WELL it’s that time of year again when I would normally be casting an eye back over the events of the past twelve months and picking out a selection of memorable moments, people and horses before rolling out the red carpet for the glitziest event of the year – the Gilly Gongs, writes Farmer columnist Gilly Fraser.

Okay, so it’s only a pretend awards ceremony and it happens nowhere except in my imagination, and the gongs are worth exactly zero, zilch, nada in your earth money, but they’re given to those who really deserve them for all sorts of amazing reasons and I like to think they’re warmly received, even if they won’t take up any space whatsoever in an awards cabinet.

However, the Gilly Gongs have been out-virtualled this year by the strangeness of the world we have all found ourselves living in, where virtual is just about the only game in town.

And that has made judging just a tad tricky to put it mildly.

Normally there would be a whole host of possibilities to choose from – to give an example for any readers new to this column who haven’t the foggiest notion what I’m talking about – one of the very first GG’s was awarded to Amanda Saville – the iconic and very much missed founder of the Lockerbie-based Chariots of Fire carriage-driving team.

Another went to the brave and stalwart horse Forrest Gump who had to stand in floodwater five feet deep for eighteen long hours before rescuers could get to him – then went to Olympia just a few days later and showed everyone there what true grit and superstardom is all about.

Gilly gongs have gone to riders who have made the county proud – like Rachel Walker and Richard Nichol and Lexi McSherry, and they’ve also been awarded for sheer gutsy determination – like that shown by Jessica Hyslop – better known to her family and many friends as Miss J.

She was born weighing just one and a half pounds and has suffered a variety of health problems all her life, yet she loves ponies to bits and a couple of years ago she headed up a charity fundraising mission by riding and carriage-driving from Dumfries to Boreland.

You get the idea. There’s no panel of judges, no debating by committee. The recipients of the GG’s are chosen by yours truly purely on the basis that I reckon they’re totally deserved.

There’s no doubt whatsoever that there will be many who should get them in 2020 but this has been such an odd and unusual year when nothing has really gone to any kind of plan.

Why should the GG’s be any different?

So, instead of presenting these highly sought-after recognitions of merit and valour to a variety of individuals, both two-legged and four, this year I propose to amalgamate them all into one Gigantic, Ginormous, Gargantuan whole.

For one year only – I hope, because the budget could never cope with another - the GG becomes the GGGGG, big enough to hang round the necks of every member of the equestrian community who has somehow managed against some pretty overwhelming odds to just keep on keeping on. And that’s a whole lot of people.

To all the riders who were furloughed or working from home, so could have grabbed a few extra zzzzzzz’s before heading for the stables, but chose to keep getting up at silly o’clock anyway because it would have upset their horses’ routine to do otherwise;

To all the livery yards where people willingly took on extra chores on behalf of other owners who were isolating, or shielding, or curtailed by travel restrictions;

To all the equestrian centres that have seen their event diaries trashed and rehashed and trashed all over again to suit the vagaries of lockdown and have coped so incredibly well with all the restrictions of social distancing and Covid hygiene just to put on whatever shows they possibly could;

To the people who staged virtual online events so that riders didn’t have to miss out on the competition buzz altogether;

To the Vets who have taken personal risks to come out to our animals but made sure we the clients were protected as much as possible;

Likewise to the Farriers and Barefoot Trimmers and equine Dentists;

To the feed merchants who made sure their stores stayed stocked so our horses’ bellies could stay full;

To the ponies and horses who have carried on being their sweet, lovable, stubborn, demanding, forgiving, funny, understanding selves despite everything, somehow managing to both drive us crazy and keep us sane just when we needed it most;

Basically to all of us who have done our damndest to do our best and to all of our horses who have just accepted it.Here’s to a better 2021 for all of us – I think we can all raise a glass to that.