One of the reasons Your Horse introduced the #Hack1000Miles challenge was to celebrate the joy that hacking a horse can give a rider. It’s probably one of the most underrated activities you can do with your horse, yet it boasts so many benefits and is accessible to every horse and rider.

To celebrate that, the team at Your Horse picks their favourite hacking stories shared by Hack 1,000 Miles challengers to receive a prize from sponsor Wintec Saddles – and here are the incredible tales that captured our attention…

‘We helped each other through the grief’

Sadie and Kite (right) with Tessa and Peaches

Three months into Sadie Earle Seymour owning Kite, the gelding got peritonitis from impaction colic, which resulted in further complications of colitis and prolapse. 

“The vets didn’t think he’d survive, but he did. It took a lot of work,” says Sadie. 

Once he had recovered, she decided to re-start the challenge, this time taking part alongside Tessa Lewis, who had just moved her horse Peaches to the same livery yard. 

“We really went for it, and spent lots of hours riding together. We became really good friends,” says Sadie.

Tessa completed the 1,000 miles first, with Sadie finishing it the following month. They decided to band together and give it another go when Tessa found out that her cancer, which had been in remission, had come back. The doctors gave her a year. 

“There was nothing anyone could do. She’d asked me before if I’d have Peaches if she left him to me in her will, and I said yes. She passed away last August.” 

The livery yard banded together to support Sadie with both Kite and Peaches. 

Three months later, on New Year’s Eve, Kite came down with colic again. 

“The vets had told me he wouldn’t pull through it because of the scarring, so I had to have him put down. 

“It was like we switched. Tessa has Kite and I have Peaches now.” 

It wasn’t smooth sailing, but the pair helped each other through their grief, and in April when the #Hack1000Miles challenge was re-launched, Sadie signed up. 

“The universe knew Tessa was going to go and Kite would go, and put me and Peaches together. I was so grateful to have Peaches, as I’m sure Tessa’s grateful for me taking him rather than her family having to put him up for sale.” 

Becky and Blue have been through a lot together, but are still endeavouring to complete the Hack 1,000 Miles challenge

‘Our rides are never boring’

Life has dealt one-eyed cob Blue a difficult hand. But that hasn’t held his owner Becky back in realising his passion for hacking, and they’ve overcome all his difficulties together, including broken vertebrae and a polysaccharide storage myopathy (PSSM) diagnosis. In fact, Blue takes great joy in whizzing around the countryside, and despite his exuberant bucking unseating her at times, Becky says it hasn’t dented her confidence.

“Sometimes I’ll ask for trot but get a buck and gallop. I can usually sit it if I see it coming. He’s had me off when it’s come out of nowhere; he broke my nose once!” says Becky, who lives in Staffordshire. “It might sound strange, but I love that he’s like that. He’s been through a lot, so feeling like he wants to go and he loves life is great.”

Knowing that his bucks come from excitement rather than spookiness or fear helps Becky stay confident. 

“He’s the most unflappable pony I’ve ever sat on, even though he only has one eye,” she says. “He’s only little, so I know he’s never going to go that far! I’m happy he’s whizzy – our rides are never boring.” 

Read Becky and Blue’s story here

Hannah Leslie’s view from Kobi’s back at the start of the Man v Horse race

‘I was advised to put Kobi down’

Hannah Leslie took part in the Man v Horse race for the second time this year with her 15-year-old Knabbstrupper cross Kobi, and reflects that he might not have been here because of his previous behaviour. 

“He was labelled dangerous and I was told to put him down when I bought him. His previous owner was scared of him because he napped a lot,” says Northamptonshire-based Hannah. “I thought that if I could just hack him, that would be brilliant.” 

It took her a year to get him hacking out confidently, as Hannah broke her ankle and was restricted to taking him out in hand for the first six months. 

Fast forward seven years, and the pair have completed one of the trickiest long-distance competitions in the UK. The Man v Horse race, held in Powys, saw 52 horses and over 1,000 runners start. Runners and riders take slightly different routes that converge at various points with separate finish lines. 

“It was a really exciting, electric atmosphere. We trotted through the town centre to a heroes welcome – everyone was clapping and cheering for us,” recalls the 31-year-old senior care home assistant. “We were the 17th horse to cross the line. I took it steady – I wanted to bring a sound horse home.” 

Riding is when ME sufferer Rebecca Coy feels her best

‘Horses bring freedom from my ill health’

Rebecca Coy has been doing Hack 1,000 Miles for the last few years, and is currently undertaking the challenge with her nine-year-old Connemara Harper. The pair have recently given Endurance GB pleasure rides a try this year with the thought of trying some graded events next year. 

