South and West Wales Group
news on rides and activities
Reports and Picture Gallery
Reports and Picture Gallery
The Trophy Dinner, November 2011
Alex Nicholls and 'Husband' Edward back from Arab horse (and wine-drinking) extravaganza in Brittany - read Edward's report here.
The Red Dragon, October 2011
Report by Alex Nicholls - Photos by West End Photography
Firstly, many thanks indeed to John and Jane Hudson and all the great army of helpers who put Red Dragon on for us this year. We had a rare old time, I must say!!! I do appreciate that horses tied up and were dehydrated, so that is not good. I am just writing about how we got on.
We were very chuffed to be chosen to be in the Welsh Endurance Team. Pat was desperately searching for a second Novice horse, I believe, so we received a phone call one evening and there you jolly well go, Zia (a.k.a. Romizzia of Grangeway!!) and I were in the Team. It made my day and year!!!! Zia is six years old now and she is half Arab and half Welsh Cob, with racing and endurance bloodlines. A lot of her relatives also do Endurance and usually get great results. It was Zia's first ever time in a team.
Well, we could not have wished for a better, happier time! All team horses had to vet on the Friday, and it was good to meet the other people in our Team. I trotted up Zia which Edward normally does but he did not wish to run due to a dodgy leg muscle!!! He told me that Zia trots up well, in a straight line, for me!! I know that some horses find the big 'shed' where we vet a bit noisy and they get a bit stressed out. Zia had been in there just once before, last year, and, thankfully, she is fine in there. Her heart rate was 44 on the Friday. I felt very happy with that!!
After all the teams had vetted there was a parade around the big field at the Royal Welsh Showground. It was great fun and some horses were all decorated up and England won the turnout for the parade - it was superb, with St George and the Dragon. One horse was St.George and another horse was the Dragon. They looked fantastic and there were dogs too sporting the St George flag/rug.
We came home after the parade as we only live one and a half hour's drive away. Zia, also, had never been on an overnighter, alone, without her two geldings! Obviously, she would not have been 'alone', as it were, but I felt she would be more relaxed if she came back home again.
I did not sleep much on Saturday night and then the alarm awoke me at 5.50am so off I trundled to feed the three horses. Zia devoured all her feed (I always check to see if it has all gone) so I plaited up her tail and put the old red and green ribbons in. She is certainly not a nasty kicker horse but if people ride too close then her ears go flat back and she may kick!
Off we set again to Builth Wells, to do our pre-ride trot-up and ride!!! We were doing the 42km Novice CR and it was just great. It was so well marked that I did not need my map really. I had not done that route for years and it all came back to me, with the stunning views and great going. We were asked if we could ride at 11kph, with a HR of 48 or below! Our start time was 9.50am but we were allowed to go a bit earlier, i.e. when we were ready! Many thanks to Liz Hinings and her lady dog, dear Pebble, for being the Timekeeper and for doing all the ride entries.
Edward walked Zia around for about twenty minutes then we tacked her up and I walked her around a bit more. Off we jolly well set and I felt very happy and relaxed and delighted. Just to be there on my young horse and in the Team!! We were going to have fun and enjoy ourselves!! We most certainly did.
Zia looked after me and I looked after her and Edward, my husband and fine crew, looked after us both. We had masses of water and plenty of sugar beet and Edward had kindly worked out all the times for 11kph and the fastest and slowest allowed times. We knew though that we were supposed to ride at about 11kph. We rode on our own which is fine by me, and later on we caught up with a mother and daughter team. Not sure of their names, sorry. We had a good system when we encountered any gates - they would open them and I would close them and I said it was fine if they carried on whilst we closed the gates. Zia was very good with the gates and she listened to me and did not go haring off after the others! I was delighted with her.
In a nutshell, we returned to the venue and we even met Edward at the industrial estate too, for last minute attention to the horse and myself and our timing!! The only trouble I had was near the end of the ride I had sweaty hands and could not grip my reins! They have no rubber on them and I should have taken gloves. Never mind, I will take some next time and may also change my reins!! We all live and, hopefully, learn!
