One rider has completed the #Hack1000Miles challenge with his veteran mare.

Mike Mills finished the 2022/23 challenge with 17-year-old Arab Warmblood cross mare Bali, who he has owned for two-and-a-half years. The pair crossed the finish line within 12 months despite Mike being limited to riding three times per week with his 12-hour shifts for his railway job.

Last year Mike was unable to complete the challenge, as he sadly had to put his old horse Jess to sleep, due to a serious leg injury. The pair had completed the challenge together since 2018.

When his shifts were lengthened from eight to 12 hours long, Mike changed tactics to ensure he still hit the miles.

“I used to ride after working eight hours, but now with working 12-hour shifts I won’t; I ride on my days off and spend more time in the saddle,” says Mike, 52. “There’s not as much pressure so it’s more enjoyable.”

Riding the longer distances

After deciding to give the ‘Man v Horse’ race a go six years ago, Mike has caught the bug for long distance rides, having competed in the unorthodox race four times.

“This year we were the third horse to finish, and fifth overall – two runners beat the horses,” says Mike. “Last year we were the second horse, third overall – and again, a runner won. Bali was destined to do this race. Next year is going to be our year!”

He’s also entered a few endurance rides, and plans to step up to the next level before the end of the season.

“We’ve just upgraded to open level endurance, so we can try some longer distances. I’d like to have a go at an 80km,” says Mike.

Arriving on time

The only downside to their love of endurance is the travel; Bali can be temperamental about loading – but as Mike concedes, sometimes she is right to take her time.

“Doing endurance, you need a horse who will load, and Bali can be a difficult loader. She is a great traveller, she just gives me a bit of trouble at the end of a ride – she doesn’t want to go home!

“There was one time we were going to an endurance ride and we started loading early as we’d not travelled that far before so I didn’t want to be late. But Bali took 45 minutes to load – I thought we wouldn’t get there on time.

“We arrived and were actually still really early. Clearly Bali knew the roads better than I did!”

Time in the saddle

As well as tracking his mileage for the challenge, Mike also keeps a record of the time he spends riding.

“I spent 236 hours and 19 minutes in the saddle for the 2022/23 challenge,” shares Mike, who lives in Wales. “It helps that Bali loves to hack; she always takes in the views. She’s my best friend.”

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