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European(s) dilemma



You might have seen that the Wonderful Watt and me have been nominatively entered for the European Championships 2021 in Ermelo The Netherlands! We have worked hard for it, and even though the preparation did not all quite go as planned, but I am proud to be on that list. Even more exciting as it is in our home country and it would be amazing to see everyone again!

You feel a "but..." coming right? Well here it is: I knew from the start Brexit would make travelling to mainland Europe more difficult and potentially more expensive. I had decided to look into that once there was an actual need. The need was there now and I must say it was worse than I had expected. I had hoped that the rules and regulations were quite clear, but asking 2 different companies gave... you guessed it, 2 different lists of requirements (of course the tests required part is very clear, but there is a lot of question marks all around other aspects such as customs, VAT and what I would need to drive my pony to the Netherlands myself). One thing was clear: it would be very very expensive. 

Besides the cost, a massive worry was that our preferred route: Harwich - Hook of Holland was now not an option anymore. Both Watt and I have used this crossing twice now and it gives both of us crucial rest (and in Watt's case better eating as he eats better standing still than driving). Now we needed to take the much more trying, stressful and potentially traffic logged route of Dover- Calais. Less sleep, more stress and less eating...

Would this be wise? Spending a lot of money and perhaps not be fit when we arrive? 

International endurance is expensive... 

As I fund my habit/hobby myself and do not have much money, I have always been limited in my options of choosing competitions in my endurance career. I  have no sponsors (why you might wonder? I must say I struggle with asking people for help as I always wonder why anyone would want to help us, but perhaps more importantly, not being sponsored also leaves no obligations, expectations and other added extra pressure on me...). As a child, my first spoken words were: "do it myself". I have not changed much in that respect.

My monetary limitations can be frustrating sometimes, but I try to concentrate on what is possible for me and my horses. It means sacrificing things, but often those things (clothes/hairdressers or god knows what "normal" women do ๐Ÿ˜‚ ) do not interest me too much anyway. What I earn is spent on the horses and competing them.

160 and then?

Although I don't ride to win, I do need a challenge, I need a goal to work towards. With a younger horse that is working towards the next longest ride, but what if you have achieved that? Both with Moragh and Watt I had this dilemma after their first 160. What would we do next? Of course, I could do one of the classics: Floraq, Montcuq or Santa Suzanna, but those were so far away that it would be a long drive and I would need a lot of help (and funds) to achieve that. These rides have always stayed on my wish list: when I'm old and rich I might do one of those... I'm getting nearer to the "old" part... not so much to the "rich" bit, unfortunately. Trying for a championship, representing my country was a good and feasible challenge to set, so I did that instead.

When I was in the National squad with Moragh we had hoped to go to WEG 2014 in Normandy, oh my god, how I wanted to ride my favourite mare with a view on Mont Saint Michel... It was not to be, Moragh got injured by a jealous mare, plus my mother died unexpectedly. Not our year... In 2015 I did the Dutch Championships, and even though we did really well, we got a bronze medal and rode at a decent speed, Moragh was not the kind of mare to do 2 160's within one year, so we decided to leave the squad.

Europeans 2019

For Watt, I wanted to see if we could make the Europans that would be in the UK in 2019. To show we meant business I needed to go to Ermelo so the coach could see us and if we did ok I could let him know we were interested. Of course, I knew it would not be cheap to travel to the netherlands, but I knew we could stay with a friend, I knew he would travel well on the ferry as we had done it before, so the plan was made.  Ermelo went well, we were selected for the Europeans and I am still super happy we made those European Championships in our new lovely homeland. 

Decision time...

Looking back on our year so far:

  • hardly any income for me the last 1.5 year because of Covid 
  • some issues with stress and mental anxiety for me
  • Watt struggling early with ulcer problems caused by a choke early in the year

For me it is clear: the cost, and the limitations of stress/eating of the long ridden route we would need to take, lead me to the very difficult decision of not going to the Netherlands to do the European Championships in the cradle of my country of birth. I am gutted of course, but it is the only decision to make.

Is Brexit the end of UK international endurance?

Endurance has always been an accessible sport for people of all means, and especially compared to the other equestrian sports, endurance at international level has always been fairly doable. After the UK left the EU, a lot of things became unclear, the impact of it remains to be seen for all equestrian sports, but we have already heard that racing and dressage/show-jumpers struggle. Of course, Covid has not helped matters either. But I think a lot of British FEI riders will struggle with what Brexit will eventually mean to our sport. It might even impact our British FEI rides as we will probably not get many riders from abroad anymore. It is a sad and worrying side effect of politics.

At what cost?
Windsor 2* ride review

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