First home in 120km ride

PUBLISHED: 11:07 28 March 2012

Dace and Balotta get a timely drink and wash down

Dace and Balotta get a timely drink and wash down


Young endurance rider Dace Sainsbury from Lyme Regis has won a 120km FEI 2* ride with her horse Ballota.

The pair are aiming to get qualified for the Young Rider championships which will be held in Belgium this year.

After a winter spent keeping Balotta (Lottie) fit and building her stamina up, they had their first training ride on Exmoor with lots of hills and tough terrain.

They started the competition season successfully, finishing third in the 80km Jubilee Trail ride in early March.

To qualify for the Young Rider Team the pair had to pass a 120km FEI 2* ride early season. Endurance rides have vet gates where the horses have to pass strict recovery and fitness tests before they can carry on. Dace entered for a ride at Bury St Edmunds, and despite the distance, Lottie finished full of running, and held a 20 minute lead over the field at the final vetting.

●To read Dace’s first hand report on her achievement and see more pictures go to

The aim this year for Ballota (Lottie) is to get her qualified for the Young Rider Championships which are now being held in Belgium ( the senior World Championships are being held in Great Britain) - So we spent all winter keeping Lottie trained - with flatwork training, hacking and pessoa training- a lot of pole work to strengthen her hind muscles ! We did our first training ride in Exmoor - lots of hills and tough terrain, again to really get her fit. The season started successfully. We entered an 80km endurance ride near Dorchester called Jubilee trail on the 11th March, the weather was beautiful and the scenery to match. We came a very close third place - not bad for her first hilly race ride! But the best was to come! In order to qualify for the young rider team I needed Lottie to pass a 120km FEI 2* ride early on in the season to give time for further training, of course this is a lot easier said then done! The vetting at international rides is extremely thorough - if the horse is not perfectly fit and well then you will be eliminated at any stage within the course of the race. (vetting includes muscle tone, metabolics, heart rate, action i.e. the soundness of the horse, cappilary refill, jugular refill and dehydration)

I entered Lottie for the 120km YR FEI at Kings Forest - close to Bury St Edmunds. Lottie, James Comber (my boyfriend and brilliant crew) and I set off at 7am on the saturday before the ride as the pre ride vetting started at 2pm. Lottie travelled extremely well, which im sure James will put down to his very careful towing, and was excited but sane as we took her to vet - which she passed with flying colours. Again we were very fortunate with the weather. Sunday morning started at 4am - freezing cold and foggy. We fed Lottie and started preparing her for a 7.45am start. The plan was to take it easy and get her round safely and slowly in order to qualify - winning was not even in the equation ! So we started out five minutes after the our start time to settle her, we came into the first gate a good ten minutes behind the leader. However we passed the first vet gate, although i was so nervous, im sure if the vet took my heart rate I would have miserably failed! The next three loops were terrific, we passed all vettings comfortably and Lottie picked up the speed, one by one we were overtaking our competitors with ease. By the time we reached the last vet gate we had a twenty minute lead on the other riders in my class. As we left for the last 16km leg I was again shocked by the amount of energy lottie had left in er - afterall 120km is a long way by anybodies standards! As we were so far ahead there was no real need to push Lottie for speed. It was only the last couple of kilometres that I began to feel Lottie tiring althought despite my best efforts she was not going to slow down to a trot - she was determined to keep up the canter the whole way back. Again she surprised me at the amount she really must enjoy the sport. You see many horses along the ride that are having to be pushed the whole way back to the venue whilst Lottie just does it off her own sheer determination. We passed the final vetting and at that point I really felt that nothing in the world could have put me down! I am so lucky to have a horse like Lottie, she has the heart and soul of a true endurance horse and i really feel that after the huge mileage we have achieved together over the years has helped to create a relationship that is very difficult to explain to someone who is not a horse owner ! Of course I could not have achieved the great results without the help of my boyfriend, James, whoalso studies at Woodroffe, he is responsible for towing the horse and being my crew throughout the rides alongside the help with training, early morning mucking out and late night feeding and the really is the rock that holds everything together in times of high stress! Our next big ride is on the 12th May at Euston Park where we will be attempting another 120km and hopefully be just as succesful! Fingers Crossed! In the meantime I will be focusing on moving my young endurance horse. Just Kidding (Elvis), up the levels and hopefully he will be good enough to take the place of Lottie in the future when she eventually retires - shes got a good few years left in her yet though !

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