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Welcome to EQy 2018



t seems almost impossible to believe that this is our fourth year of publishing EQY. A project which started out as a flight of fancy to keep the little grey cells ticking over while I was hacking around the Fife countryside is now a fully-fledged equestrian magazine. I hope you agree with me that this year’s dispatches from the frontline of equestrianism north of the border are every bit as compelling as those we’ve run for the last three issues. We all have our favourite articles though, and among mine are our exclusive interview with the fantastic Scott Brash (seriously, we have been chasing this legend for three long years!). But I also loved Cal Flyn’s memorable account of her three-day droving expedition across the Highlands from Inverness to Ullapool with an old friend and four ponies. We’re already starting to plan next year’s content, so if you have any unbeatable horsey tales that you’d like to share with our readers around Scotland, then my email address is below – I’d love to hear from you. Finally, if your idea of bliss is talking about horses all day and you’d love a career – even one on a part-time basis – in the equestrian world, then we are looking for a freelance ad sales executive. The role can be home-based, so if you think that would work for you then just take a look at the advertisement on page seven. Finally, thanks again for enjoying EQY, we really value your support. Scotland needs a quality equestrian magazine, so please tell all your friends about us! And happy reading...


Contributors Cal Flyn

Cal’s feature on riding across Scotland for three days, living rough and riding hard with her friend Iona and four ponies, is a wonderfully evocative and vivid piece of writing.

Becky Murray

Aberdeenshire rider and writer Becky has been busy on EQY’s behalf – she has investigated grass sickness, learned to ride side saddle and spoken to the great and good of Scottish equestrianism for us.

Julia Welstead


A Borders lass living on Tiree, Julia has come back from a breaking her back while hacking last year to write for EQY. Her column on the Common Ridings is a thing of beauty. 2018

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Image - Tiziano Scaffai


Contents 08 IN THE FRAME A chance to see a fluffy wee foal from Fife

10 KING OF THE WORLD Scott Brash talks exclusively to EQy about life as one of the world’s best show jumpers

Cover image: Scott Brash at his yard in Horsham, West Sussex. Image: Tiziano Scaffai.

56 HELPING HAND Our horse hero Eileen Gillen manages World Horse Welfare at Belwade Farm

58 GRASS SICKNESS How to spot and treat this potentially fatal disease

26 DAVID & GOLIATH Fiona Hendrie sings the praises of Scotland’s native breeds

68 DRESSAGED FOR SUCCESS We find out what’s new for talented young dressage rider Connor Rankin

30 FROM THE HORSE’S MOUTH Some of the country’s greatest riders reveal their most embarrassing moments

74 HEART OF GOLD EQy chats to BHS National Manager for Scotland Helene Mauchlen about her dream job

34 BACK IN THE SADDLE Alex Barr bounced back from a riding accident to fulfil his show jumping dreams

76 BACK FROM THE BRINK Showing producer Richard Telford talks about his life in the ring

42 A SIDE SADDLE MASTERCLASS Can show jumper Becky Murray pull off the graceful discipline of side saddle riding?

80 ONES TO WATCH Young Scottish riders tipped for the top

48 NEIGH PROBLEMS Equine physio Catriona Goulding shares her life in horses with EQy 50 TROTTING ON TO GREATNESS Talented young rider Lucinda Crawford in profile


INTO THE WILDERNESS Cal Flyn embarks on a Highland pony trekking adventure with Iona Scobie

86 AHEAD OF THE GAME How to bag a sponsorship deal 90 A SAFE HAVEN Rosemary Dale’s Borders donkey sanctuary 94 A LITTLE GOES A LONG WAY Meet Cruachan IV, the mascot of the Royal Regiment of Scotland


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34 Also inside 06 HOOF BEAT Keeping you up-todate with all of the latest equestrian news 40 READERS’ HORSES Two’s company with our favourite snaps of you with your horses 64 BEHIND THE SCENES Ten of the best Scottish movies to feature equine stars 79 READERS RECOMMEND The best gear for your equine adventures

issue 3

98 MARCHING TIME Investigating the ancient traditions of the common ridings


EDITORIAL AND DESIGN Editor: Richard Bath Creative & Commissioning Editor: Heddy Forrest Designer: Damian McGee Photographer: Angus Blackburn Writers: Cal Flyn, Julia Welstead, Tessa Williams, Becky Murray, Melanie Scott Sub-editors: Crystal Chesters, Morag Bootland, Stephanie Abbot Artworker: Andrew Balahura Intern: Rosie Morton Contact:; Tel: 0131 551 1000; PUBLISHING Publisher: Alister Bennett, Scottish Field, Fettes Park, 496 Ferry Rd, Edinburgh EH5 2DL

SALES AND MARKETING Sales Director: Brian Cameron Advertising Sales: Scottish Field Sales Team Sales & Marketing Assistant: Alasdair Peoples SUBSCRIPTIONS AND DISTRIBUTION Address: Wyvex Media, Trinity House, Sculpins Lane, Wethersfield, Braintree, Essex CM7 4AY Tel: 01371 851868 Email: If you experience any difficulties in obtaining EQy Issue 2, please contact 01371 851868 2018

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Hoofbeat A breed apart

Clay Pigeon Shooting Association

Premier A.I. Services is led by vet Selena Ayling, in partnership with Angus and Stephen Lohoar,. Selena and her team use her vast knowledge of horse breeding to provide a full range of reproductive services from their top class facility near St Andrews. Providing premier artificial insemination services that allow clients to breed their mares to stallions in different countries or even continents, A.I Services are enabling the diversification of the gene pool here in Scotland. Semen from Europe can be sent chilled and inseminated within 24-48 hours of collection or frozen and shipped from as far afield as the USA or Australia. The use of frozen semen enables pregnancies from stallions that have passed away and removes the dangers associated with natural mating. Packages are available to suit a range of budgets. Premier A.I. also offer a first class livery facility, a full range of ultrasound scanning services, semen collection and processing, dummy training of young stallions and embryo transfer; allowing equine athlete mares to transfer their embryos to a donor mare in order to continue competing and to ensure they require only the minimum time off work. With 20 years of experience behind them, Angus and Stephen Lohoar have developed a name for breeding and producing young horses. Many of them have gone on to compete at Grand Prix level both at home and abroad. Email for more information, or call 07534016508.

Breath of fresh air The British Equestrian Federation (BEF) announced the appointment of new chief executive Nick Fellows, who took over in March this year. Formerly the chief executive of the Clay Pigeon Shooting Association (CPSA), he is also a director of British Shooting, a board member of the English Target Shooting Federation, and a director of National Sports Medicine Institute (NSMI). Having previously worked with British Shooting, the British Olympic Association, Milton Keynes County Sports Partnership and the Olympic Medical Institute, Fellows brings a wealth of experience to his new role. BEF’s new chief executive says that he is ‘hugely honoured’ and is ‘excited to be taking on the challenge of leading the team in such an important and high profile sport’.

An outlandish day out Equine and canine stunt team Les amis d’onno has been announced as the headline act for this year’s Galloway Country Fair. The stunt team, which featured in popular TV drama Outlander, will be performing death-defying horseback tricks for the crowds at Drumlanrig Castle and Country Estate. As the host venue provided the backdrop for the programme’s second season, the act will have an Outlander theme. The event is being held on 18 and 19 August, and will showcase the best of country pursuits, local craftsmanship and artisan food and drink.


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Dr Feelgood

A new four-part video series called ‘Recognising Subtle Lameness’ has been released by California-based education centre Equitopia. It seeks to debunk the myths and misperceptions surrounding performance and behavioural issues, shifting the blame onto pain. Dr Sue Dyson, world-renowned equine orthopaedics expert, says ‘blaming the horse for the problem is a common scenario’. She adds that ‘pain is the last thing people think of as the underlying cause for why their horse does not want to do something’. They hope the series will educate trainers, riders and owners, resulting in happier, sounder horses. The videos can be found on YouTube:

Rest and relaxation... After 18 years on the beat, Scotland’s longest serving police horse is off to her new home in the rolling Chiltern Hills. At the age of 22, Iona is leaving Glasgow to start her well-deserved retirement. Since 2002, Iona has been on duty at some of the most high-profile events seen in Scotland. Standing at an imposing 17hh, bay mare Iona has helped the police at events including the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and the 2012 London Olympics. She was also one of the 12 horses on the Hampden pitch restoring order amidst the ugly scenes of the 2016 Scottish Cup final. She is now settling into her new home with The Horse Trust in Buckinghamshire and can enjoy a bit of rest and relaxation.

JOB VACANCY AT EQY Love reading EQy and want to work in sales? Then maybe you should come and work with us. EQy magazine has a vacancy in our sales team. The role, which is freelance and can either be based in our Edinburgh office or at your home, will suit an outgoing and enthusiastic but organised personality with an interest in equestrianism. The hours are flexible. All applications and CVs should be sent by email to editor Richard Bath by 30 June 2018. Please mark your application ‘EQY sales vacancy’ and send to ®

EQy ScottishField


Laying down the law

It’s easier than ever before for Scottish equestrian employers to adhere to employment law now that the The Equestrian Employers Association (EEA) have added a Scottish template to their online contract creator. The tool consists of five easy steps and generates a legal document. It is suitable for all staff employed in Scotland and is free to use for all employers who have signed up to the EEA at, available for £37.50 a year. The new system comes after a recent survey revealed around 57% of grooms are employed illegally and do not have a written contract.

Calling all talented breeders

British Breeding has announced the 2018 Futurity plans, confirming a Scottish date. The series for foals and young stock aims to identify talented horses that will go on to compete successfully in the future. On 23 June, breeders, owners and trainers of eligible young horses in Scotland can bring them along for evaluation at Xanstorm Equestrian in Lanarkshire. The event is open to foals, yearlings, two and three year olds in dressage, endurance, eventing and show jumping. It is an opportunity for breeders to get public recognition, as well as the chance to learn more about horse development. 2018

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Dapper dan: Scott Brash is resplendent in Tucci boots at his beautifully-appointed yard in Sussex..

King of the world EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: The story of how a wee lad from Peebles became the best show jumper in the world is a truly inspiring tale BY TESSA WILLIAMS MAIN IMAGES TIZIANO SCAFFAI

‘The key is to never

give up on chasing your dreams. Anything is possible’

cott Brash MBE is a busy man. In the last six weeks he’s been in more countries than most people get to see in a lifetime. But then again, Brash is a rider at the top of his game, with 11 horses of an incredible calibre beneath the reins, sponsorship deals from leading companies like Rolex, Net jets, Maserati and Gucci, and with more biting to get a piece of the amazing equestrian action. Could life get any better than this for Peebles’ prodigal son? Meeting him at his stable yard in Horsham, West Sussex it’s hard to believe this is the man who has come from humble winnings at pony club games and 10 and under show jumping in Peebles with his builder father travelling around shows up and down Scotland. These days he commands enormous prize money, wins events all over the world, and recently gained an MBE from the Queen. Yet to speak to the 32-year-old, those days of coming through the ranks in Scotland still seem like yesterday. Brash remains a down to earth, relaxed lad, even if he looks like an athlete with his slender frame and 2018

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‘You have to know your horse so you can see what suits your horse’

keen vision, dressed in jodhpurs, knee length boots and a slim fitting jersey. As he takes me round his picturesque Tudor house and stables set just outside Gatwick Airport he talks about how much he misses Scotland. Yet he also acknowledges how much easier it is for him to be based in the south; indeed, it would be impossible to fulfil his crowded calendar of events were he not based here. If the house and stables have an air of glamour about them, it’s because the previous owner was tabloid darling and noted horse lover Katie Price (aka Jordan). When Brash took over there were lots of signs of Price’s larger-thanlife persona, including plenty of pink paint. Now Brash has made it his own: one of the first things you see is the lifesize replica of the horse Hello Sanctos overlooking the lush green pastures, a gift from his owners, Lord and Lady Kirkham. There’s also a free-standing Rolex clock next to one of the two indoor arenas, and the golden post box which serves as a reminder of his 2012 Olympic win. The whole place has a magical, Alice in Wonderland charm. More importantly, there is also an equestrian water treadmill that has just been installed for his horses. This is the kind of dream place you might hope to wake up in if you’d won the horse lottery, yet at the same time the scent of ambition lingers in the air. This is a place of work first and foremost; the style is secondary. Brash’s ascent to the peak of the showjumping planet has brought with it lots of unexpected attention. The day before we meet CNN were at his stables filming a piece about him and his incredible ascent to fame, while every day brings new approaches from magazines and television shows. He was even approached by producers of Dancing on Ice recently to see if he would take part. ‘Not for me,’ he laughs. ‘They’ve obviously never seen me dance.’

Fortunately, fame and its trappings do not motivate Brash. Instead, his focus on his horses and what it takes to win is all-consuming. ‘It’s important to have dreams,’ he says. ‘It’s very easy to think that those dreams are impossible to achieve, but I think it’s important to know that nothing is impossible – if you want something enough and you work hard for it, stay dedicated to it, you can achieve it. The key is to never give up, never give up on chasing your dreams. Anything is possible.’ Where the pressure makes some riders wilt, Brash thrives on it. He seems to possess the high level of stamina required to succeed at the rarefied level at which he competes. ‘I’m used to it now,’ he tells me over coffee in his open plan kitchen. ‘Every week I’m competing at the top level so you just have to think about your horse and try and execute your plan the best way possible. ‘You have to know your horse. For some horses it might suit for them to do six strides in a line, for others it may suit for five strides in a line – you have to see what suits your horse and execute that plan in the right way.’ Relaxation is not part of Brash’s game plan. He never takes a day off and even after a big win he prefers to hang out at home with his team, and celebrate with those who have been instrumental in his success. ‘I owe a lot to my team, especially my groom Kelly Fitzgerald, who has been with me from the start,’ he says. ‘She is a hugely talented rider, I completely trust her and when I am away competing she is in charge of the yard and rides all the other horses out.’ Does he ever get sleepless nights before a big event? ‘I’m a very good sleeper,’ he laughs. ‘But then we’re all so busy and so tired at the end of the day that I tend to sleep well. Every day is different whether I am travelling or teaching or competing, but it always starts early.


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High and mighty: Brash soars while competing at Aachen in 2017. 2018

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16/05/2018 17:25:26

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‘I’m increasingly conscious of my diet and go to the gym every week, although I have one downfall – chocolate biscuits are my nemesis’ ‘The horses get fed at 7.30am and probably about six hours every day is spent riding. I’ll also then spend a couple of hours teaching – it depends what else is going on.’ Keeping in shape and maintaining the right diet is also important to retain the optimum performance. ‘I try to eat as healthily as I can,’ he says. ‘I’m increasingly conscious of my diet and also go to the gym once or twice a week, although I have one downfall – chocolate biscuits are my nemesis.’ However, despite a punishing workload and an inability to consume as many chocolate biscuits as he’d like, Brash adores the life and career he has worked tirelessly to carve out for himself. ‘I feel incredibly fortunate that I can earn a living from something I absolutely love to do.’ No wonder, because there have been some incredible highs in recent years. Nothing, he says, beats the feeling of winning an Olympic Gold in your home country, as he did in 2012, although winning the Rolex grand slam of show jumping – the three biggest grand prix in the world – was an epic achievement which came pretty close. ‘Most riders would love to win just one of these grand prix once in their life time, but to win all three was quite incredible,’ he agrees. It is those highs which sustain him when he has to endure the less glamorous side of his career. The hardest thing about his life, he says, is the travelling. ‘I feel like I am always on a flight,’ he says. ‘In the last two months it has been hectic: I

was in Mexico City, then the next week I went to Holland, then Miami Beach, then the next week Holland, and the next week to China. Straight after that I was in Italy for two days. The travelling is relentless.’ As well as coping with the constant travelling, there’s also the unpredictability of a life governed by living creatures. But that, he says, is the nature of the beast. ‘You can make a plan of where you’re going but things change right up at the last minute as horses are living animals,’ he says. ‘Anything can go wrong and things can change last minute. What may suit one horse, will not suit another so then you have to change plans and perhaps go to a different show, one that suits a particular horse. You have to be flexible.’ Brash now has a commanding presence on social media, with nearly 150,000 Instagram followers who track his every move. As well as knowing which country he is jet setting to, those 2018

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Above: Brash now has 150,000 Instagram followers who track his every move.


