Annie Joppe’s endurance blog: a homecoming and a question of heart rates

Well, as I sit here at my desk watching the rain lash down and a steady stream of leaves gaily float past my office window, I cannot continue in my rather delusional state of denial at the existence of autumn. If I needed further proof, one look at the state of Dilmun’s body hair leaves no doubt whatsoever. OK, he hasn’t got his full winter woollies yet but he still has the coat of a goat. Clearly I needed to do something about this, so clippers it was and, after deftly dodging snapping teeth and flexible heels, I managed to remove part of this outlandish body hair in preparation for Dilmun’s outing of the year.

Dilmun and Fantom’s training has moved on. I have been lucky yet again to have had Di riding Fantom on a couple of training sessions. At first the acorns hitting the barn roof like rapid machine gunfire, coupled with high winds and beautiful bright sunshine, made the horses turn into eccentric jack-in-the-boxes, but they soon settled and worked well together in the stubble fields and on the beach.

One of the upsides of autumn, apart from the beautiful colours and the spectacular sunsets and sunrises, is that my solitary magpie is thinking about moving on to haunt someone else. We now have a buzzard watching us from the bottom paddock every day, several times a day. But that’s OK, right? Buzzards aren’t unlucky; in fact I believe its presence is rather wonderful and a good omen for the future (ever the optimist!).

After a couple of weeks of beautiful balmy weather, the forecast for our local ride was rather ominous with it ranging from heavy rain all day to wind and showers to thunderstorms. We’ve been preparing Dilmun for his one and only outing this year for quite a few weeks now so thought WE ARE GOING! I lay awake the night before listening to some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever heard and worrying that the going would be deep and heavy and Dilmun would struggle. I needn’t have worried, it was warm, quiet and dry when I got up and in fact, apart from a few little showers, it was actually a nice day — BBC weather got it wrong again!

From beginning to end Dilmun was a pro — I had almost forgotten how good it was to compete on him. He loads well, travels well, behaves in the vetting, stands to be tacked up in the middle of a field and is just Dilmun. He even had a good effect on Fantom who showed less symptoms of excitement and was almost a model horse too. I wonder if I am feeling this ease and perfection because I am beginning to become accustomed to Chiara’s antics and constant movement, where every little thing has to be planned in advance with military-like precision.

Dilmun leads the way

Riding Dilmun across the open moors was like coming home, almost a blending of two beings; we are so attuned to each other. No need to suggest different tactics, different routes through the boulders, altering speed etc., Dilmun just knew what to do — how fast to go and where; it was seamless. I laughed at his hill tactics; taking a run at the hills and then walking up the last little bit before starting off again in his wonderful rocking horse canter. Really, it felt like coming home.

Fantom behaved himself too, although he became a little tense a couple of times coming back across the moors, but this potentially tricky situation was diffused by Di tucking him neatly in behind Dilmun. Both boys passed the final vetting, even though Fantom had lost a shoe in a peaty bit, and both came away with grade ones at a respectable speed — there was nothing that could be improved upon.

Dilmun having a laugh

Continued below…

Here’s an interesting thing about heart rates though. Fantom has a naturally very low heart rate, starting on a pulse of 31bpm, but finished on 36bpm. Fantastic, you might say and of course, he was very fit. Dilmun on the other hand was nowhere near as fit and started on a pulse of 37bpm but finished on 40. Based on this, Dilmun had the better recovery rate despite being less fit, or was he? Is pulse necessarily the correct indicator of fitness, or indeed fitness to continue? An important factor in our sport is pulse rates, but as a fitness indicator, it is a little flawed.

Well that’s a wrap for this year’s competitions for my team, but in a couple of weeks we are off to the mountains of Wales for an altogether different challenge as chef d’equipe of the Cornish team in the Celtic Challenge and Home Internationals.


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