Each month from April to October 2021, the Your Horse team has picked their favourite hacking story shared by one of our #Hack1000Miles challengers. Each winner receives a prize from our sponsor, Wintec.
April winner: the cancer survivor hacking to maintain her pony’s waistline
Last year, Tessa Lewis battled cancer, and the treatment left her with little time with her horse Peaches. She signed up to #Hack1000Miles to help rebuild their partnership.
“He is my pride and joy,” said Tessa. “He’s helped me more than anyone realises.”
Tessa hopes the miles will help Peaches slim down.
“He was fat last year so now I’m determined to keep him as fit as possible. I owe it to us both to complete the challenge,” added Tessa.
“I hope it will inspire others to challenge themselves, no matter what life throws at you.”
May winner: ‘MS left me unable to walk’
When Brenda Young started losing sensation in her feet and experienced lower body numbness, she was left unable to walk.
“I was terrified as I couldn’t understand what was happening,” said Brenda. “I kept thinking, is this permanent? Am I ever going to work or ride again?”
Following appointments, tests and MRI scans, Brenda was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
“Thankfully, with medication I am walking again,” she added. “I don’t have all feelings or functions back, but I’m mobile.
“My horse is so much more than a horse — she is my friend, therapist and reason to push myself.
“I’ve restarted #Hack1000Miles to give myself a fresh challenge to work towards and not let MS get me down.”
June winner: ‘I’m not a quitter’
Tess Watkins had to take a break from riding when she had emergency surgery on her eye.
“Due to the delicate nature of the operation, I would have been a fool to ride,” said Tess. “In the great scheme of things, it was a small sacrifice in order to keep my sight.”
Tess has since been cleared to ride again, but admits to nerves after so long out of the saddle.
“It was a lengthy break; I have a fat pony and I’m an unfit owner. But I’m not a quitter!”
July winner: ‘It’s a learning journey for us both’
Rachel Louise fell in love with then nine-year-old Trotter/ cob gelding Teddy when she viewed him two years ago, but it’s been a rocky journey for the pair.
“In the first eight years of his life he’d been badly mistreated,” said Rachel, who found out Teddy’s history from a family member who knew him.
“He had lots of scarring on his body and was incredibly head shy — it took me six months to be able to groom his face.
“When he threw me off on our second ride I decided to go back to basics with him,” continued Rachel.
“He needed to learn that he didn’t have to be frightened of everyone and everything.”
Rachel began groundwork and horsemanship lessons, as well as hacking in-hand on the roads.
“We’ve started from scratch, but Teddy’s very smart and learns quickly. If the time comes and he doesn’t like to be ridden then he won’t be. It’s a learning journey for us both,” she said.
August winner: overcoming an osteoarthritis diagnosis
In 2018, when Kate Duffield’s 15.2hh Irish Sport Horse Indy was diagnosed with osteoarthritis in his knee, she didn’t know what the future would hold.
“It was hard, mentally and emotionally,” confessed Kate. “I didn’t sleep or eat well, and was constantly searching for supplements and exercises to help.”
It took 18 months for Indy’s body to adjust to the new growth in and around his knee, but Kate was determined not to give up on the 14-year-old gelding.
“I’ve owned him since he was four, and he’s so in tune with me. He can tell how I’m feeling, even before I know myself,” added Kate.
When the pair cantered out hacking for the first time since Indy’s diagnosis, Kate described the moment as a “mixed bag” of emotions.
“I worry that I’m going to push him too far, but there’s also pride because people have said that anyone else would have given up,” said Kate, who started her #Hack1000Miles journey prior to Indy’s diagnosis.
“I use the mileage to see the progress that we’re making. We’ve already beaten last year’s total, which means Indy is getting stronger and fitter.”
September winner: ‘A pub crawl on horseback in memory of dad’
Nicole Tizard made the most of her final 100 miles to complete #Hack1000Miles by doing it for charity, something that she has done for many years.
“The ride was in memory of my dad, who died from cancer,” explained Nicole, who chose to donate the money raised to Cancer Research.
“I’ve been doing a sponsored ride every year since he died in 2016, and this year we turned it into a sponsored pub crawl.”
Nicole, 59, works at the pharmacy counter in Boots. She raised a total of £500 for her pub ride.
“I was really pleased — I did it with my daughter Maddy and my neighbour Jo,” added Nicole. “We visited three pubs, and had a drink in each.
“I had wine on the way out and prosecco on the way home!”
October winner: ‘I fell off and broke a bone in my pelvis’
A heavy fall from a new horse with a sore back could have put paid to Liz Leslie’s hacking progress, but she didn’t let it hold her back.
Liz originally signed up to Hack 1,000 Miles with her previous horse Desi, who had to be put to sleep in May at the age of 30, after 18 years together.
“He was a super horse, and I miss him,” says Liz. “I sort of accepted it; anything over 20 or 25 years you’re grateful for.”
After deciding to buy a new horse, Liz, 63, made a 200-mile trip to visit Ghost, a 10-year-old grey gelding, and bought him.
But three weeks after bringing him home, Liz came off.
“As soon as I got on he lurched; I fell and broke a bone in my pelvis,” says Liz. “The bone would self-heal, so I was discharged straight away from hospital.”
After two weeks resting, Liz found the cause of Ghost’s behaviour. He was treated for a sore back, and had a new saddle fitted. He is now hacking again.
“Coping with a new horse is like a whole new world. It’s a learning curve, but I’m enjoying it.”