Oscar’s Legacy

To lose a horse with grass sickness is painful enough but to lose one on Christmas day is unimaginable. Samantha Morrison (20) from Elgin in Morayshire was devastated when her nine-year old Clydesdale Oscar, a gentle giant loved by everyone, was put to sleep on Christmas day 2010. The Morrison family turned this sad experience into something positive by deciding to raise funds to boost research into the disease. With the help of family and friends over the spring and summer months they managed to raise a staggering £15,007.

In May 2006 Oscar moved to Cranloch Riding Centre, owned by James and Heather Younie, where he made lots of new friends. He enjoyed hacking, going to agricultural shows and frightening Heather with his jumping! He was fine, healthy and happy until December 24th 2010 when the Morrisons realized he wasn’t well. Their vet thought it was grass sickness and he was taken to Aberdeen where grass sickness was confirmed. On the 25th of December the vet phoned to say his symptoms had worsened and the kindest thing would be to put him to sleep.

Samantha and her mum, Christine, got together with James, Heather and Fiona Younie, to set about raising funds for research. The Younies donated their time and the use of their horses and asked each of their pupils if they would like to take part in a sponsored ride. Over 100 people signed up to take part. Each rider had to raise a minimum of £25 but didn’t have to pay for the horse on the day. There were seven rides throughout April and these lasted from 1hr -3hrs depending on the age and experience of each rider. Commemorative rosettes were kindly donated by McDonald and Munro, electrical contractors and engineers of Elgin.

The Morrisons roped in their friends and relatives to help them on fundraising stalls at both Burgie International Horse Trials where Oscar used to take part in the ridden Clydesdale class and at the Northern Working Horse Society annual show at Brodie Castle in July. They had home bakes, refreshments and a bottle stall and asked companies to donate and in return displayed their company name and handed out flyers as an advertising promotion. EGSF goods were on sale and they also had games for children. Annette’s Gallery donated a painting.

The culmination of the Morrison’s fundraising was marked by holding an evening event at the Mansefield Hotel in Elgin on the 13th September.

Over 100 people attended to hear Professor Bruce McGorum, Head of the ‘Dick’ Vet Equine Hospital and EGSF committee member, give an talk about the disease and current research followed by Mrs Philippa Gammell, EGSF Chairman, who explained about the work of the EGSF and where funds are targeted. To lighten the mood pictures of the sponsored rides were shown and the riders were able to have a laugh at themselves.

A further £600 was raised on the night from admissions and the sale of Christmas cards and calendars, bringing the grand total to £15,007. Samantha and Christine Morrison, aided by Heather Younie, presented a large cheque to Fund Chairman Mrs Philippa Gammell. Mrs Morrison paid special tribute to everyone who donated to the cause. “We are absolutely thrilled with the total raised. We could not have achieved this without the support of the Younie family, who so generously organized the rides and use of their horses, our friends, family and all the generous sponsors.” The money will fund the first year of a 3 year PhD studentship at Liverpool University, due to commence in January 2012.

Samantha Morrison (right) presents a cheque to Philippa Gammell (second left), chair of the Equine Grass Sickness Fund. Also pictured (from left) are Prof. Bruce McGorum, Christine Morrison and Heather Younie of Cranloch Riding Centre. (Photos courtesy of The Northern Scot)

Samantha Morrison (right) presents a cheque to Philippa Gammell (second left), chair of the Equine Grass Sickness Fund. Also pictured (from left) are Prof. Bruce McGorum, Christine Morrison and Heather Younie of Cranloch Riding Centre. (Photos courtesy of The Northern Scot)