Douglas Gray - Granite - Winner of the 1934 Kadir Cup


"But a sportsman to a few" by Snaffles

"But a sportsman to a few" by Snaffles

"On - On - On" by Snaffles

"On - On - On" by Snaffles

Hermione, Lt. Gray and Granite

Hermione, Lt. Gray and Granite

The Kadir Cup - The Annual Challenge Trophy

The Kadir Cup - The Annual Challenge Trophy (displayed at the Cavalry and Guards Club) and The Winner's Trophy

"Kadir Bandobust" by Snaffles

"Kadir Bandobust" by Snaffles

There were about 50 elephants and 500 beaters driving across the riverine country which was the haunt of wild pigs, occasional panthers and even a tiger (once seen during a pigsticking heat). The event covered three days of competitive hunting, in heats of three or four riders attempting to show blood of a boar on his spear.

Granite - The Story of a Great Australian Horse - by Lt. Col. Charles Robert Douglas Gray

This article first appeared in The Lady in the 1930s.

This is the tale of an ordinary Indian Cavalry Troop Horse, No. C 58, as his number was, in "C" Squadron of my regiment, Skinner's Horse (1st Duke of York's Own Cavalry). He was born in New South Wales in 1921 and had been sent to India in one of the yearly draft of horses exported, by a well-known Australian shipper called Stephen Margrett, to the Indian Army's Remount Depot at Mona in the Punjab (now Pakistan). From there he was included in a batch of remounts being issued in 1927 to Skinner's Horse, then stationed at Loralai on the North-West Frontier.

He was a "flea-bitten" grey gelding standing 15.2 hands, very well made with a most intelligent-looking head and a kind eye. After his initial training as a troop horse, and being a grey, he was handed to one of the "C" Squadron Trumpeters, by name Hardwari Singh, a smart young Jat from Rohtak - and they were soon noticed and won several competitions at regimental horse shows. Hardwari's pet name for his horse was "Mera Bhoot" - or "My Ghost".

By 1931 Skinner's Horse had left the Frontier and moved to Lucknow where I joined the Regiment. C 58 was then 11 years old and, as a trumpeter's ride, had led a rather sheltered life, being excused the hurly-burly duties of an ordinary troop horse - but he was clearly fit and strong, also quiet and obedient.

Lucknow was a paradise for Cavalry Officers - with four polo grounds, a race-course and some good shooting nearby. But best of all, the surrounding country provided the finest horse activity in India which was Hoghunting, or Pigsticking, as it was more commonly called. This involved the finding, hunting and killing of wild boars with a lance called a hog-spear. Falls were frequent, and accidents, though inevitable, were accepted as part of the thrill which comes with pursuits involving some danger.

I am not a natural ball-games player and my riding interest centred on pigsticking rather than polo, so I kept an eye out for bold, well-balanced troop horses in the Regiment to carry me in this incredibly exciting sport. One day, out on an exercise, my horse went lame and had to be led back to the lines, so I took over the Trumpeter's mount, C 58, or Hardwari's grey "Ghost". At once I could feel that he was a really super ride and that, quite by chance, I had found my dream horse - if my Squadron Commander would permit me to take him out pigsticking.

He was Major Jim Fulton, a fine horseman and a very understanding man, who approved my choice, and so my life with Trumpeter Hardwari Singh's horse started. He had a silky action, a light mouth and was completely obedient to one-hand riding, after his years carrying a trumpeter, but the question was would he be fast enough to catch a boar? I tried him out on the racecourse and the answer was a breath-taking gallop which revealed that he had the speed of a thoroughbred. That summer I introduced him to pigsticking and I well remember our first chase after a big boar, which C 58 followed like a greyhound after a rabbit, simply floating over the ground. With his flecked grey coat I decided to call him "GRANITE".

Further hunting days confirmed Granite's qualities and his amazing ability to "find a spare leg" when crossing a sudden hole or broken ground. The result was that I learned to trust him completely, enabling me to keep my eye on the boar ahead, riding on a loose rein and confident that, on him, a fall was unlikely. This proved to be a fact and in three years of pigsticking, Granite never once came a cropper in a hunt. He certainly had "five legs".

I was then only a junior officer, never contemplating any competitive pigsticking. However, Jim Fulton had decided, I suppose, that a reckless young rider on a fast and safe horse stood a possible chance for the Kadir Cup - the "Blue Riband" of Hog-hunting - and, with his encouragement, plus the Colonel's approval, I sent in my entry form for the event.

So it was that in March 1934, accompanied by Hardwari Singh and Granite, with a supporting horse from my squadron, called Hermione - each rider being allowed two entries - we set off for Meerut near where the great competition had been held every year since 1873. (It was discontinued after 1939.)

When I competed there was a record entry of 120 horses on the card - almost all being Cavalry Officers from British and Indian regiments, together with several Gunners. Riders drew for places in heats of four, taking their turns on the line - left, central and right, each with an Umpire carrying a red flag.

