International horse event held at Yetholm

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The Haugh at Yetholm was abuzz recently as endurance riding’s home international saw competitors from all over the UK descend on the Borders.

Around 150 horses competed in various rides, including the two-day 160km, two-day 120km, 80km race ride, 60km race ride, 50km, 40km and 30km rides, and shorter pleasure rides.

The discipline sees the competitors complete the distances, having passed through ‘vet gates’ where horses’ heart rates and soundness are checked, before they are allowed to continue.

Scotland came second in the Celtic Challenge to Wales, third in the Home International behind England and Wales and won the best turnout.

Chef D’Equipe Nicky Bertham from St Boswells said: “All 14 riders in the Scotland team did a brilliant job over the weekend.

“On the Sunday morning, we had two high-mileage horses vetted out (including one hoping to complete 160km over the two days) and our two novice horses were also vetted out at the end of the 40km ride.”

Asked what could be improved, Nicky said: “It is always difficult when the competition is on home soil, but I felt it went as well as it could have.

“The rain and wind didn’t help the riding conditions or the crewing conditions, but the main thing is there were 14 healthy happy horses returning home on the Monday morning.”

Scotland’s best result was at Burgie four years ago when the team won, both the Home International and the Celtic Challenge.

The team this year featured Sharron Elsdon from Hawick with her horse Magwa, completing the 50km open class.

She told The Southern that she had bought the skewbald cob as a hack.

But together she and her mare have become a talented endurance team, competing for Scotland in 2013 as the novice horse and rider.

When not leading the team, Nicky rides her young horse King and achieved notable success with her other Standardbred, Maverick, before retiring him.

She said: “Endurance is all about enjoying riding your horse; competitiveness is required also and it is amazing how that sneaks out when you start to compete at the longer distances.

“The buzz in the vet gates when the horses come in for a race ride is great and really gets the blood pumping.”

Asked what riders from Scotland and other nations like about competing in the Borders, she said: “The riding country in the Borders is truly amazing and you get to ride on land that you would never be able to otherwise.

“The championship course should always be a little more tough than a regular ride and the riders like to rise to the challenge. The Yetholm Hills were certainly that.”

What’s next for the Scotland team?

Nicky said: “The committee will meet to go through everything and discuss the way forward for next year. We have a long wait until 2015 as it is in October at the Red Dragon, Builth Wells, Wales.

“The committee will agree on the training dates for next year and the timetable to lay out the format for picking the team,” said Nicky.

For more information about the local endurance riding club, visit www.sercborder.org.uk.