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‘I was slow going onto social media. I’m quite private’

followers are also able to watch videos of him competing. It’s a perfect way of keeping in touch with his fan base, but Brash was initially reluctant to embrace social media. ‘I was pretty slow going onto social media. To be honest I’m quite a private person so I found it hard, especially at the start. I didn’t want to do that. But my fans are fantastic – they are really supportive, so I feel it’s important to do for them. ‘At the start I felt I didn’t really want to be doing this, but it’s important for the fans to see into your life, to have an insight into your life. Many people aspire to have a career like mine so I think I have a job to do to let them in to see my life, to see how you look after your horses, which may help them a bit. ‘At first I had someone else doing it for me but I didn’t really love what they were doing. I felt it wasn’t fair on my fans, and that I wasn’t engaging with them if I wasn’t actually doing it, so now I am the one adding all the photographs and captions. It’s another job, but it keeps things current. Although I think I need to be more active, my fans appreciate it more as they know it’s me doing it.’ His parents dote over his success.

His dad recently came over to watch him ride at Calgary and his mum is coming to see him in Monaco. ‘They like to make a holiday around it – and they always tend to come to Olympia.’ It’s been a long journey for Brash, but he knew from a young age that this was exactly what he wanted to do. ‘It was either football or show jumping, but my bond for my pony grew stronger, so I hung up my football boots.’ There are regrets of course, but they mainly centre around not keeping enough photos of his first ponies. ‘Although I still have a few pictures, I was terrible at keeping my rosettes. It’s important to keep your memories, and I wish I’d taken more videos and photos.’ Yet thankfully those regrets are few and far between. His is a life that gives far more than it takes, with the camaraderie amongst the showjumpers on the circuit just one of the unexpected bonuses. The riders all spend huge amounts of time together and often go out for dinner together. ‘It’s the one sport where there’s not a massive rivalry between competitors,’ he says. ‘You can walk the course and try and help each other out. We’re not trying to trick each other – we try and help each other out.’

One man and his dog: Brash travels constantly, so misses his beloved jack russell Lilly.


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It’s a family affair: The Collessie stud in Cupar, Fife is under the leadership of Ronnie Black, the third generation of his family to breed prize-winning Clydesdales. Here his son Peter admires Collessie Lucy’s week-old foal. Image Angus Blackburn 2018

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Image: Iona Scobie and Cal Flyn at Smokey Falls, Ullapool.

‘Day after day, over hard terrain, the horses plod on through’


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Into the wilderness Every year it takes Iona Scobie three days to lead her ponies from the east to west coast as she crosses the remote wilderness in a remarkable Highland migration – before returning by the same route later in the year... BY CAL FLYN IMAGES ANGUS BLACKBURN 2018

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‘The hardest element can be keeping hold of the best horses – they go for such big money that the owners are often tempted to sell’


B Ullapool

Right: Trekking over difficult terrain at Rhidorroch River. Above: Iona’s pony trekking route.

ona Scobie and her partner Julien Legrand together run the Scobie family estate at East Rhidorroch, near Ullapool. East Rhidorroch is a special place: perfectly secluded at the end of a long and rutted driveway that traces the edge of Loch Achall, a glen hemmed in by dramatic cliffs and a waterfall. It’s a rough and ready Highland gem where in summer sika deer graze with their calves in woodland glades and sheepdogs cool off in the river. As well as running the working sheep farm, the couple rent out the lodge and cottages and take a select number of clients stalking. A changing cast of Highland ponies on site are expected to make themselves useful in sheep and cattle herding and on occasion by fetching deer from the hill, carrying them to the larder for hanging – the traditional method, which has less impact on the land than a quadbike or argocat. These Highlands are descended A from a line bred by Iona’s late Inverness grandmother at the Coulmore stud – Coulmore being the farm run by Iona’s parents and sister on the east coast, near North Kessock. Every year, as the wet west coast winter sets in and the pastures grow waterlogged, Iona takes the ponies on a remarkable journey across country: from coast to coast between the two farms, to their winter grazing. Then, in May the following year, she rides them back again. Keeping the Highlands at Rhidorroch through the winter is problematic: the ground suffers if it doesn’t get time to rest, and they have to bring in feed and hay to supplement the poor grass. Conversely, over on the milder east coast farm, the grass can be too rich, especially in summer. ‘The rougher grazing here is good for laminitis control, and the rough grazing is good for their teeth,’ says Iona. ‘There are so many advantages.’ Iona’s fearless mother Maddy had made the journey farm-to-farm on horseback before she did, so the concept had been proven. Then in 2012 Iona rode her pony Dana home after putting her to stud in Rogart, near Golspie. ‘I took the train there, carrying my saddle,’ remembers Iona, ‘and when I arrived, I just put it on her and rode west for a couple of days. ‘It was shearing time. At night I just found an empty barn and slept on a sheep sack. It was different to spend so much time alone with a horse. I really got to know her and like her. We bonded.’

After that time, the idea for a regular migration with the horses – between summer and winter grazings – took root. Travel in either direction requires a trek of over 90km, taking in road, forestry track, sheep path and open heathland, and each time it takes around three days to complete. I’ve known Iona since we were teenagers, and always admired the photographs and stories of her biannual expeditions. Last year I asked her if I might go with her and experience it for myself, and very kindly she agreed. ‘The first time, I pretty much drew a pencil line from A to B, and followed that line as closely as possible,’ she tells me. ‘It was hard. Neither we nor the ponies knew where we were going, and the weather was miserable. We got lost in mist when we came over the mountains – my sister was travelling on foot, and had to walk holding onto my stirrup so as not to get separated.’ Speed varies greatly depending on weather and ground conditions; often she finds herself riding for hours in the cold and the dark. But the experiences she’s had have been remarkable: riding through Glenbeg with the roaring of the rutting stags echoing down the glen with cliffs rising up alongside. In mid-May, we began from Coulmore on the banks of the Beauly Firth. It was a sunny spring day, harpstring cirrus striating the sky and birdsong in the air. We were three riders (me, Iona, my partner Richard) riding three handsome Highland ponies: Iona on Beinn, a white-grey 12-year-old gelding and her regular partner in crime; Rich on Honey, an 11-year-old fleabitten mare; and I on Klumpen, a puppyish six-year-old with a dappled face and dark dorsal stripe down his spine. Also with us was Iona’s home-bred Highland-Thoroughbred cross Boo.


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“Neither we nor the ponies knew where we were going – we got lost in the mist when we came over the mountains’ 2018

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16/05/2018 12:26:17

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Clockwise from top left: Keeping an eye on the map; Highland ponies in a line; heading to Rogie Falls; onwards over the moor.

‘He’ll gallop along steep hillsides after sheep, pushing himself to catch them without any encouragement’ Still a green five-year-old, Boo was coming along for the experience. He wore a rope halter and carried our sleeping bags tied to a soft saddle pad. Highlands and Highland-crosses take longer to mature, says Iona. ‘So it’s good for us to spend time together without a focus on training. It’s more relaxed.’ On day one we followed the line of the old railway to Muir of Ord, then – after crossing the busy railway bridge in the centre of the village – the back road to Contin. Here we were forced to briefly join the busy A9 as it passed through the village – ‘no other way!’ – but after a tense ten minutes of lorries thundering by, we struck off into the woods near Rogie Falls, where forestry tracks lead us to our first pit stop. A friend of Iona’s had agreed to let us stop overnight at his farm there. Two dozen delighted Highlands craned over the fence in welcome, before they dashed off on a celebratory circuit of their field. Our four got turned out in a picture-perfect paddock, complete with babbling brook, while we bedded down in the hayloft. We’d made nearly 28km so far: slow but steady. ‘They just keep going,’ says Iona of the Highlands. ‘Day after day, over hard terrain, they plod on through.’ The ponies are used to move livestock, and on gathering days they spend long, hard days outside in all weathers.

Beinn, particularly, is a drover’s dream: ‘He’ll gallop along steep hillsides after a sheep, pushing himself to catch them without any encouragement. Something switches in his brain. He’s like a different horse.’ As day two dawned, we dawdled in the watery light, frying bacon on a tiny alcohol stove. We forded the river at Inchbae and paused for a quick cuppa at the farmhouse with Daphne Grant before heading north up Strathrannoch. Here the landscape changed: transforming from lush east coast arable land to the bare, deer-tracked hillscape of the west. Lone sheep wandered the heather, rocks and blanket bog. Iona unclipped Boo’s rope and he ran loose alongside us like a dog, picking his own route through the bogs and over ditches, sure-footed as a mountain goat. ‘I like to have young horses out running naked,’ says Iona. ‘They learn about the bogs without being interfered with. They grow in confidence by learning from the older horses.’ The dusk began to close in around us just as we came across an abandoned cottage on the shore of Loch Vaich, and we made a snap decision to stop for the night, turning the horses loose to graze on a strip of scrappy pasture at the water’s edge. That day we’d made 31km. We warmed our hands by a campfire until rain forced us to take shelter. 2018

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‘If they get into a problem, they won’t panic’

Above: Cal trekking through the persitent rain. Above right: Grazing in Glenbeg.

For more information about selfcatering accommodation and stalking at East Rhidorroch www. rhidorroch

Inside the cottage was dark and damp, half-filled with earth, and as we entered, the ghostly shape of an adult barn owl burst from a hole in the roof and vanished into a darkening sky. The weather had closed in for good. We woke to relentless rain which kept up for the entirety of the last day. In this final stretch of around 34km, we followed a track past Deanich Lodge then picked our way through peat hags hairy with reeds and dead grasses to the bothy tucked in Glenbeg. Here, we stopped for a quick discussion before the last and hardest leg of the trip. ‘One time, four ponies got badly bogged up to their necks in the space of a few seconds,’ Iona warned us. Often the horses manage to drag themselves out without help, but not always: in a pinch, Iona advised, we should take the saddle off and let the horse use it as a stepping stone – it spreads their weight. Her partnership with Beinn, a louche and headstrong character, has grown over years into one of mutual respect. ‘The first time, he really struggled. He’d not long been broken in, and got hopelessly bogged and stressed close to home. But then, as we came down the hill to the house, and saw the other horses in the field, I saw it click. ‘He understood what we’d done. Now he knows the route inside out and picks his way around the worst bogs – which teaches the others.’ He is short and wide, a natural 4x4, excelling in the most difficult terrain. ‘I feel hopeless doing this journey on another horse. I rely on his judgment.’ Honey, a quietly opinionated mare, also comes into her own as we rise into the clouds. We skirted the peak of Eididh nan Clach Geala, and its crown of gleaming white quartz, and the horses stepped gingerly over slick rockfaces and peatbogs which were melting away in the rain like icing on a hot cake. Visibility shrank and shrank to five or ten metres. ‘Be careful,’ warned Iona – a wrong turn and we might find ourselves facing a precipitous drop. I began to grow uneasy. Then, Honey pricked her ears and picked up her pace. ‘Give her her head,’ said Iona, and sure enough, after a tense 15 minutes’ march, a cairn emerged in the gloom. She had found the way. Iona’s route is seriously off-road, and that can bring problems. Honey once lost her footing while travelling

through a boulder field and flipped onto her back and was stuck there, like a tortoise upturned. ‘It was awful,’ says Iona. ‘Her breathing was heavy and her head was twisted. I thought she’d broken something, and hadn’t a clue how to get her out.’ Just as she was losing hope – wondering how she might have the horse euthanised in such a remote spot – a RAF plane zoomed over at low altitude, shocking the pony into a final, successful effort to right herself. All this experience means that Iona’s Highlands are extremely selfsufficient and stolid. ‘If they get into a problem, I know they won’t panic. That’s something you don’t have with most horses.’ Self-sufficiency is something she prizes in herself too. ‘People have to stop relying on trailers and back-up,’ she says. ‘When I travel, I travel with Beinn. That’s enough. I know he’ll get me home.’ We passed north up Glen Douchary and into the home straight. We’d seen no other people all day, but alarmed a number of red grouse, which flew up gabbling protests, their brows flashing scarlet amidst the moor. Then it was Beinn’s turn to pick up the pace, breaking into trot and then a short-legged canter. He swung off the track and up a bank. We turned a corner and a great waterfall came into view, and – a few minutes later – the cliffs that overlook the lodge at Rhidorroch. We were soaked through and shivering but undefeated. Just as Iona had promised, Beinn had got us all home in the end.


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To find your nearest store visit Harbro Ltd.indd 25

Image Credit L Meader Photography

16/05/2018 11:08:27



David & Goliath

They range from small and strong to high and mighty – Fiona Hendrie takes us through Scotland’s best-loved native breeds WORDS FIONA HENDRIE


ere in Scotland we have a diverse range of native equines. In fact, the mighty Clydesdale and the mini Shetland pony are poles apart in terms of size.

Image - LRH/Shutterstock

Right: An Eriskay pony grazes on a beach on the Isle of Harris. This breed is at home grazing on the sparse sea grass that grows amongst the sand dunes.

Shetland Don’t let their size fool you, Shetlands are little ponies with big personalities. Tough by nature they can live outside year round despite the wild island weather, grazing freely and often supplementing their diet with mineralrich seaweed from Shetland’s beaches. The official maximum height of the breed is just 42 inches and their short legs and broad bodies make them pound-for-pound the strongest of all horse and pony breeds, with the ability to pull twice their own body weight. Once an integral part of island life these little ponies were used as workhorses on crofts for carrying heavy loads of peat from the hills and ploughing the tough terrain for crops, as well as being used as transport for the islanders. Hair from their tails was also used to make fishing lines. During the industrial revolution demand for Shetlands grew on the mainland to work as pit ponies in the coal mines. The breed’s strength, size

and resilience meant they were well adapted to the cramped conditions of the mines, undertaking dangerous and back-breaking work in the tunnels. As restrictions governing the use of children and women in the mines tightened, pit ponies were relied on even more and soon Shetlands were in high demand. Today, Shetlands are popular for children’s riding ponies due to their small stature and cheeky nature. Every year youngsters from across the UK compete their Shetlands in the annual Shetland Grand National, which takes place at The Olympia Horse Show in London.

Clydesdale Combining strength and style, the Clydesdale was first recorded in the early eighteenth century after imported Flemish stallions were bred with draught mares in Lanarkshire. Standing at between 16 and 18hh, the Clydesdale was bred for use in agriculture and heavy haulage, although its feet were better suited to city work than arable. Known for its high stepping action, with each foot lifting cleanly off the ground, the breed is one of the most elegant heavy horses.


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‘The only surviving native ponies from the Western Isles, Eriskays have their origins in Celtic and Norse stock’ 2018

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Above - snapvision/Shutterstock. Inset - johnbraid/Shutterstock

At its peak Scotland had 140,000 farm horses, mostly Clydesdales, although numbers began to drop as farming became mechanised. By the 1970s the breed was considered to be close to extinction in the UK although population numbers have begun to recover since. Clydesdales were exported around the world, including to Australia at the beginning of the twentieth century. Between 1924 and 2008 over 25,000 Clydesdales were registered in the country and their popularity has led them to be known as ‘the breed that built Australia’. Today, Clydesdales are still used for draught purposes, including agriculture, logging and driving. Their white feathered feet make them popular carriage horses and for parades, including use as drum horses in the armed forces. Eriskay The only surviving native ponies from the Western Isles, Eriskays have their origins in Celtic and Norse stock. Difficulty in accessing the islands meant that other breeds were rarely brought over from the mainland and what resulted was pure-bred Eriskay ponies. Until the 19th century Eriskay ponies were used on the island’s crofts carrying bales of seaweed from the beach and peat from the hillside. With the rise of mechanisation, the demand for the ponies dropped and subsequently so did their numbers. The emigration of islanders to live and work on the mainland fuelled the problem further as fewer animals were being bred. By the 1970s only a single stallion remained along with 20 mares who were spread between the islands of Uist and Eriskay. The breed was classified as critically endangered by

the Rare Breeds Survival Trust and efforts were made to increase numbers. Over the last few decades the breed has fought its way back from the brink of extinction with over 420 of the ponies now in existence across the world. Eriskays are well suited to conservation grazing and due to their friendly temperaments they make wonderful riding ponies and are a popular choice for RDA centres and for use as therapy ponies.

Highland Highland ponies are characterised by their flowing manes and tails, powerful quarters and robust character. They range in size from between 13-14.2hh.


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‘Their sure-footedness makes them ideal for reaching areas of hillside inaccessible to vehicles’ Historically they were used as work horses, often on crofts and within the timber industry, hauling heavy loads over rough terrain. Their good nature and strength made them suitable for the very physical task of carrying dead deer from the hillside during stalking season, a task Highlands still undertake to this day. Their sure-footedness makes them ideal for reaching areas of the hillside inaccessible to vehicles, and their strength allows them to carry stags up to 17 stone in weight using specially designed saddles which distribute the weight evenly across their backs. Their laid-back nature, coupled with sympathetic training from a young age is vital for the role so the ponies remain calm as the deer are loaded and unloaded from their backs. A herd of Highland ponies was established at Balmoral by Queen Victoria

Top left: Shetland ponies are small and tough. Above: The Highland pony has long been prized for its sure footedness, bringing deer off the hill at stalking time. Left: Clydesdale draft horses prove that big is beautiful.

in the 1800s and the present day herd at the castle retain the unbroken blood line dating back to the original animals. Trekking for pleasure is said to have begun in 1952 in Newtonmore using a herd of Highland ponies to carry visitors into some of the more inaccessible parts of the area. Highlands remain a popular choice for children’s riding ponies as well as pony trekking.

