Getting to know our members and sharing their endurance experiences - Danni Foster
So Danni, tell us a bit about yourself?
I never know how to introduce myself but here goes; my name is Danni, I'm 31 years old, married ( recently) with a beautiful 7 year old daughter, I'm a full-time working mum, part-time slave and a love for all things horse.
Tell us about your horse/s
I have two horses, my current riding horse Q (Great Endeavour) and a youngster Wren.
Q is a coloured 9yo gelding that I bought 2 years ago. To this day I can't quite put my finger on why I bought him, I was originally looking for something bigger with a bit more experience but something drew me to him and of course I ended up bringing him home. I still remember Dave asking me what the hell I had bought, I think his opinion of him has thankfully changed now.
He was a complete nightmare for the first 6 months and there was a time when I wasn't sure if keeping him was the best thing but I carried on and I am so glad I did, he's quirky in his own way but he's a lovable rogue.
How long have you been doing endurance rides and how did you get into it ?
I started competitive endurance rides in 2017 but had done a few social rides before that with a previous horse. It wasn't something I ever considered doing to be honest until a close friend suggested it after she had started doing rides the year before. I joined Lindum Group, did a couple of rides, I loved it and haven't really looked back, just wish I found the sport sooner. There is something about endurance, just you and your horse and stunning countryside. I've also met some fantastic people along the way and made some lifelong friends.
What's been your best achievement so far?
There have been so many highlights I don't know which to pick - probably one of the best was Q's grade 1 at Euston Park, he'd been knocking at the door for a while and to do it there was amazing.
Competing in Wales at Red Dragon doing the novice National Championship was special, a proud moment for me personally was actually receiving the email to say he'd qualified for National Championship, never been so proud of him, if someone had said 2 years ago that he was going to qualify I would have laughed my head off, just makes everything worthwhile when you get such a nice surprise.
Tell us about your Red Dragon experience
National Championships at Red Dragon was quite honestly the most nerve racking and toughest thing I have ever done but it was an absolutely amazing experience and I am so glad I did it, I cannot wait to do it again next year!
It took me and Dave 6 hours from Lincolnshire to get to the venue which was the Royal Welsh showground. We arrived Friday afternoon, got Q nice and settled and took the opportunity to have a good nosy around and find out where everything was. The venue itself is brilliant it has everything you could possibly wish for and more, everybody was extremely helpful and welcoming. Being 'newbies' and not knowing where anything is was quite daunting in itself, luckily the volunteers and organisers are always happy to help and in my case point me in the right direction (anyone who knows me knows my sense of direction is useless, despite having to read maps regularly!)
We spent rather a cold night camping in the trailer and woke Saturday morning to lovely thick freezing mist... luckily after checking the weather forecast we found it wasn't set to last but god was it cold! We did the usual morning routine with Q and set off for the vetting around 9am, he was quite full of himself and a bit of a pain, it was the first time he'd vetted in an undercover barn and it took him a while to settle but thankfully he passed and went out on a heart rate of 40.
Once all tacked up we were ready to go, I gave the starter my number, got told a start time and off we went!
One of the main differences of this ride compared to any others I've ridden was the marking, there were no arrows on the floor to follow and keep an eye out for, everything was marked with flags, which I found surprisingly easy to follow. The first bit once you exit the showground is a lovely path by the side of a river followed by a short stint on a road then off onto a bridlepath that leads you to the first hill and what a hill it was! Quite misty for the first bit so I couldn't quite grasp how high I was until I popped up above the mist and started to snake up the hill, I am not the best with heights and had a serious case of jelly legs but once at the top with the sun finally shining it was some experience to see, you really feel like you're on top of the world. The route itself was easy to follow, up and down the Welsh hills, some brilliant canter opportunities, open moorland and some stunning scenery. Dave amazingly managed to meet me at every crew/checkpoint on the way, some I don't know how he managed to get to let alone find – he's really proving to be a pro groom and crew member!
Q coped with it all brilliantly and we kept within his comfort zone, knowing he is perhaps better on a flatter track, he chose the pace and I just enjoyed the ride.
The 48km was a big loop so the first big hill you rode up you came down to head back to the venue, Q rode like a dream, heading back to the venue he was quite jig joggy all the way back and gave me a lovely feel, I've never been so proud of him than when I was riding him back, whatever happened at the end vetting I felt like we'd accomplished something it was a lovely feeling, crossing the finish line was an absolute buzz and I know we both had really enjoyed our ride.
At the finish Dave was waiting with buckets of water like the super crew he is and after a cool down and a heart rate check we headed off for the vetting, Q behaved super finishing on a 52 and passed sound, which gave us a Grade 4, I was absolutely thrilled and he got some much deserved hugs and kisses, which he put up with for about 5 seconds and then decided mum was being rather silly and dragged me over to more important matters, a patch of grass to stuff his face with.
I absolutely loved every minute of my first Red Dragon experience and hope to do it again next year, hopefully sharing my experience will encourage other people to give it ago and if you do I will definitely see you there - I would recommend this ride to anyone it really is an awesome experience and it should be on everybody's bucket list!
What did you do to train/prepare for Red Dragon?
I didn't really do anything different to how we usually train, not knowing really what to expect I kept to the usual routine of 2 half hour sessions on the lunge per week coupled with 2 slow hacks and a faster hack with a bit of canter work mixed in. He'd gained fitness through other competitive rides so it was just a case of keeping him healthy, happy and sound. I think next year some hill work would probably be beneficial now that I know what the ride is like.
Best bit of advice for anyone thinking of getting into Endurance?
Never been good at giving advice so I may as well pass on what people say to me !!
Enjoy it and go for it!!
Don't be afraid to push yourself
Take the ups with the downs and never be afraid to ask for help and advice
Check our some of the stunning scenery Danni and Q got to ride round over in the gallery!