BORDERS countryside students have come home from this year's Lantra Scotland’s Land-based and Aquaculture Learner of the Year Awards with trophies.

Cherise Halliburton from Jedburgh returned to the winner's enclosure in the equine category.

The 19-year-old has been doing an SVQ Level 3 in Horse Care through Borders College and was voted best Level 2 student despite breaking her leg towards the end of the term.

She took part in the Erasmus+ work placement scheme in Ireland, where she worked in a large commercial riding and training centre.

Her ambitions are to complete Level 3, take part in eventing competitions and work as a freelance horse care professional.

A highlight at college was having the opportunity to look after horses belonging to Olympian Ian Stark.

Cherise told us: “I am so happy to have won a Lantra award.

"It is great to be recognised for all the hard work over the past few years.

"I’d like to thank my tutor Alison Robertson at Borders College for all her guidance and support, my employer Steven Renton at Whitelee Stables and everyone else who has helped me along the way.”

Karla Purves from Selkirk, who is also 19, was runner-up.

Karla is also doing an SVQ Level 3 in Horse Care through Borders College.

She won best student for her Level 1 and 2 courses and was awarded a Saltire Volunteering Award for completing 500 hours with Stable Life. She is a peer mentor for Riding for the Disabled Association (RDA) and her burning desire is to compete on one of the horse she has looked after.

There was further success with 21-year-old Matthew Douglas from Hawick winning a prestigious CARAS (Council for Awards of Agricultural Societies) award.

The farming student was also runner-up for Agriculture Learner of the Year category.

Matthew has been doing a Modern Apprenticeship SVQ Level 3 in Mixed Farming through Borders College, while employed as a general farm worker at WS Davies and Son.

In the next few years, he intends to develop his knowledge and skills in farming, as well as take the opportunity to work in New Zealand’s agriculture sector.

Matthew is also a talented rugby player, having represented Hawick and Newcastle Falcons as an academy player.

The awards were presented to trainees at the glittering ceremony and gala dinner in Dunblane by farmer and TV presenter Adam Henson.

Speaking at the event, Adam reminded the audience of the importance of fostering new talent and investing in skills to ensure a lasting future for Scotland’s food and drink sector and the wider rural economy.

Adam commented: “I’ve really enjoyed presenting these awards and meeting Scotland’s top trainees and learners from the land-based and aquaculture sector.

“It’s inspiring to see such talented people getting the support of employers and training providers as they start their careers within these key industries.

“As well as congratulating everyone nominated for Lantra’s learner of the year awards, I’d particularly like say well done to the winners and the runners-up. It really is a fantastic achievement and I’m sure winning these awards will be great for their prospects and their self-confidence.”

The Learner of the Year Awards were organised by Lantra Scotland, the sector skills council for the land-based, aquaculture and environmental industries, and play a vital role in celebrating the achievements of trainees within Scotland’s rural sector and in encouraging employers to invest in the next generation of talent.

As well as friends and relatives of the finalists, other guests were representing training organisations, employers and industry bodies.

Categories for the 2017 awards included the Overall Winner and Runner-up, the prestigious CARAS awards, the Modern Apprentice of the Year, the Higher Education Award, the Rural Schools Award, Jean’s Jam and the Tam Tod Trophy.

Industry awards were made in trees and timber, agriculture, aquaculture, equine, horticulture, game and wildlife, land-based engineering, fisheries management and environmental conservation categories.

Kevin Patrick, Director of Lantra Scotland comments: “Our awards recognise the achievements of Scotland’s top learners, their employers and training providers, and highlight the important contribution they make to our economy, particularly in rural areas.

“Land-based, aquaculture and environmental conservation industries offer a wide range of rewarding career opportunities and our prestigious event celebrates the hard work and incredible talents of everyone involved.

“We are very grateful to have the generous support of our main sponsor, Skills Development Scotland, and to: Aberdeenshire Council, BAGMA, Buccleuch, Carrs Billington, Easterton Stables, Elspeth Watson, George Linton Memorial Trust, Marine Harvest, National Farmers Union Scotland, Royal Highland & Agricultural Society of Scotland, Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre, the Scottish Forest & Timber Technologies Skills Group, Scottish Sea Farms, Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Qualifications Authority, the Scottish Salmon Company, the Scottish Salmon Producers’ Organisation and SRUC.

“Thanks also to the independent judging panel, chaired by Ray Jones, formerly of Scotland Food & Drink, and to our host for the evening, Jim McLaren, Chairman of Quality Meat Scotland”.