The tradition of common riding dates back to the 13th and 14th centuries, during the continual land border wars both with England and against other clans. It was a Border Country custom to plunder and thieve cattle, known as reiving (a historical name for robbing), and commonplace amongst the major Borders families. In these lawless and battle-strewn times, it became the practice of the day for the local lord to appoint a leading townsperson, who would then ride the clan's boundaries, or "marches", to protect their common lands and prevent encroachment by neighbouring landlords and their peoples.

Long after they ceased to be essential, the ridings continued in commemoration of local legend, history and tradition.

Hawick Common Riding is the first of the annual Border events, it celebrates the capture of an English flag from a raiding party in 1514 by the youth of Hawick at Hornshole and the ancient custom of riding the marches or boundaries of the common land.