Common Riding in the Scottish Borders

common-ridings-kelso-scottish-borders“There just aren’t enough opportunities to dress up in costume and ride out with hundreds of other horses round the borders of your town to take part in a tradition dating back 700 years, are there?”

Go to Horse & Countryside to read more…

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Across the Pond: Local Hunts on Hand at Badminton Horse Trials

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“Badminton Horse Trials ran May 5-10 in Gloucestershire, England, attracting over 250,000 spectators, the second-largest number for any paid-entry sporting event in the world. The lanky William Fox-Pitt won against his old rival Andrew Nicholson, also known as the ‘Silver Fox’, who was leading until the Sunday show jumping. Thrilling…”

Go to E-Coverstide to read more…

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A Look at the History of Badminton Trot-up Fasion

Bill Levett and Shannondale Titan, Badminton 2014

Bill Levett and Shannondale Titan, Badminton 2014

“The 2nd of May 2014 dawned cool and cloudy, a chilly wind blew, but an intrepid crowd still gathered 10-deep — those at the front having arrived early with chairs, stools and thermoses — around the trot-up area in front of Badminton House.

Who was there? Eventing fans, punters … and fashion bloggers. For their fortitude they were rewarded with a largely tweedy fashion spectacle worthy of the catwalks of London or New York. In fact, rather better thanks to the fact that every ensemble sashaying down the gravel catwalk included the ultimate fashion accessory: a super-horse.

What followed was a social media frenzy of fashion commentary — a little surprising given eventers’ pragmatic affection for jeans and paddock boots. It isn’t quite like this at any other event. Why?”

Go to Eventing Nation to read more…

An Inside Look at Mike Etherington-Smith’s New Millstreet Design

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“The great baseball player, Rogers “The Rajah” Hornsby once said, “People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.”

Winter is a woeful season here on the west coast of Ireland. Storms tear off the dark North Atlantic, yanking down trees, stripping away roads. Any attempt to school a horse regularly is futile, and even the minor chore of walking to the stables leaves me rain-whipped, ice-cold, discouraged.

I tend to mope. I mourn. I see the dark side of things. I lose perspective. As the tragedy of another Irish winter unfolds, with its resonance of famine and plague, I forget that I am, in fact, just waiting for spring.

Practically the only thing that keeps me from leaping off one of the sea-bashed cliffs in front of my house is plotting my summer competition schedule. I slink round the internet, ogling the sites of summer horse trials… and the whole world brightens.

What goes into building these pleasure grounds? Who are the heroes whose dedication to natural obstacles and smooth turf makes my life worth living? I decided to find out.

Here in County Cork, we have a new cross-country course designed by the great Michael Etherington-Smith, designer for the Sydney and Hong Kong Olympics, the 2010 World Equestrian Games, the Rolex Kentucky CCI4* for the past 20 years, and many others.

After salivating over sunny photos on the website of the Millstreet Equestrian Centre, where the course has been built, I rang up Mike Etherington-Smith in a grateful mood.”

Then I published what I learned in Eventing Nation. 

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High on Horses at the Traditionally Bred Irish Horse Sale, Scarteen House, County Limerick

In 1673, Sir William Temple traveled round a grassy green Ireland of fields and forests that would still be recognisable today. There was hunting on the hills, horse racing on the strand, and farming done by native working horses, the embodiment of patience. Beside himself with excitement, Sir William wrote home to King Charles II, “Horses in Ireland are a drug”.

He wasn’t the only one talking to his monarch about Irish horses. In the 17th-century Irish horses – and in particular the Irish Hobby Horse, an ancestor of the modern Irish Sport Horse – were imported by most of the crown heads of Europe, becoming foundation bloodstock for many European breeds. Even the modern Thoroughbred is most closely related to the Irish Draught and Connemara Pony (foundation breeds for the Irish Sport Horse), according to DNA testing.

These precious bloodlines are now under threat. I spent the day at the Traditionally Bred Irish Horse Society’s Sale at the historic Scarteen House to find out more… and published the tale in Eventing Nation.

 

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Badminton 2.0 – An Eventful Day at Haras du Pin

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I know a lot of people who were looking forward to the World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy. They booked their tickets for the cross-country at Haras du Pin months in advance and flew thousands of miles to be there. Many of them were disappointed. Some were much more than that; they were raging. The logistical nightmare that some people experienced overshadowed the pleasure of seeing the best horses and riders in the world tackle a universally admired cross-country course. I was there, and it WAS a tough day – even though I was among the lucky ones – and an eventful one. I wrote about it for Eventing Nation. 

 

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