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by Terry Madden

My start in endurance riding

Who ever would have imagined what would follow that rainy day I went to Beeston Horse Sales in November 1996 and first set eyes on the most self-pitying little Arab you had ever seen. Beneath that scruffy exterior I was able to see the jewel that shone out and 2 hours later, a bit of haggling and £360 lighter I was the proud owner of my first ever horse, Estansa Abu Estasan. It was later revealed to me by his previous owner that they had bought him to use to gain experience in showing but could not get any where with him and had to geld him, he was known as the “wild one”.

During the following 12 months I made every effort to make friends with the “wild one”, at times often wondering had I made a mistake as he was so distrusting initially and would often remind you with a swift kick. However, this was to change when we broke him in and he immediately showed a mutual respect. Originally he demonstrated great flair and ease of movements that he began his ridden career in dressage with some jumping being placed 2nd at the National Arab Show in Malvern. Nevertheless, I began to take great delight in hacking him out and decided to live out my dream of trying some endurance. With very little knowledge of the sport or where to start even, I was given the contact number of the Cheshire Group through BERA and Maggie Maguire who was extremely helpful and gave me lots of advise which she continues to do along with everyone else involved in the group.

My first ride was Somerford Park, I can’t put into words the feeling of being at one with the Abu this give me and I knew this was what he was bred to do, he loved every minute of it giving his all to what I asked.

From this things went from strength to strength we have competed at various rides representing the group on two occasions both finishing with grade ones. The group has given Abu and I the opportunity to make invaluable friends both human and equine and has reinforced the true meaning of team spirit.

This was tested at the Welsh Dragon in October when my partner in crime, Gaynor Jones riding Abu’s best friend Squire decided to compete in the Dragon’s Tail which was competing in the 80km ER on the Saturday and the 40km Graded ride on the Sunday. The competition was tough with 50 horses starting the ER we thought we would have no chance, with the added complication that Abu had been lame the week before with a bruised Tendon. Following an arduous ride we finished 5th, I was so proud. The following day as we prepared for the pre-ride vetting Gaynor had her doubts as to take Squire as the previous day had taken it’s toll. However, Squire seemed to lift when he saw his pal Abu and the vet gave the all clear, off we set with fellow musketeer, Rita on Tara. Towards the final part of the ride Squire had realised he did not have the stamina of an Arab but was giving everything he had, it was just too much to ascend that final hill. Then just as Gaynor was giving up I thought! Throw me your reins, this was a sight worthy of any greeting card, Abu towing Squire up the hill, again Squire lifted his spirits and over the finishing together all three of us crossed.

Abu was placed second in the Dragon’s Tail, finishing the second day on a grade one. Not to be forgotten is the all-important job of the crew, a big thank you for 2003 to Amanda, Ryan ,Steve and Don. (creep, creep.)

I hope that this short story has given encouragement to those of you who are starting out and has demonstrated the true meaning of team work and friendship that our sport has to offer, the hard work and dedication of you all helps each other at times of need. We all need to work together to raise the profile of the sport and encourage young riders to such a fun and friendly sport.

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