A few of the photos below were taken by photographers at the event who have stated that their photos are free to share with the watermark.
Common Riding Part two : Safe oot, Safe in
Bright and early on Saturday morning we were up to get ready for the common ride. We were due to pick up our horses from the pick up point at 7.15 so that we could mount and be down at the town hall for half past. My horse was 16hh bay mare who was an absolute dream called Betty, despite her being a respectable 16hh she still felt tiny to me as I am used to all 17.2 of Eva.
The ride starts from just behind the town hall on the high street from there the cornet lead the ride, followed by the principles from the various towns and then the rest of us. The principles represent their town in a lot of the rides therefore if selected you are riding a hell of a lot for the year. In Lauder you are effectively a principle for three years, first you are the Cornet, the main guy for the ceremonies and leading the ride, then in the second year you are the right hand man, then finally in the third year you are the left hand man. So it is a three year commitment of almost every weekend from May to September they are signing up for but it is a great sense of community spirt that brings the town together especially during Lauder week.
After riding up the high street following the band we then turned back on ourselves to head down a street running parallel and off towards the golf course for the first canter.
I must admit I’m so used to cantering along followed by a sudden spook with Eva that I was a little nervous to canter but as soon as we were off my nerves disappeared. As you can see from the picture below while I am smiling and enjoying myself I’m still sitting up just in case of a spook!
After the canter finished we were off into another field where we were given our ribbons for the ride. It was easy to tell those who had done the ride outs for many years as they had a lot of ribbons built up.
We then headed down quite a steep path which narrowed into single file down the steepest part and right at the bottom of which there was a wide shallow stream to cross before another gallop up a large hill. I got the chance to really test out Betty’s turn of speed and she could fairly shift so I was able to over take a few people as we flew up the hill. A short break at the top to allow riders to catch up a little allowed my friend and I to have a few nips of whiskey from our hip flask and then we started off again making our way across the heather hills, it was now a walk until the waterin stain but we had beautiful views all along the way.
At the waterin’ stain there is a short ceremony involving the cornet and the officials and allowing the horses a rest. But it wasn’t long before it was time for another gallop. There was plenty of spectators all waiting for the gallop. The cornet led the way with the flag which made an epic sight.
We all lined up at the road and shuffled toward the front until it was our turn.
After our gallop, in which Betty and I managed to over take a couple of people, it was now time to head towards the town.
We had warnings prior to this final gallop telling us to go down to the bottom and round the hill keeping the road close by and not to go over the top as there is a hidden dip. For this one there was an option for others to take a slightly different route and keep in walk. Several of the younger riders took this option. There was one gentleman speaking to his friend saying he has done the final gallop for the last 35 years so he is going to do the walking route this time! There are people so dedicated to common riding that the man probably hires out a horse to ride the common rides and then don’t go near a horse all winter!
It was a great last gallop although it was round the side of the hill so it wasn’t steep but the ground was slightly slanted so I decided not to go hell for leather on this one and the end we were back at the side of the town. The ride took around 4 hours to complete but every minute of it was great.
The final ceremony was at the war memorial in the centre of the town. As we were roughly the middle of the ride the wardens asked my friend and I to stop so that the ride was split in two at either side of the memorial. My friends horse was a little upset at not being able to follow the rest but he soon settled. My horse seemed nonplus about the whole situation. After the ceremony it was time for the dancing in the street by the spectators this is were both my friends and my boyfriend now got involved. They danced all the way up the high street behind the band followed by the horses. After this it was time to return our horses and continue with the celebrations in the park and pubs. We all ended up in bed by half past nine sound asleep, sunburnt and whiskey hip flask, ciders, beers and gin gone.
It was a fantastic day and one I would highly recommend but you do need to be reasonably confident in the saddle as it’s not like a trail ride were you are told to “get ready for the canter“, you see the front of the ride going and then you go. Every one is responsible for themselves but at the end of the day horses will follow the horses so as long as you can hold on you’ll be fine! In total I believe there was 275 horses, which I am told was slightly less than previous years but the ground has been solid this year so perhaps people don’t have their horses fit enough to go to as many rides as they would like.
I would also recommend hiring a horse as although I do love Eva I feel she would of found it very stressful and while if I spent the summer doing loads she would get used to it I don’t feel it is fair to her to bring her out to one and stress her out. The horses we hired have done these rides many times before these horses know their job when it comes to common riding – were as Eva knows her job when it comes to jumping – which makes them a far safer horse to be on. Plus it saves the hassle of sorting out the horse at the end of the day and you can head straight to the after party!!