A retired primary school teacher has completed the #Hack1000Miles challenge with her cob cross mare in just six-and-a-half months, despite thinking she would never get close to the finish line.

Ruth Ferris hadn’t believed she would be able to complete the challenge in less than a year, but taking up endurance made her realise that it could be within reach.

“Someone told me about the challenge a few years ago, but I initially dismissed it because I didn’t think I could ride 1,000 miles in a year,” recalls Ruth, 60. “Last year I started doing more fun rides, riding holidays and Endurance GB pleasure rides – then I started to wonder if I was going to get close. So in April, I decided to go for it.

“I was staggered – I hadn’t realised just how many miles I cover.”

Ruth’s mount was 13-year-old Puzzle, whose favourite activity is hacking. The partnership have been together for seven years, and now she’s retired, Ruth fits in a ride almost every day.

“Puzzle is so fit now. I see hacking as enjoyment for me, but it’s also important for her fitness,” says Ruth. “I like knowing that I’m wracking up a steady number of miles and that she’s covering a consistent distance every month. It keeps me busy!”

Plenty of adventures

“It’s amazing how it clocks up. We missed so much due to Covid, so I wanted to catch up on everything I would have done – this year I did six riding holidays!” she shares. “I’ve had a very lucky year. I’ve had some good summers with Puzzle, but I look back on this one and it’s been the most epic.”

Gloucestershire-based Ruth’s travels have taken her from the Quantocks to the Lake District, covering all kinds of terrain along the way.

“The most incredible moment was climbing Helvellyn in the Lake District,” says Ruth. “I still can’t quite believe I’ve taken a ‘between the ears’ picture on the third tallest mountain in England.”

Ruth and Puzzle’s view from the summit of Helvellyn in the Lake District

Starting endurance

“I got into it because I did some of Endurance GB’s pleasure rides, and quite often they are run alongside competitive rides. I thought I could do it, because I love hacking, so we tried it and now I’m hooked,” says Ruth, 60. “It’s a jumped up big hack. The extra things that go with it – being vetted, heart rates and vet gates – all evolve as you go.”

15.2hh Puzzle took to endurance like a duck to water, and the duo haven’t looked back.

“I did my first year as a novice last year, and this year moved up to open level. I did find that a big challenge – maybe we weren’t quite ready,” shares Ruth. “In those early rides I kind of muddled through but it’s the most incredibly supportive group of people. When you have a ride that hasn’t gone to plan and you’re feeling low they pick you up. They help you to understand what might have gone wrong, what to do better next time; it gives you the determination to try again.”

Ruth and Puzzle have had a successful year in endurance

Crossing the finish line

Ruth decided to celebrate the halfway mark and crossing the finish line by treating Puzzle to two rosettes to mark the occasions.

“Our colours are royal blue – she wears a blue bridle – so I bought a royal blue and silver rosette for 500 miles, and a royal blue and gold one for 1,000 miles,” says Ruth.

She also planned a special ride to mark the final miles.

“The ride I knew we’d hit 1,000 miles I went out with my friend Ellie and her mare Roxie,” recalls Ruth. “Roxie had had kissing spines, and went through a very difficult rehab. I did a lot to help and support Ellie, so it was nice to share the special moment together.”

Ruth has already set her sights on a new goal: she’d like to hit 1,500 before the challenge starts again in April 2024.

“One reason I signed up was I find I go off riding over the winter when it’s wet and muddy. I thought it would spur me on on the days when I won’t want to bother – that’s yet to come!”

Puzzle will have a month off work and come back into work before the end of the year ready to get fit for the endurance season ahead.

“I think 1,500 miles is feasible, but we’ll see!”

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