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15 September 2014

Shadow - The One Hundred Gold Haflinger

by Yvonne Thomson


Schadow was born on the 18th of April 1991 in Bedford.  A pure bred Haflinger. she came up to Aberdeen as a two year old and at three was broken to harness then to riding at four.  She was in a therapy riding school helping disabled children and adults to learn to ride.  Many of the children would speak to the horses but not to other children, some just lived for their riding lesson and enjoyed being near horses.  Schadow was a spooky mare and the stable girls often would end up leading her home as the children had had a fright from her.  I enjoyed hacking her out, laughing at her when she started her nonsense.  In October of 95 I took her to the Balloch for her first pleasure ride.  We rode with a friend and just managed to make the time with minutes to spare; the last two to come in.  She was then, fat and very hairy.  The next year she learned her job doing eleven pleasure rides wining the Pleasure Ride Trophy for 1996.  Little did I know this was just the start of a very long journey.


In 1997 we started to go to 20 mile rides, as they were known then.  We also travelled to Tayside and Highland branches and we were hooked, achieving our BTF at Ardersier.  I was so happy that Schadow took to it and enjoyed her trips to new places.


In 1998 she had a year off from Endurance and produced a foal by Nelson, a Haflinger stallion.  Schadow herself is an Elite mare having successfully passed at 3 years old, the very demanding standard set by the Haflinger Society of Great Britain, and carries the prestigious the "H" and Edelweis brands.


In 1999 we completed sixteen competitive rides.  We went to the Scottish Championships at beautiful Traquair mostly for the social side of things, but also did a 20 mile ride on the Saturday.  The countryside there is stunning and very challenging with a plethora of steep grassy hills - not a bit like Grampian's forests and stony ground.  Schadow took off in pursuit of a horse in the distance, and went cantering down the Minchmoor road.  I was glad there where lots of gates on the course, allowing me to get her back under control.  At the top of the hill we passed the Three Brethren, mighty big cairns dating back to the sixteenth century.  The splendid views from up there are a bonus.  We met some walkers back in the woods, almost running them down on a bend at the canter.  A quickly apology, then on to the Finish for a Gold.  A terrific weekend in good company.


2002 we did a camp ride, leading 3 other riders from Ballater to Tomintoul and back.  My love of the hills goes way back to my younger days.  My whole family liked nothing better than trips to the Scottish hills - still do!  This appears to have rubbed off on Schadow who still loves her weekend outings with friends and her annual excursions on the Silver Boot.  As soon as she sees the trailer tailgate down, she walks right in as if to say "Where are we off to today, Mum?"


In July 2003 Roger and Brenda Searle put on a ride at Morven, a big hill behind Ballater; very challenging terrain.  We took the horses to 1947 feet, passed Morven Lodge.  The big house has gone but all the buildings like the kennels are still maintained by the estate.  The shooting parties must have been a sight to see.  Lots of Highland ponies to transport the food, drink and necessary luxuries for the toffs!  A bit further on towards the Lecht, there are the remains of what was once a sizeable hamlet, now abandoned to the grass and juniper.  We finished the year with just short of 1000 competitive miles but won the Exmoor Trophy at Central AGM for most points ridden in rides not above 50Km in a single season.


We did a similar camp ride in 2003 from Mar Lodge to Blair Atholl.  24 miles down the Tilt to Blair Atholl and back in a big loop past Fealar Lodge, through the Alt Garbh Buie and Back to Mar Lodge, a distance of 55 miles in all.  August saw us at the Scottish Championships in Kelso and vetted out slightly lame at 20 miles.  At home my Vet confirmed this, X-rays and a scan showed bone spavin.  A series of injections at the joint and a long, slow recovery until January 2004.  Starting with 15 minute walks leading up to 1 hour walks until she was sound again, we did an 11 mile Pleasure ride at Kirkhill and finished sound.  What a relief!


2004.      Miles changed to Kilometers.  We finished the year on 2343 Km which translates to 1455 miles in old money.


2005.      We did 8 Rides.  I tried 2 Race Rides and decided that it was not our thing.  We did our first STQ at Novar and our second at Smallburn.  I went back to Smallburn in July to do a gated ride of 81 Km with Lynda Keeler.  We came fifth.  It was a learning curve.

