A best-selling author and acclaimed authority on a Portuguese horse breed has been honoured for her longstanding service to Portugal.
Sylvia Loch from Birgham, near Coldstream, is to receive the award of merit, a decoration conferred by the president of Portugal, Aníbal António Cavaco Silva.
She will be presented with the award at a special reception at the Portuguese Embassy in London later this year after the Queen gave Sylvia permission to accept the honour from a foreign nation.
The award is largely in recognition of her work as an author of seven books on classical riding of the Portuguese Lusitano horse.
Her publications to date include The Classical Seat, The Royal Horse of Europe and her latest book, The Balanced Horse, with a foreword by British Olympic gold medal winning dressage rider Carl Hester.
Her beloved Lusitanos inspired her to turn to writing to support herself and her baby after her husband died suddenly on the day her daughter was to be christened, 30 years ago.
“I do believe Portugal and her horses changed my life” said Sylvia.
“They taught me awe, humility and sensitivity, and I often think empathy with horses is God-given.
“They are such very spiritual as well as beautiful animals.”
Sylvia already holds one Portuguese accolade.
She is the only British person to be certified by the Portuguese National School of Equestrian Art as an accredited instructor. She also founded the Classical Riding Club which has 8,000 Facebook followers.
She is much in demand for her lecture demonstrations and as a judge of Lusitano and Spanish horses, and trainer of horses and riders in the UK, Europe, North America and Australia.
Her award of merit was announced as she was about to give a demonstration at the annual breed show of the Lusitano Breed Society at Moreton Morrell, Warwickshire, earlier this month, where she was a judge.
In addition to her non-fiction equestrian books and DVDs, Sylvia is the author of a novel, An Algarve Affair, based on a high society scandal which rocked the ex-pat community in the Algarve in the 1970s, when Sylvia lived in Portugal with her first husband, the late Major, Lord Loch, 3rd Baron Loch of Drylaw. Then, she ran an equestrian centre in the Algarve.
The couple later transported their Lusitanos by train and boat to Suffolk, where they continued to train horses and riders until Lord Loch’s sudden death.
Sylvia has ridden since childhood – in spite of being allergic to horses – and ran a riding school as a teenager in her native Scotland.
As soon as she moved back to the Borders, Sylvia got involved in the Borders Festival of the Horse, and in 2011 gave a masterclass in classical dressage at Ladykirk Riding School.