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15 September 2014

Glenariff Endurance Festival, 9-10 August 2008


Glenariff Forest Park, County Antrim


A Scottish flying finish was the triumphant end to a weekend that saw Scotland sweep the board at the Glenariff endurance festival in Northern Ireland on 9-10 August 2008, claiming the Home International and Celtic Challenge trophies.

The Home International features the four ‘home nations’ fielding teams of seven riders tackling distances of up to 160km over the two days. The competition is decided on most riders home.

The competition took place in County Antrim with stunning views over looking the Irish Sea and beyond, in an area steeped in the history and mythology of Ireland, but in a weekend characterised by heavy rain.

The 160km riders set off at 8.00am on Saturday morning in heavy rain with clinging mist reducing visibility.  Eight riders set out, two from each of the host nations. By the first vet gate the weather had lifted slightly along with spirits.  The wet weather made the climbs on the challenging course, which climbed over Slievanorra Hill and dropped deep into Glenariff Glen more gruelling for horses and riders.

Four riders were eliminated on the first day, with Ireland losing both riders and England and Wales a rider each, meaning Scotland was unassailable if both their riders completed.

English rider Jo Chisholm crossed the line first on 18 year old Arab gelding Grey Medlar at an average speed of 11.77 kph to claim first place.

A moment later the Scottish riders crossed the line holding the St Andrew’s flag between them, claiming the Home International for Scotland to uproarious support from the crowd. 

“The three of us were together on the last section of the ride, but Diane and I had been given team instructions that we were not to race to the line” Kirstie Graham explains.  “We hatched the plan with the flag to make up for not racing and I stuffed it down my jodphurs at the final crew stop.  It was a Scottish flying finish as we wanted to show we were riding for the team, not as individuals”.

Kirstie, from Perthshire, was awarded second place on Arab/Welsh mare Arabelle, with Diane Michie from Morayshire third on Arab/Highland Skylark’s Discovery at an average speed of 11.76kph.  The only other completer was Mary Korn on Mr Mylo for Wales, who finished at11.43kph.

“We cantered over the line together into a sea of screaming blue Scotland supporters, it was an incredible feeling.  I dismounted to walk Bella up to the vet and walked past a line of blue clad people each handing a slosh bottle to my crew to cool Bella down for the final vetting.  It was a very emotional experience” Kirstie said.

Diane Michie said “This is Disco’s third year in a row completing the 160km for the Scottish team so I am very proud of his consistency.”

English riders took first and second place in 80km endurance ride, with Charlotte Curtis and Razzamatazz winning at 13.56kph with Karen David on Alzahi Kahzan in second place at 13.01kph.  Scottish team member Francis Bakker was third on Martje at 11.28kph.

Despite strong individual performances from the English, the consistency of the Scottish team meant England had to settle for second place in the Home International, with Wales third and Ireland in fourth place.

The Celtic Challenge between the three Celtic Nations was more closely contested.  With riders covering distances of up to 80km, both Scotland and Wales had the same number of riders home.  The outcome was therefore decided on speed, with Scotland again victorious. 

Scotland also secured Best Turned Out team, judged at a parade of teams on the previous day that gave the nations the opportunity to display their patriotism.  England put on a particularly strong show this year, but were pipped by the unbeatable Scotland, who perhaps had an unfair advantage in the team chef Evelyn Frame’s mini kilt.

Scottish rider Sue Ravenhall claimed the Novice Trophy on Vella Sunrise, meaning an almost clean sweep for Scotland, with just the Junior trophy eluding them.  Sue Ravenhall from Berwickshire said ‘I am thrilled to have won the novice trophy at my and Vella’s first national team outing, and within a year of resuming riding after a 25 year gap”.

The Scottish team comprised of a variety of different breeds, shapes and sizes, and included full brothers DeMarco and Shadrach, both bred at Ryovan Arabian Stud in Aberdeen, but without any Arabian blood. Marco’s owner Lorna Hogg explains “Their dam is a Welsh Mare, who worked in a riding school and their sire was a thoroughbred Stallion, who had a successful racing career.  This was Marcos third time representing Scotland - each time being on a winning team”.
 Team chef Evelyn Frame felt the secret of Scotland’s success lay in the camaraderie within the team.

“Everyone worked hard over the weekend, whether they were riders, crew members or team supporters.  Our team vet Graeme Swanson ensured the horses’ well-being and Nancy Murdoch provided sustenance to the riders at the remote vet gate.  When they weren’t riding, riders supported other team members, everyone was aware they were there to compete for Scotland, not for themselves and without fail they put the team first.  That is what made us unbeatable”.


Home International

2 day 160km:                Diane Michie & Skylarks Discovery (Highland)
       Kirstie Graham & Arabelle (Tayside)

2 day 120km:                Francis Bakker & Martje (Borders)

80km:                           Anne Short & Another Chance (Lothians)

2 day 80km:                  Kirsten Knox & Shadrach (Lothians)

50km junior:                  Colin Bell & Jacara (Lothians)

40km Novice:                 Sue Ravenhall & Vella Sunrise (Borders)

Celtic Challenge

80km:                           Lorna Hogg & De Marco (Grampian)

2 day 80km:                  Kaye Conafray & Maia (Lothians)

2 day 80km junior:         Ian Paterson & Kismet (Tayside)

50km:                           Joe Newlands & Spirit (Highland)

40km:                           Marian MacDonald (Argyll)

Team vet Graeme Swanson was awarded the Margaret Montgomory award. This is presented to the person for their outstanding contribution to the Scottish teams during the event.