There were about 300 beaters on foot and, behind them, some 20 elephants used as moving grandstands for spectators - the whole scene sweeping across the riverine terrain in an area where many wild pig had been driven in from the surrounding country during the previous week.

As a rideable boar got up, the nearest Umpire followed with his heat and shouting "Do you all see him? NOW RIDE", dropped his flag and away they galloped - competing for first spear, the winner to show blood on his spear-point to the Umpire, putting him into the next round. Heat followed heat over the next three days until the final was reached - in my year by three riders. Granite was in his element and, with his greyhound qualities and speed, he took me into the final.

My second horse, Hermione, was a surprise because, though slower than Granite, she had a lot of luck - such as falls by opposing riders or boars that turned towards her - and she too reached the final. The third finalist was Roscoe Harvey of the 10th Royal Hussars, riding a very fast horse called "Spider". Roscoe was a noted Army horseman, the winner of many races over fences and on the flat, as well as being a seasoned pigsticker and a 6-handicap polo player - so the odds were against me - and it was all up to Granite. I asked another Skinner's Horse Officer, Alan Armstrong (who had fallen in his first heat), to take the ride on my second string, Hermione, but to keep out of the way - unless Granite fell, when, of course, he should try to beat Roscoe himself.

A large boar soon got up in the final run, breaking back through the line of the beaters and elephants, with Roscoe and me in flat-out pursuit. Our target came back to us rather quickly and we both reached for him together in one dual swooping lunge. My spearpoint hit the boar's quarter, turning him so that Roscoe's thrust hit the ground - bad luck for him. We both stopped, dismounted and Roscoe sportingly wrung my hand while the Umpire, Mr. Lobb Parr, signaled with his flag to the line of elephants "Granite wins". It was a great moment for me, only made possible by my marvelous horse - for he had won the Kadir Cup - on that memorable day. He was then 15 and I was 24.

That night, in the large tented camp under the mango trees, and with all the elephants lined up as a background in the light of the bonfires, a last-day party was held and as the lucky rider, I was obliged to attempt the traditional Hog-hunter's song - the first verse of which was:-

"Over the valley, and over the level Through the rough jungle now go like the devil There's a nullah in front, but a boar as well. So sit down in your saddle and ride like hell!"

Later, back at Lucknow, the Regiment very kindly threw a celebration party for Granite and me - inviting most of the station and all the two Cavalry regiments there. Someone, I think perhaps Jim Fulton, brought the old horse into the Mess and he was offered champagne in a bucket, some of which he certainly drank. One of the Officers, Jack Archer-Shee of the 1Oth Hussars, shouted out "Well, I'll tell my children that I rode the winner of the Kadir Cup"- and he sprang onto Granite's bare back. Jack was a very tall man and it was a hot night with the fans swirling round. The blades of one hit Jack across the forehead and he fell to the ground with blood pouring from the wound. Everyone laughed as another "Tenth" poured champagne over his head, tying it up with a napkin, and the party proceeded without a second glance at poor Jack, recovering on a sofa.

Skinner's Horse then moved to Risalpur - a station on the Frontier where there was no pigsticking, so Granite was returned to his old life as a "C" squadron trumpeter's horse, much to the delight of his earlier friend, Hardwari Singh, now promoted to Dafadar. However, when I was posted as Aide-de-Camp to the Governor of Burma, I was given permission to buy Granite out of the Army - so I took him with me to Rangoon.

There he became a bit of a pet and was ridden, side-saddle, by the Governor's wife, Lady Cochrane. He also won a couple of steeple-chases for me as well as the Open Jumping in the Burma Horse Show. We returned to India at the end of my ADC job and the Regiment moved to an even more remote Frontier station at Bannu where we were on 3rd September 1939 - the outbreak of the War.

Granite stayed with me as a Pensioner and was used for officers' children to ride - because he was a "patent-safety" that could be trusted at any pace. The Regiment was still horsed but we were soon ordered to march, in October, to Rawalpindi where we were to lose our horses and would be mechanised.

By then Granite was an old gentleman of 20 and, with the uncertainty of the War, I decided he would have to end his life in Bannu. The fateful day came and our Veterinary Surgeon had agreed to put him down by an injection, as I did not want to see him shot.

When we both arrived at the chosen place, I was astonished to be met by a small crowd of regimental syces (grooms) and some of the other Trumpeters, led by Hardwari Singh. They had dug a large grave and had surrounded it with flowers. Hardwari hung a garland of marigolds round Granite's neck, and when the effect of the injection started, the old horse just lay down and "went to sleep". Many, including Hardwari and myself, were in tears over the passing of our beloved horse.

Unknown to me Hardwari had removed Granite's tail before the grave was filled in and, eventually, I was presented with a fly-whisk made from his long white plume. It hangs beside my desk today as I write.

The Kadir Cup Challenge Trophy is now on permanent display on the first floor of the Cavalry and Guards Club, with the names of all the winning horses and their riders.