We were just so happy to be back, with a good time and no problems had! We attended to Zia and walked her around and I used my wheeze/trick which turned out to be first class - we loaded Zia up in the trailer, as when we go to our local woods to ride, she has a wee every time, more or less, we load her up. It was just a thought of mine and it worked just fine. Into the trailer she went and Edward had not even put the back ramp up and she was weeing!!!! I felt thrilled!!!! Sad, I know, but a lower heart rate!! Off the trailer she came, and we walked her around some more, just leisurely, and off we trundled to the final vetting. Final HR was 48!!!!! I tried to relax and chill out when the HR was being taken, so that the horse would also relax. Edward is always calm and chilled but I am not!!! Well, I felt absolutely happy and thrilled with that!!!! Over that proverbial moon once more!!
Having had an accident with Zia about two years ago, when I was unconscious for a while and had to have a CT scan and then I slept for about a month, more or less, then earlier this year I had Trench Foot and could not ride my Zia for ages, it is just so great to get a Grade 2 at Red Dragon and Zia also won Best Novice Horse and we got a lovely cup and three lovely rosettes! It is also funny as the previous horse to win this cup is called Tia!!! Tia, then Zia!! Anyone know who Tia is, please?!
Many thanks, again, to John and Jane and the army of helpers. I thought the atmosphere was great and it was ALL GREAT for us.
Camping and coralling, Summer 2011
(roll cursor over pics)
Berkshire (Ups and) Downs – 25th and 26th June
Report by Lisa Adshead
There was a strong Welsh presence at the lovely Berkshire Downs ride this year including several members from our group. Harry and I arrived on Friday afternoon in cold and wet conditions. Sealy (Sealeah Myranda) and Harry were to do the 2-day 128km CR, with Bryn (Shakmari Gold) and I riding the 60km first day with them. Sadly this plan fell apart when poor Sealy tied up before the first checkpoint.
She has a genetic susceptibility to this condition and we try to manage her very carefully to limit the trigger factors and reduce the chances of an episode. However, it happened on this day and resulted in Harry having to run 5 miles back to the venue to fetch the trailer. Meanwhile I held Bryn and Sealy(covered in both numnahs) by the water and electrolyte stash we’d dropped off the night before. Unfortunately this was by a large log just as the route turned off a road through a gap in a hedge and onto a bridlepath. There were some spectacular shies and one fall as most horses shied at the lion/ log. It can’t have helped having two horses lurking behind the hedge and I did feel a bit bad, but it was the only safe place for me to hold them and it wouldn’t have been fair to ask Sealy to go further.
Thankfully, Sealy was soon feeling much better and we decided that Bryn and I would enter the 68km CR Performance Formula Class the next day.
That evening we enjoyed a meal in the nearby pub with Joan, Cath and Penny Rawnsley, Karin and Hilary. Penny had ridden her horse Aberllwyd Holly Blossom to success in her first 80km CR. Holly is now an Advanced horse and Penny an Advanced rider, despite being – as she pointed out – about a third my age! This was another great achievement for the Rawnsley family who are extremely successful breeders of top class horses (and riders!).
The next day, Sunday, was a bit of a shock as the temperatures soared. Karin Hilton and Hilary Kaye, ably crewed by the Rawnsleys, enjoyed a successful ride on their promising young horses Smokey Savannah and Lil Miss Minx in the 40km CR Novice. These mares have been brought on carefully and this ride continued a successful season for both of them.
I thoroughly enjoyed the 68km on Bryn. He is a truly lovely horse to ride, though he did make an exhibition of himself (and me!) before the start when first separated from Sealeah. I was amazed to find later that he had won the class, a nice consolation on what was a last-minute change of plan and his first time at this distance. Harry would not forgive me if I failed to acknowledge that excellent crewing made all the difference, which to be fair was especially true in the extremely hot conditions (30 deg. C) .
This is a ride well worth travelling for: a lovely spacious venue and a well-marked route on good going with very little road work. It’s a long but fairly easy drive from Wales: see you there next year!
Pen Ddol Y Gader Ride, Sunday 22nd May 2011
Report by Harry Adshead
Pen Ddol Y Gader is one of my favourite rides in the calendar, taking in a great big circuit (or two) of the wonderful heather-clad Llanllwni Mountain. This is the last lump of respectable altitude in the great curve of the Cambrian Mountains before they drop off into the lowlands of the west. The views are magnificent in all directions with the Black Mountain usually living up to its name in the east and the pointed peaks of the Preseli Hills prominent to the west.
