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Horsing Around and Riding of the Marches

Two equestrian events have caught our eye this month. Although they were both held on the same day, had an equestrian theme and attracted spectators, the similarities probably end there. One was a brand new novel equestrian themed race to raise money for charity and the other a large public event, steeped in history and culture.

Fun and Fundraising

Shoppers in Colchester enjoyed a novel equestrian treat on 17th September. Dozens of horses took part in races through the centre of the town to raise money for Age Concern. The event was called Auld Nag’s Folly but many of the competitors were far from old. They weren’t nags either because these were races for pantomime horses!

Crowds lined the streets and cheered as the weird and wonderful horses raced along the high street whilst charity volunteers mingled to raise funds. The town came alive with a riot of colour as the horses came galloping past. Well, some were walking and trotting but you get the idea! Those who took part had taken the time to create unique, imaginative and humorous costumes which kept everyone smiling.

Auld Nag’s Folly was a huge success. It raised much-need funds for the charity in addition to highlighting the needs of the elderly. The organisers are hoping to repeat the races next year if you live locally and fancy taking part.

Scottish Tradition

Meanwhile, a recently revived historic equestrian event took place in Edinburgh on the same day. The is believed to date back to the 16th Century and returned to the city in 2009 after a gap of more than 60 years.

280 horses and riders took to the streets this year as the large crowds which had gathered looked on. The riders made a seven-hour journey from the Braid Hills to the end of the ride on the Royal Mile. The event was established as a re-enactment of a ride by the Captain of the Trained Band (responsible for keeping order within the City) to Edinburgh with the tragic news of defeat at the battle of Flodden, 1513.

Riding the Marches is now an annual event involving a spectacular cavalcade. The appointed Edinburgh Captain and Lass return the city flag to the Lord Provost in a ride of great cultural and historic importance.

Historic Ride

The Riding of the Marches has its origins in the tradition of common riding which began in the 13th century. This was a time when wars were common along the land border between England and Scotland. The people of the Border Country would regularly fight the English and rival clans. It became the practice for the local lord to appoint a townsperson to ride the clan’s borders or "marches" to protect the land and prevent encroachment.

The rides continue to this day as ceremonial reminders of local traditions. Edinburgh’s Riding of the Marches is the most spectacular of them all. It is well worth seeing if you are in Scotland next September.


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