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15 September 2014

“No man is an Island….”

Roger Searle sets an example in perseverance in pursuit of the elusive Gold Thistle

On 19th September, at the Highland Fling, Forest Hunter completed his Gold Thistle: I had the great good fortune to be his rider. We had been together at SERC events for nine years; this was our last ride.

Many thanks are owed to many people. Most immediately to Donna & Sameh, who rode with us, and are to be congratulated on achieving, their STF; to Pat Dorward and Ruth, supporting Brenda with great skill and commitment as Donna’s and our crew. But also to Mary & Leon – down south on the day – whose support, advice and encouragement over the past two years in particular is beyond praise. Also Jill Tomlinson, who I first met eight years ago on the wrong side of a ditch at Drummuir, and with whom, and her horse Kizzy, we progressed through the grades until Kizzy became lame after securing their Gold Thistle part I. Thereafter Jill’s role was as driver and crew; only illness kept her away from the final ride.

Then there are the beginnings: meeting Liz and David in 1997 at the McArdles talking about endurance riding; shortly after, Janice at Miller Plant, looking for an outsize jodhpur boot to fit over a broken ankle; we joined SERC the next day. Then there was Nikki Groat’s inspirational “only 10 miles more”.

The rides: Graham with Tayman, for rehabilitation at Scone in 2003; and Yvonne with Schadow, for our BTF at Cushnie the same year. Then Mary with Solo, negotiating five-ways in the Darnaway woods for our first STQ also in 2003; Lorna with Marco at the Kelso Championships in 2004 when Kizzy was lamed out; Molly our expert crew, for our second STQ at Smallburn in 2005; Linda’s initiative at the Kirk Yetholm Championships in 2005 which put our name in a Grampian team on a Club Trophy. Then again there was Mary with Solo at the Highland Fling in 2006 and our STF; the start of riding 190 miles together from Highland through Grampian to Lothian – of which we completed 140, but did get our GT Part 1 at Darnaway last year. The baton passed to Tony and Shantyie latterly, who too rode hard over a total of 100 miles, in which we accompanied him for only 80. Our unsuccessful attempt at Burgie this year however, laid the foundation for our success three weeks later.

We count ourselves extremely fortunate to have enjoyed, late in life, an equestrian discipline we had always admired but of which we had never dreamt of being a part. Hunter is both modest and reserved. He says little but it was always my ambition for us to win a Gold Thistle, all the sweeter now, when until the very last minute, it had seemed beyond our reach.

To the Scottish Endurance Riding Club in its entirety, but to Grampian Branch especially – thank you.

Roger & Brenda

(see also Brenda's tribute to Roger and Hunter on the Profiles page)