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7th June 2009

Report by Kate Williams

After the heat at Cheshire Frolic the weekend before we found ourselves in the middle of an absolute downpour as Putnik and travelled from North Wales to Yorkshire on Saturday 7 June 2009. The roads were flooded in places and as we got nearer I was starting to question whether the ride would actually be on. Luckily it was, although the organisers, Julie Martin and Jenni Gilbert, had had to totally change the route that morning (all the riders had vet times after midday how civilised!). No mean feat.

The vetting got us off to a rather hairy start my nerves got the better of me and like a complete twit I omitted to undo one of Putnik's belly straps on his rug so when I went to pull it over and off it got wrapped up round his back legs. As anyone who knows my horse will appreciate this was not good news and the vet (who was holding Putnik as I did the rug) found herself with a whirling dervish. Luckily she'd already done his heart rate! Then the trot up. Two challenges here: firstly my dodgy foot (long story, major operation in January, still lame myself!) and secondly a trot up area with quite a few bumps, quite a few tall weeds to negotiate and a large boggy bit in the middle. Anyhow, luckily all was well, we tacked up and were off.

The amended route took us straight onto the Trans Pennine trail, for the most part a disused railway track. Any fears that Putnik might be weary after Frolic (his first ride for 3 years) were immediately put to rest as he set out in determined mood. He set chase after Ruth Wood and her daughter who were going a fair lick and although we rode along with them for a while I decided to pull back and ask Putnik to go at a more sensible speed. Which was all well and good until we got to Spook Excuse No 1: the long (150 metres or so), dark tunnel with waterfalls shooting over the entrance at both ends. Hmm. Luckily some horsey company at both ends and in the tunnel itself persuaded him it was OK. So far so good. Then we found ourselves facing Spook Excuse No 2: train coming the opposite way on train track right alongside the track we were on. The ride instructions had warned us about this and I was pretty nervous about meeting any of the half hourly trains. However, any chance of avoiding these trains (we were told the times at the venue and in the ride instructions) went completely to pot when I found that my watch was no longer on my wrist! However much to my amazement Putnik was not remotely bothered.

On we went until Spook Excuse Nos. 3 & 4: two metal bridges. Putnik did not like these at all and I had to dismount to get him across the first. Fortunately there were good mounting blocks at either side as I was still not able to mount from the ground after my op. We did manage to get across the second without too much fuss. We then started to get horses coming in the opposite direction who had been to the end of the track and turned round. Putnik was now convinced we were going the wrong way and started to slow down (not a bad thing - I'd wanted to do about 13k, he really wanted to do 18k plus). We soon found ourselves at the end at checkpoint 2 and heading back. Let me just say that the handbrake was then totally off and it felt like minutes later we were nearly back at the venue, only for me to see my watch in the mud on the track. Quick dismount, retrieval of watch (broken strap but still working!!), back on and home. Ride time 2 hours 8 minutes.

Putnik came back feeling very strong and finished feeling like he would go and do the route again and vetted with a heart rate of 45 bpm which I was pleased with, especially given the speed (approx 16.5k). This was his second only ride since 2006 so I was delighted with how he did and how he looked and felt both at the end and when we got home. It is fair to say that his rider's recovery and fitness is far more questionable!!!! At least at this ride he didn't do what he did at Frolic at the vetting - which was to hit the deck just as the vet was about to take his heart rate for a good old roll in the sand - sending his HR through the roof and scuppering any chance of a decent grade!

Despite the weather we really enjoyed this ride and I would recommend it to anyone wanting a relatively straightforward flat route with consistent going and no road work or gates.

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