Arabians In Action with UK Endurance Rider, Kelly Brooksbank


Ever since I can remember horses have been my biggest passion, I had my first pony when I was 3 or 4 years old and then I had my first Arab when I was 11.

My mum taught me to ride, and then I took riding lessons for 2 years. The riding instructor always warned us against buying me an Arab, but we chose to ignore them and we are so glad we did.

I remember back when I was 14 when I saw the advert for Koonic. I knew he was the one as soon as I saw the pictures and begged mum and dad to take me to see him. I fell in love with him straight away, a big 15.1h Chestnut Arab gelding with a white star. I went back to see him a good handful of times before we bought him, but we did buy him and that was when it all began.

Over the next year we trained, he gave me confidence and we trained some more. Then we came across the Endurance Great Britain website. We had heard about endurance and had seen it in books and magazines, but never had an opportunity to take part. I entered a ride called Blakey Ridge, a 25km Pleasure ride. We hired a horse box and off we went.

As it was my first ever ride we didn’t really know what to put on the horse. Did we need over reach boots, tendon boots, a saddle bag? You name it Koonic had it on!

I was very excited to get going and so was Koonic, we walked passed the steward and off we went. To say it was our first ever ride, I chose the hardest, hilliest, stoniest and coldest place to ride and it took us a good 4 and half hours to get round a 25km route. We couldn’t trot properly and I was too worried about his feet and legs to get Koonic3him going any faster on the awful ground so we just walked round mostly. We learnt that half the things we took we didn’t need - the first ride was a real eye opener and we learnt a lot that day.

Over the coming months we did a ride every 4 weeks and we started with 25km pleasure rides then made our way up to 32km. He was getting better and so was I.

We usually started the season in March and ended in September or October. We trained over the winter months, hacking out, some lunging and a lot of hill work. We never went on roads were we lived as they were so dangerous but luckily we had plenty of land to train on.

Endurance is definitely a sport which will stay with me forever now, it’s where me and my horse are the happiest. You come across all sorts of things when you’re out. River crossings, gates, forests, cows, sheep, alpacas, other horses and riders, beaches, moor land, you name it. Endurance will test your courage, your horses courage and your trust between one another. Through endurance Koonic and I have the strongest bond and we trust one another completely and this is something I don’t think I’ll ever have with another horse as much as I do with him.

One of my favourite rides was called The Robin Hood Challenge. I did a 32km Graded ride and vetted in at a grade 1 which we were very pleased with. As you came to the end of that ride you came on to a racecourse and Koonic1having a gallop down a full length sand racecourse was amazing, this has to be one of my highlights and I’ll never forget that.

The only time you ever come across a bad ride is if the weather is bad. The worst one we took part in was Robin Hoods Bay and this ride was one we were really looking forward to. It is the closest we got to a beach and I knew the area well but unfortunately it rained all day. We were set to do the longer 32km ride but due to flooding it was cut short to 21km. I had to ring my clothes out when we got back and many horse boxes got stuck in the fields, it was a nightmare!

Throughout our 5 years of Endurance riding, Koonic has done pretty well. We haven’t had any lameness and vetting out, the only time we pulled out was at Dialstone when he pulled a shoe. He got cold pretty quick and I felt he was tired and it was not worth pushing him too much for the sake of a grade so we called it a day. This was also one of the longest rides we did, a 42km and we made it with 4 to 5km to go, you win some you lose some.

In April 2011 we rode our best and last ride, Haywood Oaks. This was a Graded 30km ride which I’d done pretty much every single year for 5 years. It was located in Sherwood Pines Forest and was such a great ride we kept going back. We vetted first and we got the all clear but the vet said there was a slight niggle in his back leg, but was safe to go on. We rode round great that day, he was the best he’d ever been, riding round in 2 hours 20 minutes.

There didn’t appear to by any problems, he looked sound and he felt great but unfortunately when we vetted him they told us he was slightly lame. We were gutted and slightly annoyed that they had allowed us to put him at risk by taking part.

This was Koonic’s last ever ride. We had his leg scanned at the vets and they couldn’t find anything at all. In the end it turned out to be the onset of arthritis so now he is happily retired from endurance and we have hacks out whenever I get the chance.

It has been 3 years now since I last did an Endurance Ride, and now feel its time to get back in the saddle as they say!

If you have a sound horse and want to give endurance riding a go, all I say is do! You won’t regret it and you gain so much. I’ve made some good friends over the years, learnt tons about me and my horse and it even led to my career as a Fitness and Personal Trainer. If you have the opportunity then give it a go!