They overcame hundreds of fellow riders to be crowned the King and Queen of the Heugh at last year’s epic Poppyscotland Sportive, and now the two cycling stars have enjoyed the fruits of their success having received a truly unique, money-can’t-buy prize, namely a day with the Queen’s Pony…

Chris Howie and Helen Wall conquered a tough hill climb during the charity’s annual cycling fundraising event, which takes place in East Lothian, in September. Now, following their impressive show of endurance, the two successful cyclists won the chance to spend the day with Corporal Cruachan IV – a ten-year-old black Shetland pony, which has been the Queen’s Pony since October 2012.

Cruachan IV is the Regimental Mascot of The Royal Regiment of Scotland and lives at Redford Barracks, in Edinburgh. In recent times, he has become quite the media magnet having participated in a plethora of high-profile events. For example, Cruachan IV, who is looked after by the Pony Major, welcomed Prince Harry and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, to Edinburgh Castle last year.

The ‘Royal Engagement’ took place at the barracks, with Chris bringing along his three children – Amy, eight; Calum, six; and Holly, three – while Helen was accompanied by three of her close friends. After meeting Cruachan IV, the attendees groomed and got him into his ceremonial uniform. Then, after a flurry of pictures, Cruachan IV was saddled up and the youngsters were given the opportunity to ride him.

Chris said: “My three kids absolutely love ponies and have been so thrilled to meet Cruachan today, which has felt like payback for all the Saturday mornings I’ve missed while cycling! When I was battling up that hill, I kept pushing myself knowing they would love it – and they have. They knew today’s itinerary by heart and have spent weeks telling all of their friends about it.”

It was the first Poppyscotland Sportive for Chris, whose grandfather served as a Major in the Black Watch, and he absolutely loved it, adding: “It’s a wonderful route and a challenging ride, and I am already looking forward to 2019’s event. Strangely, short hill climbs are my thing and I just went for it while trying not to think of the 90 miles still to come!”

Helen, who was also riding in her first Poppyscotland Sportive, admitted she nearly missed the chance to post a competitive time on the hill climb. She said: “I thought the hill climb was a brilliant addition to the Sportive… even though I almost missed it! Thankfully, someone shouted from the sidelines, so I started to sprint, and I found myself chasing another rider up the hill.”

Helen added: “To meet Cruachan has been a brilliant and unusual prize. I’ll certainly never forget the experience. Poppyscotland is such a worthy cause and I cannot wait to participate in this year’s Sportive. In the meantime, please keep up the good work, Poppyscotland!”