The Red Dragon Endurance Festival by Jo Bond

The Red Dragon is a mythical endurance competition that people talk about being incredibly tough but incredibly beautiful.  It takes place near Builth Wells in S Wales and takes you across amazing mountain landscapes.  When we moved back from France this competition went on my Wish List for this year and I’m so pleased that we got there.


It really has something for everyone with Pleasure Rides through to the 2 day Red Dragon covering 80kms each day in a race ride.  I decided to attempt The Dragon’s Days.  This is 126kms over 3 days with 3200m of climbing.


The venue is stunning, being at the Welsh Show Ground and so there are lovely stables for the horses, trot ups indoors and even an on-site residential centre to stay at (but you do have to book early).


Day 1 was stunning with mild weather, red kites dancing overhead and the most beautiful views.  I kept finding myself gasping at the views.  There were of course big climbs but the going was nice and we both really enjoyed ourselves. 


Day 2 was sent from hell.  Torrential rain all day just destroyed the tracks and it got dangerous out there.  It needed really steady riding.  Zamil and I were still enjoying it for the first 20kms as we were with one other horse and we were setting a sensible pace.  But we then got involved with 2 other horses going far too fast and it felt dangerous.  The tracks were very slippery and badly rutted and legs were going all over the place.  It was a miracle that the horse in front of me didn't go down as he was on his nose at one point.  So to be honest just getting home safely felt like a major achievement that day.  I had an interesting moment when the connector on one side of my reins snapped and I was cantering along behind these 2 horses. But Zamil was amazing as I told him to stand and he did, so I could lean forward, still on him and tie my reins onto the bit and off we went again.

Day 3 was much more enjoyable.  Just 36kms, which after 48kms the day before felt like nothing.  We set off in thick fog but as soon as we got up the first climb we were above it and in full sun.  The route hadn't been used the day before so the tracks were good.  I even got off and ran down all the hills, just in case he was starting to get sore muscles etc. and I enjoyed being next to him.  We felt even more like a team.


He passed every vetting with flying colours and it was truly a bonus to find out that we had finished 2nd overall and I got a lovely Red Dragon fleece as a prize.  He had absolutely no heat or swelling in any legs afterwards but I will be organising a physio visit for him just to check that he hasn’t got any sore muscles after such an amazing challenge.  And I always love that after a competition like that our bond is even stronger and he is looking for me all the time at the moment.  A great way to finish the season.


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