After months of hard-fought qualifiers, travelling north and south of the Border – plus into Europe – it's time for riders to return to home soil and congregate at one of their favourite shows of the year, the Royal Highland.

Its hard to choose clear favourites for the finals, but one young man who will surely be in the money a few times over the four days will be Sandy McLean. This is his 'local' event, starting his career from home at Lasswade before heading to Jonathan Dixon’s yard, near Carlisle.

Sandy has been in incredible form all summer with his huge chestnut son of Ultimo, Gino F. Following on from a successful trip to Compiegne, they returned to take the county shows by storm.

A warm-up win in a 1.4m at South View set them up for a visit to Herts County where they landed the £1500 first prize in the area trial. Two days later and it was a blue ribbon for them in another area trial at Cheshire. As if this wasn’t good enough, he then travelled to Suffolk County Show, where a winner’s purse of £3000 was up for grabs.

For a big horse, Gino F is agile and covers the ground finding the 1.5m/1.6m fences easy to keep area trial specialists, Adrian Speight and Millfield Baloney, at bay.

Then followed a third place in the Grand Prix, at Bramham. This recent form on grass should see them ready to pose serious challenges in the main ring at Ingliston.

The rest of Sandy’s strong team of horses have been earning their keep with Non Such Z claiming the Central Scotland open championship at a popular Fife Show before heading south to Northcote, Lancashire, to land a HOYS ticket when winning a fast and furious 'Talent seekers'.

Lea Brash’s Castlehill Kopa also picked up a ticket there for Sandy, finishing in fourth and adding this to a Newcomer ticket gained a few weeks earlier.

James Smith has hardly been home this year and was recently in Sancourt, France. Riding Tom Carruther’s Juno Rose, he has been seen winning some Longines Ranking classes and placed well in the Grand Prix.

Riding a few for John and Laura Renwick, the Asterix E Z-sired nine-year-old Cottee was runner up to Juno Rose, but has also claimed a 1.4m to himself.

Ayrshire timber harvester specialist, Jim Wilmer, took some time off to head to France to enjoy some proper show hospitality whilst watching his big eight-year-old, Wickeds Vancouver, jump some good rounds for James whist adding some valuable mileage.

Jim is currently down a jockey, with Alistair Gray sidelined after a fall – but yard rider, Isla Stewart, stepped in to prove her worth. Riding Tarnside Globetrotter and Just White, she has been winning in the 90cm and 1m classes, whilst her own Clyntara stepped up to 1.3m at Morris, ahead of her Highland Show debut.

Also riding for Jim is Amy Morris who has now set up her own business, AM Equestrian at her home in the Borders. Part of the Horse Scotland Performance squad, 18-year-old Amy has carried her talent in ponies into the senior ranks where she now has a selection of horses from breakers to open horses to ride, produce and compete.

Very much enjoying the training provided by Horse Scotland, she now has a few through to the RHS finals, including the grey mare, Dolivia REZ, for Jim, who has only just moved up to Foxhunter taking her qualifying ticket at Tillyoch. Also enjoying the outdoor ring at Tillyoch was Up To Date Showgirl, which joins her stablemate Lets Hope in the B and C finals.

Strathaven’s Gillian Anderson managed to take time out from her busy worklife as an NHS nurse to travel to a beautifully sunny Muirmill, where she laid claim to the Summer Silver League Qualifier.

Her ride, Stand Up, came from Glynn and Sophie Slater three years ago just at the start of Covid, which Gillian says helped them have time to form a partnership. Trained by Andrew Hamilton they have already jumped a few 1.3ms and are qualified for the RHS B and C Finals. As well as aiming for the Silver League qualifiers, Gillian also hopes to get abroad with ‘Stan’ at some point soon.

At his first show back for six months, Americo – owned and ridden by equine dental technician, David Brown – stood top of the line to claim the Scottish Branch's veteran title with the fastest of four double clears.

Sandra Low-Mitchell was second and third on her own Lah-Di-Dah and Just Dunnitt, respectively ,with both these horses on winning form at The Cabin, recently. Margo King steered Golden Boy round to slot into fourth.

