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Hilda Donahue


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WEG Qualifications, Check! An Update From Hilda Donahue

Hilda Donahue and Malone. Photo courtesy of Hilda Donahue.

Hello and happy New Year !

It has been awhile since I have updated EN on my endurance endeavors (in-between the busyness of horse trials, dressage and jumper shows as well as clinics). I am excited to share that my little Arabian, Al-Marah Speed (“Malone”) earned his final WEG qualification on Jan. 6 at a 160km FEI ride in Florida! Although I am already qualified on a horse I lease (SR Mirage) , my goal was to fully produce, train, condition and compete my own horse.

Some of the strategy and planning required. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

Malone was a rockstar, starting out in below freezing temperatures, showing enthusiasm and obedience all day, and had impressive vet scores at every hold. While the terrain was basically flat through the Goethe State Forest, we had numerous long deep, muddy water challenges — some were up to his tummy and 100 meters long.

None of this could have been accomplished without the amazing crew: Ken, Diane, Jackie, Mary, Robin, Adelia, Michael and Ranger. My biggest thrill was seeing how sound and happy Malone looked when he finished.

Tremendous thanks to my loyal sponsors: Voltaire Design, Tredstep Ireland, ThinLine and HorsLyx. Success at a ride of this magnitude requires the best of tack, riding attire and nutrition.

As we all know, anything can happen between now and September but fingers and hooves crossed that Malone stays on track.His next endurance outing will be the test-ride at Tryon on April 28th.

Meanwhile, off to a USDF dressage show this weekend and Grand Oaks Horse Trials the following weekend. Wishing everyone happy and healthy horses throughout this year .

Hilda Donahue Reflects on 3* Endurance Ride Win

Photo courtesy of Hilda Donahue.

I would like to introduce Komanchi, who carried me for 100 miles last Thursday to win the FEI Lone Star Express 3* Endurance Ride in Texas. How amazing our equine partners are. Komanchi did this ride barefoot!

We set out at 6 a.m. warming up and began the ride at 6:30 a.m. in a large group. By 9 a.m. the group had spread out and we breezed through our first vet check after 22 miles. By 9 p.m. , after several vet checks and holds (where Komanchi rested, ate, rehydrated, got his legs got iced and received massaging) we set out into the dark to negotiate the final part of the trail.

The area had encountered a lot of rain so the footing was super slick and deep in many places. Most areas had a clay based soil which made it challenging given the rain. Komanchi stayed beautifully balanced and surefooted every inch of the 100 miles. We crossed rivers and rode over tall narrow bridges — yes, even in the dark. This ride used led lights instead of glow sticks to mark the trail which was terrific.

We crossed the finish line at approx 1:30 a.m. with a happy, sound horse. The final vet check deemed Komanchi “fit to continue” so we ended up winning the 3*! Komanchi received lots of pampering and returned to his paddock to rest by 4 a.m. What a star.

My day(s)’ work was not complete as I needed to prepare a few things for my young horses inaugural FEI ride ( 50 miles, a 1*) at 7 a.m. Al – Marah Speed (AKA Malone) had a very successful result, placing fifth out of approx 26 starters.

The most thrilling part of the few days was the vet’s complimenting Malone’s fitness. He pulsed in at 48 after one 22-mile trail loop. His ride card (which notes everything from horses attitude to tack rubs to gut sounds) received top marks. I was so proud of him. Malone has also started to event, having placed second at his first outing at Exmoor Horse Trials last month; he’s competing at Poplar Place H.T. May 6-7 .

I owe credit to my loyal sponsors: Tredstep Ireland ( whose paddock boots and breeches I rode in ); Voltaire Design, whose saddle I rode in in the 1* (unfortunately I have to ride in a really heavy saddle at at *** level to make the minimum weight of 165 lbs.); and Thin Line. Thank you!

No Rest for the Endurance/Eventing Weary

Not only has Hilda Donahue climbed to the four-star level of eventing, she’s also a well-known and highly ranked FEI Endurance rider. Not one to choose sleep over pursuing her passion, Hilda competed in a 100 mile FEI ride yesterday, only to turn around to compete at Rocking Horse today. How’s that for insanity in the middle? Many thanks to Hilda for catching us up in this guest blog!

Hilda Donahue and SR Mirage. Photo courtesy of Hilda Donahue.

Hilda Donahue and SR Mirage. Photo courtesy of Hilda Donahue.

All of us eventers are ridiculously and admirably committed to our wonderful sport — sometimes we take extreme measures to participate.

I believe I qualify.

You see, as I write this (actually I am dictating it into my phone), it is 2:30 a.m. and I am driving back from having just completed an FEI 100 mile ride all day and am now on my way to coach at Rocking Horse Winter 3 Horse Trials. Red on the right, white on the left, INSANITY in the middle.

I am feeling the insanity, but of course am a die-hard eventer at heart and could not entertain the idea of missing this event. One of the many positives (let’s overlook the 4 a.m. start on Friday and no sleep tonight) is that I should be well warmed up to trot down center line later today!

The route for the 100-mile ride. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

The route for the 100-mile ride. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

What a thrill it was earlier to ride SR Mirage all day with multiple vet checks. Mirage was a star and finished third out of approximately 23 starters — some are still out there riding!

There are many several similarities between eventers and endurance riders (I am omitting the UAE endurance scene — that’s a totally different world. I rode a 100 miler in Dubai last year.).

Endurance riders, like us, are extremely hands on, taking incredible care of their partners.

Endurance riders, like event riders, pool together to help each other.

Endurance riders are quick to “rider option” (that is, in endurance language, to withdraw) if they feel things are just not right, knowing that there is always another day.

Horses in the cool out box. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

Horses in the cool out box. Photo by Hilda Donahue.

For those of you unfamiliar with this sport, there is a huge amount of strategy involved from calculating your speed to handling terrain features and weather. Knowing your horse’s vitals is critical, as is being able to easily get your horse to pulse down. For this, their pulse has to be 64 or less, otherwise you are “pulled” — endurance lingo for eliminated. Indeed, you can be pulled for many reasons: insufficient gut sounds, tack rubs, gait abnormalities.

Knowing how to effectively balance your horse’s electrolyte intake, calories and water during the ride is of immense importance too.

I hope you enjoy a few of the scenes from today and now I need to get focused on some dressage tests…