With competitive endurance riding now entering the close season, Brechin rider John Thomson and his pure bred Arabian gelding Prince Omar completed the final ride of the year in the hills of Easter Ross.
With a revised layout from last year, the first part of the course was fast before the riders headed into the 40 per cent strenuous climbs. From there it was a gentle gradient into the Kildermorie Estate and Vet Gate One at 31kms. Omar was quickly vetted then set off on the second loop of 32kms, which was covered in just on two hours. At the 63kms Vet Gate there was nothing between the lead riders but Team Omar had quickly bought back time to break their record for the distance.
It has been a remarkably successful year with a course record broken on the first ride of the season, a new course record set on the second ride but in a season remembered for wet weather and cancellations, Omar fell foul of the plague of hoof abscesses that had swept the country and was knocked out of action for four weeks. Many thanks to local vet Lindsay Cameron for working so quickly to produce those ever so important blood tests throughout the season and to ensure that Omar stayed at the peak of conditioning.
On the return to competition, a 44kms nonstop at Clashindarroch Forest saw horse and rider pick up a third fastest time. A few weeks later near Nairn, Omar turned in a remarkable speed during the 53kms. Despite the loss of a shoe seven kms from the end of the second loop and frantic activity by the duty farrier and crew to prepare for the final vetting, Team Omar maintained the fastest time over the distance.
Horse and rider then returned to lay the ghost of last year’s Red Rock Relay Team where an injury had witnessed their elimination. However despite the deteriorating conditions Team Omar went on again to take the fastest time.
A selection for the Endurance Great Britain regional squad saw horse and rider head south back across the border to compete for the Northumberland and Tyneside Team where they took on the highest distance and an overall team third place.
Despite a busy schedule John and Omar took time out to help organise and take part in a charity ride, which successfully raised considerable funds for the Asthma UK organisation. The event with course designed by John was held at Drumtochty Forest and saw Team Omar covering the required distance twice as a warm up.
John said: “It is a commitment that we make each year and over the last few seasons have helped raise considerable funds for different UK charities. It also helps to see a wide range of riders, young and old get their first taste at the very basics of endurance. Everyone who took part thoroughly enjoyed themselves and the smiles were evident when I presented their rosettes. The hard work was worth every minute.”
After a few weeks holiday Team Omar will be starting their 42-day work-up in preparation for next season and the target to inch ever closer to that Federation Equestre International (FEI) world ranking.
John added: “We are brutally aware that next season will be our “swansong year” before retirement from competition in 2014 but it would be a fitting end to a remarkable endurance career with a remarkable horse.”
If anyone is interested in joining Team Omar as support crew please contact John through the Brechin Advertiser. Experience not really necessary but patience and “nerves of steel” are an advantage.