Carl on Billy, Heinrich on Koedoe, and Magdaleen on Timika on the Fauresmith 2009 route

I started riding endurance in April 2008, doing my first 30 km ride, after purchasing Billy, my cross breed gelding of about 11 years from Kobus Smit. I then did a couple more 30's and a 40 km at Loskop, and after going to groom for Kobus, my sighted guide, a cancer survivor, and the guy who sold me Billy, I joined ERASA and in October 2008, I did my first 80 km at Liandra.

Since I knew that I'd enjoy the long distance endurance rides, I decided that my next goal would be to attempt the 2009 Fauresmith. This decision was against many odds. Many people didn't think Billy was the ideal endurance horse, not just he's veld pony cross breeding, but he has very small, boxy hooves, weak looking top-line and a non-apple bum.

I then did 3 80 km rides to qualify for Fauresmith and entered for the ride, despite my finances not being up-to-standard, but I was determined to participate, no matter what. Fortunately many people came to the party to help, fellow riders all contributed towards my entery fees and camp site and stabling (which is a fair some of money for such a big ride), and Mr Henry Merwitz from H.I. Merwitz Saddles
Donated together with a few close friends, the outstanding tack and blankets for Billy which I didn't have. Also Kobus Smit, who regularly rode with me as my sighted guide at the endurance rides, couldn't ride with me as he was chosen to ride for the Gauteng Mpumulanga provincial team, so he got Heinrich Potgieter, and Magdaleen Watermeyer, who agreed to act as my sighted guides, and thus riding partners for Fauresmith.

I then was ready for the ride, and early July 2009 a riding colleague came to pick up Billy and I drove down with other friends. I was a bit nervous, but very excited, and the excitement really grabbed me when we arrived at Fauresmith. The vibe there is so great, it's infectious. It was of course very cold, especially at night, but fortunately the weather warmed up a bit during the day time.

The monday before the ride, it all started. Firstly the big perrade around the track, all in club colours. Then later the pre-vet check and weighing in, of which Billy and I had no problems getting through. Now we had to get ourselves ready for the Tuesday, 7 July, the first day of the ride. Billy was fed and even the farrier fixed up a shoeing issue, and I ate and got my things ready, and went to bed earlish.

Tuesday 7 July came, and Billy was probably more excited than I was. He was pulling like a train from the start. We made up a great team. Magdaleen on Timika, Heinrich on Koedoe, and myself on Billy of course couldn't believe we were actually doing Fauresmith - The big one. The excitement was great, but our biggest concern was to always ride carefully and considerately as horses can so easily get vetted out of this big event, due to a lameness, high pulse, or dehydration.

We took day 1 very easy, and enjoyed the route. The first leg, 25 km, was pretty easy going. SABC TV stopped us along the route and interviewed me for a couple of minutes. The first vet check at the end of Leg one went very well. Leg 2, surprisingly was more difficult than expected, so we took it easy, and also thus passed the vet check with flying colours. The third leg was very nice going, so we held a steady canter for most of the way, and still came in strongly, into the main stadium with so many supporters awaiting us.

Day two we started out very easy. We walked our horses the first 3 km and slowly trotted the next 3 km or so, to ensure they're really warmed up, as it was also their first time to be saddled up the day after doing 75 kilometres the first day. Day two was also 75 km, and once the horses loosened up, they felt good, but Billy wasn't pulling like he did on day 1. Infact I was really concerned about him on the first leg of day two, as he wasn't drinking enough water as what I'm used to, and he's breathing was higher than usual. I then kept our pace a bit down, and to be honest, I just made it through day two's first vet check on pulse. As day two was the reverse of day 1, the second leg was the difficult one in reverse. We took it easy, and came through the second vet check easily. The third leg, especially the first 12 or so km, was very fast, and we averaged quite a fast canter most of the way. Thus nearing the end of leg 3, day 2, Billy started tiring, and I became pretty worried about him. I got off and walked a while next to him. Once we neared the stadium, he suddenly got his second breath and pulled like a train, of course with a show-off canter allowed by me into the last straight on the track into the stadium, again with great support from the supporters being there.

I was thus very worried about day 3, and Billy. All in vaine though, as even per warning from my vet that many horses feel ontop of the world on day 3, he was right. Billy felt like on day 1, and pulled like a train. The first leg was actually a very easy leg and we did a very good time, and still passed the vet check way below margins. Now for the last leg, as day 3 had two legs, totaling 52 km, it was the toughest. Luckily Billy was feeling strong, stronger than day 2, and we took it very easy up Sandy Mount, the killer hill. After Sandy Mount it was pretty much easy going home, and when the horses heard chariots of Fire playing over the PA at the stadium (Way before I even could hear it) they started really pulling. There was a time near the end where I literally couldn't stop Billy out of a canter. We did the last descent of a rocky koppie very carefully and then trotted home with a real proud canter into the last straight into the stadium, where I received the most welcome ever reception from all supporters, staff, finished riders, grooms, and the whole town of Fauresmith. This was even more amazing then the Comrads finish.

Of course I was only really finished after the final vet check, which was a very successful, and emotional vet check, as Dr. Dave Midgley, who always supports Billy and I on the rides, came to congratulate us. Billy was the hero, and had proven a point, that he may not be the ideal horse, but that he's got the heart and spirit. This also wouldn't have been possible at all if it wasn't for Sonja, wife of Kobus, who was my groom for the ride and ensured Billy, and I, were in excellent care and condition for every vet check and subsequent leg of the ride. This was an event, shared with the most amazing animal, I'd never forget.

At the evening after the third and final day's ride, we received the vettinary trophy for the team that gave the vettinary pannel the most pleasure on the ride. In other words, this trophy is for the rider and groom combination that gave their horse the most care and best consideration on the entire ride. It was thus thanks to Billy for he's lively spirit and also to Sonja for her great work with the grooming points. Again, this just shows the sceptics that Billy has defintely proven them wrong.

Click on one of the below links to view more info on other endurance sports:
Endurance riding
Tandem Cycling
Road Running
Swimming Padelling Double Canoes

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