Galloway The Galloway pony is a now-extinct breed which was recorded in the early 1800s around Dumfries and Galloway. It was noted as being around 14hh, larger than the ponies from the Highlands and Islands and described as being fast and steady over rough terrain. The reliability and speed of the breed made the Galloway the choice of steed for the infamous Border Reivers, who were peerless horsemen. The speed and stamina of the breed is noted time and time again in historical records along with the ability to cover great distances at speed. Descriptions of the Galloways’ physical characteristics include a wide, deep chest and a tendency to pace rather than trot. The breed is thought to have died out through crossbreeding around 1820. 2018

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Right: Louisa Milne Home and King Eider in the Open Intermediate at Dalkeith Horse Trials 2017.


How did you get started in your equestrian career? I started really young at the Pony Club when I was 13. After finishing my university degree I moved back up to Scotland and set up an event yard. That was when it really became a full-time career. When did you decide you wanted to be an eventer? I never thought I’d make a career out of eventing – I thought I’d just do it for fun. But when I was at university I had four advanced horses and thought, ‘let’s give it a go and see!’ Having four advanced horses at once isn’t something that comes around that often. What do you love the most about eventing? Having good, well-rounded horses makes it really fun. Eventing is also really competitive in Britain – it’s nice being part of something that Britain is really good at. What has been the highlight of your eventing career so far? I’ve done eight four-stars with King Eider – he’s done Badminton and Burghley. That’s

been phenomenal. The whole atmosphere, the size and scale of Badminton and Burghley is massive. Every time you rock up at those it’s fantastic. Who has influenced you the most in your career? Early on I worked a lot with Les Smith at the Pony Club and he gave me a really good start in eventing. Now I spend a lot of time with Alistair Gatherum at Edenside Stables – they’ve been there for me for 20-odd years What would you still like to achieve? Luckily we’ve been to most of the big competitions but our main goal this year is to move our horses up the ladder. We want to get to HOYS with our showjumping horses. Our eventers will be older next year and we do Blenheim with some of them. What has been your best moment horse-wise? Well every time it’s a beautiful sunny day, I really enjoy it. We’re lucky to live in a place with great views ... and then it rains and it’s not so great! What has been your most embarrassing moment with a horse? I once tried to take a shortcut through my uncle’s barley field on a novice horse which I knew wasn’t going to go down well. The barley prickled the horse, and I got bucked off. There was a snow angel/barley angel right in the middle of his barley. If you hadn’t been an eventer, what would you have been? It would have definitely been something outdoors, probably still with horses – I last about ten minutes on a computer before I get a headache.

From the horse’s mouth Three talented equestrians talk us through their successful careers, from the early days to the dizzy heights via their most embarrassing moments

Image - Jim Crichton

‘Having well-rounded horses makes eventing fun’


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Left: Carol in her yard. Above top: Carol at the Lammermuir Show in 1992. Above: Taking home the silverware.


Retraining of Racehorses (RoR) How did you get started in your equestrian career? I started riding as a child – I was tiny, only three or four years old. I was brought up on a farm and we had Suffolk Punches, so that was the first horse that I ever rode. When did you decide that you wanted to become involved with Retraining of Racehorses? I went to one of ROR’s clinics where I met Di Arbuthnot who’s now our CEO. I was talking to her and just asked if I could get involved and she was delighted for me to help. I’ve been on the organisational side of ROR since 2011. What do you love most about being involved in RoR? I love watching the horses progress and seeing what they achieve, whether it’s in eventing, dressage or polo. It’s lovely seeing the horses at shows because no ex-race horse is the same.

What has been the highlight of your equestrian career so far? I rode side-saddle for quite some time. I was very fortunate that I won all seven side-saddle trophies in Scotland in 1992. So I thought that was quite an achievement – but now I just potter around at a very happy riding-club level. Who has influenced you most in pursuit of your career? One of the people who influenced me tremendously was Betty Skelton – she was very famous in the side-saddle world. I love my side-saddle and I always have done. What would you still like to achieve? The next thing I’m going to try out is some Western riding – I’m only just starting that. I went to America last year to watch the Retrained Racehorse Project in Kentucky and I saw a lot of the western disciplines which was really fascinating. When I came back I thought, ‘I’d really like to try that’. 2018

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What has been your best moment horse wise? I just really love going out with my ex-racehorse who is now 22 years old and enjoying a lovely hack together. I love looking at the beautiful countryside – I’m right down by the River Tay. It’s absolutely glorious. What has been your most embarrassing moment involving horses? There’s not been anything too dramatic, thank goodness. Out hunting as a child I’ve fallen off at fences into the mud where I just had to get up and get on again. I’ve been quite lucky though. If you hadn’t become involved in horses what would you like to have been? My husband’s a farmer so it probably would have been something with animals. The other thing I did for years was sell couture clothes. I ran my own business and worked for a company called Carlisle Collection. So the art and fashion world was an interest too.


16/05/2018 15:23:47


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Image - Adrian Sinclair Photography

Above: Stephen Lohoar flying high at the Ayr Show this year.


How did you get started in your equestrian career? I stumbled into it really. I did a lot of rugby when I was younger and I only started riding when I was 12. Mum and Dad were farmers and they started a small livery yard. My brother and I didn’t want to ride at first, but when we tried it we used to argue over who would get to ride. When did you decide you wanted to be a show jumper? When I was 16 I had one really good horse from Holland called Rumalia. That one horse changed everything. If we hadn’t had Rumalia, I wouldn’t be doing what I do now. What do you love the most about show jumping? It’s definitely the competitive side – I’m unbelievably competitive. It’s very much a business and a sport for us; it’s that happy medium mixing both sides. What has been the highlight of your show jumping career so far? The main highlight for me was right at

the beginning of it all when I won the five-year-old final in Comporta, Portugal. That was the first time I went abroad to compete in a show. There was a lot of pressure and I ended up doing really well. Who has influenced you the most in your career? The top riders like Scott Brash and Ben Maher are very stylish. But for me, Cian O’Connor is fantastic because he’s at the top of his sport and has a successful business going as well. What would you still like to achieve? I want to keep doing what we’re doing. Whether it’s with me or another rider, I’d like to keep producing young horses to as high a level as possible. I’d really like to take some young horses to the World Breeding Championships. What has been your best moment horse-wise? We’re based in St Andrews, so it’s always nice to go down to the beach with the horses. I always think it’s important to take the horses there for some off-time, and on a beautiful day, there’s nothing better. What has been your most embarrassing moment with a horse? Definitely falling off in the main ring at the Highland Show when I was 16. I fell off at the other end of the arena – it was a long walk off. As they say, you’re only as good as the last ride. If you hadn’t been a showjumper, what would you have been? I think I’d have been a house-builder as I love design and the building industry. Either that, or a pilot. I also thought about being a professional rugby player – I was in the Under-18s and Under-19s for Scotland, but keeping up rugby and horses was too much. 2018

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Back in the saddle Not one to let a riding accident dampen his spirits, top show jumper Alex Barr is still intent on fulfilling his equestrian ambitions BY CAL FLYN IMAGES ANGUS BLACKBURN


ack in 2012, a nasty fall left Alex Barr, one of the country’s top show jumpers, in bed with two fractured vertebrae and a lot to think about. ‘I was riding a young horse at a show,’ he tells me, at his yard near Lesmahagow, ‘and then he just didn’t put his landing gear out.’ The horse rolled, leaving him badly hurt and grounded for four months. It was a painful and frustrating time, he says. ‘But it gave me time to think. To regroup.’ Until that point, Alex’s competition career had been forged on other people’s horses. It was a position that meant his best horses might be sold at any time, and if they had made it big together, Alex wouldn’t see any of the financial benefit. It was too precarious a basis upon which to build a life, he realised. It was time to get serious, and a first step was securing a share in all his mounts. ‘More or less, every horse that I’ve ridden from then on: I’ve owned half or a quarter of it.’ Having ‘skin in the game’ has helped him build a more secure future

– and he says the ‘fantastic’ owners he works with seem to find it a more comfortable arrangement too. ‘They don’t feel like I’ll just use the horse until its legs are done in, then hand it back to them. That’s become very important to me.’ Now aged 34, Alex is a securely established figure on the national and international show jumping scene, although he has one major unrealised ambition: to be selected for a Nations Cup squad. ‘Up until recently, any time that I’d get a horse that I thought would be able to do that it has been sold. But hopefully some of the younger ones could potentially compete at that level,’ he says hopefully. ‘And we’ve got great owners on board who are really keen and enthusiastic about the sport.’ Mary Grant has been one of his biggest backers. She organises an investment syndicate, and – in a rare exception – wholly owns Alex’s top horse, Bettilina, a beautiful chocolate bay 11-year-old who competes to Grand Prix standard. Alex also shares ten-year-old Queen


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‘We’ve got great owners on board who are really keen and enthusiastic about the sport’

Three’s company: Alex with two six-year olds, Harvey (left) and Delta (right). 2018

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‘I proved I was too stubborn to give up working with horses’


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Image- Ricardo Reves

“Big old chunk of a pullquote to run in here and on and on and so on

Left: Alex has built his facilities up at home to be second to none. Above: Alex and Bettilina jumping the 3* Grand Prix at Vilamoura. Inset above: A young Alex competing on his pony Cinders.

Bee with his partner, Dee Anderson, a former model and successful showjumper in her own right. ‘When I do get to ride Queen Bee – I steal her for a show here or there – she’s very competitive, very careful, very successful,’ he says. In the wings are Ferrara Durona and Falco, both rising eight and already ‘very exciting’ prospects; and a group of six-year-olds currently getting their first international outings in the young horse classes. These international outings – though expensive to undertake and sometimes gruelling – are increasingly important. ‘The majority of the business that we look to do would be on the continent, that’s where it’s all happening.’ Hubs for competition and sales include De Peelbergen and Valkenswaard in The Netherlands, and Lier and Opglabbeek in Belgium. ‘These are the places where the top riders are going, and where the agents

and the purchasers are looking for potentially top horses. Ultimately some have to be sold to keep everything turning.’ This attitude has been instilled in him since the beginning, when his mother Christina, a pony breeder, agreed to teach him to ride aged 12 on the condition that he ‘did it properly’, picking an unhandled pony from the field and starting it from scratch. ‘She helped me, but I remember the feeling of accomplishment. Mum told us they were always for sale – we weren’t allowed to fall in love with them too much.’ Alex’s father, who sadly passed away last year, took a similar attitude. ‘Once I proved I was too stubborn to give up working with horses – or maybe too stupid – he taught me there had to be a business behind it. There are only a handful of people who can live off prize money.’ After school, Alex went to work for the Low-Mitchell family at the Balcormo Stud Farm where he learnt a great deal about breeding and the wider equestrian industry. ‘Dad told Sandra to sicken me of horses,’ he says. But he had the bug. And now he too had the skills. 2018

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‘Mum told us they were always for sale – we weren’t allowed to fall in love with them too much’


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“ullquote to run in here and on and on and so on Above: Alex with his mum Christina and eight-year-old Ferrara Durona. Below: Alex and his partner Dee, relaxing with dogs Corra and Twiggy.

‘We hope that people catch the bug along the way’

Though initially more interested in eventing, he realised that the high-stakes world of show jumping was a more viable option in terms of building a self-sustaining career. ‘The horses are just more valuable,’ he explains. ‘Top Grand Prix horses can be worth millions of pounds. ‘Okay, those horses are few and far between, but overall the values are increasing, thanks to the evolution of the sport at the top level and the increased exposure, with the Global Champions tour.’ So much so, that many of his current investors are not ‘horse people’ at all. ‘I have owners that I’ve never actually met,’ he says. ‘They’d never come to a show. We send updates, but that’s because they want to know how their investment is doing, as they would if they had put the money into stocks and shares.’ Even so, it’s a good idea to engender a deeper interest in the sport among investors. ‘We hope that people catch the bug along the way so they are not so eager to sell up instantly,’ he says. ‘And if we can produce the horses to a

higher level, obviously the values become so much higher – that’s an added incentive to stay involved.’ In total, they have around 35 to 40 horses at the yard, at a variety of ages and stages. Most are now bought unbacked, based on movement and loose-jumping ability. ‘It’s very, very hard to judge them at that age,’ he warns. ‘The main thing I look for is a good “type” – a horse that, if it doesn’t turn out to be what I want it to be, is still a balanced, rideable horse an amateur will enjoy.’ Out of 30 youngsters, he might keep only five to compete at young horse level. Then, he’ll whittle numbers down again. Horse requirements have been evolving too, with the sport. They have to be light on their feet. ‘If I’m watching a horse, I’d almost want to be able to turn my back and not hear it jump.’ In the past, big, scopey, brave horses could still make it to the very top – exemplified by the Cinderella story of Snowman, the Pennsylvania plough horse who became a champion jumper in the 1950s. But today speed, agility and reactivity are key as tracks become faster and more technical. And it seems that Alex’s approach is proving successful. Already this year, he has had impressive results with his young horses at De Peelbergen, with clear rounds and topten placings amongst his crop of six-year-olds. At the higher levels, Falco and Ferrara Durona both jumped clear at 1.40m level, while Bettilina took second place in the The Dirkx Electronics Prix. The show jumping stars of the future are in training at Kypehall Farm. 2017

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Two’s company From silly to sentimental, here at EQy we love receiving photos of our readers having fun with their four-legged friends

Above: Carole MacDonald from Inverness and Ollie showing a fine set of gnashers. Below left: Susan Skene from Balmullo in Fife and the fabulous 26-yearold Fidget. Below centre: Julie Radke from Fife with cheeky boy Cornflakes.

Top: Although Skip is no longer here, this is Sindy Buist’s favourite photo of him, taken by Nigel Hutchison. Above: Lyne Blore from Stirling and her exuberant mare Cassie enjoying a laugh.

Above: Madi Fergusson from Dundee with her horse Fenton and, not wanting to be left out of the hugs, dog Moose. Moose Left: Gael Coia from Kilbirnie in Ayrshire with Tia who has really enjoyed her herbal treat. Below: Sarah Japp from Banff with Jaffa.

Above left: Julie Hammond from Aberdeenshire with Oscar. Above right: Iska Birnie from Aberdeen and her horse Sam.


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We are a small, family run country store in Haddington, East Lothian. We pride ourselves on customer service. We cater for a wide variety of customer needs and stock a range of products including equestrian equipment and clothing mainly Toggi, Hy and Musto, shooting clothing, Barbour, Harkila, Seeland and Alan Paine to name a few. Alongside a wide range of footwear including brands such as Meindl, La Chameau, Barbour, Aigle and Hoggs of Fife.

We stock a wide range of outdoor clothing and footwear. We also provide a We have cartridges from Hull, Eley and Express and vastwerange of variety dog food and stock a wide of dog food for working dogs and pets. We also supply fishing permits for the accessories to support pet and River Tyne, Whiteadder and the Watch Fishery. working dogs. addition High Street, For a little shop In on Haddington we for reallycats, do have it all! we also cater poultry and wild birds. J.S. Main also sell fishing permits and fishing equipment.

We stock widearange We astock wide range of outdoor clothing and and of outdoor clothing footwear. We also a footwear. Weprovide also provide a vast range of dogoffood vast range dogand food and accessories to support pet and accessories to support pet and working dogs. In addition working dogs. In addition we also cats, wecater alsofor cater forpoultry cats, poultry and wild J.S. Main andbirds. wild birds. J.S. Main also sell fishing permits and and also sell fishing permits fishingfishing equipment. equipment.

