Best day of my life: Jockey reveals joy at leading the Gala Day

Published: 9 Jul 2012 13:001 comment

BRAW Lad Ryan Mania compared leading the Gala Day to winning the Grand National - and then revealed it was the best day of his life.

Braw Lad Ryan Mania and Braw Lass Nicola Mackay are pictured, along with their Attendants, crossing the road bridge at Galafoot during the ceremonial ride on Saturday after the traditional water crossing was cancelled. But they revealed it failed to take the shine off their big day. The Braw Lass is also pictured Mixing the Roses at the Old Town Cross.

However, despite following the event on horseback every year since he was four-years-old, the 23-year-old professional jockey, who only just missed out on winning the Scottish Grand National earlier this year, revealed he had never seen the Saturday morning ceremonials before the weekend.

He carried the Burgh Flag on a ride round the boundaries of the town during the culmination of a week of festivities to celebrate its history.

The former Glendinning Primary and Galashiels Academy pupil was accompanied by Braw Lass Nicola Mackay and their Attendants - 2011 Braw Lad Lewis Playfair, Bearer of the Sod; 2011 Braw Lass Suzanne Henry, Bearer of the Red Roses; 2010 Braw Lad Greg Borthwick, Bearer of the Stone; and 2010 Braw Lass Katie Scott, Bearer of the White Roses - for the 2012 Braw Lads' Gathering in Galashiels.

They led a mounted cavalcade of 337 horses. And thousands of well-wishers, young and old alike, turned out to show their support.

Speaking to the Border Telegraph at the end of an emotional day, Ryan said: "I'm not sure words can sum it up, it's just been the best day of my life.

"Because I've always followed the event on horseback, I've never seen any of the ceremonies before so it was great just to be a part of it. This is the best thing I've done on a horse so far. If I win the Grand National next year that might be a bit different." But he added: "It's been brilliant."

The day began with confirmation that the crossing of the River Tweed had been cancelled due to the high water level following recent persistent rain. The Principals crossed instead by the Galafoot road bridge on their way to Abbotsford House, while the rest of the mounted procession took an alternative route over the old rail bridge and through Tweedbank.

It was the first time in four years the party had been unable to complete the traditional water crossing.

However, with the sun on their backs, the Braw Lad and Lass insisted nothing could take the shine off their big day.

Ryan, who revealed one of his festival highlights was the gallop over Gala Hill, said: "It (the cancellation of the water crossing) didn't really affect us, apart from maybe being a missed photo opportunity. We were just happy we got to go round at all.

"I really enjoyed Gala Hill and seeing all the people who had come out in support. The sun was shining and it was superb." And he added: "It was actually probably even better than I thought it was going to be."

This year is the first year a Braw Lad and Lass have been appointed from Clovenfords on the same year. And the Border Telegraph understands that Nicola, who is studying Sport and Exercise Science at Napier University in Edinburgh, is the first Braw Lass to ever have been elected from the village. She admitted it had been an emotional week.

The 20-year-old, who also works part-time on the customer service desk at local supermarket Asda Galashiels, revealed one of her festival highlights was Mixing the Roses during the Old Town Cross ceremony.

Nicola, who held back her tears as she reflected on her day, said: "I really can't describe what I'm feeling but it was amazing.

"We were really, really lucky with the weather - I could hardly look at the roses for the sun in my eyes." But she added: "I've been on a high all week and now it's stopped I feel all emotional."

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