Having come from an eventing background I have no experience of the endurance world whatsoever and so jumped at the chance to help British Horse Feeds by representing them at the British Horse Feeds Red Dragon Festival of Endurance.
Crewing was something I definitely wanted to experience as I have never done it before. I was so grateful to be paired with super team Bella and Shez who were the crew team for Anna Kidd and her horse Roux on the England team. After being told just how important the crew were to the success of their rider I set off a little nervous with no idea what to expect.
Anna was taking part in the 120km ride split over two days and so I joined her on the second day just before the trot up which occurs before and after each ride. Once Roux had sailed through this looking fresh and ready to get cracking we quickly tacked up and hopped in the car – bursting with equipment, recovery feed and water sloshes and headed to check point 1.
As a crew member a lot of time is spent driving in between check points, setting up at each station with feed and water sloshes to cool the ponies down and waiting for your rider. This meant there was plenty of time for Bella and Shez to bring me up to speed with the art of endurance – there was and still is so much to lean! This was particularly interesting to draw comparisons between eventing of what the horses need in terms of feed and fuel and I was particularly pleased that the majority of riders fed Speedi-Beet both as a constant feed and during races to ensure they have both, the energy required and are hydrated enough to cope with the vast distances they cover over the two days.
Now fully up to speed it was time to put what I had leant to the test. As soon as we spotted Anna coming over the hill we get to work throwing sloshes and offering food and water around before letting them get on their way.
At the next check point I had been brought even further up to speed and was ready to greet Anna and go through the process again – although a lot quicker this time! With Bella representing GB and competing regularly on the International circuit with Shez as her groom I really was learning from the best!
By check point 3 Anna had really upped the pace as she was aware that time was getting tight. This meant our job had to run like clockwork to minimise the amount of time they were stopped for, so sloshes were thrown and food was gobbled before they shot off towards the finish line.
Check points complete we hurried back to the finish to set up cooling water buckets and ice before Anna and Roux got back. 15 minutes inside the maximum time allowed they trotted over the finish line sound and thrilled with the result. Anna was given food immediately whilst we set to work cooling Roux down and giving him a quick check over before the next vet inspection. This proved to be another tactical part of endurance as the lower the horse’s heart rate the better but also the longer you spend cooling them down the more chance there is of them stiffening up – it’s a fine line between the two.
Once we were happy with Roux’s heart rate (below 64 beats per minute) we then took him to the vet inspection where he trotted up soundly and to the crew’s delight had officially completed his first R120km Red Dragon endurance ride.
My first experience crewing was a fantastic insight into the sport! I realised this type of competition does not only require the correct feed, stable, fitness and training management but a strong bond between horse, rider and crew is equally important!
Once again I am so grateful to British Horse Feeds for giving this opportunity to not only crew but represent them at the prize giving as well. I was delighted that so many people fed both Fibre-Beet and Speedi-Beet as it allows the horse to have both the energy required to compete in the most grueling of conditions but also ensures they remain hydrated throughout to allow them to perform at their best.
Will I’Anson, British Horse Feeds Sales Director commented: “I am delighted that Harriet, one of our ambassadors had a great experience crewing at the Red Dragon. It is a great experience to get a glimpse of a different discipline.
“I want to thank Harriet and her Mum for travelling to Wales and representing us at the prize giving and a massive thanks to Anna Kidd and her team Bella and Shez for allowing Harriet to take part.”