Sutherland Riding Club is based in the Highlands of Scotland. We have activities for all, from beginners to advanced riders. We also welcome non-riders and family members who would like to learn more about our passion for horses and support our many events throughout the year. We hold regular training clinics and competitions all year round, working closely with top level trainers to provide tuition at an affordable level for club members. Affiliated through British Riding Clubs to the British Horse Society.
New members are always welcome: 2020 membership application form
Message from the Chairman
.......As you may remember I wrote a few months ago......... “Her Majesty reflected that it was rather hard on me being loaned a pony that was then taken away at exactly the time that I was on school holidays and would want to ride ...........and so she proposed a solution”.
For those of you who missed the previous chapters of the tale – I had written how I had spent my childhood riding borrowed, often unsuitable, ponies (which I was delighted with and loved), until one day Princess Anne lent me her outgrown pony High Jinks. No sooner had I got him settled at home than the Queen asked to borrow him back for a few months for Princess Margaret to ride – and so, to continue.......
The solution Her Majesty suggested was that, should I wish to ride at anytime I should come down to the stables at the Castle and ride whatever was not being used by the Royal Family and guests. To begin with, I would creep down when no one was around, ask the grooms which horse or pony needed exercising and take that out. One day, whilst I was out riding, I met the Queen walking her dogs who asked why I never appeared at the stables in the morning when “we all go out riding” to which I explained that I didn’t want to intrude on their privacy (my parents had drummed into me that Balmoral was one of the few places that the Royal Family could be completely private). I was firmly told that I shouldn’t feel like that and to be at the stables at 10.30 the following morning if I wanted some company on my ride.
From then on, I was ready and waiting ( the Royal party was always preceded by a footman, in full livery, carrying a greaseproof paper parcel of immaculately peeled and chopped carrots for the horses) and when the Queen and others arrived decisions were made about who would ride what. The guests and children were sorted out with their steeds, her Majesty would often choose one of the Fell, Highland or Haflinger ponies to ride, leaving me with whatever else was tacked up. Sometimes I would ride one of the children’s ponies, sometimes I would ride my beloved High Jinks and sometimes I would ride one of the Queen’s hacks that had come up from Windsor for the summer.
One of these hacks was a lovely, obviously beautifully schooled, horse called Cossack.
He was 16.2hh, 18 years old and his only job was to provide an enjoyable, safe conveyance for the Queen. He was an absolute joy and a gentleman. One day, it was suggested I pop him over the little jumps we had for the ponies purely to see how he coped and for the entertainment of all (protocol dictates that The Queen should not participate in risky activities such as jumping). Predictably, he found the whole exercise a bit confusing and had trouble working out what to do with his legs...I can still picture the tears of laughter running down the Royal cheeks. He was given extra carrots that day for being such a good and clever horse!
It was whilst riding Cossack one day, in the company of a number of the Royal children, guests and the Queen (on a stalking pony), that we rode out of the front gates of the estate en route to a nice canter on the edge of the golf course – yes, when it is your golf course, you can canter along the rough! During the summer, there is always a crowd of tourists standing around the front gates hoping for a glimpse of some Royalty, and today was no exception. Cossack and I were leading the ride and a group of visitors approached and stopped me to ask if I knew whether the Queen had any plans to leave the estate that day, if so where would she be going, what would she be driving, who would she be with and had I ever met her etc etc. As I was stammering and stuttering and giving the shortest, most non-committal answers known to man, I was aware of Her Majesty sitting behind me on her, hairy-heeled little Fell chuckling quietly. As soon as I could I rode forward, asking the rest of the ride to follow me at a trot and left the visitors turning back to gaze, in anticipation, through the front gates! Fortunately, from a security point of view (we rode with no bodyguard or police presence) no one thought to look closely at riders following on ponies and concentrated their attention on the biggest horse.
This picture is of a magnificent horse that appeared for one summer only at Balmoral.
He was an Arab stallion who had been a gift to the Queen whilst visiting a Middle Eastern country. Her Majesty asked me if I would be prepared to ride him to see how he behaved as word had it that he was prone to rearing and that whilst happy to ride any horse with any behavioural issues, the Queen is strongly advised not to ride anything that rears. Sadly the rumours were true and, although I rode him for most of the summer, he never returned as one of the chosen hacks. I suspect he was swiftly and discreetly re- gifted.
Our rides were sometimes rudely interrupted by a modern-day Ben Hur......better known as The Duke of Edinburgh practising his carriage driving. He would harness up a team of 2 or 4 Haflinger, Highland or Fell ponies (all whose day job was to bring deer back off the hill) and race around the roads of the estate trying to better the time he achieved the previous day. At any moment, we were likely to come round a corner to be confronted by this team of ponies coming full tilt towards us with the Duke standing up in the carriage shouting “Get out of the way....” to which the Queen would shout back “For goodness sake slow down, Philip, think of the poor ponies...”. This carriage driving was indeed responsible for a shortage of ponies available to go out with the stalking parties as they often fell lame due to the sudden, and somewhat unaccustomed, speed trials! As the years went by, the Queen got wise to this and allocated the Duke a pool of ponies to use, with the strict instruction that if he ’broke’ all of them he was NOT to get anymore to play with! Indeed, Prince Philip chose a team of the best Fell ponies and took them down to Windsor and competed them very successfully for many years.
...More to follow soon!