For anyone who frequents the Hack 1,000 Miles Facebook group, you will probably have come across Mike Mills and his 16.2hh Irish Sports Horse mare Jessie. Decked head to toe in orange with enviable views along their Welsh countryside routes, they are a hard pair to miss!
“I’m so lucky to have the hacking I do right on our doorstep, words can’t explain how fabulous the views are,” says Mike about his local bridleways. “Jess and I like to get to the top of this particular hill and soak in the view. She will stand like a statue and not move!”
A strong bond
This time last year, it was touch and go for Jessie, as she suffered with 3 abscesses in quick succession. “I had a few too many sleepless nights worrying,” explains Mike. “It was like the world’s end not knowing how she was going to pull through.”
Thankfully Jess made a full recovery, and had an incredible year with Mike adding up the miles. Their longest stand-alone ride was a whopping 24 miles in 3 hours and 21 minutes in June as part of the annual Man v Horse race held in Llanwrtyd Wells, Wales.
“Jess sometimes needs that little encouragement with fast flowing deep water, but she trusts me on all our adventures and always looks after me. She surprises me on our rides, she never gives up.
“I now know I can get 225 miles out of a set of shoes!” laughs Mike. “I’ve loved getting out and looking for new routes, exploring bridleways and finding great views I’d not normally go out and see. As far as I know, only me and my daughter really use the bridleways in our area.”
Campaigning for safety
After his daughter Keri had a near-miss with a car out on the roads, Mike decided that something needed to be done. “We joined the Pass Wide and Slow campaign started by Debbie Smith,” says Mike. “Keri made leaflets as part of a school project, but the campaign loved them and wanted to share them out. We soon found a sponsor, and to date over 6,000 have gone out.
“Alan Hiscox, director of safety for the BHS, liked her work so much he organised a trip out with the Greater Manchester Police mounted section. We had a tour around their stables – it was a great day for us!”
The campaign also organises rides for awareness, which Mike has been involved with since last year. “Keri designed a banner which the group liked. It had a few tweaks from a graphic designer, but it’s the one we use today and that members can buy for their own rides.
“As for organising my ride, I had 11 riders attend which was great for our small town. My friend came on his mountain bike to open gates as I wanted to use some bridleways to make it more interesting.”
“We will keep plodding on racking up the miles and exploring new routes,” says Mike. “So I guess there is another 1,000 miles potentially on the cards!”
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