Photography by Kris Clay of www.topgearphotos.com
Lead Photograph: Lisa Falk and Gitana (from Germany)
The Seacliff endurance event, run by Scottish Endurance Riding Club (SERC), boasts a range of classes from pleasure distances, right up to a 160km ER, and CEI 1* 90km and CEI 2* 120km classes. Three days of good competition took place 17-19 June over the best terrain that East Lothian has to offer, and the longer distances also enjoy the opportunity to canter for 1.5km along TyninghameBeach.
Seacliff regularly attracts entries from south of the border, and this year also included a last-minute contingent riding under the UAE banner. With routes and organisation fine-tuned over several years, and the recent expansion of the venue with the help of major sponsors MarineCo UK Ltd, and others including Performance Equestrian and Just Chaps, the organisers have raised the game to a new level of professionalism. After prolonged dry weather, the going could have been rock hard. But, a thorough soaking in the week leading up to the event gave it back some of its bounce, although it made route marking a slippery affair.
Robert Newall and Loti du Caussanel.
An entry of 30 race riders in the 120km FEI class battled it out on Saturday with the UAE contingent leading for most of the way until they made an error of course that, under FEI rules, could be corrected for distance, but meant they were out of contention for placings. This unexpected development left Robert Newall and Loti du Caussanel the winners of the class, with Helen McFarland and the Irish Sport Horse She Stoops to Conquer in second. Candy Cameron and Indian Djesik (Said Lotois x Indian Engelik) took third ahead of Francisca Bakker and Aratahnes Phoebe in fourth. Phoebe was competing on home ground, being bred by Anne Turner on the neighbouring farm out of an Akahl Teke mare, by the part-bred Arabian stallion Aratahnes Azahl (Kyremi Ultraa x Aratahnes Shinae). She was following in the footsteps of her famous half sister Aratahnes Aphrodite who completed the 160km on the same course two years previously, winning some three hours clear of their nearest competition.
Candy Cameron and Indian Djesik.
Robert said afterwards: “Seacliff was a fantastic ride with endless cantering and a superb beach section. All the headlands and endriggs around the mainly arable fields and the woods around the Tyninghame Estate were perfect going. The route was brilliantly marked, the organisers and volunteers did a superb job, and the landowners were all so generous in allowing us access. The terrain suits Loti well. He likes a ride with variety and plenty to look at! My excellent crew, Sarah Armitt, was always just where we needed her, and just at the right time too.”
Loti du Caussanel (Djin Lotois x Aigoul Letitizia by Dormane) was bred by Claude Creche and Virginia Popper in the Midi Pyrenees, France, where he sired some foals before sale to Robert, and the Caussanel farm has retained semen from him for possible future use.
Robert has owned the Persikland gelding since 2011, and from six race rides so far they have clocked up second in two 1* rides, and now two wins over 2* distance, among other good results including fourth in the two-day 164km Red Dragon and sixth place in a 3* 160km race. The combination finished Seacliff at a speed of 15.7kph and was awarded the Best Condition prizes as well.
Chris MacMillan riding Coolagoree Glen Thunder and Wendy Kyle on Azraa.
Linda Cowperthwaite and the Anglo gelding Maraday Mysteron (Maraday Mystic Morn x Titania of Tanwood) rode with the lead pack throughout but backed off to avoid any racing at the finish and were happy in fifth place. Linda exclaimed: “It’s well worth a trip north of the border to ride here, whatever the distance. I loved every minute of my 120km, from the stunning yet varied countryside to the warm welcome from the organisers. We rode miles of cut grass field borders and then it all changed to the sound of crashing waves as we cantered along the beach, and changed again in the woodland sections along tracks overhung with purple Rhododendron flowers before riding into private parklands. This ride has it all!
|Sue Higgins with Aberllwyds Another Rose.|
“The venue has a relaxed and welcoming feel for crew and horses. Everyone settles there. I have never seen so many chilled out and relaxed horses corralled at a ride. The hog roast at the end of the day was well attended and a welcome chance to catch up on the day’s events.”
In sixth was Tricia Hirst on her homebred, coloured part-bred mare Fantasia (Uptons Deli Circus x Rohey Evagline). She may be a compact package but the mare is showing plenty of promise for race riding. Tricia said afterwards: “I was delighted that Fantasia successfully attempted her first FEI 2* at Seacliff. The plan was always to let her enjoy it and see whether she had it in her to go the distance. Well, she surpassed my expectations with great presentation times and real enthusiasm, which was good as she had to do the second and last loop by herself. It’s all very promising for the future.”
|Trica Hirst and Fantasi.|
Seventh place went to Sue Higgins and Aberllwyds Another Rose (Ali Nebal x Rosegay) who finally added Scotland to their ride repertoire to complete the UK set. “It is a ride I have always wanted to do as I had heard such good reports about it. Tricia and I decided to take both mares after chatting about it over lunch one day, thinking we would ride together.
|Francisca Bakker riding Aratahnes Phoebe|
“Some months earlier my husband, Mick, had been diagnosed with heart disease and subsequently underwent a double by-pass in February. I wasn’t sure he would be fit enough to even travel with me, let alone crew, but he had made a very good recovery and was really keen to go, so plans were made. We travelled up on Thursday with our camper van towing the trailer loaded with everything we needed for a long weekend for Mick and me, Wesley and Connie, our two boxer dogs, and of course Rose.
