Horse festival success, but it’s time for review

David Gatherer at horse trials at Floors Castle, Kelso as part of the Borders Horse Festival.
David Gatherer at horse trials at Floors Castle, Kelso as part of the Borders Horse Festival.

Monday evening with renowned horse behaviourist Richard Maxwell on his only Scottish date this year was a sell-out, drawing to a close another successful Borders Festival of the Horse.

But organisers say they are going to review the event, which was originally conceived to kickstart the local economy in the wake of the devastation of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001.

Organiser Ann Fraser of the British Horse Society’s Borders committee said: “We’re going to have a review and look at how it will go forward in the future. It may be we have to change, you can’t always go on running things the same and maybe we should be doing something different or targeting something differently.”

The horsewoman came up with the idea for the now 10-day event, explaining: “It was to act as a shop window for the equestrian industry and to put something into the rural economy and tourism, bring people to Scotland’s horse country and show all the different things horses can do, and give people the chance to try their hand at some of the things.”

It ticked those boxes again this year with highlights including ‘tilting’, Richard ‘Max’ Maxwell, a rare chance to see the Duke of Buccleuch’s sporting paintings, a horse logging demonstration and well-attended talks by vets.

“The festival as a whole has gone very well. There have been big turnouts at almost everything and, going round the events, the enthusiasm from people is tremendous and I think the weather has helped,” said Ann: “It’s been a great success”

Max helped three horses and organiser of the evening at Nenthorn, near Kelso, Polly Fraser said: “It was informative and amusing, and I think everybody went away feeling empowered.”

There were several ‘have a go’ tilting demonstrations in the lead-up to Friday night’s formal welcome in Selkirk to the Danish teachers of the sport, when competitors with a lance try to, at a canter, spear a small ring suspended from a gallows.

There were speeches and presentations to the eight Danes before the European riders led locals on horseback to the Haining where they demonstrated the medieval sport and encouraged riders to try their hand.

On Saturday, the festival’s Grand Competition Day at Newtown St Boswells saw a match between the Danes and the Scots, the last chance, this time, to see the riders from Denmark, whose visit was funded by LEADER.

Ann said: “There was a lot of interest. People are thinking it would be good to introduce it to Pony Club because some of the children were very good.”

Viewings of the Duke’s paintings last weekend were sold out. The horse logging demonstration was as popular as ever, with Northumberland’s Danny MacNeil and Traquair-based Rab and Caitlin Erskine and cobs Scout and Angel showing their skills at Abbotsford, near Galashiels.

“It was a great success and the great thing is people were there who wanted logging done, which is what the festival is all about,” said Ann.

Entries were down for the Grand Competition Day which organisers put down to high fuel prices. Other events included guided rides, a rescued donkeys afternoon, a Clydesdales evening, endurance rides, horse stunt troupe shows, cross-country schooling, reiki, radionics, a vaulting show and more.