While the views may not be available every year (it does occasionally cloud over in West Wales), the going is always good, or good to soft, and this is the main reason I love this ride: cantering, more cantering and then even more cantering again - out on the open mountain. With a good fit horse under you, you can settle down into the rolling rhythm of the hoofbeats, and the miles just fly by. Many rides these days seem to have long stretches on hard stony forestry tracks which leave you praying for a bit of springy turf and a wide horizon; this ride leaves you laughing, and marvelling that an animal as magnificently athletic as the horse turned out just the right shape for sitting on and allowing you to join in the fun.
The route heads out at first from the venue through the forest on Llanybydder Mountain but most of the tracks are soft and canterable. You soon emerge onto the open mountain, where the real action begins. This year, after a record dry spring with hardly a drop of rain, the heavens decided to open on Saturday afternoon and it carried on pouring down most of the night. By Sunday morning the rain had stopped but the going was more like good to soft, splashy in places. This made the horses have to work a bit harder for their miles but – on the plus side – left them even fitter afterwards. With good streams at several points en route, the horses can drink and be cooled down; a crew is not essential on this ride.
It was great to go round the 50k route with Lisa this year, now that her horse Shakmari Gold (aka Bryn, The Brynster etc) has progressed to Open and is allowed to run around with the big boys (and girls). We could have ridden together last year but with exquisite timing, my mare, Sealeah Myranda (aka Sealy, Sealy Belle, The Belle, Bellissima etc etc), had decided to tread on a sharp spike of limestone just a few days beforehand and go lame. This year, we finally had a fit Crabbett Arab each, toughened up by some good long rides over the Black Mountain at home, some away days to EGB rides at Wentwood, Tresham and the Forest of Dean, and a brilliant four-day holiday cantering up, down and around the rolling hills between Builth Wells and Newtown.
The only thing Bryn and Lisa did wrong at Pen Ddol Y Gader this year was get a better Grade than The Belle and me. Not that I’m competitive at all, but how could they have the cheek to get a Grade One while we had to settle for a miserable Grade Two? Surely, Lisa could have done something to crank Bryn’s heart rate up a bit for the vetting? I have forgiven her for beating me this time, it being a first offence and everything, but it won’t be very funny if it carries on like this.
Pen Ddol Y Gader Ride, Sunday 22nd May 2011
Report by Anita Gordon
It was nice to have a local ride to attend - no camping. We arrived at the quarry in plenty of time and had no difficulty parking. The route for the 50km ride has been improved - less forestry and more open mountain. Although the rain held off it was very windy on Sunday, and on Saturday night there had been a lot of rain, so the ground was very soggy, which made hard work for the horses. It was a good fittening ride, some quite long slow climbs and hardly any tarmac at all. (If the sun had come out a bit more it would have been fabulous, excellent views).
Entries were low this year. I do hope that this doesn't mean that it is not possible to run it again as local rides are few and far between. I certainly appreciate not having to spend a fortune on fuel etc. So thanks to the organisers and all the helpers for their hard work putting together and running this ride.
Forest of Dean Bluebell Ride, Sunday 17th April 2011
Report by Alex Nicholls
It was the first competitive ride for my six year old mare, Romizzia of Grangeway, who is half Arab and half Welsh Cob, with racing and endurance bloodlines. She was bred locally, near Aberaeron, and quite a few of her relatives do endurance and do very well.
I was very excited about Zia's first ever Novice CR and I could not believe it at the end when we had a blue rosette!!!! Her HRs were 50 and 45 and we did the 32km class. Apparently, she was just one heart beat off a grade one!! She was very well behaved all day and she really listened to me so I am very impressed.
It was nice and sunny on the Sunday so that brought out lots of cyclists and walkers and Zia was not phased by anything. There was a very small amount of roadwork and all the traffic was courteous and slowed down for us and I smiled and put my arm up to thank them all. I was very grateful.
We rode mostly on our own which was fine by me. I had to prove to myself that we were in control together, relaxed and happy, which we definitely were. My husband, Edward, did another superb crewing job and our lucky black labrador, Jack, came with us too. Edward also crewed for Hilary and Karin who were also doing my class.
Again, it was a lovely route and well marked and a nice, friendly ride. We are off to Myndd Machen next on May 8th. Zia's full sister is also competing there, Starlight of Grangeway, so I look forward to seeing Star and her jockey, Eileen.
Pembrey Ride, Sunday 27th March 2011