NEWS > Endurance
Posted by Jessica Aistrope on 06/02/2017.

Diary of an Endurance rider: first time competing in New Zealand

Endurance rider Jessica Aistrope shares her eventful journey across the Tasman to gain her FEI 1* qualification. Along the way she enjoys a feast of cocktails and chicken wings in order to make the New Zealand minimum riding weight and wracks up an exorbitant data roaming bill by accident….this is her story as she tells it.

"Late last year Stella Harbison and I began discussing our plans for 2017.

The Tom Quilty is a major priority for me and I am the course designer and have ambitions to ride also. Stella has some amazing horses and we thought we should also try to aim for some FEI events as well as the Tom Quilty. Given my lack of participation in FEI over the years, not by choice but simply limited events to attend. I realised I had not competed in FEI since I rode as a youth in 2010. Figuring I would need to start my qualification again I began thinking of the horses Stella had for me to ride, realising we had 2 horses whom had already gained their 1* qualifications, it would be almost a waste to drive 1800+km return trip for a 1*. Stella suggested we start looking for other alternatives. 

Upon checking the FEI calendar I noticed NZ had a number of events scheduled before our first FEI ride in Aus. I messaged a friend Mark Tylee in NZ and explained my situation and if he could keep an eye out for a spare horse if ever the opportunity arose.

Surprisingly Mark got almost straight back to me with information that there was an event in a month’s time and a generous lady named Ashley Cole said I could ride one of her horses. It suddenly became a possibility and after speaking with Ashley, Stella and I had our tickets booked and we were heading to New Zealand!

I failed to clarify the weight for FEI in NZ and after my saddle was confiscated at Auckland airport I began to panic as to how I would make 75kg. Ashley had already suggested I ride in a Holmbros saddle but this wouldn't give me the extra weight needed. So upon arrival Stella and I headed to Auckland and went out for a huge dinner of wings, steak and cocktails in the hope this might help the weight situation.

We drove form Auckland to Taupo which took us much longer than we anticipated and I managed to spend over $100 in international roaming data while trying to work out directions on the GPS. Ooops!

Upon arrival to Taupo we arranged our accommodation and headed to the ride base at Fiber Fresh National Equestrian Center. After a drive around the base we found Ashley and met the rest of the Murumuru Endurance team. Everyone was very friendly and accommodating. Then I was revealed to hear the great news! NZ FEI weight is 70kg! I could stop gorging myself. 

We then got to meet our horses, they were all big, beautiful mature and experienced horses. I was fortunate enough to ride Twynham El Zephyr. Zephyr was a big strong horse, we all rode out together to get the feel of our horses. All horses felt fit but remained mostly calm, Ashley gave me some warning that Zephyr may get strong and to be ready if he does. I was to be riding at 4am the following morning with everyone else in the team competing in the 2* the day after. 

Heading out on my own on someone else's horse was a bit daunting, I thought I found a great spot within a break of the group and was able to ride on my own. This was short lived as the front runners had made a wrong turn and came up behind us. Now I got to feel what Ashley was talking about. For majority of the leg I had to discuss with Zephyr that an outrages speed was not necessary. He didn't always agree...

The ride was mostly kind underfoot with gentle hills and the alluring smell of sulphur (hint of sarcasm). The marking is very different to Australia and in one section I was unsure of the exact direction of markers. Not wanting to get lost I asked the volunteer at the checkpoint, unfortunately although he radioed back to base he was given misinformation and I headed off course for several km. I realised and made my way back to the checkpoint, the poor volunteer came running and couldn't apologise enough. He sent me on the right course and away we went. 

I thoroughly enjoyed my ride on Zephyr, he kept things interesting alas riding the remaining 70km on our own. There were times he took advantage of the idea to stop and snack but was always happy to keep moving along. 

I was very surprised to find out we achieved 2nd open in the 100km 1*; unfortunately at the time I hadn't realised and given our slight detour I hadn't even contemplated a placing so didn't present for best conditioned. This was a bit disappointing for my horse as he had put in such a great ride. 

I will be forever grateful to Harbison Performance and Stella Harbison for the opportunity to travel abroad and gain my 1* qualification again. I am also very grateful to Ashley and Ashley Cole of Murumuru Endurance and the rest of the team. I had the greatest crew I had ever experienced and was well and truly pampered. I feel like I have extended my endurance family and I look forward to seeing them in Australia soon."

Jessica Aistrope

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