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87 HIGH STREET, HADDINGTON T, HADDINGTON 87 HIGH STREET, HADDINGTON EASTEAST LOTHIAN EH41EH41 3ET 3ET AN EH41 3ET LOTHIAN 87 HIGH STREET, HADDINGTON, EAST LOTHIAN EH41 3ET Tel: 01620 822 148 • Fax: 01620 824 662 Tel: 01620 822 148 • Fax: 01620 824 662 • Fax: 01620 824 662 Tel: 01620 822 148 • Email: Email: • Email: • •

JS Main & Sons.indd 41

87 HIGH STREET, HADDINGTON EAST LOTHIAN EH41 3ET Tel: 01620 822 148 • Fax: 01620 824 662

16/05/2018 11:16:11

Right - Trinity Mirror/Mirrorpix/Alamy


‘When we walked off I instantly felt more elegant, though I’m not sure my flappy right foot gave the same impression to the team’


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A side saddle masterclass Show jumping enthusiast Becky Murray is given a lesson in elegance through a discipline that goes back centuries BY BECKY MURRAY IMAGES ANGUS BLACKBURN


hen I arrived for a side saddle lesson at the stunning location of Anderson School of Riding & Holiday Lodges, an independent riding school based in New Cumnock in Ayrshire, I was a little nervous. My research showed that just the day before my visit, the Side Saddle Association Area nine had held their Spring Show with record-breaking numbers at the venue. Side saddle in Scotland is currently represented by the Side Saddle Association’s Area one and Area nine, covering the whole of Scotland, offering support and making the sport accessible to everyone. The Side Saddle Association welcomes members of all

Far left: Becky in 1780s costume on Spider from Mars. Left: Becky under instruction. 2018

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‘All I can say is, toss that showjumping rule book out the window – this is side saddle jumping and it’s a whole different ball game’



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Left: Becky in a Victorian navy habit aboard Sport. Above: The riding team assisting Becky on Sport. Above Right: Becky in costume, training on Warrick.

abilities, hosting competitions and training throughout the year. Under the watchful eye of Anderson School of Riding owner and instructor Michelle MurrayAnderson, who has 30 years side saddle experience and an impressive 11 National Championship side saddle titles to her name, I knew I was going to be in safe hands. Assisted by Michelle’s team, I was introduced to my first horse of the day, G’day Sport, a 16.2hh Irish Draught which Michelle has owned and trained for ten years and who is an established side saddle horse. Once we had been introduced the first tricky part was getting on board and into position. I initially got on ‘astride’ as you would in normal riding, and then took my right leg into the side saddle position with my left leg secured by the ‘leaping head’ pommel. This form of pommel was invented in the 1830s by Jules Pellier and was described as ‘revolutionary’, allowing ladies increased security and opening up all equestrian disciplines to side saddle. And then we were off! When we walked off I instantly felt elegant, although I’m not sure

my flappy right foot gave the same impression to the team. The important thing, advised Michelle, was my leg position and keeping my right foot firmly against the horse’s side with my toe pointed (after years of instructors pleading with me to keep my heels down this was naturally a mystery to my untrained leg). I carried a stick that I had to keep at the horse’s right shoulder, the idea being that it sits where your leg would be and acts as an aid. Trot was bouncy and all feeling of elegance promptly left, my right foot frequently betraying me and resisting staying flat. Michelle explained that trotting isn’t a natural pace for side saddle and I understood why. When I was next directed up to canter I took a deep breath and instantly relaxed when Sport kindly moved up a gear. I breathed a sigh of relief as we travelled around the arena; canter is a lot kinder to sit to and felt fantastic. I could concentrate more on my position than in trot and had a feeling of security. Now I have always very much had the show jumping bug, competing as a junior. So when I was offered the opportunity to try a fence side saddle I couldn’t resist – in for a penny in for a pound, as I always say with horses. Now with show jumping you sit up 2018

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and wait to see your stride, but toss that rule book out the window – this is side saddle jumping and a whole different ball game. Michelle advised that I should get forward in my position and gave me the use of a neck strap, but I didn’t fully appreciate quite how much I was going to require it until it saved me on multiple occasions. At this stage I was fully in awe of Michelle, who competes in show jumping side saddle and has spent days on the hunting field, and was especially thankful to the very honest Sport. Michelle asked if I had any Irish in my family on accord of my ‘Irish wings’ (pointed out elbows). She informed me this was an asset on the hunting field, although I think she was just being kind (it was comparable to the day I was told by a dressage instructor I have ‘show jumper legs’). It was now time to introduce a costume and the lovely coloured horse known as The Earl of Warwick, an 11-yearold spirited hunting-cob with what felt like a thoroughbred gearbox. Michelle advised me that the elegant tweed habit I’d donned (kindly supplied by Yvonne Walkinshaw), would typically be seen in the show ring. It also had a funny way of instantly making me feel like a ‘real’ side saddle rider – plus, it also hid a multitude of sins by covering up my legs. I was, however, determined to work at my position under the beautiful habit; I swear Michelle had x-ray vision and knew exactly what was going on under there. I next wore a Victorian navy habit (kindly provided by Fiona McKinnon) for a photograph aboard Sport. A navy habit is typically worn in a variety of side saddle showing classes from equitation to jumping.

The third horse I was introduced to was the wonderful Spider From Mars. Named after the famous David Bowie song due to his mesmerising Bowie-esque blue eyes, this ten-year-old 16hh bred by Michelle is training towards Medium level dressage. Canter on Spider was simply divine, I could just about imagine a whole day riding side saddle with Spider as my teammate. For the grand finale I was honoured to wear a 1780s-inspired red woollen habit kindly supplied by Park Lady Design and designed by Alexandra Cherett. Habits in this era were intended to reflect on the gentleman’s style of attire, with the riding habit one of the few garments in a lady’s wardrobe made by a male tailor. The more generously cut outfits fulfilled today’s ‘sportswear’ and allowed ladies to be more involved in sport than previously possible, whilst also remaining demure. A gallop along the river on Spider in costume took me back hundreds of years. I felt like a character out of a historical film. Once I caught my breath I was able to grill Michelle a little bit more on the art of learning side saddle. ‘The challenge is getting the rider centralised in the saddle,’ she said. ‘There are many different shapes and types of side saddle but they have been specifically made to fit a certain person’s body shape. The biggest issue is getting the rider straight and getting them into a position that is most advantageous and comfortable for them and the horse as possible. ‘Everybody gets cantering. The saddles weren’t designed for trot as the pommel blocks you rising. Ladies’ horses were


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‘I was determined to work at my position under the beautiful habit – I swear Michelle had x-ray vision’

trained to canter at a collected canter at the same speed as the gentlemen’s horses trotted.’ I was curious to know if you need to be able to ride already to take up side saddle. I couldn’t help but think that a non-rider that isn’t stuck in ‘astride’ ways might find learning side saddle easier. Michelle confirmed side saddle is very much open to everyone to learn. ‘People that haven’t ridden aren’t at a disadvantage trying side saddle when compared with people that already ride,’ she agreed. ‘They might have more fear factor while getting used to the movement of a horse, but from a positioning point of view they wouldn’t be disadvantaged – it’s more confirmation issues in a person’s shape that would be a disadvantage, rather than them having not ridden before.’ Michelle tells me that side saddle is also open to all ages. ‘Older riders are sometimes worried that they’re too old and past it and won’t be able to sit properly,’ she says. ‘However, because of the limb control needed for side saddle, an older rider that is stiffer in the joints can actually sit better than a

Above Left: Becky in traditional tweed with Warwick. Above Centre: Instructor, Michelle shows how it’s done during a hunt. Above Right: Becky working on jumps with Sport.

younger rider. Young people can struggle with limb control and joint resistance to hold the position required.’ Side saddle surprised me. I’ve seen it at shows and I’ve often stopped and thought how incredibly graceful and comfortable these ladies look aboard these huge horses. It was, however, much more challenging than I initially thought. It takes a huge amount of discipline and a whole host of muscles. An astride rider, like myself, certainly wasn’t quite prepared for that. However, I’d jump to do it again, and would encourage anyone to step out of their comfort zone and try it. There was something magical about being dressed up and cantering side saddle across the beautiful Scottish countryside. Anderson School of Riding & Holiday Lodges provides a stunning setting with experienced horses who are more than happy to up the gears but still look after you, and most importantly keep you safe whilst learning a new skill. I have to thank Michelle and her whole team of helpers – Karen Trevorrow, Hayley Robson, Abbie McKenzie and Skye Bonnar – who helped make me feel like a real ‘lady’. They helped me on and, perhaps most importantly, off again even when leg cramp made one particular dismount challenging, and they kindly didn’t laugh. Michelle was a knowledgeable, entertaining and, most of all, patient trainer. Lastly of course, I need to extend a special thank you to the wonderful Sport, Warwick and Spider – I think all three horses knew that they had a full blown-astride rider wearing all the gear and having no idea, yet they never took advantage. 2018

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Neigh problems Scottish equestrian physiotherapist Catriona Goulding shares her thoughts and stories about dedicating her life to the welfare of horses BY JULIA WELSTEAD IMAGE ANGUS BLACKBURN

I HAD A FARM AND HORSE UPBRINGING and as a child I noticed that animals responded well to being massaged. My own horse loved being tickled, which made me wonder about being a physiotherapist for horses. AS AN ANIMAL PHYSIO I have been asked to work with dogs, bulls and even chickens, but horses are by far my most regular clients. They range from Shetlands to Clydesdales and from top performers to family pets. I also compete with my own horses, Lucky Miller and Rockhopper, in showing and dressage. I TOOK A DEGREE IN EQUINE SCIENCE in Gloucestershire before working in a point-to-point yard, a show yard and a therapy centre, grooming, training and instructing, latterly at Gleneagles Equestrian Centre. An ITEC in equine massage and Diploma in Animal Physiotherapy preceded my setting up my own business. Image: Catriona Goulding helping to keep Berti supple.

IT’S A MASSIVE TEAM EFFORT to achieve good results, working with vets, farriers, saddlers, dentists, trainers, instructors, owners, riders and of course with the horses themselves. My work includes assessing the horse and finding suitable exercises and work regimes aimed at the prevention of, or recovery from, injury. WHEN I FIRST MEET A HORSE I study their confirmation and posture, the way they move in walk, trot, under saddle, going straight and when turning corners. I look at muscle position, tone and development and take into account the age, breed and type of horse as well as their role and owner’s aims and expectations. I LOVE TEACHING STUDENTS in equine therapy and massage. Observation skills are hard to teach as mine are almost instinctive, honed and developed over a lifetime of looking at horses, rooted in my early Angus Pony Club days when we were thoroughly drilled in observation, care and management. It’s my passion, almost an obsession, to get a ‘feel’ for the horse and what might be troubling them. I’VE LEARNED SO MUCH from seeing lots of disciplines. I was team physio for SERC (Scottish Endurance Riding Club) where horses need strong backs, and have also worked with polo ponies where strong quads are paramount. I always encourage cross-training: as with human athletes, horses (and their riders) benefit from variety in their regimes.


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HIND QUARTERS, lower back, hind limbs, quads and stifles are my forte, looking at the horse’s posture and way of going and at saddle fit. I love helping horses and meeting people and I have a super client base, often seeing horses through many years of growing, training, competing and retirement. TIME MANAGEMENT and fitness are my main challenges, as I juggle family life with a very physical job. That’s as well as exercising and training my own two horses. Selfemployment is tough but rewarding and I love what I do. IF I HAD MY TIME AGAIN I might choose to do human sports therapy training first, but I feel sure I would have ended up working with horses either way. There are lots more courses available now and anyone thinking about animal physio should check out the full range before deciding on their best route.


UNA BEAUMONT (cyclist Mark’s Mum) first inspired me. She was an equine massage therapist. I have been fortunate enough to be taught by veterinary physio Mary Bromley at her Downs House Equine Rehabilitation Centre on Exmoor, and Sherry Scott from The College of Animal Physio – both pioneers within the industry. MY BIGGEST ADVICE to horse owners is that walking should be your favourite pace. All too often time pressures mean we only do a short walk before pushing on into trot and canter. Hacking out is also abandoned in favour of arena work. There is nothing better than a long walk to strengthen and fitten without injury. I’M WORKING TOWARDS getting my massage course up and running through the College of Animal Physiotherapy, whilst also maintaining my RAMP (Register of Animal Musculo-skeletal Practitioners) requirements and, overall, being the best that I can be in helping horses.

alking should be your favourite pace’ 2018

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16/05/2018 13:08:15


Image: Lucinda with her young horse Harry.

‘It was amazing, I just didn’t want it to end; it was the best ride Harry’s ever given me’


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16/05/2018 15:25:05

Trotting on to greatness Talented young rider Lucinda Crawford is heading for greatness as she sets her sights on the European Championships BY CAL FLYN IMAGES ANGUS BLACKBURN


ucinda Crawford has seen plenty of success already in her career as a junior eventer. But even by her high standards, 2017 was a breakthrough year for her and horses Silver Touch and Ballintoher Harry. A solid performance at the under-18 championships at Frickley Park in July left her in sixth place overall. Not long after, the GB squad came knocking, and she became the only Scottish rider on the team for the Junior Nations Cup in Belgium – storming clear round the cross country to finish 12th overall. ‘It was amazing. I just didn’t want it to end,’ she says, grinning with the memory. ‘It was the best ride Harry’s ever given me.’ To top it all, at the British Eventing Scottish Ball in November, the trio cleaned up. Silver Touch, or Poppy as she’s known at home, won the best grade three Scottish horse; Harry won the prize for best Scottish performance at the national championships; while Lucinda herself was crowned best Scottish under-18 of the season. ‘Last year was the best season we’d had so far, with both Harry and Poppy,’ she says now. 2018

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16/05/2018 15:25:40


Above: Lucinda and Harry at Belsay where they finished fourth Right: The rolling hills of the Borders are perfect for fittening eventers.

All in all, it was a very exciting year for the teenager, who commutes from Melrose to St George’s School for Girls in Edinburgh, where she recently sat five Highers. ‘They’re so supportive, very accommodating,’ she says of the school, which has put together packs of homework to take to competitions. ‘My friends too. They don’t really understand what it is that I do, but they try hard!’ Lucinda also makes regular trips south to train at the Bury St Edmunds yard of Olympic eventer Caroline Powell, who became a family friend when she lived in nearby Kelso. This relationship has been enormously beneficial to both parties: Lucinda has trained intensively with Caroline and her eventer partner Greg Kinsella; Lucinda’s parents also own two of the Olympian’s top horses –

Onwards and Upwards, and Up, Up and Away – both of whom compete at CCI four-star level. ‘It’s been great. I’ve been able to shadow Caroline’s grooms when we’ve had horses running at the big events,’ says Lucinda. Her father Cameron – himself a keen amateur eventer – agrees. ‘Yes, it’s been a massive help, for Lu and for us as a collective. Caroline and Greg pass on a huge amount of advice.’ Caroline helped secure Lucinda her first sponsor this year – Equine Products UK, a nutritional supplement suppliers based in Newcastle – and also sourced Lucinda’s two horses, each of which has star quality. Harry, a 16hh bay Irish sports horse is, gushes Lucinda, ‘the real king, the star of the show, the love of my life!’ Sired by the legendary Irish showjumper Cruising, the nine-year-


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‘My friends don’t really understand what I do, but they try hard’ 2018

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Above: Lucinda and Harry at Waregem International last year. Above inset: Poppy and Lucinda at home. Far Left: Competing at the Juniors Nations Cup CIJC*. Left: The pair in Belgium last September.

old excels in the jumping phases. ‘He struggles with dressage because of his conformation, but with jumping he has so much raw talent.’ Saying that, ‘Harry’s scopey – but then there’s Poppy. I’ve never ridden anything like her. She’s the most talented horse we’ve ever had.’ The dapple-grey mare is 12 years old, and spent much of her life at a riding school until she was talentspotted and ended up at Caroline’s yard. ‘Thank God she was found!’ says Lucinda. ‘In dressage she’s flashy and gets amazing marks, and in jumping she just does not like touching things. She had one pole down last year, and wasn’t pleased about it.’ Before either horse came on the scene, Lucinda already had a great deal of success on Turbo Toy, ‘the one who started it all’. The bay gelding was a schoolmaster of 15 when the Crawfords bought him from Rose Dudgeon, British Eventing’s regional under-18s co-ordinator. Soon they were snapping up points all over the place. ‘I’d never gone novice before, but we won our first novice on a score of 20 at Dalkeith.’ Before long they were top of the table, taking home the Stirlingshire Cup in 2015, the youngest rider ever to do so. He was short in stature – ‘scraping 15 hands, or even 14’3’, but ‘grew when you got on him’. They graduated to their first international-level competitions and in 2015, were picked to travel to Millstreet, Ireland, as part of an elite squad of young British riders. Having finally outgrown Turbo, he was reluctantly sold to the Dettori family but sadly he injured himself in the field and had to be put down. ‘That was very sad, as he’d done so much for me, given me a lot of success – and experience.’ Harry, then Poppy arrived in 2016. Initially Poppy’s work ethic, tolerance and talent marked her as the horse to watch. With her, Lucinda racked up 27 BE points in five months, including wins at novice level at Floors Castle and Burgie. But a minor injury meant Poppy missed the rest of the season, clearing the way for Harry to ‘man up and become the star’. The gelding gathered 31 points over the season. The hope is that the 2018 season will build on all the success of last year, becoming established at intermediate level. Poppy has been coming back into work, so with any luck there will be two horses to campaign at a higher level. There’s a ‘realistic’ chance of being selected for the squad for the European championship at Fontainbleau in July. For this there are a number of trials, the last being held at Jardy, France, in May – unfortunately on the weekend of Badminton, when the family’s two advanced horses are scheduled to compete for Caroline Powell. 2018

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But, says Lucinda warily, ‘I don’t want to put too much pressure on us too soon. Harry’s quite inexperienced at intermediate, and I have big exams.’ The question of pressure, of moving too quickly, is one that the family continue to grapple with. Her mother Mary, a physiotherapist, emphasises that neither she nor Cameron have ever pressured their daughter to compete. ‘No,’ agrees Lucinda. ‘It’s completely self-inflicted. I put a lot of pressure on myself, because Turbo was so experienced: I assumed people had high expectations of him and I had to prove myself.’ The stress came to a head in 2015, when she repeatedly broke down in tears ahead of cross country rounds. Things have improved since, partly due to maturity. ‘I think I did too much too quickly. Turbo came a year too soon –I had to grab the opportunity with both hands, because he was so amazing. But with Harry, I knew I couldn’t carry on if I kept winding myself up like that.’ Plus, with a less experienced mount, she felt less self-conscious about results. Their first big outing, to the championships at Frickley Park in 2016, was a surprise – ‘thrown upon’ them, when another rider pulled out – and having gone down with the expectation they might retire, they scored a double clear. ‘He was the highest placed sevenyear-old,’ she says, proudly. ‘That’s when we realised Harry was special.’ That’s not to say all problems are ironed out. She still has to ‘isolate’ herself before competing, listening to music and getting in the zone. But slowly, as she gains confidence, the stress seems to be diminishing. ‘Waregem was the best I’d ever been. Caroline was there competing too, so I knew if anything went wrong she would be able to work out why. It felt like a turning point – and hopefully I can keep it up this season, the mentality as well as the performance.’ It’s got to stay enjoyable, she says, or what’s the point? ‘I take it seriously, I’m competitive. But it has to be fun.’ 55

16/05/2018 15:27:20


Main image: Eileen is in charge of Scotland’s biggest rescue and rehab centre. Above: Sarah with Leo and Katie with Avesa.


