A paramedic has pledged to ride 1,000 miles around the Scottish Highlands in three months in a bid to raise £1,000 for The Ambulance Staff Charity.
This Sunday (8 May), 48-year-old Claire Alldritt will saddle up two horses and set off on the mammoth trek.
“It’s an ambition that I’ve had for quite a long time, but haven’t had the opportunity to do it before,” said Claire.
“I wanted to try and complete the Hack 1,000 Miles challenge last year, but with work commitments and everything else, I only did about 800. So I thought I just need to do it all in one go.”
Claire was also spurred on by the loss of her friend.
“It made me realise that life is too short, and I should just take the opportunity to do it right now.”
Planning the route
Claire isn’t a rookie to long-distance rides, even authoring her own book about her previous adventures, but this is the biggest challenge she has ever attempted.
She’s planned out a route and provisionally booked places to stay, should she stay on time with her three-month schedule.
“I’ve been doing long-distance rides for over ten years now, but normally for only two to three weeks at a time,” said Claire, 48.
“I’ve ridden a bit [of the route], but I’ve never linked it all together like this, and there’s still a lot that I’ve not done before.
“We don’t really have bridleways in Scotland because the access rights are different. Other long-distance riders helped me with some of the routes, and I tweaked it for stuff that I know or for places that I’ve always wanted to go and ride.”
Claire will spend the majority of her time camping out — as will her horses.
“If I can’t find a field where I’m stopping then I carry a corral system made out of electric tape and poles that I put up for them,” says Claire, who works as a paramedic for the NHS.
Quirky mare and a veteran
Claire will be completing her trek with Highland cross Thoroughbred Yogi and Appaloosa/American Quarter Horse Swift.
“Swift is very, very quirky, so we have an interesting relationship. Probably a typical Appaloosa mare,” said Claire of the 14-year-old.
“She is probably the better packhorse; you don’t even know she’s on the end of the lead rope.
“Yogi is such a dude now — he used to be very lively and a lot of people would say uncontrollable,” continued Claire.
“I worked really hard with him and he’s now as steady as a rock, and a really good trail horse. He can be scared, but he’s very honest about it.”
Claire has owned 20-year-old Yogi for 13 years and she alternates riding him and Swift.
Yogi is best suited to roadwork, while Swift is confident on boggy ground and steep hills.
‘An incredible bond’
Claire’s bond with her horses means she can trust her packhorse to lead when the situation arises, as she found on a previous trek.“I had a river way up in the hills, and it was a big step down into the water. I kept circling and circling but Yogi was refusing,” she recalled.
“In the end, it was like Swift said ‘stand aside, I can do this’ and pushed Yogi out of the way and went ahead of us as packhorse.
“She plopped down into the river and Yogi followed her. If there’s an obstacle that the packhorse will handle better then I’ll send them ahead.
“That’s what trail riding does for you, being with your horses 24/7 — it creates such an incredible bond with your horses. It makes travel so much easier when you’re all in tune.”
Support on route
Claire has taken a four-month career break to complete the trek and said her friends and family “aren’t surprised” about her decision.
“My mum and dad just despair at my adventurous spirit.
“They’ll probably worry terribly while I’m away, but at the same time they still enjoy following my adventures.”
Claire will receive support from her husband while en route; the pair will meet fortnightly to restock Claire and her horses with any supplies they require.
“He’s incredibly supportive and I really couldn’t do it without him,” said Claire. “I’m very, very grateful to have that.”
Claire is raising money for The Ambulance Staff Charity (TASC).
“They provide mental and physical wellbeing and financial stability to staff in the ambulance service, and their families,” said Claire.
“Through covid, it’s been a very stressful place to work — being a paramedic on the front line — and I know that a lot of my colleagues are struggling, and I struggled.
“It would have been nice to know about TASC at the time. My aim is to raise money and awareness.”
To donate, visit her JustGiving page.