September 3rd saw Abernethy play host to over 30 riders from all over Scotland. They were all members of the Scottish Endurance Riding Club (SERC) and had come from the Highlands, the Borders, the Lothians and Tayside to the Endurance Ride organised by Anne Scott and Kirstie Graham. There was a choice of routes of either 21km or 30km and all riders enjoyed their chance to ride near our lovely village and were thrilled with the views.
This was only possible because of the help and support of local landowners.
Without Branston the ride could not have even started as Kevin Imrie and his staff gave us the use of a yard and field for a venue for parking the lorries, horse trailers and admin. caravan and space for vetting and cleaned the yard up for us and cut the grass.
Scott Baird, Jack Lawrie, Andrew Herd and The Forestry Commission were helpful about us using the core paths through their land and marking them. We are really grateful to them for allowing SERC members the opportunity to see the lovely country and scenery.
Andrew Herd actually had riders going through his garden but was actively interested and anxious to help.
Scott Baird was very co-operative and helpful and trusted us to close his gates and not disturb his stock.
Ian Gerrard had riders going past his front gate and gave us interest and encouragement as well as strimming round a gate from the forest on to the hill to make it nicer for the horses.
The Forestry Commission allowed us to ride and put markers in Pitmedden Forest and lent us a key to the barriers. This meant that we could give access to emergency vehicles. However I am pleased to report that all riders stayed on their horses and we did not need any ambulances.
The feedback we got from the riders was universally positive. They thought the venue was excellent and the countryside and views were stunning. Some said it was their favourite ride of the season.
Endurance Riding as a sport starts with rides of about 20km (Pleasure Rides) and goes up to 160 km or 100 miles in one day. All horses are vetted at the start and the finish of the ride with the vet. inspection becoming more stringent and frequent as the distances increase. It is not orienteering so riders have a map and ‘talk-round’ and the course is marked to help them.
Pleasure riders have to ride between 8k and 11k per hour and longer distance riders, classed as ‘Competitive Riders’ have higher speed categories to attain. Usually the competitive element is against oneself. ‘To complete (the ride) is to win’ is the mantra but there are race rides where there is a mass-start and first past the post is the winner. These rides still have vet. checks so part of a rider’s strategy is to have their horse so fit that they can present to the vet quickly and get back in the race. They are not allowed to carry a whip so the horse has to be a willing partner.
The shorter distances are suitable for any reasonably fit horse or pony. The longer distances are dominated by Arab horses. There is a junior branch with its own camp and prizes.
If you are interested there is lots of information on the SERC website . You can try a Pleasure Ride without joining SERC. And there is always friendly help available at a ride.