“On Friday Tricia and I exercised Rose and Fantasia on the beach in the pouring rain. It was the first time on the beach for both horses and they were rather excited. It continued to rain all day Friday and into the night, but fortunately, when we rose at 5am on Saturday morning, the sky was clear and it looked set to be a lovely day. The race started at 6.30am and we went out fairly sedately at the back, as we didn’t want to get pulled along with the front-runners. Our plan was to ride sensibly, enjoy the route and both get round safely.
“Our plan went out of the window at the first vet gate when, having come in sensibly, we couldn’t get Rose’s heart rate down to the required 64bpm or less; she was sticking at 67-68. I was fairly certain that it was purely due to her not switching off after chasing other horses on the first loop. Eventually, and with seconds to spare, she was presented with a 64 heart rate and passed without trouble. We had lost so much time by then that I told Tricia not to wait as if anything else went wrong, there was no point us both being behind the clock.
|Linda Cowperthwaite riding Maraday Mysteron and Robert Newall with Loti du Caussanel.|
“So Rose and I were the last to leave the vet gate, a long way behind everyone and out on our own for most of the second loop. A swift presentation at the next vet gate meant we caught up with Suzanne Taylor and Salsa Caramel (Roundhills Moongod x Wrinsted) who were riding in the national class. We rode the third and fourth loops together, both horses enjoying the company.
“At the finish, Rose vetted quickly with no problems at all. I was thrilled to get a pass and finish with a sound horse. And I was so impressed and relieved that Mick crewed us single-handedly, all day, only getting a little lost out on course. He did a super job!
“Seacliff is one of the best rides I have ever done. The route is very diverse with mainly good going and beautiful scenery. The beach section takes riders past Bass Rock which is just amazing! The ride organisers and helpers were so enthusiastic and friendly. They made us feel very welcome and glad that we had made the long journey north.”
|Vetting Maraday Mysteron|
Three riders were contending the 160km elevator class: Jill Calder, Tilly Hepburn-Wright and Suzanne Taylor, the latter two riding together. All went well until Tilly was spun at vet gate two, leaving Jill out in front by a considerable time margin, and Suzanne striking out on her own. Sadly, Jill’s horse Just Silver was spun at the final vet gate (129kms) after an unlucky slip out on course, and Suzanne decided to take the elevator option with Salsa Caramel, who had nothing to prove, having completed the 160kms in 2014.
Suzanne explains: “2015 had its ups and downs, an elimination or two, so it was time out and lots of physio for Caramel. Slowly bringing him back over the course of the second half of the year seemed to pay dividends. Coming into 2016 I had Seacliff on my mind. Once you’ve ridden here, it will stay in your mind! In 2014 we entered the elevator class, hoping for our Platinum, but as the day progressed with company of Liz Booth and Zalah, brilliant crew and encouragement we achieved 160km.
“This year I entered with ‘Platinum’ ringing in my ears. My boy had done just as much in terms of training and competitions so his fitness did not concern me. The only way I can enter this distance is not to think about the actual distance. One loop at a time, the vets will let us know how we are actually doing on the day. Failing to prepare is preparing to fail, so I doubled up on my crew, Nicky Bertham and Jamie Craig, and also paid extra attention to preparing myself for the challenge with diet and fitness tweaks since March.
“With three combinations in the class, I thought it made sense to ask Tilly Hepburn Wright if she would like company. It’s a long way to go on your own. We started at 5am, riding steadily on the slippery tracks. My crew was unimpressed and instructed me to pick up pace! But when you hurry a horse, you usually get to the wrong place, faster. On the second loop of 35km, we made up 45 minutes and were just about on 12kph at the 70km point. Sadly, Tilly was out at this stage so I faced a new dilemma, asking Caramel to continue without his friend.
“Luckily for us both, SueHiggins was also just about to depart on the 31km loop, so we rode together and managed to pick up a little more momentum. Sitting in the vet gate at 101km, things felt a bit serious. The crew was on top form, offering everything to both myself and Caramel. Feeling good, off we went, back out on course to catch up with Sue again. This loop included a cooling river crossing too. The ride map was great but rarely used, that’s how good the marking was.
“Arriving back to the venue, my crew had different ideas initially. Nicky was advising stopping at 120km for our Platinum award, Jamie was happy to go for 160km. In my heart I would be thrilled with Platinum so we decided to stop at 129km. I was delighted when Caramel passed with straight A’s so it was definitely the right decision.
“What’s not to like about trying to achieve your next goal? We now have our Bronze, Silver, Gold, Platinum, and Diamond awards making the full set. I am incredibly proud of my wonderful horse and so grateful for my excellent crew, who know precisely what to do!”
Proving that 2015 was not a one-off golden year, Chris MacMillan and Coolagoree Glen Thunder (Derrymore Duncan x Coolagoree Holly) won the 80km ER and Best Condition at a speed of 15.91kph and final heart rate of 48. They were well ahead of Rachael Fothergill on Royal Olympian and Wendy Kyle on Azraa who tied for second place.
The 60km ER turned into a battle between Grainne Paterson, the eventual winner on CS Kismet (Makzan x Pokrovka) at 18.07kph, and Kaye Conafray on Stafford’s Enchantress. Anne Short on Sirnunn Golden Snowflake (Pewit Dancing Billy x Krysto Midnight Blaze) was third. Best Condition was awarded to sixth placed Emma Leigh and Clover Fire and Ice.
After the intense atmosphere of Saturday, a far more relaxed feeling set in on Sunday, despite there being over 100 entries for competitive and pleasure classes from 60km down. Many riders were aiming for gradings, and most were successful, taking advantage of the flat, fast routes, and the perfect going. All in all, it was another successful weekend for the organising committee and route-finder Francis Bakker. Make sure Seacliff is on your 2017 ride list!