I don’t often get to experience 4:15 in the morning. I did once take my daughter (asleep) to see the Didcot Power Station cooling towers get blown up – but that is another story 😊
But 4:15am on a Friday in May was required in order to be in Windsor Great Park by 5am, to be in position marshalling the Endurance Race route by 6am.
We were located quite far into the park near to The Royal School so the first horses and riders didn’t reach us until after 7am but I’m sure the very early start was fully justified…!
Endurance Racing is pretty straight forward – horse and rider complete loops of the course and the winner is the one with the fastest time. The distances are pretty long 160km, 120km, 100km.
However as you would expect the health of the horses is critical. They get a 40min rest and vet inspection after each lap. If their heart rate and other inspections don’t meet the necessary criteria then they are withdrawn. It doesn’t matter whether the rider is the son of the Crown Price of Bahrain or not. Mind you it doesn’t hurt if you buy the best horses and have the best support team .
In the end the winner is the fastest time by the rider who keeps their horse in the best condition.
Our job at the marshal positions was to watch out for riders and warn any other users of the park that they were approaching, this normally ranged from farm vehicles and school traffic to dog walkers and bike riders. Even the occasional bus.
There did seem to be a big group of bird watchers wandering around the park during the morning. We could hear reports of their progress over the event radio’s. Entertaining to us but seemed to annoy the control room quite a lot. The radio reports did provide us with a running commentary of the horse positions as well as calls for transport for retiring riders and horses.
Brian and I accidentally had the talk button pressed at one point so everyone could hear our conversations….nothing interesting - sorry.
The weather was good and dry and there was always someone to talk to as a lot of the time is spent waiting before the 3 mins frantic work as the group of horses pass by.
The busiest moment was 13 horses coming one way with another 12 coming the other who then wanted to turn right across their path, coupled with members of the Bahrain Royal family watching from 4 big SUVs and a man putting his dustbins out from his house. The highway code was properly observed and all passed off well and 5 mins later there was not another soul in sight.
In all quite an enjoyable morning in the quiet of the Great Park, the sausage sandwiches and biscuit deliveries from the organisers certainly helped.
No idea who won though 😊
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