If you are anything like me, there are jobs which you tend to put off and always with good reason – however, short days and freezing temperatures have provided the time to at last make an attempt to sort out decades of so-called ‘useful’ resource material which has been gathering in the loft. 

This included literally hundreds of photographs, books, catalogues and, more dauntingly, over 40-years worth of well-known weekly horsey magazines. It’s not that I haven’t been through the process before, but as the years roll on there is an imperative to make an effective clear out for the penultimate time, the next being the final one at close of play when the skip will play an important role – but I’ll not be there to save it.

This process is not altogether easy. Firstly, it is time consuming; and secondly, there is the decision where and how to store what’s kept for easy access and finally there is that over-arching question, ‘I wonder if it will come in handy some day?’ 

With the time and place sorted, it came to answering the latter which has taken much time and continues to do so as the process is far from completed. But at least is has begun. Why I should need any future reference material is questionable in itself, but I have chosen to ignore that answer in the meantime.

There is a resultant trip down memory lane, particularly viewing photographs, which brings a reality check to the ageing process, not always a kind one, but overall a joy nevertheless. 

A quick look at a photograph doesn’t take too long but searching through the magazines has proved quite another matter and ignoring content in favour of headlines has been a difficult discipline to follow. In reality, I haven’t managed to master this one. 

On reflection, there have been some interesting articles written.

However, the biggest change has been the manner of reporting of shows and the recording of results, which are sadly now a thing of the past. 

The former provided a window into what actually happened at the show and how the classes unfolded on the day. Opinions were expressed and if a well-known horse went badly, then it said so and there was none of the social chat which pervades modern reports in which a rider’s dental treatment or a lorry breakdown appears to be more relevant. 

Needless to say the lack of knowledgeable commentators, as well as litigation, has much do with the content with editors only too aware of the legal dangers lurking within the paragraphs.

Results make a great reading and I am lucky enough to possess the cuttings from a wide range of publications from the early 1960s, all penned by the late Jay McLean, who was a prominent figure in Scottish equestrianism. Jay was also a great letter writer on all subjects and on one day she earned the distinction of having her letters published in five of Scotland’s daily newspapers. 

Fifty years ago I was already keenly interested in all things equestrian but showing in particular, so reading of Shuna Marden’s win with Fingal in the working hunter and then overall championship at the Royal Highland in 1967 brought back memories of how the big bay gelding came back to Ingliston and the Scottish Horse Show the following year only to take the private driving championship.

It was at the 1967 Highland that the champion hill pony under-saddle ticket went to the yellow dun mare, Una of Altnacriche, owned and ridden by Jean McAulay, a leading rider and teacher in her day whose home at Dryden, Ashkirk, is now home of daughter and son-in-law’s Ian Stark Equestrian Centre. 

Runner-up in the section was Corisande of Keir, owned and bred by Mrs Stirling, at her Keir Estate, near Dunblane. She owned jointly with Miss Profumo some of the best show hacks in Britain, including the HOYS champions, Lemington Moon River and Smooth Talk, both ridden by Jennie Loriston-Clarke (nee Bullen).

Interestingly, I met Smooth Talk during his retirement at Donald and Thea MacFarlane’s Scottish Equestrian Centre, at Greenloaning, Braco.

Who would have known that a former HOYS champion was stabled a stone’s throw from the A9?

Jennie Bullen was no stranger to Scotland – 10 years earlier she triumphed at the Royal Highland, in Dundee, with the riding pony, Turnberry Lucky Gold, produced by her mother, Anne Bullen, for Ayrshire enthusiast, Niall Hodge. She also stood reserve in the hunter section with the same owner’s Turnberry Roc, who was headed by the decade’s leading winner, Galway Bay, owned and ridden by the late Willie Goldie. 

Eleven years on, Niall Hodge once more hit the headlines when he took both the led hunter and pony championships at the Royal Highland in 1968 with Kilcarthy and Westwind of Turnberry, respectively, both immaculately produced by Gillian Drummond.

That same year, her future husband, Andrew McCowan, won the lightweight ridden hunter class with Burley Park and reserve champion in the part-bred Arab section with Moonstrike, both produced and ridden by Tommy Newbury, whose show production inspired me in later years.

That year, 1967, was also the heyday of pony breeding in Scotland where all the prominent breeders vied for the top slots in well-filled classes.

Coming out on top was Christmas Carol of Bennochy, exhibited by May McHarg and bred by the Duchess of Roxburgh, both from Kelso. He took the HOYS in-hand qualifier (then Fredericks) only to return later in his career to the London venue when he was crowned ‘Pony of the Year’ in the ridden section produced by the famous Gilbert-Scott Family. 

Runner-up to him at the Highland was one of Major and Mrs Hedley’s famous Arab stallions, Orion, a Crabbet-bred chestnut the likes of which is seldom seen in the show ring nowadays. Out of the running that year was champion of the Mountain and Moorland section, the Welsh mountain colt, Kidwell Pipson, which captured the Wembley ticket the following year when he returned to Ingliston to compete once more. 

I saw him that day and little did I know I would next see him in Australia where he was joined at Mark Bullen’s Imperial Stud by our own Waxwing Herrod.

Showing aside, the jumping classes at the Royal Highland were, as they are now, a great crowd pleaser but, unlike today, the best riders in Britain brought their best horses to compete and none were missing.

Wednesday, June 21, 1967, witnessed an entry of 57 horses competing over two rounds for the major show jumping trophy, the Usher/Vaux Gold Tankard. Three double clears were separated on time with the legendary combination of David Broom and Mister Softee prevailing with the fastest over Irishman Seamus Hayes riding Goodbye and Yorkshire’s William Barker third with North Flight. 

Next and fastest with four faults, was Harvey Smith with Harvester and fifth, Jean Goodwin, with Sky Rocket, the familiar Scottish-owned grey gelding whose competitive life began in Scotland.

As interesting as all this may be, give a thought to the author who has only reached 1968 in the archives. A half century on, here’s to a healthy and successful 2018 and for some cracking results and headlines to set down in print yet again for posterity.