EILEEN GILLEN HAS BEEN BASED AT BELWADE FARM, in Aboyne, home to World Horse Welfare (formerly the International League for the Protection of Horses) since 1990. Eileen, a former qualified instructor, arrived at the farm after applying for the role of manager. ‘I thought I’d give it three years and I’m now nearly 30 years down the line,’ she laughs. ‘The world of welfare is fascinating – you never stop learning, there’s always one horse that comes along and challenges you.’ Initially 45 acres, Eileen has seen the farm grow to 174 acres with the capacity to help 65 horses, ponies and donkeys. The farm is one of Scotland’s biggest rescue and rehabilitation centres and since 1990 has seen over 2000 horses come through its doors. ‘To see them come to fruition is amazing when you get it right. There’s no sector of the horse world which is immune to having welfare cases.’ In 2012 Belwade Farm opened a successful visitor centre and an indoor riding arena. With the average stay ranging from nine to 18 months, the centre can continue its rehabilitation work for the horses, ponies and donkeys in their care all year round. One of Eileen’s memorable career moments was supporting World Horse

Welfare in bringing in the updated legislation, The Animal Welfare Act 2006. ‘That was quite difficult because to be able to change things you have to have research, evidence and produce something that everyone is going to follow,’ she explains. ‘The challenge was trying to get it right and making sure there weren’t too many loopholes, allowing people to avoid the consequences of neglecting horses.’ Eileen explains welfare cases often come down to lack of knowledge: ‘The challenge is trying to educate people in basic care. It isn’t rocket science, it’s just common sense.’ On difficult cases Eileen explains, ‘I have to do what’s best for that horse at that time. We have a very good team here, from our vets to farriers, to physio and the team on the yard and field officers. We see some pretty horrible scenes, and although it’s getting a bit better, there’s always something hidden round the corner.’ Thanks to the hardworking team at Belwade Farm, horses are given a second chance at life, with many success stories. ‘I love seeing horses being turned around and enjoying life again, seeing photographs of them in their homes and getting the love and attention they so rightly deserve. ‘We’ve had horses come in that have been seen as broken but they’ve gone on to compete for Great Britain and Scotland in disciplines including vaulting and eventing. Just because a horse started as a rescue horse doesn’t mean it’s going to be like that for the rest of its life.’ At 58 years old, Eileen continues to help as many horses as possible, including assisting with the international side of the charity. The charity works with ten countries, training people on saddlery skills, farriery and nutrition. ‘I would like to make people aware about horses around the world – it’s not just about the problems and issues in the UK,’ she says. ‘We train trainers for the future, giving them skills and training for sustainability in their own country.’ Eileen’s determination has kept her going through difficult times but it’s the horses she credits. ‘There have been times where you feel you are against the wall, but you give yourself a kick and get on with it. I’m not a horse hero, I’m someone that’s there to help – the horses are the heroes.’

thought I’d give it three years and I’m now nearly 30 years down the line’



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‘I’m not a horse hero, I’m someone that’s here to help – the horses are the heroes’ 2018

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‘There is no right or wrong way to feed a grass sickness case, the key is just to keep them eating’

Grass sickness Keeping an eye out for the deadly disease is absolutely crucial, so our experts offer a few tips on what symptoms to look out for BY BECKY MURRAY IMAGES ANGUS BLACKBURN


rass sickness is an often fatal disease that occurs in horses, ponies and donkeys. The disease was first recognised in 1907 following an outbreak near Dundee. Today the disease still frustrates vets as they work tirelessly to better understand it with the support of the Moredun Foundation Equine Grass Sickness Fund. The charity raises funds for research into grass sickness and celebrated its thirtieth anniversary this year by hosting an equine grass sickness research conference. Currently there are approximately 140 cases of equine grass sickness reported to the Equine Grass Sickness Fund every year in the UK. The disease is not notifiable and therefore it is believed that these statistics significantly underestimate the actual number of cases. The vast majority of cases are fatal, with only around 50% of animals suffering from milder forms of the disease surviving with intensive nursing. Categorisation Grass sickness typically falls into three categories: acute, sub-acute and chronic. One of the difficulties faced by vets is distinguishing between the categories. Commenting on the categorisation, Prof Scott Pirie BVM&S PhD Cert EM (Int Med) Cert EP Dip ECEIM MRCVS of the Royal (Dick) School of Veterinary Studies states: ‘Despite the categorisation of the disease, the different categories very much represent a continuum of severity, of which the acute and chronic forms are two opposite extremes. The relevance of the categorisation process relates 2018

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Image: A horse with grass sickness showing the typical tucked up abdomen associated with the disease.


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Acute Gastric reflux Muscle tremors Depression Difficulty swallowing Colic Colon impactions Distended abdomen High heart rate Patchy sweating Absence of gut sounds Small intestinal distension

Sub-Acute Weight loss Difficulty swallowing Tucked up abdomen High heart rate Colic Gastric reflux Patchy swelling Muscle tremors Colon impaction Reduced gut motility Rhinitis sicca (dried, inflamed nasal passages)

Chronic Severe weight loss Tucked up abdomen Base narrow stance Rhinitis sicca Ptosis Slightly higher heart rate Muscle tremors Patchy sweating Mild colic Reduced gut motility

Pstosis (drooping eyelids)

predominantly to the severity and therefore prognosis of the case and whether to treat or not. The acute and sub-acute cases are invariably fatal; approximately 50% of chronic cases will survive with appropriate nursing. Therefore, it is important to make the distinction between sub-acute and chronic cases. ‘Although this distinction is most accurately based on the extent of nerve cell depletion in the gut, this is only evident during a pathological examination – we are trying to make that distinction based on our clinical exam. This involves considering the clinical manifestations of “not much depletion” versus “a moderate amount of depletion” versus “extensive depletion” and identifying clinical signs that are consistent with those three different categories.’

Nursing A proportion of horses, ponies and donkeys that are diagnosed with chronic grass sickness can be nursed; however, vets and owners are faced with a very difficult decision on whether this is possible or in the best interest of the horse. ‘The decision to nurse is based partly on the severity of clinical signs; there are also other considerations,’ says Professor Pirie. ‘The most likely clinical reasons for euthanasia in a horse with chronic grass sickness include an inability to eat or a reluctance to voluntarily eat.’ Lisa Henderson RVN, an equine grass sickness nurse based at the Dick Vet Equine Hospital, advises that nursing is a challenging route to go down: ‘Nursing at home is a 24 hour commitment. Although “around the clock” availability of personnel constitutes a major benefit of nursing horses in an equine hospital, it’s not always the best option for the horse. ‘Nursing a grass sickness case is very difficult and I think the percentage of people that attempt it is probably


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fairly low. All of the factors have to be absolutely right. ‘Very quickly you can have a very poorly horse. I would emphasise that if the factors aren’t right you are far better to euthanase early on. It’s not to say people shouldn’t try, if it’s the right thing for them and the right thing for the horse. If you are in the position to make a committed attempt and you have the necessary support – give it absolutely everything!’ In nursing a chronic grass sickness case, there is no rule of thumb. Trying to feed a horse with chronic grass sickness can be disheartening – they can promptly go off food and finding something they can eat is often one of the hardest parts of nursing. It is encouraged to try various different types of foods to maximise the likelihood of finding something that the horse will eat. ‘Try anything and everything,’ Lisa advises. ‘Nothing surprises me – I’ll go through people’s lunches to try and find something. Sometimes it’s the really odd things that they will take a fancy to. ‘There is no right or wrong way to feed a grass sickness case, the key is just to keep them eating. ‘In the morning they can be absolutely ravenous and decide they love a particular feed you offer them, then when you attempt with the same feed a couple of hours later, they look like you’re trying to poison them, so you have to rethink and keep trying. ‘We try to maximise their calorie intake in an attempt to meet their needs, and add in all sorts, including, oil, probiotics and sweet treats, but you have to be careful as adding to the feeds too much can put them off. ‘Once you’ve lost that little bit of appetite it can be a hard job trying to get it back – if you’re lucky a little bit of appetite will remain every day. Even if they don’t appear to eat much in a day, a few mouthfuls of feed is progress.’ Risk factors A number of studies have identified various risk factors associated with an increased incidence of grass sickness. Professor Pirie highlights the difficulties in risk management via the minimisation of risk factor exposure: ‘All we have is the published risk factors. With some realisation that

Seasonal factors Spring - Autumn Cold, dry spells and overnight frost

Premises factors Location Sand or loam soils

Prolonged dry spells

High nitrogen soil content

Large number of horses Mechanical removal of on premises faeces from pastures Recent occurrence of grass sickness on premises Rearing of domesticated birds on premises

Horse factors Age: 2-7 years old Good to fat body condition

Low levels of antibodies to the soil bacterium clostridium botulinum Lack of recent contact with a grass sickness affected horse

Frequent chain harrowing Soil disturbance Lack of supplementary hay or haylage

these are probably not all of them – only the ones we know about. Some of these factors clearly can’t be altered; for example, you can’t alter the age of the horse or the climate. ‘Other risk factors can, however, be altered. These are the platform on which we can build our risk management strategies. That said, there is little or no data confirming the beneficial effect of these strategies moving forward; not because the strategies are faulty, rather (with the exception of the vaccine trial) the prospective studies required to generate such data have not been conducted.’ What your vet wants you to know ‘The published risk factors and disease-associated data are derived from relatively large study populations of horses; however, there will always be exceptions to the rule,’ says Professor Pirie. ‘When declaring the “most at risk” age group as two to seven, there will always be someone in the audience who says “my horse was 22”. There will always be such cases – not every horse has read the text book. ‘I think having this level of awareness is key to moving forwards; otherwise you risk following trails of anecdotal evidence which don’t always take you in a fruitful direction. ‘Diagnostic confirmation is also very important. When considering the ramifications which result from a diagnosis of equine grass sickness, to the horse, the horse owner and the owner of the premises, it’s essential that the degree of diagnostic certainty should be as high as possible. ‘Following the loss of a much-loved companion, people are understandably reluctant to consider the matter of diagnostic confirmation, as this involves a post mortem examination. ‘However, the potential future implications for the premises are sufficiently weighty that they should ideally be based on a high level of certainty. 2018

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Management factors Grazing Recent stressful procedures, dietary change, movement to another pasture Very frequent administration of an ivermectin-based wormer

Main image: Nurse Lisa Henderson and Professor Scott Pirie. Below: If grass sickness sufferers are to stand any chance of recovery they need intensive veterinary care.


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• •

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Right: Lisa Henderson nursing a poorly patient.

Yvonne Maclean – Supporter of the Year and survivor story At the Equine Grass Sickness Research conference on 28 April 2018, Yvonne Maclean of Dingwall was presented with this year’s Heidi Award. This very special trophy was presented to the Equine Grass Sickness Fund in 2015 by Sam and Rebecca Seath in memory of their lovely mare Heidi who was lost to equine grass sickness. The award is now presented to the Equine Grass Sickness Fund’s Supporter of the Year in recognition of the great contribution volunteers make. Yvonne was inspired to raise funds for the Equine Grass Sickness Fund after her homebred horse Mal was diagnosed with equine grass sickness in August 2014. Yvonne undertook the very difficult task of nursing Mal at home. ‘When I was given the option by the vet that first week to try and nurse him, I didn’t realise how much it would take out of me both emotionally and physically. For the first three weeks we syringe fed Mal every hour,’ says Yvonne. ‘At three weeks Mal started to show an interest in food and we tried him on samples provided by the feed companies. I really had to listen to what he was wanting. He made it clear throughout the illness though that he wasn’t ready to give up. At the 14-week mark he started to look like himself again and I knew we had a survivor at that point.’ Now almost four years on, nine-year-old Mal enjoys a quieter life at home with Yvonne. In 2015, inspired to raise funds for the Equine Grass Sickness Fund, she started running a family-fun show, The Ross-shire EGS and Laminitis Show. Now going into its fourth year Yvonne has raised an enormous £25,000 for the Equine Grass Sickness Fund. Yvonne even makes her own special rosettes for the show which pay tribute to horses that have been lost to equine grass sickness and tell their story. The show takes place this year in Ross-shire on 28 July. ‘I want to encourage others. You don’t have to jump out of a plane to raise money Things like tack sales, sponsored walks and bake sales can all raise money and raise awareness, which is really important,’ says Yvonne.

Above: Heidi, who sadly passed away from the disease. Left: Award-winner, Yvonne and her beloved Mal.

‘We will often advocate, where at all possible, efforts to maximise a definitive diagnosis being made.’ Support is readily available to horse owners affected by equine grass sickness through various avenues. ‘A lot of owners aren’t aware that there is a lot of support out there,’ advises Lisa. ‘There are support groups on Facebook, the Grass Sickness Fund and I’m always at the end of the phone at the Dick Vet Equine Hospital. They can contact us any time and if we are not immediately available someone will always call back and we’ll give them some advice or just a friendly ear to reassure them that they’re doing the right thing.’ The vaccine trial Following pilot studies, in 2014 a vaccine trial for equine grass sickness, led by Dr Jo Ireland BVMS, PhD, Cert AVP(EM), MRCVS was started. A field trial on this scale is rare and extremely complicated due to the large number of people and premises involved. Eighty-eight veterinary practices took part, involving 223 owners on 120 different premises and over 1,000 horses and ponies. The trial closed to new enrolments in autumn 2017 and the data is currently being analysed. There has been a low incidence of equine grass sickness cases during the trial, and the horses were followed for a further year to try and minimise the potential effects of the disease. Half the horses and ponies received the vaccine and the other half received a placebo. The groups were triple blinded so that participating vets, owners and trial staff were not aware of which treatment groups each horse was assigned to. Once the data analysis is complete the results will be unblinded and the team will start to draw conclusions about the efficacy of the vaccine. Reporting Equine grass sickness is not a notifiable disease and therefore the Equine Grass Sickness Fund relies heavily on owners reporting cases to them. Professor Pirie confirms the importance of reporting the condition: ‘We rely on voluntary reporting of these cases. Some diseases are notifiable and one has to report them, but Equine Grass Sickness isn’t one of those so we do rely on the good will of people to make contact and provide information on the cases. ‘It’s useful on a number of different levels – it permits the targeting of premises for interventional studies such as the vaccine trial, it identifies owners from which data can be obtained in our efforts to more fully understand the disease and it provides local information on the temporal distribution of cases.’ Further information and support can be found on the Equine Grass Sickness Fund website: 2018

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Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo



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Image: Dame Judi Dench as Queen Victoria and Billy Connolly as John Brown with a famously flatulent horse.

