South and West Wales Group
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Here's a word from our new Chair, Hilary Kaye.
On the 14th November we held our annual Trophy awards dinner. I would just like to thank everyone who came for their support, and for donating so many great prizes to the raffle, I don’t think many came home without a prize!
The Dinner was well attended with 26 of us sitting down to a most excellent meal.
The Trophies were hotly contested this year, including a couple of categories which have not come out of store for a few years, I was particularly pleased as it saved me the embarrassment of having to present myself with too many of them!
I think I can safely say that the evening was a great success. And those of you who missed it missed a good night out; and you must put it in your diary for next year.
Looking ahead to next year, plans have been submitted for a Late Valentines ride on the21st & 22nd of February and that will be held again from Cefn Forestry, Crychan between Llandovery and Cynghordy, so fingers crossed for good weather!
S&WW EGB Winter 2014 Newsletter - Chair’s Report
I’ve heard lots of people moaning recently that this winter’s been nothing but cold, wet and miserable, which is unfair because for long periods it’s actually been quite mild, wet and miserable. But that’s enough about the weather; better to be philosophical and not think about it. What’s more, by the time you read this, we’ll have probably had a couple of bright sunny days that feel like spring and all the wind and rain batterings will be forgiven and forgotten.
Once again, I must apologise for completely failing to deliver an autumn newsletter. I have no excuses, except that time moves too fast sometimes. This means that there’s everything since mid-June last year to talk about. That’s a long time so I’ll stick to the highlights – and lowlights, because endurance is all about highs and lows.
The first highlight for Lisa, Bryn, Sealy and me was an ‘eventful’ weekend at King’s Forest in July. It was the hottest weekend of the year (hard to imagine heat now!) so we set off in the evening and drove right through the night. A mass horse escape at 2am from the corralling field – slap bang in the middle of which we were sleeping in our trailer - kept us up the rest of the night dealing with the aftermath. This didn’t help much with sleep catch-up. The riding, on the other hand, went brilliantly: Lisa and Bryn finished fastest British combination and 4th overall in the 80k FEI race, whilst Sealy and I cantered round the 80k route much more sedately to finish with a Grade 1. There were all sorts of rumours flying around about how hot it was, based mostly on displays in peoples’ cars – 32, 34, 36 degrees C. Let’s just say it was ridiculously hot. Bags of ice were the most useful crewing accessory that weekend. Our long-in-distance journey back to West Wales became long-in-time too. We were stuck for two and a half hours on the M25 because the tarmac had buckled in the heat. Home at 3.30am, three hours sleep then back to work. As Bob Geldof once sang : “I don’t like Mondays”. And I’ve just told you why.
King's Forest Corrals
Three weeks later, Sealy fitter than ever (of course), came the low to follow the high. Halfway through a ‘camping and cantering’ weekend up at Builth Wells, Sealy spun a bit too sharply in a gateway (whilst trying gallantly to hold the gate open for Lisa and Bryn) and caught her back end on a bolt protruding from the gatepost. It was messy, very messy. Vet’n’ry did a good job of stitching her up again but it meant we could no longer ride for Wales in the Home International at Barbury. I was pleased to have been selected and had been really looking forward to it. C’est la vie! Instead, I crewed for Lisa and Bryn, who was vetted out lame. The highs and lows…
Back in action again by September, Sealy and I had a blast around the 64k route at the Long Mynd ride, just over the border in the lovely Shropshire hills. This tough route has 2080m (6,800 feet) of up and down and suits my approach of jumping off and running down all the hills. My knees complained bitterly but my horse was very happy. The race was based on the Performance Formula and we were very chuffed to found out we’d won – and even more pleased to find out there were prizes from the generous sponsors Roger Parry & Partners. We came home with a new lead rope and a ‘Saddle Mate’, which came in a particularly loud shade of purple.
I have always been a big fan of the Performance Formula. It is used much more frequently in France but there seem to be more and more rides using it here now as well. You can enter a Graded Ride (strictly Graded Endurance Ride in the newspeak) and try for a good Grade but have the added interest of a bit of competition thrown in. The formula takes account of both speed and heart rate so the fastest horse doesn’t necessarily win. In Endurance Races (CERs), there is nearly always somebody prepared to push it to the limit to win, knowing they just need a heart rate below 64. With Performance Formula you have to be more careful because a high heart rate will reduce your score.
