Couple tie the knot on horses at racecourse

Chris and Shelley Baird-Clarke are married by celebrant Jan Boyd at Musselburgh Racecourse, East Lothian. Picture: Toby Williams

Chris and Shelley Baird-Clarke are married by celebrant Jan Boyd at Musselburgh Racecourse, East Lothian. Picture: Toby Williams

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‘And they’re off!’ – words which traditionally signal the start of a horse race rather than the beginnings of wedded bliss.

But one marriage was literally under starter’s orders as a happy couple galloped across Musselburgh Racecourse to mark their big day.

Major Chris Baird-Clarke and Shelley Clark gallop down the home straight after exchanging their vows. Picture: Toby Williams

Major Chris Baird-Clarke and Shelley Clark gallop down the home straight after exchanging their vows. Picture: Toby Williams

Major Chris Baird-Clarke and Shelley Clark tied the knot at the venue while astride their Arab and Irish draught horses.

Assistant registrar Jan Boyd oversaw the vows in the Parade Ring, which today will be filled with the clatter of hooves as jockeys prepare for Musselburgh’s Carnival Racenight.

Major Baird-Clarke, who often went racing at Musselburgh during a three-year posting with The Royal Scots in Edinburgh, was resplendent in family tartan trews and Bonnie Prince Charlie jacket while Shelley opted for a traditional ivory wedding dress as they exchanged vows in front of their two-year-old son Alex and guests.

Racecourse bosses agreed that the happy couple could enjoy a celebratory gallop along the home straight and past the winning post as a one-off wedding day treat.

The army doctor and his horse trainer bride, who were champing at the bit to begin married life together, were toasting a triple celebration.

In addition to becoming man and wife, the couple are moving to a new home in the Capital from Somerset.

Originally from Hertfordshire, Major Baird-Clarke has served in Iraq, including a seven-month stint near Basra.

Shelley, from Devon, specialises in the rehabilitation of psychologically damaged horses.

Major Baird-Clarke, 41, said: “We originally thought of getting married on the beach at Gullane and having our reception at the racecourse but then got round to wondering if we could do something at Musselburgh with our own horses.

“Compared to down south where there are quite strict rules about where, when and how you can marry, we have been very impressed at how unbelievably hospitable and accommodating everyone has been.”

Mrs Baird-Clarke, 42, added: “Jane Walker from the racecourse and the registrar’s office have been very supportive and we are thrilled the racecourse has allowed us to canter down the home straight.

“It is the second time married for both of us and we wanted to do something out of the ordinary, which was just for us, and this was perfect.”

The couple’s other children Jake, ten, Faith, nine, and Isabella, five, are visiting soon.

Musselburgh Racecourse marketing manager Aisling Thornton said: “We do receive some left of centre requests from visitors to Musselburgh and we always do our best to accommodate within reason.”