Yesterday I was lucky enough to be present for an event here in Scotland that combines horses, history, tradition, pageantry and pride - The Edinburgh Riding of the Marches. 280 horses and riders (!) wound their way through the streets of Edinburgh in a re-enactment of the original Edinburgh Riding of the Marches and all its associated traditions, and to commemorate the return in the year 1513 of the Captain of the City Band, Randolph Murray clasping the Ancient Blue Blanket Banner with the tragic news of the defeat of the Scottish Army at the Battle of Flooded. The riders ended up at the top of the Royal mile, which is where we were able (barely) to see them. The crowds were huge - even larger than during the Fringe Festival in August - so it was not easy to get "up close and personal". Before the riders arrived there were bagpipe and drum bands, horn bands, and other music, which, unfortunately, we were a little too late to observe.
The following is from the above linked web site to the Riding of the Marches:
"The first record of a Riding Of The Marches in Edinburgh was on All Hallows (Halloween), 31st October 1579. On this date, a group of towns-people gathered at the Provost’s house at 11am, from where they embarked on an inspection of the Marches of the Common Land led by the Captain of the Trained Band (Town Guard), Provost, Baillies and Burgesses. “Intimatioun” (intimation) of the event was given to the “nichtbouris” (towns people) and anyone who regularly made use of the Common Land, possessed a horse and failed to take part in the inspection was liable to be fined. The following extract was taken from the Edinburgh Town Council minutes, 30th October 1579: “….the Counsall ordains proclamatioun to be maid chairging all merchantis craftismen and utheris inhabitantis within this burgh to be in radynes the morn be xi houris to accompany the provest the baillies and counsall to vesy (examine/inspect) thair methis (boundary markers) and bounds as ordour hes bene on horsback and to proclame thair Allhallowes fair to begyn the morn be xii houris”. The Riding Of The Marches was regularly held on All Hallows until 1583, when for a period of 21 years, until 1604 it was carried out on the eve of Trinity Fair, 4th December. Thereafter the inspection of the Common Land reverted to All Hallows until the demise of the practice in 1718."
I was very impressed with the behavior of most all of the horses - granted, we saw them at about 4:00, and they had been riding on and off (lunch breaks, etc) since 9:00 that morning - but only a couple were still prancing and reacting to the noises of the ceremony and the crowds. The closeness of the horses not only to each other, but to the crowds could have been a recipe for disaster, but all was well. A couple of times, especially when the announcer wanted three huge "Hip, hip, hoorays!" from the crowd some of the horses reacted a little, but their riders remained calm and nothing bad transpired.
Sometimes I felt like the paparazzi trying to get photos of royalty, because I had to hold my camera above my head to get any images at all due to the crowds. But eventually I was able to sneak to at least the second row back from the fencing protecting the horses from the people and vice versa, with only little girls in front of me. It's always so much fun for me to see the reactions of non-horsey people to an event like this. Don't get me wrong, I'm still in awe of our equine friends, but I love the sense of wonderment that is voiced by people who may have never been around a horse before.
I will be sure to put this event on my calendar for next year, and be more prepared to get a front row seat. It was certainly well worth attending. I didn't even know it was happening until last minute, so I'm very happy that I was able to go at all. I highly recommend it for anyone over here who hasn't attended, or for anyone thinking of making the trip "over the pond" for a visit.
And some video as well..............