The end of September saw our first Pembrey ride of the year after our traditional spring version had to be cancelled due to flooding. There was no flooding to worry about in September after a wonderful dry summer. Instead, we were challenged by hugely overgrown tracks. Some of our favourite short-cuts that avoid the need for riding on the harder forestry roads were completely overgrown. Hilary, Karin and I spent all day on the Saturday marking the route and thrashing our way through the trees and brambles to make it rideable. There was blood, sweat and (nearly) tears. And now here’s a top tip for users of social media: stop for a second and think about what ride volunteers might have gone through before you blurt in public that the ride “wasn’t as good as last year” or “wasn’t as well marked as last year”. One unfortunate person on the De Cymru facebook group complained along these lines and quickly regretted it! Our own SWW group on facebook, now just over a year old, has over 140 members, which is about six times the number of real, i.e. paying, members. It is a very easy way of communicating news about our rides and events and reaching many more people. However, like so many innovations, there are both advantages and disadvantages; you have to take the rough with the smooth.
Sealeah Myranda on the Begwns
Talking of smooth, the wonderful Red Dragon ride had a new route this year over the Begwn hills, just east of Painscastle. These hills have some of the smoothest bowling-green cantering tracks ever invented by God (who rides an Arab): nothing short of cantering heaven. John Hudson must have put a huge effort in to get it all sorted in time. Big congratulations to Penny Rawnsley for completing the 80k Little Dragon, her first ER!
Penny Rawnsley and Rosegay at the Red Dragon
Well done again to Penny for carting off a wheelbarrow-load of prizes at our Trophy Dinner in November. She won too many to mention here but there’s a full list in this newsletter and also on the website. Congratulations to all the trophy winners, their crews and all the ride helpers. It was great to see Joan Rawnsley again at the dinner, on the long road to recovery following her stroke.
The sudden loss of Pat Conn in October also came as a great shock to everyone who knew her, which must be just about everyone in EGB. Jane Clatworthy knew her for far longer than I and has written some words on Pat for this newsletter. My main memories of Pat are of her as Ride Secretary at Cors Caron or Margam smiling patiently while I managed yet again to fill in the wrong form or fail in some other way to comply with what seemed to me as a novice as baffling bureaucracy. She would just calmly put me right, tell me what to write in which box, and then wish me a good ride. At the time, I had no appreciation of how much work goes into making a ride happen. I know far better now and it is amazing to think just how many hours Pat must have put in over the years to allow so many people to enjoy their endurance rides in Wales. I also remember how encouraging Pat was when she tried to persuade me (unsuccessfully I must add) to go to Ireland to Ride in the Home International for Wales as a Novice - it hadn’t even crossed my mind that I could go.
Now, to catch up with the present. I can report that it’s blowing a gale outside, rain is battering on the windows, my broadband is still disconnected after a lightning strike two weeks ago, the horses are mooching around in the shelter with long faces, the haylage bales are disappearing fast, the muck heap is going to have its own contour line in the next edition of the OS Map…
Let’s move on to the future. Ah, that’s much better already, the sun is shining in the future and the grass doesn’t go squelch when it’s trodden on. We have a packed programme of events and rides coming up this year – there’s a list in this newsletter and full info on the website. On top of rides at Crychan, Pembrey and Pen Ddol Y Gader, we have not one but two evening meetings planned this year. First up on 12th Feb is a talk by Megan Lewis on her ride along the Great Wall of China, just part of her epic trip from Beijing to London between the Olympics. And following on in March we’re going to have a quiz night. Lisa has volunteered to write the questions. I’m quite good at not giving the answer she’s looking for so all I can say is…good luck!
Congratulations to all the trophy and distance award winners at the group dinner in November, especially Penny Rawnsley who walked away with most of them. Full results list is here.
At the national awards, well done to:
Hilary Kaye (3rd in the Royal Lord Trophy - Awarded to the horse 7 years old and over, competing in their first season at Open level, and gaining the most points in Graded Rides of 65km or less), and;
Harry Adshead (2nd in the Jeffmaur Trophy Awarded to the horse and male rider combination gaining the most points in all types of rides.)
Across the senior/novice/young rider Championships, the top five horse and rider combinations from our group were:
Harry Adshead and Sealeah
Myranda - 1556
WELL DONE GOOD EFFORT FAIR PLAY!