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Endurance riders take on Three Rivers Challenge

Pauline Higgs and her nifty grey mare Dainty Dancer notch up a maiden win at the Three Rivers Challenge

Pauline Higgs’s aptly named Dainty Dancer picked her way nimbly over Salisbury Plain to become the runaway winner of the top class at Three Rivers.

The petite 14hh Arab Crabbet-bred mare, who is by Convention, pulled away from her nearest challengers shortly after vetgate one, a third of the way into the ride, and could not be seen for dust, covering the testing 100km track at an average speed of 17.24km/hr.

Celebrating his return to race riding after a lengthy lay-off, Sue Dando’s Nebo came home second, completing at a speed of 15.71km/hr and taking the best condition award, much to Sue’s delight.

This was a first race ride win for Pauline Higgs and the 12-year-old Dainty Dancer. Pauline, who is based near Reading and has the luxury of the Bramshill Forest and Tweseldown to train over, said the hard, stony track was a home from home for her diminutive grey.

“She gets excited and at the first vetgate she was hyper, so we took a little longer to present, but by the second vetgate she had settled,” said Pauline. “I walked in from the end of the racecourse, took her tack off, checked her pulse and we went in at 51 [beats per minute].

“We were on our own for such a long time that on the third circuit at around 50 miles she just switched off. It was when we met the 40 mile race riders that she picked up again, thought ‘this is what we are here for’ and we were off.”

Putting the slight glitch towards the end down to inexperience, Pauline added: “Had it not been for her slowing down on that last loop, I think we could have completed at more than 18km/hr.”

Sue Dando, who had ridden the last loop with Lesley Nott and the nine-year-old Mithryl, said: “We just went from the one furlongmarker and it was a little bit more than a canter up the home straight.”

Lesley, who cantered home in third place, said: “We had agreed that we would just go for it when we got to the racecourse, but we just did not have enoughpetrol in the tank.”

Read the full report in this week’s Horse & Hound (17 October), or click here to subscribe and enjoy Horse & Hound delivered to your door every week.

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