Before you tuck into your whisky and haggis to celebrate the Scottish poet Robert Burns tonight (25 January 2016), here are a few reasons why equestrians are so fond of Scotland
The people of Peebles in the Scottish Borders are lucky to claim showjumper Scott Brash as one of their own. The 30-year-old made history in September when he became the first rider to win the Rolex Grand Slam of showjumping with Hello Sanctos. He also has team Olympic and European gold medals to his name, plus an individual European bronze. The former member of the Peebles Tweeddale Branch of the Pony Club was named the third most eligible bachelor in Scotland by The Scotsman in early 2014.
2. The Scottish Grand National
When the hype of the Grand National at Aintree dies down, there is the excitement and bracing wind of the Scottish Grand National at Ayr to boost your spirits just a week later. The biggest day of the year in jumps racing in Scotland will be on 16 April in 2016, with up to 30 horses setting out on the four mile chase over 25 fences. For tickets visit www.ayr-racecourse.co.uk
What better way to take the edge off your nerves and warm you up than a splash of whisky in your hip flask? And we have the Scots to thank for that…
Blair Castle was at its best for the European Eventing Championships last September, as riders tackled Ian Stark’s cross-country track in driving rain, in their quest for the title. The Brits might have missed out on clinching the gold to the Germans, against the grand backdrop of the Perthshire castle, but a silver medal still meant they got their place on the podium and were presented their medals by The Queen — as well as the kilt-clad officials. Next year’s horse trials runs from 25-28 August. Visit www.blairhorsetrials.co.uk
5. Highland ponies
Standing between 13-14.2hh, the Highland pony makes an enivable riding pony — and is a favourite of The Queen. They were bred to carry hefty stags and haul timber and other provisions, making them a calm and steady partner.
7. Eriskay ponies
Perhaps the lesser know of the native Scottish breeds, standing between 12-13.2hh, the Eriskay pony can be found in all sphere’s of equestrianism — from dressage and showjumping, to hunting and driving. According to the Eriskay Pony Society, they are said to be “active, honest and workmanlike”.
Tirelessly strong, comically naughty and with tummies that (nearly) touch the ground, Shetland ponies still manage to hit a soft spot — and never more so than when they are going hell for leather around the Shetland Grand National at Olympia in December. Visit www.olympiahorseshow.com
7. And on the subject of Shetlands…
The former flat jockey was born in Stirling and has 3,828 winners to his name. He was British Champion Jockey five times (1972, 1973, 1978, 1980 and 1983), won 17 British Classic Races, and passed 100 winners in a season 23 times.
9. Ryan Mania
When Ryan Mania won the Grand National in April 2013 aboard the the 66-1 shot Auroras Encore, he received a warm welcome from the people of his home town of Galashiels. The then 23-year-old had become the first Scottish-born winning rider of the race since 1896, when David Campbell won on The Soarer.