THE BORDERS horse festival celebrates its first decade this year.
The organisers, the Borders branch of the British Horse Society, have pulled out the stops to book the Household Cavalry to perform their musical ride for the first time in Scotland later in this summer.
The award-winning festival itself started yesterday, launched at the former home of Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford House, near Galashiels by writer Judy Steel.
The theme of the festival’s ever-popular guided rides this year is the 19th novelist and one-time Selkirk sheriff who is credited by some with creating tourism in Scotland as international readers flocked to see his home.
Jedburgh’s Ann Fraser came up with the idea of the festival – at that time, unique – to help boost the local economy after the devastation of the 2001 foot and mouth outbreak. Last year more than 10,000 people visited it.
This year’s programme is as vibrant as ever with competitions, the Borders-wide guided rides, “have a go” events, talks, and demonstrations among the 40 events taking place over 13 days.
Mrs Fraser said: “We have never had such a varied programme: many are new to the festival and will help to provide an action-packed 13 days.”
At yesterday’s launch, Lady Steel talked about Sir Walter Scott and around 30 riders departed Abbotsford in the festival’s first guided ride.
Eccles’ Glebe House is the venue for a grown-ups’ gymkhana tomorrow. Floors Castle Horse Trials attracts top eventers competing at Kelso on Saturday and Sunday. Sunday is also Ladies Day at Kelso Races. There’s showjumping at Lempitlaw near Kelso on Tuesday and show jumping schooling at Brothershiels Farm, Heriot from Wednesday to Friday, dressage tuition at Broomhill, Selkirk on Thursday and Friday, a masterclass by dressage doyenne Sylvia Loch at Ladykirk next Monday and a team quiz at the Borders College in Galashiels on Thursday night.
The festival’s Grand Competition Day is at St Boswells Mart next Saturday and next Sunday brings Oxnam Gymkhana at Oxnam Row and the Duke of Buccleuch’s terrier show at Midlem
Talks include Learning to Horse Whisper with Peter Neilson and An Update on Laminitis by Kelso Merlin vets Iain Lathangie and Clare Arthur. Lady Steel launches her poetry anthology, Horse Tales and Saddle Songs, tomorrow when some will be recited or sung by local performers John Nichol and Elspeth Smellie at Bowhill Theatre.
The entertaining Les Amis d’Onno equestrian cabaret takes place at Lanton Hill Farm on Sunday when performers stage stunts, combat and trick riding with music.
North Northumberland horse logger Danny MacNeil and new Borders horse logger Rab Erskine will show their heavy horses at work pulling timber at Bowmont Forest, near Kelso on Wednesday afternoon.
Roxburghe Estates’ head forester Peter Darling, in charge of Bowmont Forest, said: “We are keen to try horses rather than machines for timber harvesting on what is a fairly sensitive site.”
Other demonstrations include western riding at Winkston, Peebles on Monday, a vaulting display at Monteviot near Jedburgh on Wednesday, an hour-long How To Train Your Horse to Perform Tricks by Les Amis d’Onno at their Lanton Hill Farm base on Monday and next Friday the troupe will give a two-hour trick riding lesson.
Other events include an exhibition of equine art by Borders artist Denise Playfair at the Vennel Gallery in Kelso. Today there is training on emergency first aid for equestrians at Springwood Park, Kelso and an open day at Dryden Riding Centre, Selkirk. Next Friday there is a Create a Stable Life open day at Dryden which shows the work of Stable Life teaching young people life skills through the horse and its environment. In the evening there will be an equine car boot sale at Riverside Park, Jedburgh
Next weekend’s Traquair Medieval Fayre at Traquair House, Innerleithen includes an equestrian display.
The Household Cavalry perform their famous musical ride at Floors Castle on August 28.
For more information see www.bordersfestivalhorse.org