After doing another Race Ride at Grampian Castles with Lynda (a tough one but finished with good heart rates!) over Bennachie and back!  We were 4th equal with Lynda.

I felt that we were ready to tackle our Gold Thistle Final at Aviemore in June.  At the mass start there, I decided to hang back and go at our own pace.  Schadow saw everyone else flying off and bucked me off as if to say "Well! Let's Go!" So we went!

No one had told her that she was a 15 year old !

I was riding alone around Loch Morlich, through Rothiemurchus Forest to Feshie Bridge to the halfway halt and vetting.  Schadow was full of herself, enjoying the pace overtaking horses.  She does love the Highland tracks and forests.  We finished the 83Km at a speed of 12.09 Kph and achieving our Gold Thistle Final.  I was so proud of my little horse for doing that.  Horses will not do that unless they want to, and boy did she want to!


At the end of 2006 she was awarded a goblet with her head engraved on it for having done 3000KM


10 rides in 2007, 9 in 2008 and 13 in 2009. All enjoyable for Schadow and me.


2010.   I decided to go for it in earnest.  Schadow was now a spritely 19 year old and very fit.  Starting in March at Tayside the Fowlis ride with Arlene, we got Gold.  Then up to Spean Bridge with Les, my long-suffering husband and chief Gofer.  We stayed in a hostel and Schadow stabled with Ruareidh Ormiston.  I rode this one with Vivien Taylor on Little Bill (real name Utters Hill) an exceptionally talented and tough Exmoor.  Vivien and Bill have amassed a huge number of miles and Little Bill is a year older than Schadow.  Quite a character our Bill!  I really enjoy riding with them.  We had stayed at Fort Augustus with Vivien and rode the hills around there - fabulous!  At the Spean Bridge venue we parked in a very muddy field with stock at the other end.  The ride goes along the Caledonian Canal towpath and under, yes under, the canal via a tunnel which I didn't know existed.  We rode a big loop on the hills, then back across on the Moy Bridge, the only original Thomas Telford bridge left over the canal, with a cheery wave from the bridge operator.  We rode past the Venue then up over a moor and down to a disused railway line on the side of a steep gorge - no guard rail and a big drop to the river - no place for a spooky horse. Schadow and Little Bill took no notice as Bill went on at his normal SCI speed.  No time for sightseeing.  All in all a spectacular and splendid weekend in great company and yes, we got gold.

All in, we did 21 rides that year, winning the Highest points, 310; Highest horse/rider combination., most Golds = 13, most Golds under 50 Km, highest non-Arab and highest points for native breed.  At the Central AGM we won the AlliBalliBee Gold Cup, Border Trails Intermediate Trophy and a 4,500 Km Rosette.  Our mantelpiece was covered and I was so proud of my little horse.


2011.   We kicked off in April at Fort William, staying overnight with Vivien.  The day started cold and dreich, the Venue was at the Mart, so we had proper toilets and Admin set up at the entrance.  We set off in rain on good tracks with views of snowy tops on the mountains, Brrrrr!  The sun came out as we ascended then rain, then sun. Bit of a mixed bag, but the scenery was incredible.  We both got Gold, a grand start to the year.

Schadow and I completed 17 rides and got 16 Golds.  Again, Highest points horse/rider 277, most Golds under 50 Km, highest Non-Arab, highest native and an engraved Trophy for 5000 Km and the Longevity Award at Central AGM.  An amazing two years, the best ever for us.


2012.   Schadow was now 20 years old.  We joined N.E. Scotland Trec a new discipline for us and something to pique Schadow's interest - and mine!  So now we have both SERC and Trec to keep us motivated.  My little horse loves her Trec as much as Endurance.

Trec also helps us both to keep fit over early winter, a bonus when SERC rides kick off in Springtime.


2013.   We rode away from home a lot, 9 rides in all.  In August we did Ninestanes, a tough 32 Kms up hills, across moors then up more hills and got Gold with a heartbeat of 46 to reach Schadow's 100th Gold.  We went on to do three more 30km rides getting three more Golds before the end of the year.  In 18 years of Endurance she has been lamed out only 3 times and, like most Haflingers, will keep going as long as I do, just to please me.


How could I not love my Golden Schadow?