The final ride of the 2003 Endurance season was the Red Dragon weekend at Builth Wells in Wales - a superb event to round off the year. Last year's ride was a little earlier - in September - and was blessed with lovely weather, that surely couldn't happen 2 years running - so the competitors at this year's ride came with all the cold and wet weather gear they possess. Fortunately the weather gods were kind again, and the Welsh mountains were bathed in beautiful autumn sunshine.

Lesley Dunn & Franzara
Winning of the Red Dragon
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

The feature class, the 2 day 160km Red Dragon is one of those rides that the majority of endurance riders aspire to, and always attracts a top class field. Last year it was won by Margaret McKiddie's Bonanza daughter Bonnie Anne, this year Bonanza children took 1st and 2nd places. Lesley Dunn and her home bred mare Franzara topped off an incredible year by winning the Red Dragon, and taking home the 1st prize of a Free'n'Easy saddle to go with the 3 she already owns. In second place was Delorto Zaranz, owned and ridden by Young rider Abigail Lockett - Abigail has only partnered Zaranz since the spring - previously he was very successful in Ireland with Charles Spence.

Druimghigha Shiera & Oberlix (daughter & father !)
1st and 3rd in the Little Dragon 80km class

The 80km Little Dragon on Saturday saw 58 horses go out behind the start car - and from the antics of some of the horses as they warmed up it was obvious that this was going to be fast and furious. The front runners came in to the first vet gate doing 22kph, but paid the price for this impetuosity when several of the leading bunch failed to present in the 20 minutes allowed. By the time the horses came back round to vet gate 2 the field was strung out and the first 2 through were the very experienced pair of Druimghigha Shemal, winner of the 2000 AHS Marathon and her sire Oberlix who was second at that event.

Charlotte Hirst & VLacq Khamul
2nd in the Little Dragon 80km class on Saturday and winners of the Golden Dragon 2 day class
( a 40km graded ride together with the 80km Little Dragon)
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

In hot pursuit though was Charlotte Hirst competing in her first ER on her mother Tricia's experienced horse Vlacq Khamul. The three horses came back onto the showground together, but as they galloped through the gate into the finish in the main ring Oberlix managed to brush his rider Marthe Kiley-Worthington off, and continued in hot pursuit of the other two. Shemal and Robyn Petrie-Ritchie, who was also taking part in her first ER, prevailed by the smallest of margins over Khamul, whilst Oberlix was taken back to his prostrate rider, who was helped back into the saddle and cantered over the line for 3rd place. 4th place went to talented young rider Liz Taylor and her Chatanz daughter Falaina, putting the seal on a great season that included a win in the 120km Young Riders FEI 3* class at Alfred's Tower.

Nicky Sherry & Rowengay Garnet
Winners of the FEI 2star 80km class
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

There was a small but very strong entry for the 80km FEI 2* class on Sunday that included Jane James's great part bred Rowengay Garnet, partnered here by Nicky Sherry , Penny Reid's Cirencester winner Larissa Pushkovna ridden by Janine Smith and Beccy Broughton's International stallion Murmansk. These 3 came into the 2nd vet gate together and all presented for vetting almost immediately but sadly for Beccy, Murmansk was found to be slightly lame. The other 2 stayed together over the last big climb and came into the showground neck and neck with Nicky and "Alfie" getting up in the last few strides to take the race.

Bond Hardiman & HT Aramis
3rd in the FEI 2 star 80km class
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

3rd place went to Bond Hardiman on the Egyptian pure bred HT Aramis. Aramis took 4th place in the 84km ER at the Northern Championships in Hexham in August ridden by Karen Corr - I'm sure we'll be seeing a lot more of this horse.

Liz Dentice & Nickitta
W winners of the 160km FEI 3* class
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

Sarah Tyson & Issoire Crusade
2nd in the FEI 3 star 160km class
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

The 2 day 160km FEI 3* saw a well deserved win for Liz Dentice's tiny part bred mare Nickitta. Last year this combination suffered the disappointment of elimination at the final vet gate, so this was a fitting result. They were chased all the way home by Sarah Tyson on Alison Kent's lovely pure bred mare Issoire Crusade, who looked to be absolutely full of running. Sarah, with great self control, resisted the urge to race in and was obviously very happy with their second place in the mare's first 2 day 160.

Jane James & Steel Tobias
Crossing the finish line to take 3rd place in the FEI 3* 160km class
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

Third place went to Jane James and Steel Tobias.

Zara Mandees ridden by Rita Tweddle from Cheshire & Bernie Bolgie from Ireland .
(Photo courtesy of Eric G Jones 01747 860625)

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'Endurance Jan'

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