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  The RAF Cranwell and Dukeries Experience!!

Report by Terry Madden

With winter behind us and the season about to begin Heather Warburton and myself had begun training together for our initial rides of the season, or as the Horse and Hound put it "my pupil and I" !! We had competed at Haywood Oaks together as part of our training on Abu and Izaak in preparation for the 80km ER at RAF Cranwell.

Travel arrangements well in place we began to load up the trailer for our trip the afternoon before, that day Amanda had noticed a small knock on Abu's fetlock from his boisterous play with his mates in the field but wasn't too alarmed. Just prior to loading Amanda gave Abu his usual 5 star vetting! She felt he wasn't quite right on his hind fetlock where he had the knock, she was correct after the third trot up he was definitely guarding it.

We rang Heather with our decision to withdraw but would travel up anyway to crew her. Heather very kindly offered me the ride on Izaak instead and she would travel the morning of the ride to assist in the crewing.

After collecting Izaak later that evening and arriving at RAF Cranwell we set up camp only to realise that we weren't in our trailer which had all our sleeping bags etc... Good job Izaak travels with a full wardrobe and doesn't like his rug on at night as Amanda wore it instead!!

The next morning was a bit of a blur, vetting and off we set. Amanda collecting Heather just as she left the venue for the first crewing point. Having never ridden Izaak it took a while to get used to his length of stride from my little choppy Abu. Arriving in at the first vet gate Izaak presented really early gaining his lead position, we got our rhythm together and when through the next vet gate Heather gave us her permission to go and win. Izaak just maintained his pace the entire route finishing a good distance in front of the rest of the ride. Thanks Heather for letting me have the Izaak experience!

Take two!!

Determined to ride together as we had trained for we set off some weeks later for the 80km ER at the Dukeries, this time Abu passing his home vetting!! Following settling the horses in we sat and planned our tactics over supper in the camper van, both very anxious as we knew the going would be fast with Abu and Izaak.

We began our race from the back which was difficult as they both wanted to go! Amanda was a bit annoyed to see us first to the first crew point at which time we were averaging 24kmph! Both horses had pulled and we felt it better to get in front, the going was good and route excellently marked. As we flew into the vet gate Izaak presented in his usual speed with Abu 3 minutes behind, however, again Amanda was not happy with him as he appeared to be agitated. Abu was spun, he was unlevel and although the vets could not identify which leg I was in total agreement.

Heather at this point was receiving physiotherapy from her husband Ian and Amanda administering pain killers as her back was giving her some discomfort. Heather described the first loop as fantastic but felt sick!! After applying a back support and eating plenty of chocolate off Heather and Izaak set with a 4 minute lead. This lead was increased when Heather arrived at the second vet gate ahead of the pack, Amanda and I crewed Izaak whilst Ian crewed Heather, through again really quickly, Heather's energy was now low! Heather now realises that a couple of lettuce leaves the night before a ride isn't enough for physical and mental stamina!!

The last loop, all Heather really needed to do with this very special little horse was hold on whilst he took her round the final loop, which he did in style to come home again with first place!! A great end to a fantastic weekend. I would also like to thank the treatment vets Derek Grantham and Anna Welch who came and thoroughly examined Abu following the ride to find him totally sound even with flexion testing him. However, I have decided to retire Abu from race rides, he has given me 6 years of race riding with some excellent results. He will continue with his distances but without the speed!! He is to make way for my 3 youngsters who are keeping me very busy!!

Izaak was due to attempt his first 100km at Cirencester, however, those of you who know Heather will know how incredibly busy she is and another future endurance star was due to be a dad for the first time but mum was holding onto her baby until the sun came! We can now proudly announce the arrival of a beautiful filly foal.

Terry Madden with Izaak at RAF Cranwell Izaak, cantering home at RAF Cranwell.

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