Behind the scenes

Despite the famous saying that one should never work with animals or children, horses have been on our screens since the early days of cinema. Here we look at the top ten equine cameos in Scottish films BY ALI PEOPLES

Mrs Brown (1997) The relationship between the bereaved Queen Victoria and her ghillie, John Brown has always fascinated historians. In Mrs Brown, starring Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly, we are invited into this unlikely and poignant partnership. Set after Prince Albert’s death in 1861 aged just 42, the movie follows a reclusive Victoria on an extended visit to Balmoral Castle and the attempts of her servant to cheer her up – largely through riding. The two become quite familiar – Brown calls Victoria ‘woman’ rather than ‘ma’am’ – and polite society is scandalised by the attachment. According to Judi Dench, the horse she rode in the film farted all the time, which was a constant problem for the sound recordists. 2018

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Braveheart (1995)

Highlander (1986) This terrible and ridiculous movie was a flop after its initial release, but it went on to become a cult classic, spawning multiple sequels. The great thing about Highlander – a story about a league of immortal warriors who battle each other across different historical eras – is that it doesn’t take itself too seriously. The movie sees a Frenchman (Christopher Lambert) playing a Scotsman, and none other than Sean Connery playing a Spanish-Egyptian immortal. It has to be seen to be believed. Due to budgetary constraints, Connery filmed his scenes in a week – this included some magnificent shots of him riding a white Lipizzaner in harlequin costume. Shot in Scotland, London and New York, the film is often remembered for an epic soundtrack by Queen. To make up the numbers of horses in some of the film’s scenes, extras were given a £10 bonus if they could supply their own animals.

Rob Roy (1995) Scotland 1713 – an age of romantic chivalry, decadent foppish aristocrats and tall, sexy Jacobite heroes. Released in 1995 (the Blur to Braveheart’s Oasis) Rob Roy has clans battling nobles, duels to the death and a touching love story at its heart. Rousing stuff. Like a great Western, the movie has a focus on character, honour and personal integrity – think Shane in kilts. Horses feature throughout and in one memorable scene Rob Roy (Liam Neeson) is taken prisoner by the dastardly Archibald Cunningham (Tim Roth), dragged by a horse, tied to a tree and beaten. Most would agree that Rob Roy is pretty well-informed historically compared to Braveheart. It was also filmed entirely in Scotland, while most of Braveheart was shot in Ireland.

The Wicker Man (1973) Strange things were going on in British culture in the 1970s as films about figures like Aleister Crowley ushered occultism into the mainstream. Viewed by many as the ‘Citizen Kane of horror’, The Wicker Man cashed in on this trend. The film tells the story of a strait-laced police sergeant who arrives on a remote Scottish island to investigate reports of a missing child. The sergeant is disgusted by the pagan rituals and overt sexuality of the islanders, all coordinated by one of cinema’s great villains, Lord Summerisle, played by Christopher Lee. Memorably, the film meanders towards an iconic and unpleasant climax. There are one or two horses in The Wicker Man and a number of scenes in which the islanders don sinister horse masks. The film was entirely shot on location in Scotland at places such as Newton Stewart, Gatehouse of Fleet and Skye.

Previous - Photo 12 / Alamy Stock Photo. Top - Everett Collection Inc / Alamy Stock Photo Opposite - United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Winner of five Oscars, including Best Picture, Braveheart was also named the worst film ever to win an Oscar by Empire magazine. A story of courage in the face of adversity, honour and nationhood, this enormously successful film still divides opinion. But whether you love it or hate it, it’s important to remember that Mel Gibson’s vision of 13th century Scotland is a blockbuster movie, not a history lesson. Historical inaccuracies are rife throughout. For starters, the film’s timeline is all over the place, and ‘Braveheart’ was actually the nickname of Robert the Bruce, not Wallace. Kilts and blue facepaint are anachronisms, and Wallace wasn’t a commoner but the son of Renfrewshire nobility. The list goes on. It should therefore come as no surprise that most of the horses used in the film are foreign breeds and the horses used in battle scenes are mechanical models. Braveheart’s mechanical steeds were so convincing that, after the film’s release, Gibson was investigated by an animal welfare organisation.


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Harry Potter Films (2001-2011) The wizarding world is full of supernatural animals, including magical versions of horses. Winged horses called Thestrals have a skeletal body and a reptilian face, and are considered quite dangerous by the Ministry of Magic. Elsewhere in the franchise (which has endless associations with Scotland, home to the books’ author JK Rowling) we are introduced to Hippogriffs – proud creatures which are half-horse and half-eagle. They are extremely dangerous until tamed – a feat which should only be attempted by a trained witch or wizard. Visual effects specialists have revealed that animating these flying creatures took a great deal of research into the movement of both birds and horses. To get something the scale of a horse up into the air you need a big wingspan – something in the order of 30 feet. Eagle-eyed viewers will notice that the animators had to shrink the Hippogriff’s wings in some shots.

Being Human (1994)

Culloden (1964) The battle of Culloden in 1746 was the last battle fought on British soil and the sombre subject of Peter Watkins’ 1964 docudrama, Culloden. Produced on a shoestring budget and using amateurs instead of professional actors, it unerringly depicts the horrors of war. The film was edited to appear as though it was happening in front of news cameras, which according to Watkins was a deliberate reference to newsreel footage from the Vietnam war. This cinémavérité style was way ahead of its time and Watkins was praised for his radicalism. Amidst emotive interviews with soldiers, carefully planned camera angles give the appearance of battling armies. Horses feature throughout, adding a sense of authenticity to the production.

You might not remember this one from Gregory’s Girl and Local Hero director Bill Forsyth. After critics described the film as ‘flat and banal’, Forsyth claimed that cinema as a medium was inadequate to convey his ideas and walked away from the industry. Being Human features five fables, each set in a different historical era. Each vignette stars Robin Williams as a troubled but decent man named Hector (horses appear in a number of scenes, but they are not central to the story). Despite his star turn in Mrs Doubtfire that same year, even Robin Williams couldn’t save this soul-searching picture. Before the film was released, Warner Brothers instructed Forsyth to cut it by 40 minutes and add a happy ending. Not something your average auteur wants to hear – he eventually disowned the film. Top piece of trivia: Being Human was Ewan McGregor’s feature film debut.

Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) The clip clop of hooves is perhaps the sound most associated with this classic slapstick comedy. Set in 10th century Britain and filmed mostly in Scotland, we follow King Arthur and his entourage on a quest for the Holy Grail – a quest which leads them on a host of weird and wonderful adventures. Regularly voted one of the best comedy films of all time, it has since been re-imagined for a modern audience as the stage musical, Spamelot. Unfortunately, back in 1975, the Monty Python gang didn’t have the budget for real horses, but it didn’t stop them from making horse riding a central feature of the film. The running joke is that the King’s horse is invisible and a squire is never far behind clapping two coconuts together. The group came up with the coconut idea from an old BBC radio practice of striking coconut halves together as a sound effect for horses on early broadcasts.

Hamlet (1990) ‘A horse! A horse! My kingdom for a horse!’ It’s one of Shakespeare’s most well known lines – but it’s from a different play so we won’t be discussing it here. No, this is another chance for Mel Gibson to shine as Prince Hamlet in Franco Zeffirelli’s screen adaptation of the famously moody work. True to form, Mel plays Hamlet as a dynamic man of action who is often seen galloping around on horseback near beautiful Scottish landmarks. Historians remain largely in the dark about how actors depicted horses in Shakespeare’s day. It is unlikely that real horses would have been used on the stage other than in exceptional circumstances. The audience were expected to use their imaginations... 2018

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Right: Connor with his new horse, Chelo.

Dressaged for success A new horse marks a move to the big leagues for talented young dressage rider Connor Rankin BY CAL FLYN IMAGES ANGUS BLACKBURN


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‘At some point, I’d like to go over to Europe and work at a professional dressage yard’ 2018

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‘I’ve ridden basically every horse in the yard. I get on as many as possible’


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“Big old chunk of a pullquote to run in here and on and on and so on


Left: Connor enjoying a rare tea break at the stables. Above: Practising with Chelo at home.

ometimes selling a horse can feel like the end of an era. For Connor Rankin, the sale of his faithful equine partner of four years, Jack XI, marks the closure of his childhood. But it also acts as a statement of ambition: the start of a career in his favoured discipline, dressage. Connor’s parents, Julie and Bill, bought Jack as a green four-year-old for a son who, at 12, was already a promising rider. But neither could have anticipated how far the pair would come. Together they worked up the levels to compete regionally at medium. At home, they train to advanced medium level under coach Niamh Meehan, who trained with the Dutch Olympian Ellen Bontje and groomed at the Beijing Olympics for Irish rider Emma Hindle. The sparky 14’1 hh pony is ever willing and eager to learn, says Connor. Recently they’ve been getting to grips with flying changes. They qualified for every regional championship between prelim and elementary, at every Petplan festival from prelim to medium, and in 2016 competed at the Scottish under-18 championship at Rockrose Equestrian in Haddington. The only problem is that Connor

– who left school last year aged 16 to work full time with horses – is already 5’10 and still growing. ‘I don’t want to sell Jack,’ sighs Connor. ‘But I’m too big for him now. He’s a real character – cheeky, but in a nice way. Laid-back and happy to do whatever you ask.’ The horse that takes Jack’s place is Jay Ludanchelo V. ‘Chelo’, a sleek warmblood by KWPN stallion Everdale, has just arrived from the Netherlands. Still only three, with a glossy chestnut coat, he looks just like a larger version of Jack – ‘we’ve got a thing for chestnuts with white blazes, I guess,’ – and has the potential to go even further. Chelo is the result of a brief but focused horse hunt, assisted by Dutch warmblood exporter Rebecca Dudley. They sent her a wishlist: over 16’3, backed (but perhaps only barely), and correct – but not necessarily showy. ‘We looked for temperament over movement,’ says Connor, citing his trainer’s advice. And sure enough, the striking youngster is extremely calm and good-natured. He arrived at the yard after his long journey past midnight and immediately settled in his new loosebox and set to eating hay, as if 2018

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‘He’s a real character – cheeky, but in a nice way’


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Registered charity No. 206658 & SC038384

Leaving your horse in the hands of those who care The thought of what might happen to your beloved horse, or horses, should they outlive you can be very distressing. We understand that you want to know that when you are no longer there to care for them, someone else will be. Leaving your horse to World Horse Welfare in your Will ensures that its future is secure. We promise that your horse will remain safe, in our ownership for the rest of their life. If you would like information about how to leave your horse in your Will please call us on +44 (0) 1953 497225* or visit our website: Leaving-your-horse-in-your-Will *Lines open 08:30 to 5:00pm Mon-Fri. Calls may be recorded for training purposes.



Come and visit our lovely donkeys and all the other animals here at the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary. We are open from 2.00pm on Saturdays and Sundays when you can now take a map and make your own way around the Sanctuary and feed the animals by purchasing feed from the vending machines. Open 2.00pm to 4.30pm (last entry 4.00pm) Saturdays and Sundays only IPVT

Head Office: World Horse Welfare, Anne Colvin House, Snetterton, Norfolk NR16 2LR

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The Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary, The Holmes, St. Boswells, Melrose TD6 0EL

Tel: 01835 823468 Registered in Scotland Charity No. SC034634


Courses at Scotland’s Rural College SRUC offers Higher National (HND/HNC) courses and a range of National Certificate and vocational study opportunities at our campus locations across Scotland. Courses include:

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07796 444 431

EQUINE DENTAL SERVICES 16/05/2018 11:26:58

‘I want to compete at the Grand Prix and to teach as well’

Above right: Looking after old faithful, Jack. Above left: Connor spends most of his time with the horses at the yard. Right: Connor has his eyes set on reaching the heights of the Grand Prix one day.

he’d been born there. ‘He’s not the flashiest horse in the world,’ says Connor, ‘but he’s really soft, swingy and loose. I feel like I can make him work, and move even more than he can at the moment. We’ll just have to wait and see.’ At the moment, the promising pair will train at home ready for Chelo’s debut in May, when he turns four. In this way, they hope to repeat the success they had with Jack. ‘All the top trainers say that with correct training, you will make a horse move better,’ says Julie, a radiologist and an accomplished amateur rider. ‘But I’ve been surprised – everybody has been surprised – by how well Jack moves now. He was quite a stocky wee pony, but Connor has made him move like a warmblood.’ The key, says Connor, is to keep them forwards and working through their backs. Coach Niamh has been a big influence on his riding style, and has broadened his experience by putting him on all kinds of horses and ponies. ‘I’ve ridden basically every horse in the yard. I get on as many as possible.’ He now rides other people’s horses, and works on the yard full time, tacking up and warming up horses for Niamh, cooling them down after she’s ridden. Otherwise he is

sweeping and mucking out, and generally making himself useful: it’s all experience for making a career in the industry. ‘At some point, I’d like to go over to Europe and work at a professional dressage yard, and work my way up from stablehand to rider. Then I’d come back to compete – I want to compete at the Grand Prix, definitely – and to teach as well. That’s what I’d like to do.’ In the UK, dressage is a female-dominated sport, but Connor has found a role model in British Olympian Carl Hester. ‘He’s so natural and happy around his horses. I really admire the way he rides and keeps them, and generally how relaxed and calm he is in his training. He can make a horse do anything in the nicest possible way.’ This is the philosophy he turns to now with Chelo, still a baby, as they work through the basics. Connor puts his new mount through his paces for the EQY photographer, showing off the warmblood’s flowing movement and agreeable personality. ‘There’s a lot of training still to come,’ warns Connor. But for this well-matched combination – both young, both willing, both glittering with potential – the future looks bright. 2018

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Top: Helene has worked tirelessly to increase horse safety. Right: Helene thrives at the BHS on working with people and horses.

‘BEING THE BHS NATIONAL MANAGER FOR SCOTLAND IS MY DREAM JOB’ says Helene Mauchlen. ‘It brings together my liking of people and stories with my lifelong commitment to helping horses.’ Helene’s enthusiasm and tenacity have certainly paid off: since she took up the BHS Scotland reins 19 years ago, its membership and influence have grown. Growing up near Duns, Helene’s love of horses came from her Mum, who put her on a horse as soon as she could walk. Early riding included Duns Reiver’s Week every July, and Berwickshire Hunt and Pony Club events. But this was no privileged upbringing: Helene recalls using binder twine instead of stirrup leathers and wearing her brother’s kilt jacket to attend a Pony Club rally. ‘I went on to compete in teamchasing, eventing and hunting, complete my AI and work at the National Equestrian Centre,’ she says. ‘But it was those early years of riding the Borders Marches that instilled in me a love of horses.’ Married to a farm manager in Perthshire, and with a growing family, Helene started a degree in journalism at Stirling University, which led to

her appointment as editor of the Strathearn Herald in Crieff. This satisfied her inquisitiveness, but there was a missing element. When the BHS job cropped up, Helene saw the opportunity to combine her communication skills, competitiveness and love of horses into one. ‘Heading up BHS Scotland can involve everything from ensuring an individual horse enjoys the ‘five freedoms’, (freedom from hunger and thirst, discomfort, pain, injury or disease, fear or distress, and the freedom to express normal equine behaviours) to speaking in parliament on policy and legislation,’ explains Helene. The same drive has gone into growing BHS membership to over 7,000 in Scotland – a much higher proportion of the population than in either England or Wales. Numbers mean influence and, thanks to Helene, BHS Scotland now has plenty of clout, which she puts to good use to raise awareness within Scottish politics and economics. ‘Equestrianism represents a significant industry, which creates and supports a network of veterinary, farrier, physiotherapy and related professions, while also driving rural economic development,’ says Helene. ‘Horses may no longer be needed to pull carts and ploughs, but they continue to prove their worth in the modern world. At the heart of my work is a desire to help horses and horse riders.’ Education is one of her passions because, sadly, as well as suffering through neglect and ill-treatment, horses also suffer from ill-informed care: over-feeding, over-rugging and even delayed death (difficulty in making that final decision for a much-loved pet). The highlight of every aspect of Helene’s work is face-toface communication with people, be that at international conferences or over cups of tea at show stands. When all’s said and done though, the days out with horses and horse lovers are what stick in her mind. One such time was when she and Sylvia Ormiston solved the problem of the Balmoral Highland horses slipping in the snow by putting socks on their hooves. As with binder twine for stirrup leathers, necessity really is the mother of invention.

