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The final stages of training are underway for a six-year-old horse preparing to take part in Highland games.

Irish cob Socks has taken part in a rigorous training regime ahead of the annual Lonach Highland gathering and games on 22 August.

He will be parading with the Lonach Highlanders and other pipe bands throughout the day of the event at Bellabeg in Aberdeenshire.

To get used to the noise of the pipes and drums, Socks has been attending band practices for three months.

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Socks’ owner Derek Gray said the horse has taken the training in his stride.

“I’ve been looking after the horse on the Lonach march for the last two years, taking over the role from my father who had done it for over 40 years before that,” he said.

“Having reared Socks since he was a yearling, I will be extremely proud to march alongside him on games day.

“There’ll be a few carrots close at hand to keep him sweet and ensure he behaves himself and doesn’t end up in the beer tent with all the other Highlanders.”

Training - Socks with members of the Lonach Pipe BandThe Lonach Highlanders, established in 1823, are believed to be the largest body of non-military men to carry ceremonial weapons in Britain.

They march in full highland dress, armed with traditional Loachaber axes and pikes on games day.

Traditionally, a horse and cart followed the highlanders on their marches to carry their weapons.

The debut of a new horse is always special and we hope Socks will have a long association with the Lonach Gathering,” said Jennifer Stewart, secretary of the Lonach Highland and Friendly Society.

“The sight of 220 Lonach Highlanders and the massed pipe bands leading the Lonach horse and cart onto the games field in such a stunning setting is a sight to behold.”

This year marks the 174th games and other attractions include highland dancing and athletics.

Up to 10,000 visitors from across the world attend the games.