Today’s paintings: In the Moffat Hills with the view down to the valley of the Grey Mare’s Tail, two horse sketches and a horse painting from this weekend’s trip to Kelso
(If you’re interested in buying the horse painting (£85) I’ll add in the two sketches free).
It’s been a real pleasure to spend the day sketching horses. I’ve been drawing them since I was a kid and used to enjoy horse-riding too (in fact I won second place at a gymkana when I was 12!).
It’s been a while since I’ve been on a horse though, I’m not sure if I’d stay on as I’m a bit rusty! We lived in the city and my family were’t very well off, so I never actually owned a horse, but my parents paid for a week-long horse-riding course. After that I worked in the stables every Saturday during summer and occassionally I’d get to ride a pony.
I remember the first time I rode a thorough-bred horse (the equivalent of a Mercedes if you want to compare horses to cars) it sprang into action at the lightest touch and floated along as though on air. I still drop into Lasswade stables outside Edinburgh once in a while.
Painting horses today was not just self indulgence though, horses are very topical indeed when it comes to the Borders. Going back to Riever times and up to the present day, horses have been a huge part of Borders culture. The Rievers were famed for their skill on horseback:
“The one indisputable fact concerning the Border Reivers was their supreme ability in the art of theft and guerilla warfare. A lifestyle which required specialist equipment. The fully equipped Reiver represented an elite light cavalryman, capable of navigating rough terrain at night with practiced stealth, and when required implementing deadly force. Figure 1 (Border Miniatures, Keswick) represents a Border Reiver c. 1590. The mount of the Reiver was as specialised as the equipment they used. It was small and sure footed ideally suited to the rough terrain of the border. Known as ‘hobbys’ or ‘hobblers’ they were capable of traveling around 60 – 80 miles per day” (G Fraser, The Steel Bonnets).
Nowadays there are various horse-riding events in the Borders, including the ‘ridings’,; a Borders-wide competition representing each region. (Typically I only discovered this one day after the Ridings finished for the year! They take place in May)
The horses painted today were discovered during our trip to Floors Castle at the weekend. I heard the clip-clop of hooves and discovered two beautiful horses in a field behind a walled garden.
Another horse sketch from 2013..