‘He knew he was spectacular’: Farewell to one of the most prolific Highland ponies of all time

  • The Highland pony Stirlingdene has been put down aged 19.

    Owned by the Atherden family and ridden by Frazer Atherden during his career, the prolific dun stallion was best known for landing the supreme mountain and moorland (M&M) title followed by the overall pony of the year supreme at Horse of the Year Show (HOYS) in 2012.

    “Stirling” was bred by Scott McGregor out of Dark Maiden Of Kildavie, by Fyfedene.

    “He first caught my eye when I saw him as a three-year-old at the Royal Show,” said Frazer. “I ran over to Mum and my twin brother, Dain, and said they just had to come over and see this colt. He was so impressive.”

    At the time, Stirling was based with Sean Reed, and Frazer was acquainted with him again later in the season at the National Pony Society (NPS) summer championships.

    “I kept going over to his stable; I couldn’t help myself,” he said. “Sean kindly let me show him in a championship and I was hooked. He was a big, strapping stallion and he knew he was something spectacular. Later that year we managed to buy him.”

    Frazer and Stirling racked up an incredible tally, which included reserve in the 2008 HOYS M&M championship, reserve in the 2010 Cuddy in-hand final and several Olympia appearances. After his victory at HOYS in 2012, Stirling was retired from the show ring.

    “One of my fondest memories was qualifying for Olympia at the NPS summer championships on my 18th birthday,” Frazer said. “Everyone sang ‘happy birthday’ to Dain and I while me and Stirling were pulled forward as champions; there wasn’t a dry eye in sight.

    “Stirling was the most amazing ride with light, uphill paces. He could be very cheeky and he knew how handsome he was. But he was always bright and wanted to please.

    “HOYS 2012 was amazing for us as a family; it was a feeling like no other. He gave me his all that week. It was a truly amazing way to end a great journey together, at the very top.

    “Stirling was always a joy to be around and was a true gent. There won’t be another Stirlingdene.”

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