was found shortly after the other competitors started and under the 15min start rule, the rider re-mounted and re-joined the competition. That shows true spirit!
Various squad riders and crews supported Rachel throughout the ride, all day long. The MT where waiting at each vet gate and Vet, Farrier and Physio – worked alongside Rachel’s crew of Husband – Andrew and Daughter Kate.
Rachel rode the ride to plan and achieved 6th place in the 160k 3* Belgian Championship class. There where quite a few horse here from other European nations, using this as a test for the forthcoming Europeans at Florac later this year.
After our Saturday success – we set our 9 riders and horses off in the 120k 2* class on Sunday morning. Riders from France, Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands joined them. The class consisted of four loops and three vet gates. There was a compulsory re-check with the vets at the third.
The speed of the first loop was a little slower than last year, but a little too fast for a lot of our riders. The Mont le Soie ride is very hilly, forestry tracks, slippery tarmac and hardly any flat going. Mostly you are climbing back towards the venue and vet gates with the venue standing at 600mtrs.
Vet Gate 1 was very chaotic...
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