(Published:09 October 2019)
Endurance GB’s British Horse Feeds’ Red Dragon Festival of Endurance serves up vintage season finale
Victories for England in Home International, Scotland in Celtic Challenge and Yorkshire in British Horse Feeds’ Riding Clubs Endurance Team Final while Nikki Malcolm is popular winner of Red Dragon title event
Nikki Malcolm (pictured above by Kerry Dawson) and Oso Spiralling Wind capped a superb season with an outstanding win in the feature event, the two-day 160km Speedi-Beet Red Dragon Ride at the British Horse Feeds’ Red Dragon Festival of Endurance at Builth Wells. The pair conquered one of the toughest tracks in the Endurance GB calendar at an average speed of 12.7km/hr ahead of Chris Rendle with Druimghigha Shatish who completed in second place at 12km/hr. Ella Bunting with Aly’s Estrella De Rock (Rocky) took third spot at an average of 11.7km/hr. Remarkably, this was Nikki Malcolm’s fourth 160km win at Red Dragon.
Owned by Linda Mars and being trained and ridden in the UK at Nikki and her partner Nathan Sweeney’s Stride Ahead yard in Dorset, Oso Spiralling Wind (Spiral) was bred at Oso Arabians Stud which is managed by Amanda Kettlewell in New South Wales, Australia. The eight year old demonstrated his consistency and versatility by winning the RiderCise Southern Championships as well as romping around Royal Windsor and Euston Park with strong completions.
Nikki and Spiral coming up the hill - Photo courtesy of David Saunders Photography
Primed to perfection for his end of season foray over the spectacular Welsh mountains, at one point the talented grey was a full hour ahead of the field.
Nikki said: “The forecast had been for heavy rain on Saturday night so we thought we would kick on during the first day – we did the second day bar 5km all on our own. He just feeds off his rider – you have got to keep him interested and let him know that the race is still on. He definitely knew he was coming in for a win at the end when he galloped over the line.
“He has really proved himself as an 80km horse with 100% success rate this season and the logical progression for him next season will be a one-day 160km but we will regroup with Linda his owner and Amanda at Oso Arabians at the end of the season. For now we have a field at home which we rest for the winter and it is shoes off time and a chance for them all to graze as a herd for three months which they love.
“I didn’t think this was a particularly hard Red Dragon. John and Jane (Hudson) have done a lot of work to improve the route over the years and it rode really well. I just love this event, the whole organisation is brilliant and with the showground at Builth Wells as an amazing venue you certainly don’t feel like the sport is a poor relation in any way. On top of it the Home International there this year gave it a great atmosphere.”
Spiral took Best Condition in the Red Dragon and as a further dollop of icing on the cake for Team Stride Ahead, Nikki’s partner Nathan Sweeney earned a completion in the 80km Saddle Exchange Dragon’s Egg, riding for Ireland in the Home International with Jenny Lees’ Pearl Island Arabians’ six year old Hamdanieh Farhah, the only pure-bred Bahrain Arab mare competing in the UK.
In the other big class of the Festival, the British Horse Feeds’ Little Dragon 80km CER, another Dorset-based rider, Ylva Samantha Mowatt emerged the winner with Terminators Dream at 13.4km/hr from Kathy Carr with Aberllwyd Femme Fatalle in second place at 13.4km/hr. Abigail Chisholm took third place with Mellway Royalblue Diamond at 12.8km/hr. Kathy Carr’s Aberllwyd Femme Fatalle took the Best Condition Award.
With the added bonus of the Home International which is hosted annually by either England, Wales, Scotland or Ireland, as well as the Celtic Challenge, contested by teams from Ireland, Wales and Scotland plus, for the first time in many years, a squad from Cornwall entries to the Festival were high.
Achieving the fantastic feat of getting six riders home, England won the Home International ahead of Scotland with Ireland in third and Wales fourth. The Celtic Challenge went to Scotland.
England’s Chef d’Equipe Maggie Pattinson said: “I am proud of my stewardship as Chef for the England Home International team but in particular this year bringing the cup home makes the glow of pride even brighter!
“Following a couple weeks of wet weather I think we all knew we were in for a tough Dragon although we did largely get away with mostly dry weather in riding hours.
“John and Jane Hudson once again pulled together an amazing team of stewards, vets and helpers of all sorts to once again put on a fantastic event for which I speak from every national Chef to say a huge thank you – they are all amazing!”
