Cathy Dance found out about the #Hack1000Miles challenge on Facebook, and the idea of tracking her rides intrigued her.
“I’d never really thought about how many miles I do in a year,” she said. “But it’s definitely addictive! I want to achieve more each year if I can.”
Cathy, who is based in South Lincolnshire, completed the challenge on her 23-year-old Argentine Thoroughbred x Criollo gelding Palomo.
“I got Palomo just two weeks after he retired from a lifetime of playing polo. I don’t know too much about his career, except that he came over from Spain in 2009, and played until he was 20 years old. His polo groom told me he’d stayed playing to such an age because he was fast — super fast! I still feel this now, because every time I canter I always feel him wanting to go faster.”
A change of pace
Cathy admits that his change of careers was a learning curve for them both.
“Palomo had only ever played polo, and I had never ridden one handed or relied solely on neck reining,” she said.
Despite this, Palomo took to hacking well.
“He’s so brave,” said Cathy. “He leads the way if others are spooking. Tractors, crop sprayers, lorries and busy roads are no are trouble at all for him. His only nemesis is tree stumps — and the occasional rubbish bag.”
As Palomo is an older gentleman, Cathy took it steady.
“It has taken us two years and one month to complete the challenge. As he’s an old boy we only ride four to eight miles in an outing, and at best I ride three times per week.
“Due to his age he’s a little arthritic, and he’s had a few little incidents and minor injuries that we lost several weeks on. But he bounces back each time and we carry on. I have questioned a few times if he should fully retire, but I don’t think he’d be as happy without a job to do.
“We mostly hack at home alone, but we love to join some friends on pleasure rides and shorter endurance group rides too,” continued Cathy. “I’d love to take him to the beach, as we’ve not done that yet. I know he’ll love it — he enjoyed a trip to the gallop tracks, perhaps a little more than I did.”
Don’t feel left behind
For anyone worried they might be too slow to complete the challenge, Cathy has some advice.
“Don’t lose heart when you see others posting about achieving the challenge within a year. The competition is with yourself; everyone is different and so are our horses.
“It’s the taking part that counts, no matter the highs or lows. The Hack 1000 Miles Facebook group is fab, everyone is so happy and supportive. You can go there to share achievements, receive some comfort or for cheerful advice.”