Rider to represent Great Britain in endurance championships
- Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND
A Norfolk endurance horse rider will represent both county and country at a major championship this week, after missing the opportunity to compete last year due to Covid-19.
Nicki Thorne, 50, of Shipdham, is on her way to Ermelo in The Netherlands to take part in the FEI European Endurance Championships from September 6 to 11.
This will be the sixth time Mrs Thorne has represented her country at major championships, having ridden in European Championships, World Championships and one World Equestrian Games.
The sport of endurance involves competitive long distance riding, with Mrs Thorne taking part in 140km and 160km events.
The rider, who runs the Akala Arabians Stables in Thetford, said she was horse-obsessed as a child and would ride whenever she had the chance, having grown up with a variety of ponies and horses to exercise in her local area.
Mrs Thorne first moved to Norfolk with her family at the age of eight and attended Wymondham High School and Wymondham College.
She got her first horse in her late 20s and enjoyed riding for miles in the local forests and Peddars Way.
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She said: "Norfolk is very much my home, and I absolutely love it and am a staunch supporter of everything Norfolk."
It was an article about endurance riding and someone riding 100 miles in one day that inspired Mrs Thorne to take up the sport, launching her into her first pleasure ride with the Anglian Distance Riders group of Endurance GB.
She said: "I loved it, and started to go from ride to ride, enjoying all the pleasure rides, and then decided to give the graded national EGB rides a crack and started to go up the distances."
She added: "Competing heavily in my 30s, I was also travelling intensively for Kestrel, our shipping business, and decided to combine the two.
"Soon I was competing all across the USA, Argentina, Dubai and South Africa.
"I had more horses at home and was having a fabulous time taking them all across the UK and Europe too."
The 50-year-old, who also breeds and sells Arabian horses, will be riding her Polish-bred Arabian mare Kamilcia, also known as Mousey, at the Endurance Championships.
She said: “Mousey may not at first glance look your typical endurance horse, and she may not be the fastest on the course, but her recovery is consistent between the loops, she is a strong and tough sort of mare, and just keeps steadily going.
“We have been together a long time so I know her race personality very well.
"She knows the job at hand and is reliable so any change to how she should be, would be picked up by myself early on, meaning we are both able to look after each other in a race.”
The former chairman of Endurance GB said the major downs in the sport come when a talented horse goes lame or gets injured.
She added: "Horse welfare and horsemanship always comes first.
"The vet checks during each competition are so stringent that is inevitable that at some rides you are eliminated for a lameness, stiffness, or you withdraw because the horse doesn’t seem quite right.
"Even the slightest thing is magnified due to the distances we ride."
Covid restrictions have made it more difficult for Mrs Thorne and her team to make plans, with the trip to The Netherlands in "jeopardy" at various points, making it difficult to balance her preparations with the uncertainty.
She added: "We didn’t get to compete in 2020 due to Covid, and I missed the World Championships in Italy in May of this year, again due to Covid.
"So I am very excited to be heading to the Europeans.
"I can’t really explain how exceptional it is to ride for your country.
"As a child I would watch the show jumping and dream of representing my country and how special it must feel.
"The very first time you put your GB kit on is breathtaking, and that just never changes for me."