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15 September 2014

My Versatile Arabian

Katie & Jack’s view of the SRGAHS Versatile Arabian Event

The summer of 2007 has been memorable for most people as incredibly wet, and for me, as one of many some amazing highs and crashing lows. The week of National Arabian week I should have been travelling down to Swindon to compete on the Scottish team at Barbury Castle. All spring and summer had been dedicated to Jack’s care and fitness and I and my whole family were primed to go and packed, when we got the phone call. Foot and Mouth disease has struck again and Barbury was off.

I felt so down and disappointed I didn’t even want to ride that week. However I knew my friend Lynda Keeler was putting a huge amount of effort into organising our Endurance demo for the Versatile Arabian demonstration to be held at Fountain Equestrian near Aberdeen. I went to see Lynda and asked what I could do to help.

‘You can ride in it’ she said.

So on Wednesday evening Jack and I set off for Dyce not really knowing what we were in for! Lynda had explained that the event was to showcase the various disciplines in which Arabs are successful and that there would be show jumping, dressage, showing, western, side-saddle, and stallion demonstrations as well as our Endurance demo.

Jack is like many of his breed pretty spooky, and when I saw the Fountain Equestrian arena I was a bit unnerved. It was HUGE… and echoey, and brightly lit, and there was music playing, and a woman with a huge paparazzi lens camera. Gulp. The other exhibitors looked so collected and calm and professional, and their horses so CLEAN!

Our endurance crew of Lynda, Carol Henderson, myself and Arlene Parvin with her young horse Dino were a collective bag of nerves- we all agreed more than before a race ride!!. The plan was that Carol Henderson with her lovely calm Jahmel, would ride beside Jack and me as we entered the arena, followed by the two chestnuts, Ria and Dino. Just before we entered, Carol had to pull out as Jahmel was slightly lame. My heart was in my mouth, because Jack would have to lead the others into the big scary arena.

We rode in to the William Tell Overture and Jack stepped boldly in, breaking into a lovely calm canter as we lapped the arena. I felt so proud. He loved the attention and didn’t spook at the flashing lenses, the tannoy or the crowd. Inexplicably he found the slosh bottles offered by our demonstration ‘Crew’ of Ruth Riddell and Helen Hogben absolutely terrifying! Dino and Ria looked beautiful, fit and shining- I’m sure the crowd were impressed.

Lynda’s husband Robert gave a very professional commentary about our individual horses and about the sport while we demonstrated crewing and a vet gate to the crowd. Hearing the details of Jack’s achievements read out as I rode him past the crowd, arching his neck and kinking his tail, I let my 7 year old  self think for a minute I was in Horse of the Year Show!

We left the arena flushed with pride- our horses had behaved so well in such strange surroundings and Lynda’s work had paid off. Our Grampian Chair, Lorna said she thought we had represented Endurance really well and given a good idea of what was involved in our fantastic sport.

I managed to watch a few of the other demos- the Western demo by Shuna Mardon and the beautiful traditional Arabian costume display, and finally the strutting stallions who paraded to ‘I’m Too Sexy’ and ‘Sex Bomb’- very appropriate!

The finale was a grand parade of all the participating Arabians, where each horse and rider was presented with a beautiful purple and gold satin sash. The night was a great success and really showed that Arabs do not deserve the bad press that they sometimes get. My Jakhiri has proved to me how, when sensitively ridden and handled they can be successful, no matter which discipline you choose.  Under the lights, with his sash on, I thought how lucky I am to ride such a beautiful, honest and versatile horse.