‘I Heart of gold

t brings together my liking of people and stories with my lifelong commitment to helping horses’



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‘At the heart of my work is a desire to help horses and horse riders’ 2018

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‘I’d like to be one of those people that keeps riding every day’


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Back from the brink When a massive heart attack on holiday almost killed popular Borders showing producer Richard Telford, it also rebooted his career BY BECKY MURRAY IMAGE ANGUS BLACKBURN


ifty-four-year-old Scottish showing producer Richard Telford, based at Ayton Castle in the Scottish Borders, has amassed an enviable career in both the show ring and on the eventing circuit. Richard’s successes include winning championship titles across the country at the Royal Highland Show, Horse of the Year Show, Olympia, Royal Windsor Horse Show and the Royal International Horse Show. At just three years old Richard started riding on a lead-rein pony which he shared with his brother. From a young age Richard confesses, ‘I was obsessed.’ He was an active member of the East Lothian Pony Club, which he heavily credits for his well-rounded starting point. ‘They had really great people – Sheila Clarke, Greer Hendry, Karen Delderfield and Linda Weir – these people were so inspirational.’ With Richard’s brother later giving up horses, Richard received encouragement from his father to look at employment and university opportunities but admits that ‘it was always going to be horses’. In 1988 Richard first went to work at Ayton Castle producing polo ponies and hunters, and just a few years later began renting the yard. In his early career, he enjoyed assisting Mary Scott of the Fidra Stud and eventing up to two-star level. He rode for owners, including Sir Alistair Grant and Lady Hoick, on what he describes as ‘very special horses’, before ‘falling into showing’. Continued success on the eventing circuit meant 2018

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Image: Richard with his horse Ollie.


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it wasn’t until the age of 30 that Richard made his first appearance at the Horse of the Year Show, having qualified in the working hunter with a horse called Oompa, owned by David Bowland. This was to be the first of many appearances. ‘I’ve been on the road ever since,’ says Richard. ‘Horse of the Year Show is the pinnacle, it’s magical to be able to ride there, but there are lots of beautiful shows around the country. The Royal Highland is my favourite.’ In October 2008 an accident at home with a stallion led to DVT, bringing on a terrifying heart attack as he holidayed in Tenerife. ‘I woke up in the morning feeling as good as new but then I had this amazing pain in my chest,’ he said. ‘We were going to a water park and I said I’d be fine. It kind of went away a little bit but then it really hit me. It was unbelievable. ‘The hospital said I wasn’t having a little heart attack – I was having a big one. If I’d been at home I would have been a goner because I would have been in the middle of nowhere and I wouldn’t have got to hospital in five minutes like I did in Tenerife. ‘Psychologically it floored me. But in the weirdest way it made me better. I feel healthier and go for regular checks; I never used to go to the doctor for anything!’

‘If I‘d been at home I would have been a goner’

Above: Richard and Golden Bird win the RIHS Large Hack at The Puddledub Show. Inset: Richard on Dales stallion Robert the Bruce.

Remarkably Richard was back on-board and competed at the Horse of the Year Show that December. Ten years on from the accident, he continues to be at the top of his field, campaigning numerous horses towards this year’s Horse of the Year Show qualifiers. ‘We are very excited about a Dales pony,’ he says. ‘We also have a very nice heavyweight cob, a stunning little racehorse, and a Suffolk Punch that we’ll put towards the heavy horse classes.’ Riding such a variety of horses, he could be forgiven for having his favourite breeds, but when asked his preferences he just laughs. ‘I just love horses,’ he says. ‘You can look at a horse and it just makes you feel good – it could be a sports horse or a Dales pony.’ Richard does, however, confirm mares have his heart. ‘I would personally buy a mare. I’ve had the most success with mares; if you get a good mare they’re unstoppable.’ Besides competing and running the yard at Ayton Castle, he also teaches and judges competitions. ‘I feel like you are putting something back into it. You can learn from people when you are teaching, even a ten-year-old child – they’ll say something and I’ll think, ‘that’s such a good way of explaining things’.’ When asked about retirement plans, Richard isn’t slowing down just yet. ‘I’d like to keep riding and keep going. A rider I really admire is David Gatherer; we’re a similar age and he’s still doing it. I’d like to be one of those people that keeps riding every day. If I have a day that I don’t sit on a horse, I don’t feel as good as when I’ve ridden. ‘I couldn’t have done half of what I have done without the help of my amazing friends, my partner Stuart Ashton, and all of the people that have worked for me over the years. Jane Walker has worked with me for years behind the scenes, doing the entries and accounts and keeping me on the straight and narrow. It’s really not who you are, it’s who’s behind you helping.’

Main image - Adrian Sinclair Photography. Inset image - Jim Crichton



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16/05/2018 17:24:18


Ones to watch

There’s no shortage of young equestrian talent in Scotland - but here are just a few whose names might continue to crop up in years to come


cotland is steeped in so much equestrian heritage and tradition that it’s no wonder we continue to produce excellent riders, with many showing a great level of promise from a young age. There is a discipline to suit a range of interests and abilities, from dressage and show jumping to driving, polocrosse and eventing. Young people keen to get involved in equestrian sports can access organisations like Horse Scotland, which provides advice, coaching and has performance and development squads in a range of disciplines. While each of these athletes gain different things from their chosen sport, they share a level of dedication, talent and true determination to succeed, laying the foundations required to become the stars of the future.

Above: Amy competing at the Ayr Country Show. Right: Zara and Otto competing at the BSPS Winter Show.

Above - Jim Crichton, Right - Adrian Sinclair Photography



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Amy Ogilvie, Working hunter and show jumping

A young rider who has honed her talents in the working hunter pony ring is 24-yearold Amy Ogilvie, who is quietly making a name in open working hunter and British Showjumping competitions. In recent years she’s hardly been out the top three in intermediate classes, with Wizard XI and Rhey Striker in open working hunter, qualifying for the RIHS Hickstead finals and HOYS. Amy also spends time teaching and is a UKCC level 2 coach and Pony Club coach, based at Champfluerie Stables near Bathgate in West Lothian. This is Amy’s last year of intermediate workers with Wizard and she has a strong string of showjumpers to compete this year, including CMS Capitol, Chacoa Cross Cruise, Longnewton Tiger Lily and Leandro VD Eikelboscherheide. A quiet, effective rider, Amy is quick to credit a strong back-up team at home, including her mum Lisa, for help and support behind the scenes.

‘Amy’s hardly been out the top three in intermediate classes’

Zara Weir Showing From a family of successful working hunter pony riders it was certain youngest sibling Zara Weir would match them. Zara, 16, has been riding from an early age and had numerous successful ponies to introduce her to the working hunter circuit. She is a member of the Nithsdale Branch of the Pony Club and has been making a name for herself with the family’s three working hunter ponies – Beech Hall Ryan in 143cms, Otto in 153cms and Alex Brewsyer’s former Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) champion Freckleton Maximus in intermediates. With ‘Max’ being ridden by older sister Philippa last term, Zara has stepped up to intermediate classes, winning a Royal International Horse Show qualifier at the BSPS Scotland Winter Show at Highfield at Howe. In fact, this show in March marked a red letter day as all three horses topped their class to qualify for the Hickstead final, where she stood champion with Ryan two years ago. The young Dumfries rider will also aim for HOYS this year and hopes to improve on last year’s top ten placings. 2018

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Fraser Reed

‘Fraser was presented with the HorseScotland Young Performer of the Year this Spring’

Above: Fraser and Harry competing at the 2017 European Pony Championships in Hungary.

Right - Adrian Sinclair Photography

Showjumping The quiet, unassuming 17-year-old from St Andrews was one of Britain’s most consistent pony showjumpers last year with his pony Harry. Fraser was selected to represent Great Britain at the Pony European Championships in Hungary and played a vital part in the team competition, jumping a first round clear and helping the team secure the silver medal. Additionally Fraser was presented with the HorseScotland Young Performer of the Year at the National Equestrian Awards in the spring of this year. Now out of ponies, Fraser, has moved to North Wales to base himself at current under-23 national champion Christie Pritchard’s yard in Anglesey with the hope of making a career out of horses. Already with strong performances under his belt he has been invited as an individual to represent GB at Fontainebleau at the Junior Nations Cup competition in May with Wabs De V and Eclips VIII. Both are at 1.30-1.40m level.


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Above: Matthew driving Lucy, assisted by Louise Kaiholm. Above Right: Matthew and Louise stop for a smile. Below: Amy competing over cross country.

Matthew Powell, Para-driving

Matthew Powell, 12, from Dalbeattie thrives on equestrian activities. He drives through Sports Unlimited and has been driving Lucy, a British spotted pony, and has recently returned from the National Indoor Driving Trials near Bedford. Matthew has a brain injury and has learning difficulties but his mum Demi explains that carriage driving has been his passion since he was tiny and has given him opportunities to learn, participate and succeed. ‘Matthew’s strongest phase has always been obstacles, but recently he’s got much more interested in dressage,’ says Demi. ‘I think what he likes best is seeing himself make progress and achieving goals. ‘His aims for the year ahead are to get Lucy working on the bit correctly during dressage and learning to drive holding the whip.’ Matthew is a keen member of British Young Drivers, where he trains twice a year and he has also completed two seasons with the British Driving Society, taking part in outdoor events and some showing.

Amy Beck Eventing With a strong performance at the Under-18 Eventing Championship at Frickley Park last year, Amy Beck is set for another busy season. That’s despite the late start to eventing this year with challenging weather conditions causing cancellations across Britain. Based near Elgin, Amy, aged 18, has a fair trek to compete, but can regularly be seen contesting southern events. She previously rode a much admired Connemara named Sile Na Gig, who competed at the Horse of the Year Show in Mountain and Moorland Working Hunter and Plaited classes. After a switch to eventing in 2016, Amy has showed impressive form with her string of horses Springwind Pro, Kilmanahan Garrison Lady and Balnashallog Diamond, and was picked to represent Scotland at the Under-18 Championships at Frickley Park. Despite the Kilmore Dimaond nineyear-old standing at just 14.1hh and being one of the smallest horses at the championships, they produced a cracking cross country clear in testing conditions. 2018

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Sam Coltherd Jockey Until mid-April very little in the mainstream media had been written about Sam Coltherd, but fast forward a couple of weeks and his name has hardly been out the papers as he lined up to start the Radox Grand National with Captain Redbeard. Based near Selkirk, it was a dream for the Coltherd family to get Captain Redbeard to Aintree, with dad Stuart the trainer and sister Amy leading the horse up at the course. However it wasn’t without its difficulties – originally Stuart bought the horse privately to sell on, but no one bought him. Stuart rode Captain Redbeard round the farm checking sheep and it wasn’t until winning a big chase at Haydock in December that he became widely recognised at a pre-national trial. The 19-year-old jockey from the Scottish Borders, is currently based in Yorkshire with Sue Smith, wife of legendary showjumper Harvey Smith, and although he was unseated early on, both the horse and Sam recovered and will be back again soon.

Carla Milne Youth Dressage Carla Milne, 15, from Kirkcudbright, has achieved what many people can only dream of – winning a national dressage title. This year she won the prelim bronze Winter Championship title with Hey Good Looking GK. Known as Cookie at home, he was bought as newly backed four-year-old two years ago. Carla had qualified for the Winter Championships at Hartpury last year, the Scottish Championships and Under 25 Championships at Sheepgate with her pony Curly Wurly but sadly outgrew the pony and Cookie has more than stepped up to the mark. She trains twice a month with Jane Rutherford, and with Cookie the duo have quickly made their mark, winning the regional qualifier at Morris EC and then drawn first at the Winter Championships. Their score held onto the lead to win, and also best BD youth rider, and best amateur owner in the class. They have qualified for the Summer Regional Championships again at prelim and have also qualified for the Area Festival at novice.

Top: Sam with Captain Redbeard. Right: Carla and Cookie make a winning pair. Far Right: Anneleise and Zorland.


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Anneleise Aitken, Showjumping

The 15-year-old showjumper from Ayrshire has been successfully combining ponies and horses. Anneleise has ridden since she was two and boasts some impressive wins, including the 11 and Under Grand Prix and the 138cm championship at Pony of the Year Show. Anneleise’s grandparents William and Agnes Johnstone have bred TBs for many years at Bellsea Stud and were the top Flat winning owners at Ayr Racecourse during 2017. In 2017 after winning the Children On Horses Grand Prix selection trial she was selected for the Great Britain team in Opglabbeek, Belgium, with Zorland where the team finished third. Anneleise was also picked as an individual to represent GB in Weirden. This year Anneleise and the 148cm Dun The Business II qualified for the Royal Highland Show and the Welsh Masters. She also has the talented seven-year-old grey gelding Eagle Z to jump in horse classes and will be aiming to take both to the International Trials at Chepstow. 2018

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16/05/2018 16:14:48



Ahead of the game

Finding a sponsor in the equestrian world may seem daunting, but our experts offer their top tips to help you secure the perfect partner BY BECKY MURRAY


Below: Top Spec sponsor new riders each year.

nce seen more commonly at the higher ranks of competition, where it was restricted to elite riders, sponsorship is now becoming more accessible to a vast range of riders and disciplines across the levels as brands look to boost their online presence. Katy Mickle, sales and marketing director at nutrition company Top Spec, explains the impact of social media: ‘Gaining sponsorship over the past ten years has changed a lot. ‘Social media has certainly been significant; we interact with a lot of people on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.’

What are you looking for? When considering sponsorship, firstly you need to ask yourself what you as a rider seek from a sponsor. Equally important, what can you offer a potential sponsor in return? Sponsorship may include benefits such as services, discounts, support and advice or equipment and kit in return for brand advertising and promotion. While this can sound appealing, sponsors in return will expect a level of commitment from you which might include regular competition results, a strong social media presence, regular promotion of their products or services and/or wearing their products and representing the brand when you are out and about. When you are further down the line, being recognised by one brand can help you attract other brands in different sectors. Top Spec run a successful sponsorship programme across the UK, Ireland and Europe taking on new riders every year. ‘We sponsor riders that are already feeding our products and endorsing them. For us it’s important that riders really understand the benefits of the products,’ says Katy.


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362 likes your title here #hashtag #loremipsum 2018

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Clothing and equipment company Harry Hall sponsor riders across their range of brands. ‘Caldene is a brand for competitive riders so we may look for bigger names whereas Harry Hall serves as a leisure brand where we are not looking for famous riders,’ explains editor Lucy Higginson. ‘We are looking for riders who are active on social media and who love our kit. ‘We look for expressive people with a genuine interest and knowledge of our products. It is important that riders are active and present themselves well on social media.’ Approach When contacting a brand or company directly, careful consideration should be given to your initial approach. It is recommended that you find out who your query should be addressed to and that you make contact in writing or email initially. Following your favourite brands on social media can also keep you up-to-date on any campaigns they are running. ‘The brand will notice that you like them and already take an interest in them,’ advises Lucy. ‘You will also hear first if they are looking for new names to sponsor.’ Katy agrees with this tactic. ‘A really good way to approach us is to write and tell us what events you’ve qualified for and send us a picture telling us what you feed and what difference the product has made,’ she says. A big put-off for brands, explains Lucy, is when a rider makes contact without finding out a contact name to address their message to. ‘Do not start your email with ‘“hi”. Find out a name and write a properly punctuated and nicely composed email. If you can demonstrate from the word go that you are quite expressive and careful, that’s immediately improving your chances.’

Dave Cameron Photography

Right: At just ten years old, Millie Lawson is one of Top Spec’s youngest sponsored riders. Bottom right: Millie’s social media posts have catchy hash-tags, bringing thousands of views.

MILLIE LAWSON Sponsors: Top Spec; Equine Sports Therapy Scotland; Eclat Equestrian

Based in Aberdeenshire, ten-year-old Millie Lawson is quickly making a name for herself in the junior showjumping circuit, riding her pony 11.3hh pony Dakota. Having qualified for the prestigious 128cm Pony Royal Highland Show Championship, Millie and Dakota have their eyes firmly set on a busy competition year ahead as they also campaign for the 128cm Scottish Home Pony team selection. ‘I want to try the qualifiers for HOYS, Olympia and Liverpool, but this year I really want to achieve the Scottish team,’ explains Millie. It’s not just competition results that Millie offers her sponsor. She is fast becoming an Instagram and YouTube star, with regular postings on her own social media channels. Millie’s posts have catchy hash-tags, bringing thousands of views to her videos. ‘Whenever I post a video I use the hash-tags of my sponsors,’ says Millie. One of the most notable videos of the year with nearly 300,000 views was Sir Mark Todd riding Millie’s pony Dakota, which was swiftly followed up by a video of British Olympian Pippa Funnell, who also had a ride on the now-famous Dakota. Millie fondly

describes her pony as ‘small but mighty!’ ‘Millie is fantastically talented and she is very keen to do anything to help us – she always comes and sees us on a trade stand at shows,’ says Top Spec’s Katy Mickle. ‘Millie is very good on social media. The positivity is fantastic, it is what you look for in a sponsored rider and I hope that she can be part of the team for a long time going forward.’ Media campaigns like this make Millie a successful and sought-after rider for brand representation. Follow Millie and Dakota on Instagram @millie_lawson and YouTube channel ‘Millie Lawson and Dakota’ to keep up to date with their 2018 campaign.


