Endurance Red Dragon
Tough conditions reward experience as a once-retired 20-year-old horse is crowned national champion
Festival of Endurance
British Horse Feeds’ Red Dragon Festival of Endurance,
Builth Wells, Powys
FIFTEEN combinations lined up in the cold and wet at Royal Welsh Showground in Builth Wells to head up to the remote Welsh hills. Thirteen made it safely through a gruelling day of relentless rain and hill fog. Four combinations were spun after the overnight hold then one retired early on course.
With intermittent drizzle continuing the next day on to already wet and now churned tracks, this race was about skill and experience, not speed. By the final vetgate, Lauren Mills and Oakleaze Farm Czarko, aged 20, had a 15-minute lead as fog descended over the hills.
Lauren forged ahead, her experienced old boy taking her safely home, to canter triumphantly over the finish. This was a memorable and classic feat of endurance showing the trust built up over the years and miles between a horse and rider. This partnership took the class in
2014 and have been young rider national champions and now won the national championship.
It was a fairy-tale return to form for Czarko, whom Lauren retired from top competition two years ago when he sustained a tendon injury.
“He has been a training partner for my other horses and ended up so fit and full of beans, I had to give him a job to do,” Lauren said. “I rode the second day on my own, which is an additional challenge, but we know how to keep each other going.
“Czarko is not the easiest horse — he is strong and spooky. He wants to win and needs a rider that will let him do his own thing but help him out when needed. As we reached the bottom of the last hill, I spotted the two behind me over my shoulder. He must have sensed it as he flew home and didn’t stop cantering until he crossed the line.”
THE two she spotted were Sarah Rogerson and the one-eyed Warrens Hill Rubyn and Rachael Cratchley on Open T’Offers, the identical twins crossing the line together on their matching grey horses, causing a few people to wonder if they were seeing double. The pair had stuck together at the back of the pack for a wellconsidered ride, just pulling away after the last vetgate.
With Warren’s Hill Rubyn taking second, it was groundhog day for Rachael Cratchley’s and Open T’Offers, who were third in the class last year.
This ride was about battling the conditions and the terrain and Open T’Offers, who won the Cairngorm 100 this season, was awarded “best condition”, a testament to toughness over the hardest rides Scotland and Wales have to offer.
The winners of the British Horse Feeds Little Dragon
80km ride, and the inaugural Endurance GB advanced champions, were Sally Mcilwaine and Mahbubti, but everyone who survived one of the toughest Dragons went home feeling like a winner.
The wet conditions are no problem for Lauren Mills and 20-year-old Oakleaze Farm Czarko, as they win the 160km national championship