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10th and 11th April 2010

Report by Kate Willaims.


I absolutely love the endurance rides in Sherwood and so after a year out from competing for Prince (for no reason other than my lack of time) I thought Haywood Oaks and its flat, good going would be a good place to start off our season.

After stabling with my friend Clare en route to break up the long journey from North Wales, we arrived at the venue in good time and initially Prince seemed fine. However, the excitement of being at a competition really got him on edge - sweating buckets and getting very bargey (they just know don’t they? He’d done a few fun rides in the preceding weeks including one where there were abut 300 riders and was totally fine - must be my excitement/nerves he picks up on).

He was argumentative with the farrier and just about tolerated the vet. We were asked to trot up a second time but the vet thought he was just stiff from the journey and let us go.

So, off we went, Clare and I in the 30k class. We were aiming for a steady pace. All was well until about 5k into the ride when we were cantering along a lovely forest track when I noticed that the jaws of the brass clip connecting the cheek price of my bridle and Prince’s Myler combi bit appeared to be open. Next thing Clare shouted that it had completely opened and I just managed to do a speedy dismount split seconds before the clip broke, the bit came loose and dropped out of his mouth and the whole bridle fell off. My only means of stopping him bombing off after the horses coming past was to hang on for dear life to his breast plate. Believe me, stopping a 16.1 well built thoroughbred like this isn’t easy!

Next task was to reconstruct the bridle using a strap off Clare’s breastplate. Pretty tricky doing this still trying to hold on to a fairly wound up Prince with his breastplate and midges biting him silly. But we did it, remounted and off we went..

Prince was now on a mission to catch up with the horses that had gone past and we needed to press on as we’d lost a good 20 minutes sorting out the bridle. We made good ground and went another 20k or so without further mishap.

Approaching Checkpoint 3 we were cantering nicely and calmly along the side of a ploughed field. The bit we were riding on was a ledge and the ploughed section was a 2 foot drop on our right. I’m not entirely sure what happened next but something spooked Prince on the left. He’s not a spooky horse so he didn’t do anything dramatic- just a slight jump to the right – but because he couldn’t see the drop (he's blind in his right eye) his small spook meant he fell off the ledge and threw me out the side door.

Unfortunately, I did a serious head and face plant which was made worse by the fact that I was, very unusually for me, wearing glasses as my contact lenses had been playing up. The bridge of the glasses cut into my nose and there was a complete blood bath. Although I felt a bit stunned I decided that remounting and carrying on the few miles to the finish was preferable to waiting for Clare summoning help and waiting to be collected by trailer. As I rode my head really began to throb and my wrist, which I broke in 3 places a couple of years ago was really hurting too.

We made it back to the venue without mishap - Clare’s instructions at that point were, in hindsight, quite amusing: “WHATEVER YOU DO DON’T LOOK IN THE MIRROR BEFORE YOU VET”. Wise words – when we’d successfully got through the vetting (Prince fine, of course, and vets more concerned about my injuries!) I did look in the car wing mirror - not pretty : big cut, blood all over my face and a very swollen nose. Amazing how quickly the adrenalin faded and the shock kicked in at that point!

Thankfully the end result wasn’t too bad – diagnosis of concussion, bruising of various parts and nose not broken, cut healed with the help of butterfly stitches and only a small cars to show for it.

Learning points for me? Not to wear glass glasses when riding, use good old fashioned leather bridles and carry a penknife and string. Hopefully we have got all our bad luck out of the way for the rest of the season!

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