15 September 2014
Lynda Keeler (GTF) and La Rouge (GTF)
Being a founder member of Grampian Branch, I have now been enjoying endurance since my first ride in June 1990 – the 22 years seem to have flown by. In those days I was riding Zhara Gold – my first chestnut arab mare. We competed successfully at Donard, County Wicklow in 1996 as part of the Scottish team riding the 80km over 2 days. This was a great year for her winning the points and mileage trophies in Grampian Branch. The following year, Zhara was once again part of the winning Scottish team completing 80km over 2 days (or 56 miles as it was then) and winning the Veteran class. We also represented our branch in the Capercaillie team events several times during her lifetime. Zhara achieved her GTF at Poyntzfield in 1997 and my last competitive ride on this super little mare (standing at 14.3hh) was on 14 August 1999.
Lynda and Zhara at Huntly in 1997 Lynda and Zhara at Traquhair in 1999
I have had several stints on the Grampian Committee – holding various positions - Archivist for 4 years, Central Rep (twice), Selector for HI & CC (twice), Membership Secretary, Vice Chairman, Press & Publicity… just to name a few and have organised rides at Fetteresso, Drumtochty and Spyhill.
Since the year 1998 I have been riding “La Rouge”, who I bought as a 3 year old (my second chestnut mare – I’m a glutton for punishment!) starting with a pleasure ride at Balloch. Thereafter she completed 7 more pleasure rides before starting off on her competitive career in the year 2000.
Ria is a real Diva and very vocal. However, she has been a fantastic mare doing everything I have asked of her. Her first competitive year saw her gaining the Grampian Novice Winner rosette and her Bronze Thistle Final. Needless to say, I was delighted.
Completing three camp rides gave her confidence over rough terrain and built up a bond between us – not individuals any more but a team. In 2003 we did our first Gated Race ride at Kelso (41.5 miles) and came 6th. Following on from this we gained our two STQs at Novar and Darnaway in the same year and the following year at Poyntzfield we achieved our Silver Thistle Final. We tried for our Gold Thistle Final part 1 at Bennachie after our success at Poyntzfield and although Ria got Best Condition we missed out as our speed was 6.86mph instead of 7 mph – a disappointment but Bennachie was never an easy ride and we enjoyed the route and terrain so much that the fun of riding it and competing overcame the disappointment.
It was another 2 years and five 80k’s later that we completed our Gold Thistle Final Part 2 – as they say, try, try and try again! Although Ria had now clocked up three 4th’s in Race Rides (remind me, if I ever get another horse not to go for the hardest 80k rides!!)
Her crowning glory was riding the 80k for the Scottish team in the Celtic Challenge at Yetholm in 2006 (see photo on left). Although we were pulled in at the last minute, she came up trumps and gave me a super ride with a Gold heart rate and speed of 11.75kph helping Scotland to win. I was so proud of her. We followed this with another 83k race ride at Linton Drovers in 2007 where she took 3rd place.
Along the way, this very independent Crabbet mare (sometimes crabbet by nature too!) held the Arab Horse Society Scottish Regional Group Endurance Points Champion in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Achieved 4,631 km in her endurance career, twice represented Grampian Branch in winning team events, participated in The Versatile Arabian Charity event where we gave a demonstration on endurance … and now at 19 years of age is still enjoying taking part in Dressage prelims and 30km endurance rides.