“It’s been a massive learning curve, but I’ve loved every minute of it,” says Rebecca, who lives in Essex. “Harper loves it too. It’s a good community as well, which makes it easier.” 

Training for long distance rides is something that Rebecca struggles with, as she has a condition called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME), also know as chronic fatigue syndrome. 

“When I ride I’m in pain from the moment my foot is in the stirrup until the moment I dismount. It’s hard to explain because my symptoms aren’t the same everyday, but it’ll take me a couple of days to recover before I’m able to ride again.” 

Rebecca’s symptoms range from muscle aches, numbness and lack of balance to migraines and brain fog. It impacts her daily life, but having horses keeps her going. 

“I probably shouldn’t ride or have horses, but it’s my freedom from my ill health,” explains Rebecca, 26. “Just getting out of bed in the morning is really difficult, but knowing I’m going to the horses and they need me is my motivation. 

“I don’t have horses to ride and compete, although it is amazing and I feel privileged at the moment with my health that I’m able to, but just having them and carrying for them makes me happy.”

Mandi Ackerman on Mavis (left) with her daughter, Hannah, on Merlin (right)

‘I’ve got past the mental block’

Mandi Ackerman has owned now nine-year-old Merlin since he was just nine months old, and says he’s always had an anxious personality. 

“He’s always been a nervous horse, but he never worried me until he reared and I fell off. I ended up in an ambulance as it caused me to have a seizure,” recalls Mandi. “I stopped riding him and my daughter Hannah took him out – she’s more confident and rode him through it.” 

However when Mandi had to retire her other ridden horse Mavis, she knew she’d have to find a way to regain her confidence with Merlin if she wanted to continue to ride. The cob takes confidence from a handler on the ground, so Mandi used this to her advantage. 

“We started with short one-mile rides, and now are up to 4.5 miles. When he gets unsure about something now, rather than turn back like I used to, I get off, walk past and get back on. We’re doing that less and less now,” says Mandi, 51. “He still stops and spooks, but he doesn’t rear anymore. 

“My confidence is improving. I’m happier when I’m riding with a friend; on my own I won’t go as far, but I’ve gotten past the the mental block I once had,” she adds. 

Cheyenne makes Paula believe in herself

‘She makes me step up and believe in my own ability’

Paula Robinson first signed up for the Hack 1,000 Miles challenge three years ago with 16.2hh Irish sports horse mare Cheyenne in hope that it would get her back in the saddle after losing her confidence. 

“Rather than build on rides where nothing happened, I let my worst fears and doubts get bigger and bigger until I was worried just getting on her,” says Durham-based Paula. “It was something I created, not the horse.” 

Paula noticed that on the days when her confidence is lower, Cheyenne picked up on this. 

“I suffer with anxiety and sometimes I think she also feeds off me if I’m having a bad day. When I give her the opinion that I’m good enough, she agrees and there’s no silliness. But when I’m het up, she won’t do things – she’s a good leveller. She’s shown me it’s all about confidence,” says Paula. “She’s teaching me to shake that off at the door, so I can handle her without being on edge.

“She makes me step up and believe in my own ability. I can’t allow my fears to win.”

Blue has helped keep Jess positive through a number of surgeries

‘I didn’t think I’d ride again’

When Jess Mylroie took on 13.3hh traditional cob Blue, she admits he was quite the project. 

“I’d had him on loan and he wasn’t in good condition – he was five years old, still a stallion and I don’t think he’d ever had his teeth or feet done. I invested a lot of time and money into him, and then managed to persuade his owner to let me buy him,” recalls Jess, who lives in Blackpool. “I’ve owned him for seven years now, and we’ve come on leaps and bounds – we rescued each other.” 

Since birth, Jess has suffered from a rare condition called Klippel-Trenaunay-Weber syndrome, which has caused numerous tumours and left her with severe arthritis aged just 45. She’s had over 300 surgeries in her life to tackle it, including a mastectomy, hysterectomy, and gall bladder removal. 

Most recently, she nearly lost her arm. 

“I had my wrist fused because I had such severe arthritis. I developed compartment syndrome, and came very close to losing my arm. When I realised how close it came, it was a huge shock.” 

Jess had to stay in hospital for three weeks with two 18-inch incisions open in her forearm to let them heal naturally. 

Four months after the surgery, she was back in the saddle. 

“I was desperate to get back on Blue,” says the retired special needs teacher. “It was the best feeling ever, and I just sobbed. I didn’t think I’d ride again. 

“I’m more cautious now, because I’m terrified of falling off and knocking my arm but I’m trying not to let it hold me back. I don’t want to give up riding – it’s not in me to do that.” 

This content is brought to you in partnership with Wintec Saddles, durable, comfortable, easy-care, weather-proof saddles for everyone.

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