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‘Blow your own trumpet; brands want to hear about your successes’

Top tips for gaining sponsorship: Dave Cameron Photography

• Be individual and unique. Think about what the company has heard already. ‘Never tell companies that you work hard,’ advises Katy Mickle. ‘You want to stand out from the crowd.’ • Blow your own trumpet. Brands want to hear about your successes – but be honest. • Post interesting content. ‘Understand that brands need good content from their riders to use in newsletters and online,’ explains Lucy Higginson. • Do approach brands whose products you already use and are familiar with. ‘At Top Spec we would expect our sponsored riders to already be using our products,’ advises Katy.

Conflicts of interest While it may be exciting to go ahead and contact multiple brands, attaching photos and links to your social media, do look carefully at what you are promoting in your photographs and social media accounts. A big point to bear in mind in the early days of seeking sponsorship is that you need to avoid conflicts of interest if you are using multiple brands. A photo of you and your horse wearing a rival brand may not go down well in your sponsorship request. ‘If you’ve been sharing posts about rival brands, it rather undermines the idea that you are keen on our kit,’ advises Lucy.

Above: Sponsors are looking for expressive people with a geniune interest in their products.

• Do your research and be realistic. If you are a rider competing solely in dressage, then a company selling showjumps won’t be the best fit for you or the company. • Be selective and don’t fire off hundreds of emails without having thought of each brand or company as an individual. What fits for one company might not fit for another. • Find a contact name at the company from which you are seeking sponsorship. Look online or telephone reception to ask who the best contact might be. • Be patient. Brands and companies that run sponsorship and brand ambassador campaigns can receive hundreds of applicants – give the brand time to respond. • Be honest with yourself. Do you have the time to promote a brand online and contribute regularly? • Consider conflicts of interest. If you use multiple brands across a sector, could your social media postings and photographs be putting your chances at risk?

Contract On acceptance of sponsorship, you may have to sign a contract with the company, setting out timescales and terms that you are both expected to adhere to. ‘It’s good to have everything in writing on what we are proposing to do for a rider and what we want them to do for us,’ explains Lucy.

Left: Approach brands whose products you are familiar with. 2018

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A safe haven

As an animal lover, Rosemary Dale set up a donkey sanctuary and now dedicates her life to ensuring her four-legged friends have happy homes BY FIONA HENDRIE IMAGES ANGUS BLACKBURN

A Right: Young children seem to love donkeys. Below: Mary staying close by Jake’s side.

quick glance around Rosemary Dale’s cosy kitchen confirms that she is, without question, a committed animal lover. With photographs of pets past and present decorating the walls, hard-won rosettes littering the mantelpiece and several small dogs vying for space on her lap, it’s no surprise that over the last 15 years she has dedicated herself entirely to running the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary. The sanctuary was founded in 2003 as a haven for unwanted and abandoned donkeys and currently has over 100 residents. Located on the 80-acre estate The Holmes in St Boswells, near Melrose, the centre is a sanctuary for its four-legged residents and two-leg-

ged visitors alike, with breathtaking views of the River Tweed, an elegant tree-lined drive and plenty of open space to explore. John Wilson looks after the dayto-day running of the sanctuary and, along with six members of staff and a small army of volunteers, takes care of the centre’s residents, who comprise 90 donkeys, ten Shetland ponies, two mules, one horse, and a menagerie of pigs, goats, sheep, ducks and a llama called Snowdrop. The sanctuary was born out of Rosemary’s love of donkeys and having made her career as a breeder, her knowledge of the animals is second to none. Her first experience of rehoming came after she was contacted by two donkey owners to see if she could offer a home to their animals. From here, more and more people began contacting her to see if she could help with unwanted and abandoned donkeys, as well as rehoming those whose owners were no longer able to look after them. ‘The process of a donkey coming to us usually starts off with a phone call from an owner who is concerned about their donkey to see if we can offer it a permanent home,’ John explains. ‘We do also occasionally get rescues but the


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‘When visitors arrive with scoops of food the donkeys suddenly become very sociable’

process for that is a bit more complicated because we must get them legally signed over to us so that we can make the best decisions for the animal.’ With donkeys sometimes living for over 40 years, it’s no surprise that they often outlive their owners. ‘That’s usually the story we hear,’ explains John. ‘People get too old or unwell and can’t give their animals the care they need. They are looking to rehome them somewhere they know they will be looked after well.’ Rosemary explains: ‘I think a lot of people get a donkey because they think they don’t take much looking after and they make good companions for other animals, but that’s not necessarily the case.’ John says: ‘Donkeys are not as highly strung as horses but they do need upkeep. We see that their feet are done four times a year, their injections are kept up-to-date, they are wormed regularly and are checked for lice. We also give them a brush from time to time and make sure their feet are picked out. They need space to roam as well as shelter.

People think they’re hardy animals but you’ll see with our donkeys, as soon as the rain comes on, they all race inside; they don’t like the rain. For the most part they’re quite happy to be out grazing, although when visitors arrive with scoops of food they suddenly become very sociable.’ The sanctuary is about to get even bigger with another donkey on the way. ‘We recently got a donkey from Ireland who already had a foal at foot,’ John explains. ‘We found out shortly after she arrived that she was also pregnant and is due in a few weeks. We never count our chickens, or should I say donkeys, before they’ve hatched, but everything is looking good and hopefully we will have another donkey in the family. Visitors also love a baby donkey so it’s an exciting time for everyone.’ Visitors are important to the sanctuary and for 40 weekends of the year they are warmly welcomed to meet the resident donkeys. ‘The number of visitors we get really depends on the weather,’ laughs John. ‘On a nice day we can get a hundred people here on a Saturday and another


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hundred on the Sunday, but if it’s a wet day we can struggle to get five.’ As a registered charity, the sanctuary relies on donations from visitors as well as income from the popular adoption scheme. All the donkeys can be adopted by visitors who in turn receive an adoption certificate, newsletters and a photo of their new friend. The sanctuary also occasionally offers donkeys on loan but is very selective about who is eligible – homes are thoroughly checked beforehand, with staff undertaking ongoing checks once the donkeys are rehomed. ‘We had a situation a few years ago where the donkeys we rehomed weren’t taken care of properly, so

Top left: John in the sanctuary. Top right: Donkeys striking a pose. Above: Rosemary with her dogs. Below left: Little donkey on the dusty road.

To sponsor a donkey, make a donation or find out more visit www. donkeyheaven. org

it’s made us very cautious about who we work with,’ explains Rosemary. The centre has a cast of characters including a donkey who came from a home where he was kept with goats and spent the first few months of his stay at the sanctuary replicating their behaviour and headbutting staff. Thankfully, a little patience has resolved this problem and he is now happily part of the herd. The sanctuary’s oldest resident donkey is Jake who is blind. He relies heavily on his stablemate Mary who is very protective of him and the pair stick closely together. Getting Jake to go anywhere without Mary is near impossible, with her even opening the stable door to let him back in when he was taken out of the stall to pose for our photographer. Suffering from the occasional bout of poor health, nothing revives Jake like a few gingernut biscuits. A firm favourite of many of the donkeys here, the sanctuary stockpiles boxes of the sweet treats in a shed close to his stable. For Rosemary, the most memorable experience she has had was when she saved donkeys destined for the meat trade. ‘One wasn’t looking good so I called the vet,’ she recalled. ‘He came and looked at her, and said, “Oh there’s not much wrong, she’s just depressed”.’ ‘It hadn’t even been five minutes since he said that, when I noticed a wee foot coming out… she was having a baby! And, the other one we saved had a foal as well, so we didn’t just save two donkeys, we saved four.’ When reflecting on the work of the sanctuary she concludes: ‘Donkeys are a bit like dogs, aren’t they? You wouldn’t want to sell your old dog, so why would you want to sell your donkey? You’d just want it to go somewhere it’ll be loved.’ And at the Scottish Borders Donkey Sanctuary, loved they are. 2018

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Image: Cruachan IV and pony major Mark Wilkinson. Inset: Mark and Cruachan sharing a snack.

A little goes a long way

Pony major Mark Wilkinson reveals his most memorable moments with the Royal Regiment of Scotland’s cheeky pony mascot Cruachan IV BY FIONA HENDRIE


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he well-known saying ‘good things come in small packages’ has never been more true than when describing the Royal Regiment of Scotland’s pony mascot, Cruachan IV. At just 11hh, what the nine-year-old Shetland pony lacks in height, he more than makes up for in personality, regularly grabbing headlines for his cheeky behaviour. The tradition of having a black Shetland pony as an army mascot dates back to 1929 when Princess Louise,

Duchess of Argyll, presented the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders with a black Shetland gelding. The soldiers decided to name it Cruachan, the battle cry of Clan Campbell, and also the highest Munro in Argyll and Bute. When the original Cruachan retired he was replaced with another black Shetland gelding with a white star who took over the role and was named Cruachan II. The tradition has

‘There are photos of him at events eating my sporran and trying to bite me’ 2018

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continued and the current pony, affectionately called Four by his handler, took over the role in 2012 following the retirement of the much-loved Cruachan III. When not undertaking public engagements in his role as mascot, Cruachan IV spends most of his time at Redford Barracks in Edinburgh where he is cared for by Pony Major Mark Wilkinson.‘When Cruachan III retired, the army had to find a suitable replacement male black Shetland with a white star that had to have the right temperament to undertake all the duties that the pony mascot carries out,’ explains Mark.

‘We got Four from Clothie Stud in Dyce when he was four years old and he was presented to Her Majesty the Queen for approval before he began his training at Redford.’ With a busy schedule of engagements to attend, including taking part in the Royal Military Tattoo, welcoming the Queen to Balmoral each summer, as well as various parades and displays, training a military mascot is no easy task. ‘When we first got him our first priority was getting him ready for the Tattoo,’ explains Pony Major Mark Wilkinson. ‘We had to spend around three months in the gardens at the pipe school getting him used to the sound of the pipes and drums. We spent time walking him down Colinton Road so he could experience commotion and traffic. ‘And of course we had to prepare him for the fireworks. This was really just a case of taking him outside when there were fireworks going off and letting him see and hear them. He would get annoyed and jump and kick but I just had to reassure him, tell him it’s alright and he got used to it. ‘All his training is really about showing him that I’m there to protect him no matter what and that if anything happens I’m going to step in and keep him safe. We’ve had dogs run at him in the past and it’s my job to get between the dog and him and keep him safe. And he knows that now. ‘At the end of the day he came from a field in Aberdeen where he was pulling a cart with his brothers and sisters, to the middle of Edinburgh with a pipe band, fireworks and lots of soldiers so he did well to be ready in time.’ When he’s not marching down the esplanade in front of a crowd of thousands, he’s treated like a soldier with a uniform to wear, a wage which is put towards his upkeep, parades to undertake, regular inspections to prepare for, daily fitness training and, if he misbehaves, the possibility of losing privileges such as treats.


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Top left -PA, Bottom left - Alamy

He has a rank and was promoted to corporal in 2017. ‘He’s an animal first but he’s treated as a soldier. He knows when he’s got his uniform on he’s working. And he knows when he has his civilian horse jacket on it’s ok for him to muck about.’ Like any other soldier, Cruachan IV enjoys time off and one of his favourite pastimes is taking trips to the beaches at Portobello and Cramond to go swimming. Before he took over the role of caring for the pony mascot, Mark’s background was not in horse care. He joined the army as an infantry soldier and undertook various roles until he was asked to become pony major. ‘Before Cruachan I really didn’t have any background with horses. I didn’t like ponies when I was younger, having been bitten by a donkey as a child. I have learnt to ride now though and enjoy it and have even ridden in the Kelso rideout, although during parades I still look at the guys riding the drum horses and think they’re mad. But then they think I’m mad with my little Shetland.’ As well as Mark, who provides most of the day-to-day care, a few Edinburgh locals pitch in from time to time – the army’s animal team who advise on welfare, the vets at the Royal Dick Vet School who are on call for any medical issues, as well as the grooms at Balmoral who offer advice during his royal residency.

‘They think I’m mad with my little Shetland’

Top left: Nibbling Her Majesty’s flowers. Below left: At the Tattoo. Above: Standing to attention. Above right: Enjoying some down time.

Shetlands are of course known for their short stature and big personalities and Cruachan IV is no different. ‘On the whole he is well behaved but he is still a Shetland so when he’s in a mood, he’s in a mood,’ Mark explains. ‘There are times when he needs to be left to chill out. ‘He can also get a bit restless, so when we have to stand around for long periods of time he can get mischievous; there are photos of him at events eating my sporran, trying to bite me, trying to pull me and so on. But on the whole, he is well trained and does a great job.’ Working with an animal, even one as well-trained as Cruachan IV, inevitably brings a degree of unpredictability. Mark recalls one of the stand-out memories of working with the pony: ‘The first night of the tattoo a few years ago he practically bounced down the esplanade. In the rehearsals we’d packed cotton wool in his ears to drown out some of the pipes and drums but on the night we forgot to put it in. ‘So he went down the esplanade at a hundred miles an hour before halting and taking that very public moment to relieve himself, unfortunately aiming it right down one of my spats. ‘All I could feel was one leg getting warmer and of course I had to keep a straight face but the audience were having a good laugh. I had to march down the Royal Mile with my shoe overflowing. I’ve never been able to get those spats quite white again.’ 2018

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The Common Ridings promise festivity, tradition and the chance to explore the beautiful landscapes of the Scottish Borders on horseback, says Julia Welstead

Marching to a different beat... I

Fully charged: The Cornet leads the charge at the Hawick Common Riding, which celebrates the defeat of an English raiding party in 1514 by Teri youths and women.

have many happy teenage memories, and some slightly more dubious ones, of riding the Selkirk Marches back in the 1970s. Perhaps the strangest memory is running through gardens nicking peonies at 3am after a very long ‘nicht afore the morn’ party, shortly before following the 4am march of the Selkirk Flute Band as they woke the standard bearer and provost. Was this one of the many weird traditions of the Common Ridings, or just teenage high jinks? My friends from that era deny all knowledge. By 6am we’d be saddled up, resplendent with peonies in buttonholes. We were ready to join the cavalcade: a unique mix of several hundred pentup horses and their nervously excited (and quite possibly hungover) riders, which I’ve never experienced since. Heralded by the Selkirk Silver Band and flanked by singing and cheering crowds, we’d wade out through the River Ettrick and up Linglie Glen to the summit. The relief of being able to let off a bit of horse steam was palpable, even among the best trained and best behaved. Although frowned upon by many good horse folk, the final unfettered gallop into town gave a heady blast of adrenaline. Selkirk’s rideout celebrates one man, Fletcher, returning alone with a captured English flag from the otherwise disastrous Battle

of Flodden in 1513. A highlight of the day was the emotionally laden ‘casting of the colours’ as the town’s collection of ancient trade, craft and military banners were deftly swung aloft by strong-armed men. Peonies aside, symbolic traditions abound in many of Scotland’s historic annual Common Ridings, originating from a 13th-century need to check land borders under constant siege, and protect animal stock from reivers while perhaps doing a little light reiving and feuding oneself. Reiving of cattle and sheep, better known these days as thieving, was common practice back in the day: an old tradition that, unfortunately, has not entirely died out. Another of the oldest Common Ridings, Hawick, celebrates the capture of an English flag in 1514 and sports many rideouts to surrounding villages and farms in the run-up to the main event. Among the odder traditions here is the making of ‘soordook’ (curds and cream) by a local publican, which is eaten during the races and festivities up the Nipknowes hill, the Snuffin’ (dispensing of snuff) and the drinking of rum and milk before breakfast. In contrast to these two celebrations of ancient marches, the Jedburgh (Jethart) festival was only founded in 1947, with a schedule of two weeks of excellent rides to places of significance around the burgh – one most notably to a 1575 battlefield where the arrival of Jethart men claimed victory from the jaws of defeat. Probably one of the most idiosyncratic traditions is to be found in Langholm and involves nailing a barley bannock (bread) and a salted herring to a pole to be carried aloft throughout the ride. This is said to symbolise the rights and privileges of the Baron (to eat the land’s bounty, and to fish the Esk), while a spade is carried to cut the sods on the common grounds, a thistle to honour all things Scotland and (more recently) a crown to show respect to the Queen. Langholm’s ridings began in response to an 18th-century land dispute that resulted in cairns and beacons being erected and pits dug to mark the town’s common grounds. What started as an appointed job, to check and maintain the boundary markers, has become a celebration. As a rider growing up in the Borders, the Common Ridings were an inevitable part of the equestrian calendar, but they taught me more about the history, geography and topography of the land than any school lesson could. For anyone keen to enjoy Border country on horseback with equine companions and a dollop of tradition and festivity thrown in, the Common Ridings are not to be missed.

‘The final unfettered gallop into town gave a heady blast of adrenaline’ 98

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