R.McCourt - Mongol Derby 2014
I think Maggie was fairly horrified when I arrived at her yard with nothing more than a bit of polo experience, a Derby golden ticket and totally unable to tack up...
Fast forward a year and I was a different person. I didn't win the Derby, but I had a wonderful time, finished the race, loved the horses, loved the country and didn't have a bad experience at any point. I owe this in large part to Maggie, who taught me how to relax and let the horse run. It sounds so easy but believe me, on a half wild horse in the middle of nowhere just how much fun I had is a real testament to Maggie's methods and approach.
With Love from Charlie and Josie
When I first reached out to Maggie I thought my dream of a wonderful horsey life was over and would need to give up horses from fear. My beautiful mare and I were terrified of each other, and after one of those classic experiences when out for a hack with some other people she had “tanked off” at full pelt gallop for over 1/2mile I was terrified to get back on. The day Maggie arrived at my yard to meet my mare and I and watch me ride she put me completely at ease, even if I would not step out of walk with her! It has been one hell of journey that I am delighted to say has transformed my horsey life. Maggie has been by my side every step of the way, celebrating every triumph and building an unbreakable bond between my mare and I. I look at what we have achieved since that day three years ago: competed at Endurance rides, days out at pleasure rides on our own (and under control!), weekends away jumping training and I am astonished.
Maggie has helped me build confidence in myself as a rider and at my horsemanship, taught me how to listen to my beautiful mare and provided invaluable advice and friendship along the way. Gentle nudges out of my comfort zone has enabled me to achieve more than I ever thought I could, and always the right amount at the right time. On top of this, when the chips were down and my mare needed surgery, Maggie took care of my darling girl in rehab to the highest possible standard and I will forever be grateful. Now I have three beautiful girls and a a thoroughly enjoyable hobby and passion, plus a friend for life in Maggie.
Report of Ridgeway Barbury 100K ER by Sarah Ewart on Flecky
If we can do it anyone can...
Well picture this: rider very nervous of fairly excitable arab horse who is not very fit and does not use himself properly at all... fast forward 4 months to a fifth place in a 100K endurance ride at Barbury! How did we do that, you may well wonder?
I must give great credit to Maggie Pattinson from "On the Hoof" training, with whom I had a go at a gallops interval training session earlier in the year. I immediately liked Maggie as she
obviously knows how to train horses as well as riders, but has a great way of increasing confidence too. She also has a great sense of fun! I started employing her after that interval session and it
was amazing to see Flecky change shape, muscle up and start using those muscles. Meanwhile Maggie massively improved my riding position (still a long way to go there!) Credit also to physio Lorna
Skinner, who straightened up Flecky brilliantly....he now has regular sessions with Lorna.
Maggie tailors her training to the agreed objective... which in my case was doing an ER on Flecky. I have done a few of these on my older horse, Menos, but only up to 80K and not generally very well. My first challenge was to do an EGB ride on my own on Flecky, as I had got him to advanced by riding with EGB friends (Sue Henry and Jane Greatorex in particular). The solo ride went much better than I expected, and the penny started to drop that if Maggie says we can manage something, we can!! After that, we built more distance, up to 65km. Then one day Maggie said "how about this objective of doing an ER then". Despite my feelings of panic, as I had thought we would attempt this next year, I felt very excited... could we really do it? I followed Maggies instructions to a tee: we did about 5 special interval training sessions on gallops/ hills.
Race day dawned and I was nervous as hell, but a bit numb as I had to get up at 3am! Bless him, my non-horsey other half came with me to help drive home, and the very capable Mid-South member Pauline Higgs kindly did crewing for me. She was also helped by Hilary Weaver, who was in charge on the Inter-Regional team (which I was part of). So after warming up off we all went: not a mad start at all, thank goodness. The first 40K loop was quick enough though given its a tough hilly route: 20km/ hr. The following three loops everyone was more spread out so the pace dropped off a bit. The final 16K loop had an enormous hill at the start, and both Flecky and I felt tired that one round. But he still managed a good canter up the mile of grass gallops to the end. I was so proud of him as we crossed that finish line, but had to concentrate to get him ready for his 5th and final vetting, with massive help from Pauline. It is a very comprehensive vetting for ERs, and for the final trot up 3 vets watch then cast a ballot. You can imagine my relief when he passed, and even greater delight when I learnt he got placed (especially as the ones ahead were far more experienced riders/ horses).
So come on everyone...if we can do this what's stopping you?! This is one of the best achievements of my life! Whatever you would like to achieve is possible with some effort, so give it a go!
Pony Club Report from Milton Keynes
Maggie Pattinson of On the Hoof Distance Training and chef d’equipe of the English team, ran a small fitness training clinic at Milton Keynes Equestrian Centre in August which we were lucky enough to attend.
Maggie started the training by explaining about aerobic and anaerobic exercise, aerobic meaning that the blood is fully oxygenated and so the heart and other systems can work efficiently. Aerobic meaning that the level of work has increased to a point at which a lack of oxygen means that performance will diminish. Flat work race horses will often do the entire race in the anaerobic zone, however this means that after a certain distance performance will drop off very rapidly. So for consistent and sustainable performance such as an endurance ride you need to ensure that the horse is working in the aerobic zone. However to increase the aerobic threshold you do have to occasionally push into the anaerobic zone.
Regarding initial fittening of the horse or pony Maggie believes there is no short cut to the general graft or 4 to 6 weeks of walk work early in the year. However she did say that you should not underestimate the benefits of hacking out, so any mums who go out with their friend should not feel guilty about having a chin wag, as you are actually helping to build a good level of base fitness! Conversely whilst very good fun, blasting around the countryside flat out does very little to generate long term fitness.
Maggie had brought several heart rate monitors that could be fixed to the horses saddles so as to monitor the level of exertion on the horses system at certain paces. This was carried out at various combinations of pace depending on the individual horses. Each horse did a warm up lap starting with a walk section and following with trot for the remainder of the circuit, at the end of the circuit the recovery time to a level of 60bpm was taken. This provided a base line, and also gave a rough indication of each horses fitness. Then a series of circuits at different paces were done each with a target BPM rate in mind. The riders were asked to assess which pace to adopt to get the required BPM.
The readings from the heart rate monitors were occasionally quite surprising, for instance whilst a resting pulse rate when untacked could be in the late 30’s or low 40’s even a gentle walk could raise it up by 10bpm, if the horse was a bit spooky or made to go away from their stable mates then it could go up to 80bpm even when still walking.
At higher paces different horses could behave quite differently to what you would expect. For instance Shine who has wonderful extension and can trot for England actually had a much lower heart rate at canter. Conversely Archie had a lower pulse rate at trot, but was not significantly slower in that pace. Another thing that was rather counter intuitive was that in some cases the recovery time back to 60 bpm actually got better the more work they did, an example of this was Shaz who would definitely benefit from a significant level of warm up in advance of the event proper.
It was also obvious the effect that fighting with an onward bound horse can have in increasing the pulse rate, when allowed to have its head the pulse came down and very quickly the pulling match stopped.
One other thing that was quite surprising is how high the pulse rate could get under exertion. A horse with a resting rate of 40
could easily get up to 180 on an extended canter.
What was good is that each of the riders went away with a couple of personalised tips on how their own pony behaves under work, and a good indication of what would work for them. Also, encouragingly for those riders with older horses, we learned that if the horse has been kept in work for most of its life then it has a good heartrate.
Archie (top) recovered best when in a steady trot and in general recovery was faster when riders kept to a consitent speed even when that speed was fairly fast!