TWO Dornoch horse riders successfully completed an International Endurance Ride in Wales recently, two of five Highlanders representing a 12-strong Scotland team at the event.
Bragha Hayes, a 13 year old, second year pupil at Dornoch Academy, with her horse Sam, completed the two day 80km event, The Dragon's Egg, as a Scottish Junior, and Lois Canham (31) from Rearquhar with her horse Coral's Dream finished the 50km Novice Horse Event.
Tough riding conditions across the steep Welsh hills, and soaring heatwave temperatures, resulted in only five of the 12 Scottish riders completing their events, resulting in a disappointing fourth place in The Home International and Celtic Challenge competitions.
The home team, Wales, won the Home International, while Ireland won the Celtic challenge, with Wales winning the best team award overall.
Having won both events in 2010, this was a disappointing result for Scotland.
The Highland team members were Bragha Hayes, Lois Canham, Lorna Benson, Tilly Hepburn Wright and Candy Cameron.
The three Highland riders who did not complete the course had their horses vetted out for a variety of reasons, such as lameness, de-hydration, colic and exhaustion.
All Scottish team horses have now recovered well.
Endurance riding is becoming a popular sport in the Highlands where horses are used to navigating rough terrain. It is similar to orienteering, but on horseback.
As the well-being of the horse is paramount, the rider has to judge their speed to the fitness of their horse and the terrain being covered, trying to ensure that their horse remains sound and has a low heart rate at the final vetting.
Riders must also be skilled at map reading to navigate across the hills, moors and forests marked on the route.
Horses and riders have to be extremely fit to compete at the long distances but any horse and rider can enjoy a pleasure ride of up to 25km.