Kilmarnock’s Graham Babes collected a trophy when winning the Scottish Branch outdoor open championship at Ayr County with the 12-year-old Conthargos daughter, Caught Redhanded PS.

She is just one of a strong team Graham has at the moment, including the five-year-old Harley VDL-sired Nanieta P he took to Northcote. This gelding won the Collins Cup Five-year old Championship final in very good company looking very impressive.

Also at Northcote, winners of the young horse Grand Prix were Stephen Lohoar on Lohoar Sport Horses’ Night and Day – and they enjoyed their lap of honour with their rug and sash. Stephen also took some ribbons home courtesy of Kameron LSH and the aptly named and huge stallion, Longlegs. He will now head for the Highland where he has a few qualified throughout the week.

Other seniors to do well south of the Border this month, were Fraser Reed, who earned a Newcomers Masters ticket with Westbank Rio, in a HOYS Grade C.

Declan Irvine gave Ron Brady’s RB Emerald Elite a fantastic ride to steer this up and coming stallion son of Emerald to be crowned six-year-old champion at Bolesworth. They warmed up to this with wins at Tillyoch and The Cabin, including a RHS Foxhunter qualifier and will be a partnership to watch.

Alistair Gatherum has G-Star and Gerard Van Den Katten Eeck out and about, with the latter winning two classes at Northcote and Emma Crawford has been doing well with Dukes of Hazzard, Ferragamo and Cliftons Adelaide, as well as John Grieve’s promising Okie Dokie Tokyo.

Kelly Connor has a strong team to compete headed by her own Glamour Boy, which is now jumping 1.4m classes and the consistent winner, Lacara, and Charley Hamilton never seems to lose form winning at home and away finishing fourth in the seven-year-old championship finals with her own MFS Loretta Blue.

In the juniors, Aimee Paxton continues to dominate the 148cm section with the talented stallion, Las Vegas. They now have their pony show jumper HOYS ticket, have won almost every RHS qualifier they’ve been in and must surely start as the favourite at the finals,

Taking a day off from ponies and joining the senior ranks, Aimee stole her mother’s Earnest – normally ridden by sister, Sophie – for a couple of classes at Newmilns Show before heading to Muirmill and scorching round the Bronze League semi-final to take a win from the new partnership of Natalie Devlin on Paloma V/D Padenborre.

David Lawson spotted Orchids Femke jumping with another rider and the mare was bought by Laura and Phil Lane for Millie to produce. This 12-year-old chestnut mare, by Kanshiver, has now qualified for the JC and 148cm finals at the Highland, the JC final at Hickstead and following on from a third place at South View, the HOYS Foxhunter final, to give Millie one last appearance at Birmingham before she moves into seniors.

In fourth in the same class, was Dumfries based Eleanor Archibald (14) riding LCS Peachy Beachy. Bought out of Ireland as a novice six-year-old, sister Madelaine started her education qualifying her for the Foxhunter finals last year too. By Beach Ball out of a Clover Hill mare, Peachy Beachy is another to have the JC and 148cm finals to look forward to.

The following week, Eleanor rode the six-year-old novice, Garryduff Bella, by Garryduff Jar of Hearts, to claim the pony British Novice second round which will take them straight to the Nationals along with their placing the next day in the Disovery second round.

It was great to see three Scottish juniors at the top end of the line in this qualifier, with Cupar’s Emily Coxon qualifying for the Masters on Kilnacappagh Harry.

Travelling the length of the country all the way to Bicton paid off for Michael McColm when his treble clear with the fiery AG Dynamo earned him second place and a golden ticket for the 138cm final at HOYS.

Imogen Rome is a frequent visitor to Scotland, living just over the border. Her trip to Muirmill proved fruitful when she qualified Llansansior Seren for the Nationals when winning the Discovery second round.

Ava McCulloch has just moved up to Foxhunters with Gallus Kerfuffle picking up her Nationals' ticket with a treble clear for second leaving the only other treble clear in third for Lucy Anderson on Hampton Lady Louise.