Among highlights for the winning England squad were three notable ‘firsts’, a third place in their first 160km for Ella Bunting and ‘Rocky’, a completion at their first CER for Rebecca Parsler and Shade while in the 48km Home International Junior Class, Beth Stanley-Whiteley with Tiny was the youngest ever junior at eight years old achieving a remarkable second place.
ILDRA’s Helen McFarland announced that Ireland would be hosting the 2020 Home International at the St Patrick’s Coastal Ride over the first weekend in September. Like the British Horse Feeds’ Red Dragon Festival, this is another tough ride but with the promise of seal watching whilst cantering along miles of beach in the shadow of the mountains of Mourne.
A total of 265 horse and rider combinations took part in more than 30 classes at the British Horse Feeds' Red Dragon Festival of Endurance taking in the iconic mountain grassland and heather track from the venue at the Royal Welsh Showground, Builth Wells.
Sunday’s action featured The British Horse Feeds’ British Riding Clubs Endurance Team Final with nine Riding Clubs vying for the top prize in the 36km Novice Graded Endurance Ride. The hotly contested competition was won by Yorkshire RC, which numbers riders from across area 4 (Yorkshire). Ellen Valley followed in second place with the Wessex Wanderers in third.
Linda Birkitt who competed for Yorkshire RC in the 36km GER with Mistletoe said: “Our team was formed after a chance conversation and has grown over the last three years. We started the season this year at Wootton in Lincolnshire and have had team entries in Lincolnshire, Derbyshire, Nottinghamshire and Yorkshire rides which were all qualifiers for the championships.
“Our team members have a mixed experience of endurance with a couple of advanced riders and a pony club champion who provide us with invaluable advice but most team members are novice endurance riders, some of whom have had their first competitive season this year.”
The Yorkshire RC team’s horses are of varying breeds including Welsh cobs, part-bred Irish Draught, ISH, Arab, PBA and TB. Some of the team compete at dressage and show jumping and there are former event horses on the squad.
Linda explained: “We train individually most of the time but some riders do manage to meet up in between rides and train on the North Yorkshire Moors, Pennines or Yorkshire Wolds for hill work with some beach rides if possible. On ride days, our crews are an important part of our team with some riders crewing if they are not able to ride.
Linda added: “We had a fantastic time at Red Dragon with our win topping the weekend. John and Jane are brilliant supporters to all the riding club teams throughout the year and our thanks go to them.”
The other Riding Clubs who reached the final were; East Mendip, Hampshire Combined, New Forest Hunts, National Forest, Angels of the North and Red Kite.
Acting Chair of Endurance GB, Sue Box, who competed successfully for Wales in the Speedi-Beet Red Dragon 160km class said: “As ever it was a great privilege to ride over this amazing course and we are very grateful to all our sponsors especially headline sponsor, British Horse Feeds and the organising team led by John and Jane Hudson with their wonderful team of volunteers as well as all the landowners without whose support access to the spectacular terrain would not be possible. In the build up to the ride the organisers had to contend with really wet conditions and it was a feat to ensure that so many horse and rider combinations would be able to get round safely. However, the skies cleared for the ride itself, hosting the Home International and Celtic Challenge this year was a bonus and with record entries plus some memorable performances over the weekend, this was a vintage Red Dragon.”
John Hudson said: “We are delighted with the level of entries and would like to thank both our fantastic headline sponsor British Horse Feeds who have been hugely supportive as ever and we simply could not do all this without them, as well as all the other companies who get behind the ride. We also work with more than 30 landowners and large sections of the route are across private land. We cannot praise them enough for their friendly welcome and level of cooperation. We are very grateful to the three external teams who help to run the event: The Gloucestershire TRF led by Jacky German who mark the route so brilliantly, the medics from SARA led by Merv Fleming and RAYNET led by Evan Jones.
“A great team of hard-working volunteers worked together to steward the event brilliantly and our thanks also go to the Showground staff at Builth Wells for whom nothing was too much trouble. All in all, it added up to the best Red Dragon yet in our view.”
Will I'Anson, Sales Director for British Horse Feeds said: “We are delighted with our long and successful association with this prestigious ride and team behind it and so pleased that the weekend went so smoothly and produced some excellent competition. The British Horse Feeds’ Riding Club Endurance Championships is also going from strength to strength and this bodes well for the future.”
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