‘We fell into a swamp’ — special needs teacher hits the 1,000-mile finish line


Being an endurance rider doesn’t mean that Melanie Van Kampen de Jong’s 1,000 miles are any less hard earned compared to everyone else.

The special needs teacher partnered up with her Haflinger x Quarter Horse mare Stunner to pull off 1,000 miles. But early in their journey, it wasn’t a certainty that Stunner would be fit enough to ride. 

“She sustained a muscle injury in her shoulder in November, which took a physiotherapist eight weeks to fix,” recalls Melanie. 

“In December, I had a new farrier who changed her shoeing and she came in lame not long after. It turned out there was a problem with the sole being very thin, so we tried another farrier and started riding again.”

Finding focus

As an endurance rider, Melanie soon found it easy to make up the distances. 

“I don’t count all my races as mileages,” she says, “just the shorter ones, because they are used as training. Competing in endurance helps me in that you have more of a goal to get out there, even if the weather isn’t all that great.”

But it wasn’t all plain sailing. During a trek in May, the pair came across a fallen tree in the road. 

“I thought we could pass it and started to go around. There was an overgrown swamp and I fell off, then had to let go so that Stunner could save herself. 

“She managed to get out and ran halfway up the mountain, where she waited for me. We were unharmed, but smelly.”

Plans for the future

As far as Melanie’s plans go, it’s time to slow down for a while. 

“Now the season has come to an end, we don’t train anymore. We will hack a little until December, then Stunner has about six weeks off and, at the end of January, we will pick up hacking again.”

Melanie has already pledged to hack another 1,000 miles next year. 

“I enjoy every mile; spending time with my horse, reading about other people’s adventures and being part of a fun community,” she says.


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