It seems so surreal to be here. My little paddock pony and myself, in France, preparing to compete for Canada.
I thought we had come fully prepared with everything we would need leading up to and including race day, only to find, that the beet pulp here is different and Sam doesn’t like it. He has lost weight from the trip here and the different environments and feed. Because he doesn’t like the beet pulp or hay, and his paddock doesn’t have enough grass, I have been taking him out twice a day to just graze. He is also getting fed three times a day, but so far, I can still see his ribs.
I like him to go into any 100 mile race with no ribs showing so he has more than enough fat reserves to get through easily. The fact that I can see them is a stressor I didn’t expect. The search for a feed that I can use to put weight on him but not make him hot to ride has not been easy. Converting English to French in words not found in a dictionary is difficult to say the least! In addition, I have the added concern that some feeds test positive when blood testing is done at the FEI level. At this point, I am actually more concerned about getting the weight on him! To not be able to bring your own feeds from home through customs makes competing at this level an additional challenge. Especially in endurance where we compete for hours and the horses metabolics are so important.
However, with that being said, going out for rides have been fantastic! We spend the first half hour slowly walking about half a kilometre while Sam grazes in the foot high rich grass along the road. It is always an experience,as the regular trails we now travel have a variety of challenges. There are cattle that are in a pasture one day and not the next, dogs that attack the fences as we pass and now one of the farmers has about 50 geese. (Sam is not good with critters.) The multitude of tourists, walking in cars, biking, crawling over the batteries at the D-Day landing beach do not pose a problem…except for an occasional second good look.
The main trails I like run alongside the cliff faces of the D-Day landing beaches. There are warning signs periodically of the dangers that the cliffs may crumble if you take the path. I don’t like to stray too far from the trail as someone said something to me before I left Canada about unexploded bombs. I think they would have all been discovered in this busy tourist area, but it is always in the back of my mind! On the other hand, so is following the trail when it goes too near to the edge of the cliff…especially with those warning signs of cliffs crumbling!
When we travel away from these trails, many of the smaller roads have a grass fringe which we ride on. Then we travel through shaded laneways, beside open fields and the multitude of small towns that dot the French countryside. I expect the trail on race day to be very similar with the terrain varying from grass to gravel to asphalt, sand and cobblestone. The weather has rained at some point almost every day and is quite cool at about 17 Celsius. When left Canada it was in the high 20s every day. Today is once again an indoor day as it has rained off and on all day. The weather forecast is predicting partly cloudy days for the next 4 days so fingers crossed!
My crew arrive this Wednesday and I am looking forward to relaxing with them, planning for race day and speaking freely in English! My French has improved but before my morning coffee, I find it nearly impossible to communicate other than bonjour!